shutterstock_196239599It is great to get creative when registering your business domain.  With many of the good .com domain names registered, it can be difficult to find a domain that is both short and memorable.  However, domain hacking is probably not the best route to take, especially as a startup company.

A domain hack is when a word or brand uses the TLD of the domain extension as part of the word. Two letter country-code top-level domains (“ccTLDs”) extensions like .ly for Libya and .am for Armenia are routinely used as hacks. For example, a company called Wit would become w.it by using Italy’s extension. ccTLDs are also popular with spammers and phishers who use them to try to siphon traffic from top websites or obtain personal information for illegitimate uses.  Think about those fake ‘security’ or ‘verification’ alert emails from Payp.al and Instagr.am to illustrate this usage.

Businesses opting to use anything other than one of the generic top-level domains, especially .com, are going to lose some of their hard won traffic to user error and search engine results that send traffic to other sites due to typos and misspellings.  Moreover, saying most domain hacks out loud with weirdly placed dots in common words is harder than simply saying x.com.

The social bookmarking company Delicious remains a cautionary tale of a startup that stalled after launching its unusual domain of http://del.icio.us.  The novelty of the domain got international attention and geeks loved del.icio.us because it was genuinely a really clever use of the .us domain. However, the average person could not remember where all the dots were placed, meaning lots of different spellings were being typed in for the website.  This makes the domain hack a poorly chosen name that sent a lot of traffic to the wrong places. Over time, such a move could fatally cripple a company that only has an ‘electronic life.’ Delicious finally got the picture and ultimately rebranded with the easily remembered domain name of delicious.com.

Still, many businesses have yet to learn the domain name lesson from the company Delicious.  Before your business jumps onto the domain hack bandwagon and buys a ccTLD to use as its primary brand identifier, ask yourself if the purchase really aligns with the goals your business is trying to accomplish.  Rebranding is a huge undertaking and big backend expenditure that might have been avoided by talking about this with an expert. Many of our clients have found that they could buy some amazing .com domains upfront. Domain hacks are best used as additional complementary short urls that augment your primary business domain.

Tracy Fogarty

Founder & CEO at eNaming
With over 20 years in the brokerage business, Tracy Fogarty has helped thousands of clients achieve their goals on both sides of the negotiation table. Creative and result oriented professional, Ms. Fogarty strives on honest communication, value proposition, the big picture perspective, and bottom-line profitability.