Does Your Domain Name Pass The "Billboard Test"?

Jul 25, 2006 • 12:44 pm | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Web Usability & SEO

Billboards exclusively promoting websites? Does you domain enable others to remember it if it were on a billboard? There is an excellent thread on WMW that examines the uses of domains on billboards and what "type" of domain would be an excellent choice for advertising on a billboard. These days having a short and memorable domain for your business or website is priceless. People are paying more today for premium domains then they were several years ago. With type-in traffic being captured by all sorts of purveyors in order to monetize it. Businesses with excellent memorable single or easy to remember words and phrases can really benefit from these domains in the offline world.

One of the admin's on WMW starts the thread with some criteria he considers useful for making a "billboard" test for your domain.

1) Easy to remember, because drivers won't be able to write them down. 2) No hyphens or non dot-com TLDs - drivers will forget hyphens, and probably type in the .com even if you advertised ".net". 3) No easy-to-confuse variations that you don't own. (E.g., plural/singular variants when applicable). 4) Relevant to the buyer's interest or need.

While I agree with most of those, there are a few things I don't. I think .net's in general can be good for billboard purposes, there are plenty of examples of companies using .net's out there. Hyphens' are not good I agree, but they are still in use. One of the members cuts it down a little and says "Any chance you can get a memorable URI in front of an audience, take it!" Can't beat that assessment.

So what about all those Web 2.0 sites with plenty of periods and compressed words such as "" or ""? One of the members dmorison states his rule is "#1 rule is never to use anything that requires clarification when dictated. Before registering a domain, imagine yourself telling someone about your URL or your email address over the phone". Good advice.

One of the gems from this thread is the discussion of geo-targeting with domains for specific services and how in the future direct navigation will become important. Webwork, a moderator on WMW says:

Billboards are the toughest medium for recall since exposure is brief, the viewer is concentrating on something else, and writing is often impossible.

What happens, come the day, when the lemmings latch on to this idea? When you pass 213 billboards emblazened with URLs on them?

My advice to the local webmaster, the webmaster or business that is geo-targeting for a service company, a service company being one that performs locally: Make the URL real simple for the masses, bordering on brainless, to remember. Apply the same thinking that went into building the domain-as-direct-WWW-navigation model.

Some great information all around. I would encourage you to take a peak at this thread today if you have the time.

Continued discussion at WMW - Drive-by Business URL's - The Billboard Test

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07/25/2006 07:18 pm

I've commented on this before and actually wrote a blog post about this on my mini blog - inspired by a client that had several website domains that were as follows But, in general, the domain names of a company should be memory, logical, and/or make some kind of connection to the business name or industry. I would disagree about the use of hyphens. In general it is bad - but if the hyphen is used as part of the regular branding, then works. For example, if the company was called Tic-toc, then works because it's part of branding. It is as effective as No, but other parts of branding takes over - if people indeed are searching for you. I recommend keeping it, at most, 2 words with a hyphen in the middle - if hyphens are used. .net's however, I would argue, are increasingly accepted more and more. I tell my clients to buy .com, .net, and .org in order to protect the domain name and domain name branding. But, .net's are increasing in acceptance and I've found different companies or entities use .net as the main website portal/destination. But - always, the best is a .com. I also add that no domain should EVER contain a number unless it is specifically part of the branding. or or only works if the companies are called Food 4 Less 18 Wheler, or 6 Degrees. The reason is because numbers look tacky. But - as a billboard test, again, if part of the branding, the numbers domain could work. As with everything marketing - subtlety works. If the domains are juxtaposed with the actual branding and both are synchronized and logically related, there is better recall. ...I figure it this way: always repeat! There's a reason why radio ads repeat phone #'s 3 times!

Ben Pfeiffer

07/25/2006 08:06 pm

Cryptblade, great comments. I do agree with what you said and glad you went into detail about the numbers good points. Thanks.


07/25/2006 10:42 pm

. Hyphens' are not good I agree, but they are still in use. Well, Ex-cu-u-se Me! :LOL

stephen douglas

07/26/2006 06:40 am

The "Billboard Test" is an excellent analogy in determining the value of a domain to a business. However, I think the determining factors are more finesse than absolute. For instance, a company listing houses for rent at low prices would like "". (author owns domain, shameless plug). It's a long domain though, and three words. However, it clearly describes the relevant marketing point that the company wants to make - "We have low rent houses available". The key for finesse on a domain like this would be in the way it is PRESENTED on the billboard. Capitalize the first letter of each keyword in the domain: "". This way it is easier to distinguish the phrase, and it allows the company to buy keyword phrases at fairly reasonable prices as opposed to spending $100k on a 6 letter one word domain. Additionally, any company serious about online marketing NEEDS to own their keyword phrases defining their product/services. The value of the domain goes like this: .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us. Other countries will have their own ccTLD's that work best for them. A thing to remember is that more and more people are recognizing .org domains for INFORMATION and ORGANIZATION services, so do not lessen the value of .org. In many circumstances, the .org will actually work better than the .net. Hope this helps... nice thread gang. Stephen Douglas Domain Consultant

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