In a recent article from Technorati, the web service Bitly was chastised for changing its domain name from Bit.ly to Bitly.com. One of the biggest complaints was that “it’s actually harder to create short URLs, the crux of what Bitly is all about – in fact, its own domain name is now longer, changing from Bit.ly to Bitly.com.”
This article brings up an interesting point about the unique nature of sites like Bitly, which use a naming convention known as “domain hacks.”
The word ‘hack’ usually has a negative connotation, but not in this case. Not to be confused with a domain squatter, a domain hack is “an unconventional domain name that combines domain levels, especially the top-level domain (TLD), to spell out the full ‘name’ or title of the domain” (source: Wikipedia). Some of the more popular domain hacks include del.icio.us, instagr.am, and fold.it.
In today’s uber-digital world, these sites have become quite the trend because they offer a unique and catchy alternative to traditional TLDs like .com, .info or .org. They’re particularly valuable to URL shortening services like Bitly’s, Twitter’s (t.co) or Google’s (goo.gl).
For quite some time, domain market trend data has shown that.com remains king, and continues to be one of the most popular and valuable TLDs on the market. For SEO purposes alone, selecting a .com domain name is one of the most lucrative investments a company can make. The only caveat to that is that we still believe the best branding opportunity a company has is investing in a short, memorable domain name.
As we’ve seen with major organizations such as Overstock in their purchase of O.co and Amazon’s A.co, selecting a short, pithy domain name is incredibly valuable when trying to redirect traffic to the main site or when dealing with sites like Twitter that only offer 140 characters.
In the case of Bitly, not only did they make their domain name longer, but they also lost the one asset that truly set their business apart.
So, while we continue to push for .com as being one of the best investments an organization can make, and commend Bitly for investing in the .com, it’s even more important to find a domain name that’s not only short and easy to remember, but one that’s going to truly set you apart from the competition.
The good news is that these domain hacks are widely available and becoming intrinsically more valuable. For example, Sell.it recently just sold for 20,000 euros, showing that these unique domain names are in pretty high demand.
So, what can we learn from Bitly and its potentially irreparable flaw? The most important thing to remember is whether you’re a start-up or established company trying to generate more web traffic, the first rule of thumb is selecting the right domain name that not only sets you apart, but makes it easy for people to find you. Taking the time to find the best domain name for your business will provide exceptional long-term branding opportunities that generate the most significant return on investment.