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Brandable vs. descriptive domain names (and which one is right for your small business)

By Alexandra Gavril - May 22, 2019

Do you have a great idea for a new business? Eager to get started online? Then the next step is to register a domain name.

But should you choose a name that describes what you do, or should you go with an original name that you can turn into a brand? What’s better?

There’s no correct answer. It’s up to you to decide.

So in today’s post we’ll explain what descriptive and brandable domain names are to help you accurately evaluate them and determine the best choice for your new online business.

What are descriptive domain names?

A descriptive domain name describes specifically what your business does or what you have to offer. For example, you’ll know that wine.com offers wine for sale before you even go on the website.

That’s actually one of the benefits of choosing a descriptive name – it’s self-explanatory, meaning people can tell right away what your website is about before they even visit.

In addition, you can choose to go with a longer name like WeSellYourFurniture.com. They can be just as effective as short ones. Plus, it may be easier to find a longer domain name available since most one word .com names are taken.

Another benefit is that they can help, to some degree, with your search engine optimisation efforts since you have your main keyword or keyword phrase in the web address.

Keep in mind, though, that while search engines do get a sign from a keyword that it’s possible that the site is relevant for that search term, it’s only a very small part that defines the ranking. In other words, don’t think that just because you have a keyword in your name you’ll quickly rank at the top of the search engine results, without any other effort from your part.

The problems with using a descriptive domain name?

The biggest one is that if your business grows and you decide to sell other types of products or services, it might be confusing for users when they visit your site.

Just imagine if Amazon.com would’ve started with a name like Books.com when it launched in the 1990s. The domain name would’ve made sense then because they only sold books. But look at it now – they’re selling everything from toys and clothes to gardening supplies. Obviously, a name like Books.com wouldn’t make sense now.

So if you’re considering registering a descriptive domain name for your new online business, you need to make sure it’ll still match your offering three-five-ten years from now. Otherwise, if you decide to expand and sell other types of products or services, you’ll likely need to start again with a new domain name.

Another downside is that it can be difficult to create a brand identity around a descriptive name. Sure, people can immediately tell what you’re selling or what your business is about but they may not get a sense of who you are or how you’re different from other companies selling the same products.

One last downside is that most one-word domain names with popular extensions like .com or .co.uk are long-captured. So if you decide the keyword route, look for a “narrower”, more targeted keyword, if you can. Using a .co domain extension can help in this regard, thanks to its short length as well as its distinct and relevant wording (short for ‘company’).

Also, if you want to register a longer domain name, you need to choose it carefully so it doesn’t feel spammy and drive potential customers away.

Of course, a good option is to go with a fun extension like .london or .shop. Just make sure the name you choose isn’t already registered and established on .com or .co.uk.

What are brandable domain names?

A brandable domain name is typically a non-keyword name with no particular descriptive meaning. So it doesn’t explicitly spell out or tell people what the business is about the first time they see it.

Brandable domain names are often made-up words like Google, Amazon, Pinterest. The great thing about them is that they’re unique. And when you have an original name, it makes it easier to turn it into a brand that is memorable and instantly recognisable.

In addition to being unique and standing out from the crowd, you can also get trademark rights so no one else gets to use your name. For example, Apple has trademarks for the term “apple” for products like computers and watches.

Another benefit of brandable names is that they’re less likely to be already registered as domain names, or associated with other companies, products or services (that is if you do your homework beforehand and choose a unique name that no one else is using).

The problem with using a brandable domain name?

When you come up with a new word, it may be challenging, time-consuming and costly to raise awareness and turn it into a memorable brand. This means you may have to invest much more in search engine optimisation, content marketing, advertising and even public relations.

While it’s not easy, it is doable and we’ve got the resources to help you out. You can start by watching this webinar to learn how to develop your small business brand.


You can also find lots of useful tips and advice in this article about the secret to branding your business on a shoestring.

What about a combination of the two?

That’s also a good option and it means using a descriptive keyword alongside another word, be it real or made-up. This can even be a smarter alternative to a string of related keywords.

Tortugabackpacks.com is an example of a domain name that combines the two.

You can tell from the web address that they sell backpacks but they also added a brand name to make it memorable and instantly recognisable.

There’s lots of other naming options when you choose to go with a brandable+descriptive combination.

For example, you can easily turn your name into a brand. So if your name is Dan and you own a barber shop, calling the business “Dan’s Barber Shop” includes both a distinguishing brand and a descriptor.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, you now understand the differences between descriptive and brandable domain names, as well as the pros and cons for both. Not to mention you have the freedom to go with a combination of the two, which can be a great option when you’re just starting out online.

Need more tips and advice? Check out this guide that explains everything you need to know about choosing a business name and a domain name. And once you have a few options, go ahead and find the perfect domain name here.

Now, if you find a great name that’s available, you’d best buy it now, even if you’re not ready to launch your site right away. You surely don’t want someone else registering it before you do and have to go through the brainstorming process all over again. You could also use domain parking on domain you’re reserving for future use.

The next step? Get your business online and start making some money. If you go to our Online Business Training you’ll find all the free resources you need to learn how to run a successful business online, from how to build and design your website to how to attract potential customers and start generating revenue.