Branded vs Generic Domain Names: Pros and Cons

  • by Ilona K.
Branded vs Generic Domain Names: Pros and Cons

Table of contents

  1. Generic vs branded domain names - what’s the difference?
  2. Final decision

Choosing between a branded domain featuring your business name, or a generic one created with a combination of keywords, is an important business decision when launching the website. How can both variations impact your online strategy?

Let’s set the scene. You’ve got a project or started a company, have a great business name and are about to launch a dedicated website. Here’s a catch: no one knows your brand name yet. Quite a few business owners have stumbled across this challenge and thought of a tempting solution – why not forgo the brand and name a website with the generic product or service it offers?

A temptation is real. However, there is a price to it: for example, a generic carinsurance.com domain name was last sold for a whopping $49.7 million in 2019. Others go a step further by using generic phrases as their business names. So what is the difference between the branded and generic domain names?

Source: LinkedIn

Generic vs branded domain names – what’s the difference?

The difference between the two is quite simple.

Generic (or keyword) domain names are based on a keyword phrase describing a product or service. For example, onlinevideo.com would be an example of a generic domain for a business focused on online video streaming.

Pros of a keyword domain name include:

  • Potential boost to SEO (search engine optimisation) with an ‘exact match’ domain name, aimed at brand-agnostic users searching for a product.
  • A chance to capture direct traffic from users who type a domain name in the search bar.
  • Straightaway clarity of business proposition in search results. 

Cons of a generic domain name are:

  • Less opportunities for branding.
  • Higher costs on some popular keyword combinations in popular zones such as .com, as in the example of carinsurance.com.
  • It’s not always an option, as some countries block or limit registering certain generic keywords or geographic locations in their respective TLDs (top-level domains) to prevent any ownership claims. 
  • Almost no options for using a domain name as a part of a brand protection strategy.

Branded domain names are the same as the business name of the company, brand or product. As opposed to above, netflix.com is a branded domain. 

Pros of a branded domain name entail:

  • Support for your wider branding efforts online. 
  • Unique and memorable positioning to avoid being lost amongst hundreds of generic domain properties offering the same service.
  • Potentially a lower cost if your brand name is not taken in the popular TLDs.
  • Potentially shorter – however, domain name length does not always matter.

Cons of a branded domain names are:

  • More time and effort to build a strong association in the mind of consumers between your website and the products/services it offers.
  • A need for a multi-channel marketing strategy to build your brand awareness.
  • Less suitable for short-term projects which need to quickly build visibility.

Both options have their pros and cons, as well as relevant use cases. However, when making a decision, steer clear from a purely SEO perspective and think bigger – what type of a domain name will work for you in a longer term? Here is some food for thought from a recent discussion between three Google’s search experts on choosing the right domain name strategy. 

Source: Unsplash

1. Plan for the future

“Your website will probably evolve over time. And you could be selling potato peelers now, but maybe you’re also selling avocado peelers in a year from now. And if your website is called bestpotatopeeler2023.com, starting to sell avocado peelers would be awkward,” said Google’s John Mueller. 

If you decide to go with a keyword-led name, try to think of a wider category of services your brand might offer over time – for example, create.it.com, a domain name available through .it.com, can cater for a range of products and services for creators. 

2. Keywords in domain names don’t impact search rankings, but affect user behavior

“For example, if I want to take a passport photo, I have the weird sites that will target any kind of photo. And then you have passportphoto.com. And I’m more likely to click on passportphotos.com for some reason as a user,” said Google’s Gary Illyes.

When selecting a generic domain name, think user-first. What kind of intent they are coming with online, and what type of audience do you want to attract to your website? Your domain name should not be too far from a core business proposition you offer. 

3. Dash in a domain name can make it more readable

As the experts said, having a domain like onlinevideo.com vs online-video.com would have no real difference for your SEO. However, a dash can make it more readable. 

Hence, if you go for a keyword phrase as your domain name – consider splitting it with a dash, it won’t impact your SEO. 

Final decision

Choosing a domain name is never easy – and branded vs generic dilemma is only one of decisions you have to make to get it right. Here’s a handy checklist of considerations to make up your mind.

  • Do you want your site to stay around for long? Plan for the future and opt in either for a branded domain, or for the short and memorable generic one, covering a range of current and potential future products or services. 
  • Is your preferred generic domain name not available or too expensive in the popular TLDs? Consider using a subdomain solution with .it.com.
  • Torn between two options? Consider brand plus generic combination (e.g. netflix-online-video.com). 
  • Not sure what options are available and in which TLDs? Check out our list of 5 AI tools to find a domain name.

Need more advice on how to grow your business online? Visit it.com Domains’ blog and follow us on social media.

Ilona K.
Ilona K.
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