Domain Names in the 21st Century: How Much is Too Much to Pay?

In the early days of the Internet, it was easy to get a one-word domain name that correlated to your interests. Of course, as domain names grew more popular, the one- and two-word domain names started getting bought by big companies or enterprising individuals. If you have a targeted startup, you might be looking for a domain name that has already been bought and is being resold for a large sum of money. Here's what you need to know about the evolution of domain names, how much you should pay, and how much they should be going for. You might not need to pay as much as you think you do.

A short name can be memorable.

There's a reason why Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are successful social networks, why Mint.com beat Wesabe in terms of online money management, and why LG is known as LG and not Lucky Goldstar, its original name.

Short, catchy names are “brandable” because they are memorable and just quirky enough to hold your attention.

Your company name and domain name don't necessarily need to be the same, but if you're trying to build an identity around your company name, it makes sense to have that domain.

Good domains are good for SEO.

If you have a short, memorable domain name that includes keywords and your homepage is optimized for those same keywords, you can get a SEO boost. If you're the only company with that particular name, you're in luck. This is typically the most noticeable if you have a domain name without hyphens, that ends in .com, and is actually live and relevant to the keyword. In these cases, a keyword-rich domain name can be the best buy.

Pick the right one early.

It's devastating to have to switch your domain name later on. Branding, SEO clout, and link-building efforts will be wasted if you switch your domain, even if you perform a redirect. It's painful to change all of your marketing, portfolio materials, email signatures and email addresses, and so on to a new domain name.

If you plan to buy the domain later, go for something that's similar like yourname.ca or yourname.co instead of yourname.com, so the switch is less jarring.

Know your pricing.

A .com domain name can be had for about ten dollars per year, assuming you're the first to register it. If someone else is selling it besides a registrar, you're going to pay more. A domain could sell for $5,000, $20,000, or even a million dollars if it's the right domain. Insure.com sold for $16 million, and Wine.com sold for $3.3 million, after all.

Is it worth sticking with that domain just because you like the sound of it, or can you find something else that's quirky, brandable, and costs ten bucks?

Startups don't necessarily need to invest a huge sum of money into buying a domain name in the 21st century. If you're creative and willing to brand your company with an unusual name (Tumblr, for instance, is missing a letter but has made it into an inside joke), you can succeed without that premium domain.