How will your website stand out among the 145 million + domain names crowding the Internet? How will you build a recognizable brand and a committed audience? The first step is to ensure that you start with an easily brandable domain. In a previous article, I outlined seven factors for choosing a strong, brandable domain:
- Choose a .com extension
- Be Memorable
- Be Relevant
- Make it Easy to Spell
- Sound Authoritative
- Be Short
- Be Unique
With 75% of the 145 million registered names being .com domains, it’s easy to see that many of the best .com domains are already taken and it can be expensive to buy an existing one. It’s difficult to choose a domain name that fits all of the above seven criteria and that is not already registered by someone else. Not only do additional people give you more brainpower, but they also give you a broader perspective.
Crowdsourcing Your Domain Name
The concept of crowdsourcing, drawing on the skills and talents of a large group of people to help you accomplish certain tasks, has made a big splash over the past couple years thanks to websites like 99Designs and Amazon Mechanical Turk.
It is no wonder then that this same model has spilled over to other business tasks. As you may know, most products from major brands are subjected to a battery of focus groups before they ever reach the market. Now, even the smallest brands can use the Internet to conduct similar market research for a fraction of the cost. Here are four ways to use crowdsourcing to choose a brandable domain name that will have a real impact on your bottom line.
1) Get Ideas with Crowdsourcing Contests
When selecting a domain name, it may be helpful to utilize a company such as Namestation, Naming Force, or Squad Help to gather crowdsourced domain name ideas. Each of these sites allow you to describe what your business does, who your target market is and any other vital information you want participants to consider. After you outline the project, you decide how much you’re willing to pay for ideas.
Each company has a minimum reward amount, but offering significantly more than the minimum will attract a higher number of entries. Some contests on Naming Force run with as much as $500 for the winning entry and they receive thousands of participants. Others offer a smaller award and get much less feedback.
- Crowdsourcing contests produce a larger volume of fresh ideas in less time than most companies can with their in-house resources.
- They provide instant feedback from potential consumers who have a good grasp on what drives their buying behavior.
- Certain crowdsourcing contest companies (such as Naming Station) also conduct independent market research to help rank the names according to popularity to help you make the decision on which name to select.
- The names submitted are not necessarily free of trademarks or associated with available domain names.
- Some sites do not offer refunds and force you to select a winner regardless of whether or not you intend to use the name.
- Our testing showed that crowdsourced names are often poor quality, with lots of volume.
2) Get Structured Feedback from an Online Survey
Major TV and consumer brands have long used focus groups to receive feedback before launching a new product or show. Now you can get similar feedback online for just pennies. Amazon launched a site called Mechanical Turk where you can define what they refer to as Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) and gain access to a global pool of workers willing to complete the jobs you list for as little as $0.05 per task.
Do not let the word “global” scare you. It allows you full control over who is allowed to complete your HITs by having them fill out a short application. For example, you could make your survey only open to single men between the ages of 25-30 from the U.S. With the right filters and a well-planned survey, you can quickly and easily get consumer feedback on which domain names resonate with them the most.
Sample questions for a survey:
- What products or services do you think the domain most likely provides?
- What does the domain name communicate to you?
- Which of the following domains would you be most likely to visit for [insert site purpose here]? List your domain name(s) and several competitors.
- Highly flexible and cost effective.
- You can define your ideal target market and restrict responses to just that group.
- It features a large pool of workers that fit a wide variety of demographic profiles.
- Certain demographic profiles are likely to be unavailable.
- Surveys need to be well thought out to maximize results.
- You need to create your own list of domain names.
3) Create and Refine Ideas with Virtual Brainstorm Sessions
Crowdsourcing sites can be a good source of name suggestions. An online survey can provide important feedback on name ideas, but sometimes you need a more dynamic environment to create and refine those ideas. In this case, you should consider putting together a virtual brainstorm session.
How to setup a virtual brainstorm session:
- Identify the goal of the session (e.g. identify at least 25 solid domain ideas for ABC Business).
- Recruit session members. Odesk.com and Elance.com are excellent sources to hire hourly workers to join your brainstorm session. Look for individuals with an excellent command of the English language, familiarity with your market and marketing/branding experience. About 3-6 participants is usually a good size.
- Send participants the session goals, timeline and guidelines in advance so that they can come prepared with ideas.
- Set a time to meet virtually (Google+ Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Skype are excellent options).
- Allow the brainstorm session to flow naturally, but ensure that it doesn’t get too far off course and that each participant contributes.
- Brainstorm sessions provide a dynamic environment to create and refine ideas in real-time.
- They allow you to gain ideas and suggestions that you may have never even thought to request.
- Virtual brainstorm sessions can be more expensive than other options.
- It takes a significant amount of time to plan, setup, and execute a virtual brainstorm session.
4) Get Real World Data with A/B Testing
In the past, A/B testing was a relatively slow process that took weeks to gather enough statistically significant data to determine whether or not a particular concept worked well. Now you can do the same thing overnight with the help of Google Adwords and/or Facebook Ads. Both allow you to create a small ad that will be seen by your target market. The ad is seen when they search for something, in the case of PPC, or when they fit certain demographic targeting parameters on Facebook. As part of the ad, they require you to include a domain name. Studies have shown that this relatively small element can affect your ad’s performance in a significant way.
How to use A/B testing to choose a domain name:
- Purchase the domains you are considering and point them to a relevant landing page.
- Create a compelling ad that promotes your product or service.
- Select the keywords and/or demographics that best match your target market.
- Create multiple ads with identical copy and targeting, each one using one of the domain names you are considering as the display URL.
- Run the ads and let the CTR (the percentage of people who saw the ad and clicked on it) tell you which domain name caught users’ attention the most.
- Depending on your targeting options and the reach of the ad, you can have actionable data in a matter of a few hours.
- This method can be used in conjunction with a lead generation campaign to collect contacts while testing in order to correlate domain names with actual conversion metrics.
- It is simple to use, yet extremely powerful in terms of targeting your exact target market.
- This method may be expensive depending upon your target market. For example, a Forex trading company can expect to pay considerably more than a dog grooming service.
- This requires a certain level of expertise in creating effective ad copy.
- You should contain additional elements such as a lead capture page to help justify the cost.
- You have to buy multiple domain names.
Crowdsourcing domain name selection offers several key benefits, including:
- Gather a wide variety of ideas for potential domain names at a reasonable cost.
- Open you up to new ideas from different demographics.
- Break free of your own biases and receive valuable feedback on possible domain names.
- Help you find a domain name which is not already registered.
What are your favorite tactics for crowdsourcing domain name ideas and feedback?
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