What's in a (domain) name?

Pat Bowen
Pat Bowenposted on on August 27, 2015

Our choice to become .com-less

You may have already noticed that Pageworks has selected the domain page.works rather than pageworks.com or some other variation that had pageworks as the name and a different top level domain(TLD). Instead of choosing a traditional TLD we chose .works. Why?

First we should be transparent and say that pageworks.com was already taken and if it were available may have taken it as either a backup or the main domain. It wasn’t, so we didn’t. After finding that page.works was available we did some research and think that it’s probably better anyway. Let’s look at why.

Choosing a domain name

When you search for "How to choose a domain name", or something similar there are numerous articles with a few different suggestions, but the majority have a few items in common.

  1. Memorability: A good rule is to pick a domain name that people will be able to remember. Pretend you're going to run a radio ad. If you mention your name on the radio will someone remember it when they get out of their car and sit down at their computer?
  2. Length: In general a shorter domain name is better than a longer one. This is a good idea because it both aids the memorability of the domain and makes it easier to type.
  3. Topical: Whether this means sticking with your company name, or picking a simple domain that focuses on what your organization does it's important to make the domain relate to your business.
  4. Avoid special characters or odd spellings: This relates to being memorable and ease of typing. Under the Page 8 brand we learned this. It never was a huge hindrance, but having to say "Page dash eight (the number not eight spelled out) dot com" takes more explanation than just saying "Page Eight (the number) dot com" or having an even simpler name. Sometimes (like in the case of Page 8), the name created a part of the problem itself, but in general avoid things that make it hard to speak the name.
  5. Get the .com: In general people usually try .com prior to other options. If you can get the .com it's probably a good idea. For a while there were some studies that said search engines ranked .com domains higher than others. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

What we evaluated

When we evaluated the possibilities for a domain name we obviously started by looking for pageworks.com. As I mentioned above that wasn't available. We brainstormed other top level domains that would allow us to use "pageworks", but didn't really like the idea of going with other traditional, but less used TLDs. We also looked at adding other qualifiers to the domain name such as teampageworks or pageworkscommunication, but didn't like increasing the length and decreasing the memorability. When we found page.works we thought it sounded good, but had a few concerns:

  1. How would Google and other search engines handle it? After doing some research we found that Google has said it will treat all generic top level domains the same. The fact is that .com has been around for almost 30 years and good domains are becoming harder and harder to find. This is why companies like Donut were allowed to start creating new TLDs. We're confident that as these TLDs become more common place search engines will absolutely treat them equally for ranking.
  2. How would people respond to not having a .com? This is our single biggest remaining concern. Currently it looks like there are only about 7,500 .works domains in use. That's a small number, but again we're confident that as they become more common the memorability will increase. Overall, our feedback to this point has been good. People have questioned if we have a .com or how we got a .works, but once explained people seem to think it's pretty cool.

Closing Thoughts

As far as search engines go, I've been positively surprised. According to Google Analytics our old sites (customprinters.com and page-8.com) received about 55% of their traffic from organic search traffic. In the first week after launch of page.works just over 10% of our traffic came from organic search. During the third week we averaged about 30% traffic from organic search. For the first half of August almost 45% of our traffic came from organic search. This is about what I was hoping for. We knew our direct traffic would increase for the first few weeks as our sales team contacted people and gave them the URL directly. We also have a goal to increase social interaction and drive targeted visits to the site and so far social has been driving more traffic than before which accounts for some of the drop off. Finally it looks like it took about a week for the search engines to fully spider our site and start moving some of our rankings from the redirected old sites.

When we initially launched the new site and new domain for email addresses we fielded some questions from clients. As I mentioned above, the feedback after an explanation has been overwhelmingly positive. What do you think? Is page.works easy to remember? Have you caught yourself adding .com?