Would you pay $11,000 per year for a website domain name? We wouldn’t either. Here’s how to come up with a unique domain name that won’t cost the earth. Shane Conroy reports
The much-loved Cantonese restaurant, Flower Drum, has been a Melbourne institution since founder Gilbert Lau opened the Chinatown eatery on Little Bourke Street in 1975. It moved to larger premises on Market Lane in the 1980s to accommodate its growing clientele. Since then, Flower Drum has won significant awards—both in Australia and internationally.
However, the restaurant’s global acclaim and undying local popularity didn’t translate to cyberspace.
“People were always getting us mixed up with a restaurant in Sri Lanka also called Flower Drum,” says Jason Lui, general manager of Flower Drum. “So about four years ago, we decided to change our website domain name to flowerdrum.melbourne.”
Lui says that while he had to redirect traffic from the restaurant’s old domain name, switch over their social media handles, and update Google maps data, the extra work was worth it. “I don’t believe the change has impacted our business negatively at all,” he says. “Rather, the new domain name gives us a clear identity and centres us in Melbourne.”
Other establishments have faced a similar problem. A Brisbane restaurant owner moved to a new premises recently, but when they went to register the domain name for their new website, they discovered that it was already taken by a skincare company.
Rather than changing their name, they found a more creative approach, adding the word ‘restaurant’ in the beginning of the name.
The $11,000 name
Social marketing experts say that while including ‘restaurant’ in the new domain name may in many instances actually be more beneficial for search engine optimisation, solving the problem of an unavailable domain name can often be more challenging.
Melissa Pepers discovered that first-hand when she was searching for a domain name for her new food trend marketing business, Bonbo. “I found out that bonbo.com had been purchased by a domain buying company, and they wanted to charge me $11,000 per year to release it,” she says.
Domain buying companies purchase thousands of available domain names, then aim to sell them to new businesses at exorbitant rates.
While the practice is technically legal, it can be enormously frustrating for restaurateurs who have thought up the perfect new name for their new business only to discover the matching domain name has been snapped up by a domain buying company that essentially holds their chosen domain name for ransom.
Pepers says domain buying companies will often drop their price once you approach them to help secure the sale, but it’s probably not worth pursuing it unless you have at least a couple of thousand dollars to spend.
“The three big considerations for your domain name are cost, availability and uniqueness.”—Melissa Pepers, founder, Bonbo
“Trademarking your name might also help to bring the price down, but it’s often easier and much less expensive to find a different solution,” says Pepers.
She solved the problem by adopting bonbo.co as her domain name—for just $11 per year. “At the beginning, I had to train myself not to write .com, but it has been well worth it for the $10,989 I’m saving every year,” she says.
The rule of three
With fewer domain names available all the time, finding the right one for your restaurant is getting more difficult. Pepers suggests conducting a domain name search before registering a business name to avoid disappointment. And when it comes to thinking up a name for your new business—and website domain—there are three key points restaurateurs should keep in mind.
“The three big considerations for your domain name are cost, availability and uniqueness,” explains Pepers. “First, your domain name has to be available and affordable. I don’t think there are many restaurateurs out there who would think it wise to spend thousands of dollars on a domain name every year.
“Second, you need to make sure your domain name is unique so your customers won’t confuse you with other businesses, and that it’s memorable from a marketing perspective. Finally, you need to make sure the domain name you choose allows you to establish a consistent identity across social media platforms.
“Your social media handles shouldn’t differ too much from your website domain, so it can be a good idea also to ensure your preferred social media handles are available before registering a domain name.”
The solution is local
Pepers says the best way to successfully navigate the domain name minefield is to take a local approach. And avoiding creative names for a more grounded local tag could deliver more dividends in the long run.
“Unique, made-up words will often be already owned by domain buying companies that come up with fake words that sound catchy,” she says. “Including the name of your suburb or street in the name of your business is a great way to get around this. And being local is very smart from a search engine optimisation perspective.
“It’s an easy way to rank highly in local and mobile searches, and social media sites often reward local domain names. Social Stories on Instagram, for example, prioritises hyper-local content.”
If you’re concerned about a perceived lack of creativity in calling your business something like Victoria Street Espresso or The Smithfield Brassiere, Pepers suggests adding some personal flair in other areas.
“You can bring your creativity in through your branding and by making the space exciting,” she says. “Create a hero piece like a wall covered in flowers, or if you serve burgers, brand the buns with your logo. You want to do things that people will take pictures of and share.”
And remember, securing the domain name of your dreams may not be the best outcome anyway. Flower Drum’s Jason Lui believes its fallback domains have actually proved more beneficial to its businesses.