Thumbnail: Website Domains: Finding The Right Fit For Your Personal Brand

Published on Forbes (Jason Barnard)

If you want to manage and improve your personal brand online, then you need a website. But first, you need a domain name. A domain name with your name can help you secure a unique online presence and long-term control of your personal brand.

Making the best possible choice for your personal name domain requires that you make the right choices based on the right balance of cost, relevancy and tech. Keep reading for my simple guide on how you can choose the right domain name for your personal digital brand identity and weigh the most effective options.

Why Your Name Matters

In my experience, the best domain name for your personal brand is one containing your name. Your first and last name using the .com extension is ideal. Unfortunately, since you likely share your name with many other people, that option is often unavailable or expensive. Don’t despair; there are many options that are equally effective.

Name Variants

All of the below options can work just as well as your first and last name followed by .com:

1. First name and last name with a different top-level domain extension (TLD). For example, instead of janedoe.com, you can use janedoe.info or janedoe.xyz.

2. First name, middle initial and last name. This variant adds a middle initial, resulting in something like janeadoe.com or janeadoe.xyz.

3. First name, middle name and last name. Using your full name can add formality and uniqueness, especially if you have an uncommon middle name—think johnatticusdoe.com or johnatticusdoe.xyz.

Each option has its advantages depending on the availability of domain names and how common your given names are. If you have a very common name, using a full middle name can help set you apart from others in search results. Using your middle name can be a very strong mid- to long-term strategy, but doing so requires that you rebrand yourself across the internet, which is a topic for a later article.

Special Characters

While hyphens are possible, I recommend avoiding other special characters. Special characters are difficult to remember, tricky to type on a mobile phone and most people aren’t comfortable with them.

I personally never use hyphens, but there is technically no reason not to. In most respects, jasonbarnard.com is no better or worse than jason-barnard.com.

A Guide To Top-Level Domains

If .com is unavailable and the alternatives don’t resonate, make sure to explore other TLDs such as .name, .xyz or .website. For search engines like Google, the TLD has minimal impact on search rankings for personal brands; what truly matters is how it resonates with your human audience.

Geo Domains

Geo-specific TLDs, like .ca for Canada or .fr for France, clearly indicate your relevance to a particular country. They are an excellent choice and a huge advantage if your target audience is national rather than international. Opting for a country code TLD signals your primary geographic focus to Google and your human audience.

If international notability and recognition are not part of your personal branding strategy, a geo TLD will simplify your work when trying to dominate the brand search engine results page for country-level searches.

General Tips For Choosing Your Personal Domain Name

When managing your personal brand on Google, having an exact match domain isn’t crucial; however, owning a .com does offer a slight edge and resonance with audiences compared to other TLDs. The key is balancing brand alignment and cost-effectiveness while maintaining online credibility.

Remember that whichever variant you choose should be:

• Easy to spell.

• Easy to type.

• Easy to pronounce.

• Memorable.

• As short as possible given any constraints.

Pitfalls To Avoid

Beware Of SEO

Traditional SEO will tell you that you absolutely need a domain name that matches your name. Personal branding is not SEO and so you can safely ignore this advice. Having your name in your personal website domain is important for your audience, but Google won’t give you any meaningful advantage simply because your domain matches your personal name. Focus on what makes sense to your audience. Google will follow your lead.

Confusing TLD

I recommend that you avoid using seemingly cool top-level domains that are actually geo-specific such as .me (Macedonia) or .ai (Anguilla). These can potentially tie your personal brand to an irrelevant country.

Qualifier Words

Using a qualifier word in your domain name is almost always a bad idea since such words are not permanent fixtures of your identity. For example, “jasonbarnardauthor.com” or “jasonbarnard.music” would tie me to a specific career. As your life and career evolve, these keywords can become outdated and misrepresentative of your current status.

Don’t Abdicate Control

Don’t build your personal brand around a website you don’t control 100%. Each personal brand should have a central focal point, which should never be reliant on a social media platform, your own company, your employer, your agent, a PR company or any other entity that you cannot maintain full control over both now and in the future.

Make sure that you personally have access to the domain on the registrar’s platform. The website is less important than the domain name. As an analogy, look at your domain name as a piece of land that is your permanent address online and the website as the house you build on it. If you change the house, people will still find it as long as you haven’t changed location.

Conclusion

For a personal brand, I’ve found that the best domain strategy is to focus on a variant of your name, using your middle name or initial if necessary. In most cases, you want to secure a .com, but if the domain-as-one-word version isn’t available, consider hyphenated or initial variations.

Avoid tying yourself to your career with a domain name since this can be permanent and absolute. Alternative TLDs are viable but choose wisely to ensure memorability and relevance and avoid geo-specific extensions unless they target local markets.

Your domain name is for life. I encourage you to get yours now.

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