There are about 350 million ".com" domains currently registered. But as the world's most popular top-level domain (TLD), ".com" is also one of the most crowded namespaces on the web. So, what do you do when all the good ".com" names are already taken?
One solution is how you use existing TLDs, and that's where domain hacking comes in. So let's jump in and find out if it's the right solution for your business or brand!
What is Domain Hacking?
Domain hacking is the practice of using ccTLDs in an unconventional way to create a domain name. Essentially, you're exploiting the fact that several TLDs exist. For example, del.icio.us combines "delicious" with ".US" to create a domain name.
Similarly, bit.ly combines "bit" with ".LY" (the country code for Libya) to create a URL shortener. The word "bit" is also a reference to binary code, which ties in nicely with the fact that URLs are essentially strings of code. Domain hacks can be clever, but they're not always easy to pull off. In order for a domain hack to work, the domain name must be readable and meaningful when combined with the TLD. That can be tricky to achieve, especially with less common TLDs.
So, is domain hacking a good idea for your business? Let's take a look.
Domain Hack for Your Business: Is it Worth It?
Implementing a domain hack shouldn't be taken lightly. After all, you're essentially gambling with your brand. A domain hack can work if it's done tastefully and strategically. But if it's not executed properly, a domain hack can do more harm than good to your brand.
Here are a few things to consider before you decide to domain hack for your business.
You're Not in Control
ccTLDs are owned and operated by different entities, which means you don't have full control over your domain name. For example, the ".US" TLD is managed by Neustar, while the ".LY" TLD is managed by the Libyan government. That may not seem like a big deal, but it's something to keep in mind if you're planning on domain hacking for your business. If a country or organization decides to change its TLD policies, it could have a negative impact on your domain name and, by extension, your brand.
Your Domain Name Could be Revoked
Because you don't have full control over your domain name, there's always the possibility that it could be revoked. That's what happened to del.icio.us in 2010 when Yahoo! decided to shut down the social bookmarking service. The ".US" TLD was also revoked from the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017. So, if you're thinking about domain hacking for your business, keep in mind that there's always a risk that your domain name could be taken away.
It Can Be Confusing for Customers
Domain hacks can also confuse customers, which you'll want to avoid if you're trying to build a successful business. For example, let's say your company is called "widgets.com." A domain hack for this company might be "widgets." While this might be clever, it won't do you any good if potential customers can't figure out how to get to your website. The best domain names are easy to remember and easy to type. So, while a domain hack might seem like a good idea, it's important to make sure that it won't confuse your customers. Otherwise, you might find that your clever domain name has done more harm than good.
It Can Skew Your Brand Image
Domain hacking can also skew your brand image, which is something you'll want to avoid. For example, using a domain hack might make you look unprofessional if you're a serious and professional company. On the other hand, if you're a fun and playful company, using a domain hack could make you look too gimmicky.
Domain Hacks Limit Your Expansion Possibilities
Since Domain Hacks are implemented through ccTLDs, major search engines like Google automatically associate them with a specific country. That can limit your expansion possibilities if you're trying to build a global brand. Domain hacks can also make it difficult to get started with international SEO since you'll have to create separate websites for each country you want to target.
Professionalism & Brand Image
Your brand image is not an overnight task; it probably took you years to establish trust with your audience. But one wrong move will wipe it all in an instant. Audiences have a certain affinity with well-established TLDs such as ".com" or ".inc," whereas ccTLDs are limited to a certain region or country. This means that when you use a domain hack, there is a higher chance of losing the trust of your audience, as it might make your website look less credible.
Alternatives to Domain Hacks
There are a few other options you can consider if you're looking for a creative way to brand your business.
Premium TLDs can help you stand out from the competition as well as get that exact-match domain name you're looking for. One such example is ".inc."
Popular brands such as eBay and Fox have already started using ".inc," which has helped them secure their brand on the digital landscape as well as create a unique identity for themselves.
A few new gTLDs have also been released in recent years, such as ".blog", ".io", and ".design". While these TLDs are not as popular as ".com" or ".inc," they can still be a good option for businesses that are looking for a creative way to brand their online presence.
Should You Consider a Domain Hack for Your Business?
Domain hacks can be risky, so it's important to weigh the pros and cons before you decide if it's the right move for your business. While a domain hack might seem like a good idea at first, there are a few potential drawbacks that you'll want to keep in mind. So, consider all your options before you decide to domain hack for your business.