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Does your domain name pass the voice test?

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Microphone and headphones - voice test

One of the tests often used for determining the suitability of a domain name, is what’s commonly called the ‘radio test’.

The ‘radio test’ simply means that if someone heard your domain name on the radio, would they easily and correctly recall the domain name?

We prefer to use the term ‘voice test’, as there are a wide range of potential brand interactions involving audio (e.g. radio, podcasts, TV, face-to-face, etc).

The best brands are easy to say, spell and remember. A great example is seek.com.au.

Is your domain name difficult to say or spell? If it is, then many people will end up in the wrong place when trying to reach your website.

Longer domain names are more prone to typos and are much harder for people to recall. Whenever possible, you should aim to keep it short and simple. Most people struggle to correctly recall brands that contain more than two words.

Complicated spelling is also a problem. Avoid words that are overly complex or frequently misspelt. For example, you should try to avoid words like: connoisseur, entrepreneur and knowledgeable. Better options would be words like: gourmet, startup or smart.

Ideally, your brand (and corresponding domain name) should be spelt as it sounds or how people would expect it to be spelt. When businesses use brand names like ‘cre8tive’, they’re setting themselves up for ongoing customer confusion and lost sales opportunities. Trying to stand out with ‘creative spelling’ is almost always a terrible idea. If you can’t get your ideal domain name, don’t try to get clever with alternative spelling – pick a different name.

You also have to be mindful of using words that sound the same as other words. For example, if weight.com.au was mentioned in a podcast, some people would undoubtedly navigate to wait.com.au when looking for the brand’s website. Another example is three.com.au, which many listeners would hear as free.com.au.

The voice test isn’t just applicable to broadcast media. Word-of-mouth is still a huge source of referrals in many industries. If someone recommends your business at a social gathering, but your potential new customers mistakenly go to a similar sounding domain name – that’s a lost opportunity.

There are also existing and emerging technologies that leverage voice for activities such as searching the web. Two prominent examples are Amazon Echo and Google Home.

People are talking to their devices and we’ll be hearing phrases like “Hey Alexa” and “OK Google” much more often.

The following example illustrates the growing importance of voice for online queries. Two office workers were discussing a new business that uses a generic, industry-defining term for its domain name and brand (much like realestate.com.au, for example). The worker that learnt of this new business from her colleague, later used voice search on her device to find their website. She said the term “coworking” and her device asked if she meant coworking.com.au. The response matched the domain name used by the brand. That’s a big tick on the voice test for that business.

With a massive increase in the use of search engines (e.g. ‘Googling’ a brand rather than navigating directly to their website), some pundits have argued that the radio test (voice test) is becoming less important. However, usage of voice applications is growing rapidly, which is why we would argue that the voice test is actually an increasingly important consideration for brand owners.

If your domain name fails the voice test, you could be losing huge volumes of prospective or repeat custom that you’re not even aware of. And the problem will only get worse as voice plays a greater role in how we interact with applications and devices.

If your domain name fails the voice test, you’re losing leads. There’s no doubt about that. The only question is: how much are you losing? If the loss is substantial or flowing to a competitor, then it’s time to consider a new domain name.

If you’re starting a new business or brand, make sure you consider voice when making your choice on a domain name.


Disclosure: we own the coworking.com.au brand. The example used in this article outlines the circumstances as later described to us by the third parties involved.

May 17, 2018 |

The domain name that your customers will assume you own

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If you operate an Australian business or an international business with a target market in Australia; your customers will expect to find you online using a .com.au domain name.

.com.au is by far the most commonly used domain extension in Australia. Of the available extensions in the Australian namespace (such as .com.au, .net.au and .org.au), .com.au represents nearly 90% of all domains registered (88% as at the end of November 2017). The second place extension (.net.au) is way behind at less than 10% of total registrations (9% as at the end of November 2017).

For the latest reported period (November 2016 to November 2017), total .com.au registrations increased by 2.7%. Over that same period, total .net.au registrations decreased by 4%.

Over a three year period (November 2015 to November 2017), the figures are even more pronounced. Over that period, .com.au registrations increased by 5.9% and .net.au registrations decreased by 13%.

These statistics show a clear trend – the dominance of .com.au in the Australian market is increasing over time.

Australian consumers know and trust .com.au domains, so that’s usually the first place they’ll look for your business online.

If you opt for an alternative option, such as .net.au, you’re not matching the expectations of the Australian market. By choosing an alternative, you’re actually making it harder for your intended audience to reach you. Worse still, they may end up at the doorstep of one of your competitors instead, particularly if your competitor is using the matching .com.au domain that represents the product, service or market.

Scenario: will your target market find you?

When seeking out your business online, Australian consumers will overwhelmingly gravitate towards the most obvious domain name, the natural fit for your business or brand name.

For example, if you provide security services and your business is called Patrol, then customers will typically navigate to patrol.com.au, expecting to find your business.

Now let’s say that your business uses patrol.net.au for your website and email addresses, because the matching .com.au domain is owned and used by a competitor.

Many prospective and existing customers would inadvertently navigate to the .com.au version of your website address. Every customer that instinctively navigates to the .com.au address, is one more sale lost to your competitor.

It’s not just website traffic that will be lost to the natural fit .com.au domain. Emails intended for your business will go elsewhere.

Let’s say you use ‘support@patrol.net.au’ as your primary point of contact for customer support. A large number of emails intended for your support team will never reach your inbox. Many people will instinctively send emails to support@patrol.com.au.

Missing customer emails is bad enough, but it gets worse. If the owner of patrol.com.au has a resolving email account for that address (support@patrol.com.au); forwarding in place to redirect emails sent to that address; or a ‘catch-all’ setup for any email addresses using patrol.com.au …your competitor will be receiving emails from your customers!

We’ve seen first-hand examples of email loss to the matching, natural fit domain. It can be as high as hundreds of emails a month. It’s also not just isolated to prospective or existing customers, we’ve seen numerous examples where suppliers or even the business’s own staff slip up and use the wrong email address, because they subconsciously defaulted to the natural fit domain.

When recalling your business’s website or email address, some customers will also mistakenly reduce the address to a simplified form.

The owner of a high-end jewellery business is looking to bolster their security arrangements. They recall hearing an ad spot on the radio spruiking your security services, so they head to patrol.com.au to find out more. Unfortunately, your website is actually located at patrolsecurity.com.au.

If a competing business owns patrol.com.au – they just snagged that customer off the back of your advertising spend!

People will often only recall part of a website address, particularly when a domain contains more than two words.

Takeaway message

When it comes to choosing a domain, make sure that you think carefully about what would be the most obvious choice to represent your business.

Ideally, your domain should match the online address where people would instinctively expect to find you.

If your business is already using a domain which isn’t the most obvious fit, then you should consider trying to acquire the natural fit domain that better represents your business. You don’t necessarily need to undertake a re-branding exercise; you could simply use a redirect to your existing domain, which would then capture any website or email traffic going to the natural fit domain.

October 10, 2017 |

Should you use a new generic Top-Level Domain for your brand?

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The introduction of new generic Top-Level Domains

In 2013, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced the delegation of the first of many new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). These new domain name options are most commonly referred to as ‘new gTLDs’.

ICANN’s New gTLD Program expanded the existing Domain Name System of 22 gTLDs, including .com, .net and .org, with a range of new options. These new gTLDs include domain extensions such as .xyz, .online, .car, .cars, .horse (yes really!), and many others.

Wow, there’s so many to choose from!

So with all these new options available, should you use one of these new gTLDs for your brand? In short, we wouldn’t recommend it.

There are many drawbacks to using one of these new gTLDs for your brand, such as website and email traffic loss, but fundamentally it comes down to what consumers know and trust – which in Australia is .com.au domains.

If you asked the average person on the street, they wouldn’t recognise patrol.online as a domain name or website address. However, they would immediately recognise patrol.com.au as a domain name, website or email address for an Australian business.

Will consumer awareness of these new gTLDs increase dramatically over the next 5, 10 or 20 years? Maybe.

In the meantime, if you use one of these new domain options, you’re putting yourself at a massive competitive disadvantage.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme

We can look back over the last 10 years as a guide, because we’ve actually been down this road before. Other new domain extensions have been made available in the past, but the registration volume has been extremely small (and actual business usage even smaller). Here’s a brief list of some of the new extensions previously introduced:

.mobi (launched in 2006)

.travel (launched in 2005)

.pro (launched in 2004)

.biz (launched in 2001)

How many successful businesses have you seen using one of those domains? The answer is highly likely to be none.

The average person on the street would have no idea that these domain extensions even exist.

History tells us that businesses and consumers will stick with what they know and trust, which for Australians is .com.au domains.

October 8, 2017 |
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