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Changing Domain Names: One Small Business Example





The Karcher Group gets the domain name tkg.comWhat happens when you have a very long domain name that does not serve your business well — and you decide to get a new domain?

That very thing happened to a small business in Canton, Ohio. Until this week they had a domain name that was 15 letters long. As of a few days ago, their decade-long dream came true when they managed to snag a 3-letter domain.

For more than 10 long years — that’s no typo, I said ten — they stalked a particular 3-letter dot-com domain name. This week, after closing on the purchase of it, they made the switch.

The Karcher Group, a Web design and SEO firm, previously had the domain name of thekarchergroup.com. Now it’s tkg.com.

All 3-letter dot-com URLs were registered years ago. So how did they manage to get it? They purchased it through Sedo.com. Sedo is a secondary market where you can purchase previously-owned domain names. If you want a short domain name today, a place like Sedo is where you have to go.

Why is a 3-Letter Domain Worth Waiting 10 Years For?

One of the standard bits of advice for choosing a domain name for your business website is: the shorter the better.

The Karcher Group agrees that shorter is better. That’s why they spent $15,000 to buy the domain of tkg.com.

I know the Karcher Group and it’s a fairly conservative Midwest firm. They tend not to do things without being convinced of the return on investment (ROI). There are a lot of things a small business could use $15,000 for. So I asked Geoff Karcher, the founder and principal owner of The Karcher Group, why it was worth waiting 10 years and spending 5-figures for a domain name.

According to Geoff, it’s about (1) practicality and (2) offline to online conversions:

Practicality: thekarchergroup.com is very long. Few people can spell Karcher correctly, let alone adding THE in front of it just making it worse. Consider an email address being given out via phone, g…e…o…f…f…at …t…h…e…k…a…r…c…h…e…r…g…r…o…u…p… dot… com. It’s terrible. So, now we’re going to the other extreme.

With regard to branding … our goal is to incorporate this into our brand. We know we’re taking a risk making this change, but we feel the benefits will far outweigh the risks in the long run. Again, from a usability standpoint, remembering the domain “tkg.com” from any medium whether it be a billboard, TV commercial or press release, it’ll be much more likely that our offline marketing efforts will convert to Web traffic.

Notice the part about offline marketing efforts turning to online conversions. That’s a good reason for a short URL. People are more likely to remember a short 3-letter domain, than a long 3-word domain. Not as many letters to screw up.

What Pain is Involved in Moving Domains?

Changing domain names can be a painful process for any small business (I know). In fact, Geoff Karcher calls it the search engine optimizer’s worst nightmare.

One Karcher manager, Jennifer Geh, says she’s freaking out, writing on the TKG blog:

“Geoff Karcher, who is a friend & owner/President/head honcho at the company I work for (The Karcher Group – which moving forward will be affectionately referred to as just: TKG) decides after 10 years of building a brand, establishing domain longevity, increasing link popularity, improving Search Engine rankings, etc. to completely change our domain! As the Web Marketing manager, I’m freaking out, but I have to pull myself together because this is happening IMMEDIATELY … I’m talking less than 1 week.

I expressed my frustration with this instantaneous change and offered several appropriate ease-into-it SEO recommendations to no avail …. I’m extremely nervous & on edge about what this will do to our Search Engine rankings.”

So, since Jennifer didn’t have a choice in the matter, she decided to roll up her sleeves and share the company’s experiences. For instance, she’s tracking how quickly each search engine is indexing the new domain. Yahoo.com was the first. After 48 hours, Google has yet to kick in.

If you are thinking of making a domain name change, you definitely should read Jennifer’s series for valuable insights. Despite the near-term disruption of search traffic, once the dust settles I suspect it all will be worth it. By following the series, we’ll see how long it takes to bounce back.

PS, be sure to check out the Flash video that describes the company’s growth from a Web design business that started in Geoff’s basement, to about 3 dozen people today. It’s the kind of story about small business growth that epitomizes the American dream of business ownership.

23 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

23 Reactions

  1. Wow this was a very enlightening read. I remember back when buying up domain names was the hot thing to do. I had no idea it was still a hot issue or that there were waiting lists for them to this day. I learned something…Thanks!

  2. Such a big hassle but very profitable in the long term. KTG is much better than the long name they used for their company’s website.

  3. Wow, I’m shocked that a 3-letter domain sold for only $15,000. Great buy for Geoff and crew.

  4. I’ll definitely plan to take a look at Jennifer’s series on the domain change. I have a long-ish domain that has served well for 6 years, and has the local rankings that I want and need. But I’ve just recently purchased a shorter domain that is much more memorable, and expresses my core business much better than the current name. I’ve really hesitated about making the change, knowing it will disrupt my rankings, at least for a while. Maybe reading Jennifer’s series will help me take the plunge…

  5. Stuart Crawford

    Great vision for Geoff and the team at TKG!!

    Stuart Crawford
    Calgary, AB
    http://www.stuartcrawford.com

  6. Mark Anderson

    Wow! I can’t imagine changing my domain at this point. I’ll be curious to see how much their search traffic reacts…

  7. Ivana Taylor

    I did not know that shorter domains were better. I would have thought that the best domain names were the ones that people would intuitively put into the addressbar without searching. Like fedex.com or starbucks.com – gee – I can’t think of an intuitively long name that I might type. Perhaps it’s whatever the company is known as for example fedex instead of federalexpress —

    So WHY exactly are three-letter domains worth $15,000?

  8. Jim Kukral

    Congrats to an awesome Ohio company. Just saw them listed in Entrepreneur magazine (I think that was it) for excellence in design? Great domain.

    Yeah, getting domains is a pain in the you know what. Just moving them is, but for a reason… so it’s hard to steal. I just traded hiremeblog.com for http://www.momgoesgreen.com which will be my wife’s first blog about going green as a family. It was not easy to swap domains, but we did it.

  9. Anita Campbell

    Hi Ivana, for big companies with major brand recognition, it makes sense to get the company name.

    But consider that even big companies will shorten their company names. General Electric becomes GE. Hewlett Packard becomes HP. International Business Machines becomes IBM. American Telephone and Telegraph becomes AT&T. American Broadcasting Corporation becomes ABC. And so on.

    It strikes me that the same kind of shortening goes on with regard to domain names, for the same reasons: easier to remember, easier to say.

    Anita

  10. We have a 3 letter domain name and chose it because it was simpler than our company name and it was the brand name of our first product. I didn’t know there was evidence that letters were better but I think it makes sense as long as it has relevance.

  11. Getting a shorter domain was key for us, partially just because it’s great to have such an ideal URL. The other side of it though, is that our old URL thekarchergroup.com, was not just unfriendly, but almost impossible to get right, even if you last name is Karcher.

    We’re pretty excited about the new domain, and what’s to come.

    And thanks Jim, yeah, it was Entrepreneur Magazine under 10 most reliable web companies in Central US.

  12. I can see the benefit of a 3 letter domain. It definitely helps to take the guess work out of people’s spelling errors. Typing long domains into the address bar can be a hassle also. Making sure your client gets every letter correct or they could easily get frustrated.

  13. Hi Anita,

    The shorter the domain name, the better. However, I think it’s important that companies not pick absurd names just to get a shorter domain name.

    In the long run, a more memorable name will be better than a shorter domain name that makes no sense.

  14. I think any domain name that is short and easy to spell is the best option. I get really frustrated when so many letters are the same and they run together. Those addresses would definitely benefit from a 3 letter domain.

  15. Martin Lindeskog

    Geoff Karcher,

    Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG got the short version with http://www.karcher.com, but the missed out on the URL with “ä” (www.kärcher.com). It is a “landing” page (is that the right word?) for search ads.

    http://xn--krcher-bua.com/

    I lost my surname domain name to this kind of site. Price tag $5,488… Click on my name for the whole story.

    All the Best,

    Martin Lindeskog
    http://Martin.Lindeskog.name

  16. That’s why I chose the domain name http://www.yfncg.com for my blog, your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy!

  17. Do not change your domain name, but change your Title of the website. Google does not like domain name changes, they will sandbox your website

  18. We recently changed our website from http://www.wwwagner.com to http://www.wagnermeters.com. How greatly do you think it will be affected in the long run?

  19. We recently changed our domain name from wwagner.com to http://www.wagnermeters.com. It was rather scary, but eliminated much of the confusion about our previous name. The economy took a slide during that time; however, even with all the setbacks, I’m glad we did it.

  1. Pingback:

    Switching Domains | Issues with Switching Domain Names | Recent Domain Switch

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  3. Pingback: TKG’s Domain Change: A Case Study in Progress | Search engine optimization expertise from Cleveland SEO

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