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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 [1].

All 3-letter dot-com URLs were registered years ago. So how did they manage to get it? They purchased it through Sedo.com [2]. 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.