The interwebs can be a bit like the wild wild west. It’s the ultimate equalizer for branding. The cost of entry to get a site is minimal. All you really need is $10 to register a domain name. Sometimes you don’t even need to pay for web hosting. Platforms like WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace will take care of hosting for you, at an additional cost.
Building your online brand can be done for cheap, in the sense that you don’t pay so much cash up front. What you don’t pay for with money you pay for with time.
The million dollar question is – how much is your brand name worth to you?
This is not about spending a ton of money to build your online presence but rather more about how much you’re willing to invest to ensure that you’re in control of your brand’s presence.
What does the Interweb say about you?
Google your name and see what comes up. If you have an active online presence then you should see your social media profiles and website, if you have one. This is at the bare minimum, what you should strive to have.
If you don’t have your own website URL then get one before you finish reading this article. Having your own vanity URL is a way of protecting your online brand image.
The authority of a site is generally determined by the age of the URL and quality of websites that link to it. Links to your website from an article on the Huffington Post or Variety will weigh more than links from a random, low traffic blog.
This is important to keep in mind because you want to be pro-active with protecting your online presence. If you do a performance that gets a negative online review, there are ways of pushing down those results so that they’re not as prominent when someone searches your name on Google.
Getting high traffic sites with authority to link to your website is one way to minimize the visibility of negative chatter. Unless your negative reviews are coming from such high traffic websites. If this happens to you then you will want to invest in an SEO professional before spending money on that new web design.
Let’s say you’re awesome and the world knows you’re awesome. There’s another reason why you’d want to protect your brand name online. Two new top-level domains (TLDs) recently became available. They are “.porn” and “.sucks.”
Larger brands get first dibs on securing URLs with these TLDs, naturally for the sole purpose of ensuring someone with a lot of time on their hands and SEO knowledge won’t decide to make “Pepsi.sucks” their website project for the weekend.
Even if you’re not a major conglomerate or high profile celebrity, you want to look into owning different variations of your name. It doesn’t matter if you don’t plan on using it. You want to make sure no one else can either.
If you find yourself on the short end of the stick with a generic name like “Mary Jane Doe” then it’s safe to assume you won’t be getting janedoe.com. However that doesn’t mean you can’t get a URL with your name in it and still protect your brand image.
Mary Jane Doe can experiment with different variations like:
10) BecomingMaryJane.com (FYI, this is a real TV show, which goes to show that using some creativity for your name can also serve as a muse for a potential project.)
There is no reason not to have your own vanity URL. Regardless of what industry or niche you’re in, protecting your personal brand should always be a priority. The technical part is easy. You simply purchase the URL and set it up to either your website or redirect it to where ever you’re most active.
Use this time now, while it’s still relatively easy and low cost to protect the good name you’re working hard to establish as an authority. The more popular you become, the most expensive it will get to retroactively protect your name online.