Choose the Right Domain Name for Your Campaign Website
Selecting your domain name will be one of the first choices you’ll make when setting up your campaign website. We cannot understate the importance of choosing the right domain. It’s similar to naming a child – once you make that decision, you’re stuck with it for the long term. Of course, you can always change domain names down the road, but we’ll explain a little further down why that’s usually not a good idea.
There are three basic rules that we use for choosing a good campaign website domain name:
1. It should be a .com extension
2. It should be short
3. It should avoid numbers, hyphens and years
Let’s break down and explain these rules in detail. Our first rule is that you only choose the domain if you can get the .com extension. It’s not a good idea to use a .org or a .net as a substitute if the .com is already taken. People generally navigate to the .com extension for web addresses and if you don’t own that extension, then they could be navigating to a website that is not yours, or worse.
We all know politics can be a dirty business. If you don’t own the .com, do you know who does own it? It could be an adversary that intends to set up an opposition website on the .com extension and that could be devastating for your campaign’s online strategy. So if you want smithforcongress.com but it’s already taken, don’t settle for smithforcongress.org or smithforcongress.net.
Our next rule is to make your domain short and easy to remember. This rule is straight-forward. Have you ever been told the name of a website and it was so long that you couldn’t remember it when you went to find it online? The same rule applies with campaign websites. Keep it short. A good domain is about three words in length, i.e. smithforcongress.com. We once managed a campaign website that used a domain that was six words long. Even we could never remember the site address, even though we built the site!
Lastly, your domain should avoid the use of hyphens, numbers and years. Hyphens and numbers in domains create too much confusion and you’ll always have to spell out the web address to everyone. Imagine smith-4-congress.com. When you explain it to someone it sounds like “smith, dash, the number four, dash, congress, .com”. That’s way too confusing and voters will always end up going to the wrong web address.
We also advise against putting years in your domain. Don’t use smithforcongress2016.com if you think you might be running again in 2018. You don’t want to start over with a new domain in two years and lose all your search engine visibility you had built up. This ties into our earlier suggestion that you do not change domain names down the road. All things held equal, search engines give preference to older domain names. If you change your domain name after a couple years and move your website to the new domain, it’s like starting over in the search engines with a brand new website.
For that reason, we suggest a little bit of long-term planning up front. You might be running for city council today, but running for a legislative seat in a few years. Are you choosing a domain for your city council race that could potentially be used for a legislative race? If so, that’s good planning on your part and your domain will serve as a strong asset in your political career.