“Ouch, I just saw a really HORRIBLE website address!”, I complained to my friend after I recently saw an add on LinkedIn.
The add, created by a large government organization, was graphically very nice, and apparently they tried their best to attract students to find more information on their website about one of their programs, spending thousands of dollars for their adds in social media.
So far so good, just one small thing: their website address looked something like https://iin.fhsda.dxfbsl.co.uk.
This is a big mistake, and I will show you why.
This is definitely not the first time we can see very bad domain names in public space. Particularly when the organization is funded by public money, there seems to be no real incentive among those responsible to actually have a good, memorable website address.
Anyone who is familiar with domain names and website addresses can confirm those largest culprits are government websites, state institutions, and, paradoxically, some large universities (these places for education and innovation should know better, but apparently not).
Historically, there is some explanation for the horrible website addresses those organizations are using.
Before 2014, we really had only few options to create addresses in extensions like .com, .net or .org, or national domain extensions like .co.uk or .de.
Most meaningful names were taken quickly, and many companies and state institutions were simply forced to opt for less attractive domain names, maybe something like the above-mentioned example of dxfbsl.co.uk
They were able to get away with it the way the private businesses would never be able to. If your funding is not directly connected with the success of your online presence, then who really cares, after all.
I am sure everyone was happy — their marketing department was fine with that, their SEO company which sends them bills every month was happy, their “social media experts” who are paid monthly by those organizations to promote them on social media are also happy.
And probably many other people are happy as well, except maybe those who pay the bill for all the fun.
Since 2014, we have many options to create meaningful website addresses. New extensions like .life, .world, .school, .foundation or .university were introduced to internet, making great branding possible for everyone. Here are a few examples:
If your university is based in the town named BigPanda, you can now use the website address BigPanda.University.
If your foundation is about something named “Short Coin”, you can now use the website address ShortCoin.Foundation.
If you run a pet training school for cute owls, you can have your website address at CuteOwls.School.
If you run an organization whose aim is to Bring Love to all people all around the world, you can operate it from the website address Bring.Love.
And so it goes.
So why is all this so important? There are 2 main reasons : searching engines & saving of overall costs.
1. Searching engines
Just the latest example: Google is now running an experiment in Chrome version 86, testing domain-only URLs in Chrome to “help foil rampant phishing, social engineering, and scams”.
Chrome’s address bar will be showing domain names only, instead of full URLs.
“On today’s web, URLs remain the primary way users determine the identity and authenticity of a site, yet we know URLs suffer from usability challenges.
For example, there are myriad ways that attackers can manipulate URLs to confuse users about a website’s identity, which leads to rampant phishing, social engineering, and scams.
In one study, more than 60% of users were fooled when a misleading brand name appeared in a URL’s path.”
“Different browsers approach this challenge in a number of ways, including showing only the domain by default or visually highlighting the registrable domain (the “most significant” part of the domain name).
In Chrome 86, we’re likewise going to experiment with how URLs are shown in the address bar on desktop platforms.
Our goal is to understand — through real-world usage — whether showing URLs this way helps users realize they’re visiting a malicious website, and protects them from phishing and social engineering attacks.”
So what does that mean, and why they do it?
The reason why they’re doing this is that scammers are spoofing the subdomains that show first in the URL address.
I know, it sounds complicated. But here is the small example of what scammers are doing: they lead you to a website, where an address as you see it in your browser could be, at first sight, something like PayPal.com.
(just an example), but then, there is a very long string composed of letters and numbers before the primary domain name. T
hat primary domain name is not even visible in your browser in most cases. This kind of spoofing can be in the form of:
http://paypal.com.JJ8389324rsmkfy5TTkdkds333fffffTdhjjf.dded3f.xr, where the real domain name is actually dded3f.xr!!!
So before the Google experiment, you saw something like
After the update, in your browser you will simply see the real domain name:
This apparently might notify immediately also users who do not have much experience with the internet and it could potentially prevent most of those scams.
Now that we understand why this is being tested by Google, how is this going effect names like the one from my previous example?
Let’s look at that bad domain name again: https://iin.fhsda.dxfbsl.co.uk
If this update becomes implemented, the user experience on websites with bad domain names can become really confusing very quickly.
For example, many large universities are now using subdomains like (“fhsda” in our example) to label their sub-departments, and even another level of the subdomain (like “iin” in our example) to label let’s say their special classes or courses.
It can become really tricky for users to navigate such web addresses, particularly when subdomains might not be visible in some internet browsers in the future, and if domains themselves are confusing.
For now, this is just an experiment by Google. But Google. and other search engine companies are strongly committed to bringing the best user experience for users of their search or browser products. If this experiment proves successful, it might become implemented as a form of the permanent solution.
Whether it will be the case or not, I do advise all organizations to use clear, clean, and memorable website addresses.
Of course, you can still use subdomains, but instead of domains like
you can use something like:
This way, you will make your website address readable, and much less prone to any type of confusion future browser updates can bring.
2. Saving of overall advertisement costs.
Imagine you are a large organization and got some budget for your new project. Part of this budget is allocated towards marketing. You run adds on social media, on tv, on billboards, on printed media — and you use a domain name like https://iin.fhsda.dxfbsl.co.uk.
So what is the problem with this? There are indeed a few things you should know.
If you do not have a nice clear domain name, you are missing the following:
- CLICK-THROUGH-RATE BOOST: new domain names are beautiful and innovative. They will improve your click-through-rate on social media, classic advertising, and your marketing campaigns, thus growing leads into your website, and boosting your sales.
- EASY TO REMEMBER: use memorable domain names, which are easy for your clients to remember — instantly, and on first hearing. People will remember domain names like https://Bring.Love. They will not remember domain names like https://iin.fhsda.dxfbsl.co.uk
- RADIO TEST PASSED: use domain names that passed Radio test. It is important to make sure that people will indeed visit your website after they hear about it from friends, on phone or via radio advertisement. Do not make it complicated for them.
- AUTOMATIC LINKS CREATION: New generation of domain names can be seamlessly plugged in social media posts and comments while creating automatic links to your website. This is another powerful and innovative way how to generate more leads for your organization, with almost 0 financial costs.
- GLOBAL: if you are a global organization, use domain names in extensions that are geo neutral, like .online, .store, .live, .life or .world. You can use them instantly in any country worldwide. This also means there is no need to secure your brand in dozens of national extensions.
- MEDIA: try to use domain names which are with 4L | 4L, 5L | 5L and 6L | 6L symmetry. They will look great on TV adds, printed media, logos, visit cards, or billboards.
- ORGANIC TRAFFIC: use domain names that are getting large numbers of organic traffic and visits, even when not yet developed. Each person who gets to your website can be your potential client — and completely for free.
- STARTUPS: Great domain name will instantly help you to attract better financing for your activities, and more trust from potential investors.
- ESTABLISHED ORGANISATIONS: Great internet address will give more credibility to your organization and global operations.
- EMAILS ADDRESSES: Great domain names will give you unlimited potential to create good-looking email addresses for your organization and employees. If you operate from let’s say Bring.Love, you can use very memorable emails like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If your organization is operating from domain names like iin.fhsda.dxfbsl.co.uk, you will be stuck with emails like firstname.lastname@example.org. You really do not need that in 2020.
There are so many reasons to start using good looking domain names. Good luck with all your future decisions.
The above-written article is a personal opinion of Marek Eckhaus, Founder and CEO of Brands.International. Although a large effort is made to keep articles up-to-date, it might contain inaccuracies as the internet is developing fastly. Always make your own due diligence before making any decisions related to domain names.
Credit: I found information about Google doing the above-described experiment and an example of spoofing domain names in an article and related comments published at OnlineDomain.com here.
Join me on LinkedIn for further discussion.