Once upon a time I ran into a group of entrepreneurs who had a business plan based on the simple power of a domain name. I won’t say what that name really was, but let’s pretend it was books.com. In their business plan they touted their ownership of this domain name repeatedly. But they had no real marketing plan, just a domain name.
It was as if it were like Field of Dreams, only slightly modified: “if you have the domain name, they will come.”
No dice. It didn’t work. That was back a few years in the heyday, when everybody who had a decent domain name was sure they’d be rich in short order. And that business, not surprisingly, fizzled.
Although it wasn’t books.com, that name illustrates a point very well. If you’re curious, type books.com into your browser. It redirects to www.barnesandnoble.com. I don’t know the history of the domain books.com, but I think that fact alone makes my point pretty well: Obviously Barnes and Noble, the bookseller, owns books.com today. They don’t redirect Barnes and Noble to books.com; quite the contrary — books.com goes to Barnes and Noble. Do you see what I mean?
Which is a better name for online book selling — amazon.com or books.com? Which one is the giant success?
I think there is soooo much more to it. The actual name, and it’s presentation to its market audience, matters a great deal. The keyword matching matters a great deal, depending on the winds blowing out of Mountain View. A $2000 investment in exact-match domain names 3 years ago would have supported 100x or more increase in value with very little development cost relative to “regular” web publishing. It is what it is… and every case is unique.
Is Books.com a great name? It sure would be, for anyone wanting to compete with amazon or B&N. That’s probably the #1 reason B&N bought it… to block new competition. Other names are chosen for marketing, or flanking, or branding. As long as you THINK through your plans, strategically, with an awareness of how domain names influence the marketplace (which includes competitors, customers, suppliers, the media, and search engines) you should be able to see how a given name has value with a specific strategy. From there you consider costs/benefits, priorities, etc.
No doubt the guys you mention did not think it through enough. This is common tday with many “domainers” who are trying to develop websites. They should probably involve senior advisors who have such insights.