Use a .ch URL for an architecture firm named [word ending in CH]?
July 31, 2013 6:16 PM   Subscribe

[ten_letter_name_ending_in_CH].com is not available. But [first_eight_letters].ch is. Is it complete folly to make this 'domain hack' the primary domain for a combined architecture and photography practice?

A friend is about to register an architectural and photography practice in Australia called "_ _ _ _ _ _ a t c h". (Yes, I'm probably being overly cautious, but I don't want to be responsible for some nefarious party registering the name or domain from under him. It's a ten letter word ending in ATCH.)

The two principals are young up-and-coming architects coming from large commercial firms, with one also running a well-regarded architectural photography business under his own name that he would fold into the firm.

The [name].com and [name] domains aren't available (both redirect to other domains, so they can probably be bought for a price, but having just given up fulltime jobs to start the firm they're trying to keep expenses down at the moment). So the obvious approach is probably to register:
  • [name] (or [name]
  • [name]
  • [name]
  • [name]
and redirect the .com domains to the variants (or vice versa).

But these are pretty long domains (24 & 25 characters without the .au suffixes respectively) and none of them adequately describe the breadth of the business. And [name] is only going to fit on a business card in four point type.

_ _ _ _ _ _ is available.

There are some internet startups that have taken this approach (eg Do you think a small architecture firm could?

From a branding perspective do you think this would be 'courageous'?

From a usability perspective what percentage of people just won't 'get it' (and will modern browsers' combined URL/search fields help them sufficiently)?

From an SEO perspective how much of a hit would they take? (Architecture is a word-of-mouth profession, so they're not looking to score for general enquiries like 'Melbourne architects' but obviously want prospective clients who type '[name] architects' or '[name] photography' into the search field to find them. Melbourne, Australia is obviously nowhere near Switzerland, but are Google's algorithms sufficiently clever to let other factors (like a office address) outweigh the TLD designation?
posted by puffmoike to Computers & Internet (21 answers total)
It's only nine letters, but I like much better than or

Some people will go to no matter which of those choices you go with, so you might as well go with the one that is shorter and hipper. Two letter tld's are the thing these days.
posted by alms at 6:21 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

.ch domains are not on the list of extensions that Google treats as gTLDs so if they are in Australia it'll be a uphill SEO battle.

Anything other than .com/ will leak traffic to same. That's unavoidable.

My suggestion: at least contact the owner if the .com and Unless we are talking super common single word you can often be surprised.

If that doesn't work out consider net, co, etc as those are treated at gTLDs. Well, .net is, of course.

I do buyers brokerage if you want a disconnected party to make an inquiry about the domain name. Just reach out via Memail.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:25 PM on July 31, 2013

There are only so many TLDs out there, as FlamingBore mentioned, but I second (which was also the example I thought of in my head).
posted by a halcyon day at 6:46 PM on July 31, 2013

Response by poster: FlamingBore, all the half-decent other TLDs have gone (although I agree it's certainly worth contacting the domain owners, just in case).

I came up with the domain hack version after they told me they were considering a bastardisation of the name as a .com domain. My feeling is that if they aren't keen on the long URLs I listed above then from a branding perspective (but possibly not an SEO one) my suggestion is cleaner/cleverer. Obviously asking for opinions on the Green is a bit self-selecting, because MeFites are all likely to understand domain hacks even if they weren't aware of the term itself, but as much as anything if you guys tell me you hate it then that pretty much seals its fate.

From an SEO perspective I think the overwhelming concern is simply to make sure prospective clients who are explicitly looking for their firm can find them (e.g. if one of their projects gets featured in an architecture magazine). More typical general SEO objectives that many internet sites have (say 'house design in Melbourne') aren't particularly applicable for a company that might only take on three or four jobs a year.
posted by puffmoike at 6:54 PM on July 31, 2013

I look at the stability of the government and whether or not I want to contribute to that country. I think you are safe with a .ch. I wouldn't hesitate to us this.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:42 PM on July 31, 2013

The Digital Public Library of America ended up having to do this. Their chosen "" was taken so they settled for "". It's a little weird but the average user doesn't understand the details of why there's a weird thing at the end rather than a .com or .org.
posted by teleri025 at 7:52 PM on July 31, 2013

I don't want to be responsible for some nefarious party registering the name or domain from under him

If it's an actual word, you'd better go register it now, it's way too easy to guess what it could be.
posted by yohko at 8:36 PM on July 31, 2013

Use the .ch for letterheads and business cards, etc, but have it redirect to (or whatever).
posted by dirtdirt at 9:28 PM on July 31, 2013

If it's an actual word, you'd better go register it now, it's way too easy to guess what it could be.

There's no reason for someone reading this thread to register your friend's domain even if they do guess it - the whole point is that they're not even bidding on the better .com domain.

I agree with the people who say that basically it doesn't matter what the domain is. People will type it in correctly from the business card, but if they're doing it from memory, I don't think you'll get a big difference between or or whatever. I suppose if it ends in .com it will be more obviously a internet address even without out the http:// prefix.

Also, Deathwatch is a terrible name for an architecture firm.
posted by aubilenon at 10:06 PM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Don't forget you need a valid Swiss mailing address to register a .ch domain!
posted by dave99 at 11:39 PM on July 31, 2013

I agree with the advice to get a couple of the domains and have them redirect to the domain. (As long as whatever your "deathwat" is isn't some horrifying word.)

I agree that the two letter domain is currently trendy. But it may not be in the future, and having the other domains adds flexibility.

Also, I suspect with the upcoming increase in the number of top level domains, people will get back in the habit of typing the whole domain. [whatever].com as a default will probably not change for quite some time, but people will get more used to the idea that they didn't guess correctly if google doesn't guess correctly for them.
posted by gjc at 1:56 AM on August 1, 2013

If your friend was starting an accounting firm, or a bank or something that needed gravitas, then the more traditional would be a better choice. But design and architecture is the sort of field where a clever optimisation like is actually appealing. And add the other backups as redirects to be safe.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:38 AM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: Bugger. They were tossing up between and and now the hive mind has managed to guess both of them.
posted by puffmoike at 4:12 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Incidentally the .ch domain is administered by SWITCH Information Technology Services., but their URL is, not
posted by puffmoike at 4:18 AM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: dave99 wrote:
Don't forget you need a valid Swiss mailing address to register a .ch domain!
Do you know something I don't? According to the Switch website:
You can register a .ch domain name without being Swiss and without living in Switzerland or having your business based in Switzerland.
posted by puffmoike at 4:33 AM on August 1, 2013

re: address requirements:

Section 2.6

Anyone *can* register, however if someone gets in a snit about the registration showing a non-Swiss address they can report you, Switch will demand an update to a local address and if you cannot furnish one the domain name will be revoked.

There are companies out there that will act as your localized agent, but it's an annual fee and not cheap.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:48 AM on August 1, 2013

From a media perspective, it helps enormously when architecture firms have local domain names. If I'm looking for a Swiss firm and end up with an Australian one it's rather confusing. Also, the '.ch' seems a bit gimmicky - the era of architecture firms with whizzy dotcom style names was a decade or so ago. Just my opinion though.
posted by jonathanbell at 7:16 AM on August 1, 2013

Use the .ch for letterheads and business cards, etc, but have it redirect to (or whatever).

This. You get to have a catchy domain name without the SEO drawbacks.
posted by neckro23 at 10:34 AM on August 1, 2013

If I'm looking for a Swiss firm and end up with an Australian one it's rather confusing

yeah, why don't you recommend
posted by a halcyon day at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: a halcyon day, the format for australian domains is (not simply and ****** is taken.
posted by puffmoike at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.

The guys liked ****** and the domain has been purchased (but I'm not sure if the company name has yet been registered). They will also approach the holder of ****** to see if they have any interest in selling the domain.

Thanks to everyone who contributed. No obvious best answers, because it was a bit of an open-ended question which elicited lots of great responses.
posted by puffmoike at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2013

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