John Weiler, author of “Instant Credibility Online,” said that using professional email addresses is a must for any business today to build credibility. Rather than relying on basic personal accounts like Yahoo or Gmail, setting up a custom domain gives your communications much more credibility and visibility. This aligns with my experiences – especially on inbound pitches from random Gmails or Yahoo accounts. The credibility is just not there. Sometimes, it’s a custom domain name, but the website is non-existent! It is not a much better scenario.
When I see an email message in my inbox from someone I don’t know, I habitually take their domain and paste it directly into my browser. I want to check out their website, learn more about their company background, and gauge their legitimacy. But unfortunately, more often than I’d like to admit, I’m met with an error message or a barren Bluehost holding page. No website was built to match that fancy professional email address.
This feels unprofessional to me and frankly throws up a bit of a red flag. It’s easy enough to launch a website nowadays that it makes me wonder if they can be a good partner or are even legit to begin with.
What Exactly is an Email Domain?
To build further context, let’s explore some quick definitions.
An email domain is a website attached to an email address. Basically, it’s what comes after the @ sign. Some common examples include platforms like gmail.com, yahoo.com or outlook.com.
As a business or a person, though, you have the option to purchase a fully custom domain name that matches your personal or company brand. So, for John Smith, that might look like email@example.com. Or for a company, info@<company name>.com. This instantly gives your communications more credibility versus using a public platform.
When you purchase a domain, that doesn’t inherently come bundled with an actual email service or account, you’re primarily paying for the rights to that unique URL, which you need to configure to work technically for routing emails. Platforms like Google Workspace or Office 365 allow you to link custom domains to their underlying email infrastructure as well.
This allows you to maintain your professional brand in the address while leveraging the power of a major email provider behind the scenes—best of both worlds.
The point is that domains and fully functioning email addresses are related but distinct. Yet having both established is vital for any serious business.
Do All Domains Come with Email Addresses?
Expanding on that last point further, you can have a domain name without an associated email address or website. Some individuals or companies will purchase domains defensively to lock down real estate.
But the inverse isn’t true – you can’t have a functioning professional email address without first owning the supporting domain. And you can’t build a website without a domain, either.
So, in many ways, the domain is the core foundation or “real estate” of your online presence. Email and web hosting come layered on top. But without owning that underlying domain, the rest quickly falls apart.
This is why checking for an aligned website is often my first test of credibility when responding to inbound pitches. I want to confirm that not only do they control that domain, but they have actually invested in developing it with email and web elements.
Because all that signals they are serious about their brand identity and professionalism. Parking a domain with no further intent shows more ambivalence in my experience.
The Problem in Detail
Here’s why custom domain names with email are so important.
Say I receive an email from somebody with an intriguing business proposition. As my standard practice, I enter that domain directly into my browser to learn more. But instead of finding details on services, credentials, locations, etc., I’m met with an error saying the site cannot be reached.
My first thought is that this company doesn’t actually exist – someone merely created an email domain to appear legitimate. It’s hardly a great foot to start a business relationship on.
Now compare those reactions to receiving an email from somebody with a professional-looking website. The site overviews the company’s work and lists key team members, media features, contact information, and more. That’s a night-and-day difference in perceived credibility and legitimacy. And I’d be far more likely to respond positively to a pitch.
Read next: 8 Reasons to Invest in SEO
The Solutions Are Simple
Luckily, the solutions here can be remarkably simple. Building a nice-looking, mobile-friendly page has never been easier or more affordable. Platforms like WordPress allow a slick website up in under an hour for less than $20/month.
For basic credibility, all you need is:
- Overviewing who you are
- Details on your product, service, or area of consulting
- Contact information
- 2-3 customer testimonials
The key elements are showing that your brand exists beyond just an email domain and demonstrating social proof.
For choosing your email, consider using your first name, initials, or a friendly greeting like hello@ or hi@. The goal is that it clearly represents your personal or business brand in a professional way.
Custom domain names with email give you a major credibility upgrade over standard personal accounts. But their power gets quickly watered down if there isn’t a matching website for people to vet further and engage with your brand. It undermines trust, and narratives can form. Don’t let shoddy first impressions hold you back.
At the end of the day, utilizing your own professional email domain sends an important signal to others that you are serious about your business or consulting work. But its power becomes diluted extremely quickly if there is no aligned website for people to further engage with your brand and offerings.
First impressions matter immensely in forging business relationships and assessing credibility. Make sure you aren’t leaving things needlessly ambiguous or questionable to those interacting with you online.
With how simple and affordable building a basic web presence is today, there’s no good excuse to let this undercut your perceived professionalism. Consider it table stakes.