The domain I want for my business is taken and I don't have the $$$$ to pay the asking price. So it's either I settle for a .co or add "the" or "book" at the front of the name in the domain (ex: thesoulretreats or booksoulretreats) but only use Soul Retreats in branding and marketing campaigns that will embody the brand. Which is better for brand recognition and seo? To just go with .co or add book/the? I prefer a .com name.
I would not worry about extension. It's always better to have exact match name, so to me it's better to have soulretreat.co instead of "the" or "book". Also you can check new extensions like .club or .camp for example. Not sure if you want to go with plural.
Other things to consider are:
- Overall branding strategy may include checking YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter handles being available as well. Domain and all other handles should be same. https://checkusernames.com/ is a handy tool to check available names.
- Most people would still type .com (and not .net, .org or .co or anything else really). That is why .com domains are VERY highly valued and not other domains.
- You can consider changing the company name as well, so .com and other social media handles are available. E.g. you could use an inventive name like calenderly.com or lendi.com or mysoulretreats.com.
Hope it helps!
I agree with Dmitri - adding "the" or "book" will be an issue with branding forever - people will get past the .co sooner than the other.
It's best to go with .co or any other extension that you see fit, adding "the", "book", "get", etc... on your domain becomes very confusing very quickly. In regards to SEO, it doesn't matter much as proper optimization will handle the domain and its variances, however, the human factor will fail consistently - its just not natural.
If you expect prospective customers to type in your domain name, I totally disagree with anyone suggesting you take a non-dot-com domain name. It's unfortunate when the names you like aren't available as dot-coms, but it is what everyone is going to type when you get a .co name. So you're sending people to the dot-com and frustrating them, even losing business.
Now if you are not expecting prospective customers to type in your domain name, and you're primarily having them find you through digital advertising links, then it makes absolutely no difference what you added to your domain name, because they're going to click, not type.
No, you shouldn't have to pay a squatter for the domain. But, there's very little to do except wait them out or negotiate. I have no idea what the domain holder is asking for in terms of money, but sometimes it's just better to pay it and stop the hobbled attempts to be memorable for years and years and years to come. It may seem like a big nut now to crack, but over time, what amount of effort and money will it cost you to use a different one without mistakes (see above).
If your business is word-of-mouth, get the dot-com no matter what. If it's digital advertising, do whatever domain is close.