Domain Names and Defensible Traffic

Andy Hagans recently posted about his linkbait marathon strategy to rank his sites at the top of the search results. Brian Provost posted about his love for domaining. Domain names may play a big roll not only in anchor text, but also in overall domain credibility, linkability, and defensibility.

An Example of a Domain Waiting to Fall:

In spite of making over a thousand dollars a month, one of my unappealingly named domain names has cost itself significant credibility and links. Since it is an invisible cost it is hard to estimate how much it has cost, but I have a perfect example of showing how much it hurts.

One time I tried sponsoring an event and they said sure. They got my credit card details and then asked for the domain name. Once they saw the domain name they said sorry they couldn't accept my money. And this is a reputable content site in a field that is easy to like, but on a junky sounding domain name. Ouch.

Being Honest With Yourself:

If you have a quality legitimate content site, and people who typically sell reviews or links are unwilling to take your money you know it is time for a change.

Other Signs of Trust:

If people who need sponsorship are unwilling to take my money imagine how much a bad domain name suppresses my click-through rate in the search results, and how many other links it cost me. If and when relevancy moves toward an attention based metric I am screwed if my house is built on a cheesy domain name that looks spammy.

Domain Buyer's Pricing Tips:

You can sometimes capture emerging field names cheaply, but you are probably going to have to spend at least a few grand to get a good name if you are in an established field.

If you are new to domaining, and can't afford a great .com there are still a lot of great .org and .net names out there available for $1,000 to $10,000.

Is a 301 Redirect Risky?

I will eventually 301 redirect my high ranking ugly domain name to the undeveloped MyKeywords.org domain that I just spent $8,000 buying. Short term I will probably see some drop in traffic, but long-term it is going to be far less risky to create an leverage what looks like a real resource and a real brand.

If you do something like this, make sure you have enough other passive income streams to afford the risk, and keep developing links to the new domain name. Keep that old trusted domain registered and redirecting for many years into the future. If you lose it you will probably lose a large portion of your link authority.

There is No Value in Being Anonymous:

You can spend the money your site is making as a passive income source, but if you believe in what you are doing, and have money in the bank, there is no reason to use a bad domain name. It is like writing nameless.

You can get a decent design for few thousand dollars, or a design modification for a few hundred. You can get good content for $50 a page or less. You can move a CMS for a low price too. The cost of moving and re-branding a non-brand site are negligible compared to the potential upside.

If you ever decide to sell, you are not going to get much out of my-ugly-do-mainz.biz, but if you create a real brand on an undeveloped strong domain name you will be able to sell it for a premium far in excess of the domain name cost.

Published: March 1, 2007

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Comments

March 1, 2007 - 9:47am

This is really good stuff and I'm glad I caught it before I hit the sack. A premium domain name is certainly a competitive advantage and something Andy, PG, and I seem to be continually honing in on every day. Yah, they are expensive but if you plan on being around for awhile, it's part of the old purchasing adage of, "Do it right the first time and you will only cry once."

Now, delete your post before you help create more demand! :)

March 1, 2007 - 11:02am

This has always been one area that I have never understood, how people can sometimes spend thousands of hours developing a site and updating it, thousands of dollars on areas like design, programming etc, but then skimp on using a cheap domain.

March 1, 2007 - 2:45pm

"Is a 301 Redirect Risky?"

The advice you gave on that is spot on. Back when Matt was talking to everyone about 301's I jumped in on 2 big domains. It took me quite some time to recover from that and were some of the more stressful times for me because I had to explain in great detail that it was worth it. It's paying off now, but at the time they wanted to 301 every domain we had, and I stressed that was not a good idea because it was a risk and to do it on every domain could lead to disaterous rankings across the board. They accepted that and we still have a quite a few domains that are not 301'd and judging by the rankings they get, more than likely never will any time soon, its just too big of a risk and the payout does not seem like it would be worth the risk as these non 301'd domains are niche powerhouses and rank good anyway.

March 1, 2007 - 3:09pm

re: lack of analytical advice on video web sites.

Hi Aaron,
Ive been following your site very closely the past few months - kind of a convert if you will!

Anyway, just a wee note I want to raise especially as its now my chosen field and Im hoping to get some useful tips out of you :) You never analyse video sites yet these I believe are the future powerful mediums. Is there any reason for this or is it just becuase they are fundamentally the same as any other 'text' site?

Bio info: Im quite new in this game as you will probably notice from my site but and as you quite rightly point out time and again my web content is quality rich so Im sure Ive hit on something - what though is a good question!

Many thanks and best regards.
Michael

Senya
March 1, 2007 - 3:13pm

Thanks for the post, Aaron!
This topic is actual for me too.

I have Ukrainian mysite.com.ua domain with PR3. This is old, trusted domain. But I am going to enter international market and have bought anothersite.com domain. And today I am at the crossroads:
1. Use one site under 2 aliases (and build links for local domain and international one separately), or
2. Use redirect from mysite.com.ua to anothersite.com.

You are right, strategically 2nd case is better. But putting 301 redirect on old domain you are loosing Much SE traffic (as it will gone from the SERP).
May be usage of javascript (as I am aware Google can't read JS yet) redirection will smooth the domain change?

ps sorry for rough English

Senya
March 1, 2007 - 4:00pm

Sorry for my previous silly post. Please ignore It. I just misunderstood "301 redirect" term.

March 1, 2007 - 4:42pm

Hi Aaron, you've expressed the value of a good domain very eloquently and hammered it home with a hard hitting anecdote - i love it! You are one of my favorite bloggers and I just blogged on your topic.

Seeing you on your video was fun. keep up the great content.

-eric

rcjordan
March 1, 2007 - 5:28pm

What part of 1996 did you guys miss? Good, authoritative domains can account for 25% of your traffic ...a great bonus supplement to organic serps.

March 1, 2007 - 7:56pm

Premium domain names are the type of assets only those who have them know the value of. There are a number of companies who base their entire business strategy on them. A friend of mine works at Communicate.com which owns names like Perfume.com, Body.com, Brazil.com, and hundreds more. They used to just collect ad revenues from the sites, but they found that the domains produce so much traffic, they are building e-com sites for their best names and building their long-term strategy on e-com.

March 1, 2007 - 10:02pm

Aaron

Please keep us updated on how the 301 works out. I'm interested to see what the loss is on a site thats doing a significant amount of traffic.

- TBO

March 2, 2007 - 2:00am

rcjordan: very true. If you were fortunate enough to have bought an extremely premium domain i.e. a domain like SEO.com then you will be receiving a lot of natural/unsolicited type in traffic, and you won't have to completely "rely" on the search engines for your sites traffic.

Monetizing domain traffic is a business.

March 2, 2007 - 5:39am

You are right on, a good domain is worth every penny. Why build your site on a weak foundation , the domain name is the first thing I look at when searching for information on the web if the domain looks junky like 2345shoes.net I will pass and check out the next listing.
good post

March 2, 2007 - 10:24am

Having a keyword rich domain name is not every thing but close! I learned this lesson the hard way. If you have a keyword based around a specific industry in your domain name and your internal page names are also named using topic relevant keywords, the overall internal linking structure of your entire website becomes a solid skeleton for your SEO efforts. Latent semantic indexing can pick up on your page names and give much more weight to your site topic if the base domain name is relevant to the page content.

March 2, 2007 - 3:02pm

Keyword-rich domains are great, but you can go overboard with them to the point where, in a crowded field of keyword-rich domains they are more difficult to brand. I think a happy medium in many case are composite names that are memorable, unique and clearly define the content theme as well as the personality of the site. I'm thinking of names like Copyblogger.com, SeoMoz.com, TropicalSEO.com, etc.

Of course, here at SEOBook.com it works really well because Aaron's book is of such high quality it sets the standard and because it is targeting a very narrow niche. I don't think there could be a better name in this case.

April 3, 2007 - 10:48am

MBlair, I couldn't agree with you more. Branding something that is memorable and on topic as far as the domain goes is indeed the key to long term success on the web. Just grabbing a domain name that is crammed full of your top keywords is not a good approach. I have had some decent success with one of my sites for about a year now but I know that if I change up the site and rebrand it that I will be money ahead in the future. It is painful to learn these types of lessons the hard way.

March 2, 2007 - 10:12pm

Please keep us updated, I have a site that needs branding but in it's current form, that is nearly impossible.

March 3, 2007 - 4:27am

Yes, I am currently suffering through a 301 from a poor domain name to a good one - it hurts, but it had to be done. It will be worth it in the long run :)

Henry
March 4, 2007 - 1:40am

Very good blog on the value of a great domain name. I have been a domainer since 1998 and own about 1,000. I think that great domain names need to be easy to remember and spell. Do not get a domain name with numbers or hyphens, everyone forgets them. They can be longer, but they need to be easy to remember, for example GoodMorningLasVegas.com is long but I know everyone that reads this will remember that domain name.
Also what happens if you get listed in the first 3 pages of Google for your business product keyword and two or three months from now Google changes it's results, well what happens if as a customer I did not bookmark your site and your domain name is a bad one then I will not find you again. But if you owned an easy to remember domain name then I would just type it into my browser. The .com is the best one but if you get a top level .us, .info, .net, org or ..biz they can remember them too. For example, Computers.us or Mp3.us which I own are very easy to remember.

It's all about the right keyword, easy to remember and spell makes the domain name very valuable because it will build a brandable business for your customers to remember.

Henry

webgk.com
September 21, 2007 - 8:47pm

I have experimented it first on some of my less important pages. It's working fabulous without losing a single link. I don't know how long will I have to keep it though.

Thanks,
V Raimon

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