Merging Search Engine Optimization and Domaining

Frank Schilling posts his thoughts on SEO while Brian Provost posts how to turn a .org into a .com:

My strategy for .com domain names has generally been to stash them away and forget they exist. I’ll take my SEO skillset and go develop the .org or .net cousins to build the exact same audience thanks to the overweighting of exact match in search engines, leaving the .com domains in the vault to appreciate.

If you are developing an online brand worthy of attention and can't afford the target .com you probably do not need it. Look how popular got with their terrible domain name. Eventually they got the .com, but they made that investment after they proved their model worked.
Frank posted that he thought SEOs try to think of how they can game engines

Domainers think: "How can I exist without Google .. if Google blew away tomorrow, how could I guarantee traffic delivery?" .. SEO folks seem to think, "How can I get free visits from the top search engine and if that top search engine ever changes, how can I get free traffic from the next top search engine."

I don't think SEOs just look at Google for traffic. I think some of the best SEOs think of the web more in terms of the Cluetrain Manifesto, viewing the web as a series of markets and conversations, realizing that if they are frequently talked about then search rankings are a by-product of that.

If you are just getting into domains right now and want to develop sites that will get ranked you are far better off buying .org or .net domains, and saving the money the .com would have cost you to spend it on marketing and development of your .org or .net. If you are trying to predict new markets that you expect to become huge you may want to buy the .com. If you want to lock out competition buy all 3 extensions.

Published: April 25, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Dharmesh Shah
April 25, 2007 - 1:37am

Seems like a dangerous strategy to build a bunch of value into a .net domain and then have to pay dearly for the .com at a later date.

Are you better off with the "perfect" .net name (for which the .com is not available or too expensive), or slightly less perfect .com domain that you can afford to buy?

April 25, 2007 - 1:50am

I have a site with a terrible multi-dashed non .com domain name that makes enough to feed many families. When I recently decided to spend thousands on a new domain name for that site I chose a .org, rather than spending close to a million on related .coms.

In most cases you probably don't need to own the .com to have a large mindshare and rank #1 in your vertical. From a web integration / marketing perspective for a web based industry I believe a .org or .net has to have at least 85 to 90% of the value of the associated .com, at least if you plan on developing your domain names. If you model is to monetize direct navigation they are closer to 1 or 2%.

April 25, 2007 - 1:54am

"Seems like a dangerous strategy to build a bunch of value into a .net domain and then have to pay dearly for the .com at a later date."

That's not really a strategy at all. In fact, it's pretty careless. Either nut up for the .com when you start or proceed with the alternate TLD. If you can acquire the .com later for a decent value, great. Shelf it, redirect the type-in, or eat some shit for a few months while the mass 301's do the heavy lifting.

99% of the time, if you're going to develop a site, you make the best decision on a domain name before you start and then you dance with what brung you.

If you are a domainer, ignore all this and enjoy the beach. :)

Comparing audience development to type-in traffic is apples and oranges.

April 25, 2007 - 9:01am

Aaron, just an observation from some of the sites in my industry: It seems that a multi dashed domain name gets hammered twice as hard as a domain name with no dashes if there is even a slight shake up in the algo. What do you think would be the better approach for a new site: purchasing a multi dashed, keyword strong domain as a .com or finding a domain that is not dashed in a .net ,.us or .biz? All other things being considered equal (site structure, links etc) which would weather the changes in the algos better?

April 25, 2007 - 9:17am

I would recommend staying away from dashes Shad.

AjiNIMC - Gmail...
April 25, 2007 - 10:58am

Every domain should pass the phone test and billboard test, rest should be fine with the GYMs of the world.

April 25, 2007 - 5:00pm

I don't think is a terrible domain name. The name is great.

Tamar Weinberg
April 25, 2007 - 7:40pm

Dharmesh writes: "Are you better off with the "perfect" .net name (for which the .com is not available or too expensive), or slightly less perfect .com domain that you can afford to buy?"

That's a good question. I would still go with what Brian Provost said. Darren Rowse of wasn't able to score when he started blogging (he ended up doing so within the past 2 months), but Problogger.NET became THE brand name for him as far as I'm concerned.

Richard Ball
April 25, 2007 - 8:43pm

Isolating the search engine aspect of this, do you think the search engines will eventually ignore the domain name entirely? IOW, the content is the same at as at least as far as Googlebot is concerned. What's in a name? ;-)

marcia lynn
April 30, 2007 - 6:25pm

I'm glad to see dialogue between Franky and Aaron, both top in their respective industries.

Direct Navigation and SEO are so fundamentally different that, traditionally, a person involved in one industry had no concept or understanding of the other.

One versed in SEO believes that if a site isn't at the top of organic search results, it doesn't receives qualified visitors.

One versed in Direct Navigation believes that placement at the top of organic search results is temporary and not within the site owner's control.

Hopefully, dialogues like this will continue to bridge the chasm of misunderstanding.

Domainer's Gazette
May 1, 2007 - 12:50am

...and if you're just now getting into domain names, I'd suggest taking Jim Boykin's advice and buy old domains (more specifically, buy them from SnapNames or Pool..)

June 5, 2008 - 7:00pm

I am communicating with a top domainer (he owns more than 20,000 domains). He was at one time a Google partner (he's since left them disgruntled) and attends Traffic conferences. He makes big bucks off of his domains (he just recently sold one for 30K!). He wants me to SEO his main web domain site, the portal site where he displays his portfolio of domain names. He's owned that company domain since 2004 (so it has some domain age) but the website has only been up for a couple of weeks. He gets an aggregate 100,000 hits a month (actually, maybe per day) on all of his domain landing pages which have ppc ads on them.

I'm learning more about SEO each day and want to find ways to help promote those services, specifically whitehatseo tricks and techniques. If I do this for him, he'll place an advertisement for my business on his main site and on each of his domain landing pages. Would this be an opportunity to not pass up? The backlinks would be killer I'm thinking (don't know though). However, what would be the drawbacks, if any?

June 5, 2008 - 10:08pm

I generally don't give away specific personalized business advice for free because that is a bad business model for me to engage in. If everyone but me makes money from my efforts then I am bad at business!

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