Domain Names as Natural Brands

Oct 15th

Rick Schwartz, one of the leading domainers and creator of the TRAFFIC domain conference, highlighted the value of descriptive domains from a brand perspective:

NATURAL BRANDING or BUILD and CREATE BRANDING

This alone is worth the price of admission. Brad told us his story of spending millions and millions to advertise and brand with his original 3 word creative domain name. When he switched and used a fraction of those ad dollars to buy a category killer domain name, he transformed his business. The dollars he was using to brand was now freed up to do other acquisitions and grow his business in a more dramatic way. NATURAL BRANDING may be the simplest way to describe what a great domain brings to the table.

If you have to make people aware of who you are AND what you do then you are going to need to spend a lot more money on marketing than a business which is built around existing market demand.

What is the leading brand of hammocks? If there is not a clear market leader then Hammocks.com would be a nice spot to set up business.

As the web gets more competitive and generics get established as category leaders there will still be a need for specific brands to differentiate between services, but if you are part of the 99% of small business marketers lacking a large branding budget then buying a category leading domain is an obvious sustainable competitive advantage over other businesses that are in the same position you are. Every market has to have a winner...may as well be you. :)

Published: October 15, 2008

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Comments

October 15, 2008 - 6:07am

I have been thinking about this lately, Ricks argument for Generic Domains, and how he used the example of selling crummy pizza at a good location, sure this works for parity products like WeddingNapkins, rubberbands, that we don't use often, or don't care much for.

How about buying crummy cars on Car.com? Is car.com a better location than BMW.com? Yup, its traffic is not too far behind BMW.

October 15, 2008 - 6:54am

This is exactly what I tell our clients when we start to consult with them about building and designing their blog sites. Once they understand the value of using a how important it is to use the domain as part of their branding, they run out and snatch them up.

October 15, 2008 - 8:38am

Domain name and URL for sure has to contain same keywords, including brand name as title, description and headings to get extra points in Google secret valuation model

Jack

October 15, 2008 - 12:07pm

The problem with NATURAL BRANDING is that generic category domains are hard to get. I tried seo*100, sem*1000 and 1000s of other options and all were booked. Of course a big house can spend millions and get the domain they want. What about small business owners - majority of them are online?

To add - just for the sake of it (something like semonlinetipsblog.com - i was not willing to take), so I choose my name as domain.

October 15, 2008 - 7:19pm

I am part of the reason why few good SEO/SEM domain names are available. Though some of them may still be available if you track news and look for new ideas that way.

In really picked over categories it might make sense to be willing to pay extra to buy a good name or use yourname.com. In many markets that I enter late I pay a premium for the names I buy...usually anywhere from a few hundred to 15K or so.

October 16, 2008 - 6:18am

In many markets that I enter late I pay a premium for the names I buy...usually anywhere from a few hundred to 15K or so.

…. Aaron that’s because you have money… and you can take the risk!

For small business owners like us – its worst than even investing in stock markets… at least the markets give us a return of 12-20% per annum, whereas investing in a premium domain – it may make us a millionaire or give a 0% return. I compare it to buying a lottery.

Rick, I completely agree with you. Other than .com, any other extension sucks. Even Darren (of problogger.net) is now shifting to .com.

October 16, 2008 - 7:46am

If you know what you are doing then with your overall marketing spend you should be able to outperform the market on a risk-adjusted basis. Might there be bumps and bruises along the way? Sure. But that is what separates those who make the $0 and those who become millionaires.

October 15, 2008 - 1:50pm

Dilipshaw is right in my opinion...

Natural branding in major industries is not easy. however there are problems in niche industries too...if for instance you get hammocks.com, and the industry grows it means that you're brand is overwhelmed with other domains all very similar to yourself. hammock.com, myhammock.com, yourhammock.com, hammocks2u, hammocks4u, etc...

When people are referring a friend do they remember company brands or do they remember the URL? I would personally provide the URL. So inline with building a generic brand, if you're lucky or clever enough to get one, I would suggest you need to build the personality of the brand too. Something to make the domain and the Brand distinctive in the eyes of the visitor - something that a generic domain does not do by itself.

SEOBook is a good example of brand personality wrapped up in a relatively generic domain, so it can be done very successfully.

Ben

October 15, 2008 - 3:22pm

It's easier to get good domain names (for SEO and branding) if you get out of .com. The most successful domainers have largely relied on .com names that get type-in traffic: a good portfolio can make solid profits with almost no effort put into developing sites -- successful domainers make enough from type-ins that they're not in a hurry to sell names for cheap.

From an SEO and branding standpoint, I think other domains such as .net, .us and such are just as good as .com. Many people are still a bit surprised to see a ".info" or ".biz" URL, but people are getting more and more used to different TLDs all the time.

As for type-in traffic, the domainers I know all believe they're getting an increasingly raw deal for PPC from Google. Profits are heading down for type-in traffic, couple that with the economic downturn, and I think you'll see more .com domain names on the market at reasonable prices in the next year. My guess is that Google would rather see the domains in the hands of people who'll develop them and produce more content for Google to index.

As for buying domains, you really have to think about it in the context of how much you're going to spend to develop the site.

A domainer is (almost always) going to buy a domain from you for cheap because they're trying to accumulate a large portfolio. A small business who's going to spend $25,000 to develop a site can afford a few thousand for a domain name -- it could be a worthy investment. A venture-capital backed company that has an initial investment of $5 M could easily afford $50k for a name.

October 15, 2008 - 4:07pm

http://www.websitetraders.com/Premium-Domain-Names.html

hi Aaron,
Seems the generics are getting hotter. Feeling i should keep SoftwareCorporates.Com safe......any suggestions?

Typins are always in demand since they are cashcows nobody wants to loose. Any small business needing a generic domain should hire a professional broker. That can do wonders for you saving ur domain purchase price.

October 15, 2008 - 5:26pm

I completely agree with Rick and would recommend buying the best domain name you can afford for any given project. It will seem cheap a few years from now.

dilipshaw - yes it's very difficult (or impossible) to find a decent generic name for reg fee, but in the aftermarket you might find something suitable for a reasonable price. I think the main thing is to consider the domain purchase as a necessary and possibly expensive step in setting up your online business. A lot of small businesses can't get out of the "why spend $x,xxx when I get something similar for $10?" mindset. But as soon as you compare the cost of a strong domain name to the cost of renting an office space, renting retail space etc, print advertising - basically all the costs that would be involved in a bricks and mortar business, the domain name then seems very cheap. Also compare the cost of buying a strong domain to the cost of not buying one (eg increased marketing costs, increased link building costs, loss of business to the owner of the strong generic, lower SERPs).

yet another ben - once everyone else joins the hammocks market with those alternative domains, the owner of hammocks.com will receive a percentage of all that extra traffic due to people mistakenly remembering his name from his competitors' ads. In that scenario, I would welcome the increased competition.

October 15, 2008 - 5:45pm

"From an SEO and branding standpoint, I think other domains such as .net, .us and such are just as good as .com."

CureDream, I beg to differ and here is why.

Anyone that promotes extensions that are not .com UNLESS they own the .com version are making money for other people and the hard work of seo folks does not get rewarded as much as with the .com. Some of the seo dividends are lost and I will explain why.

Believe it or not "Word of mouth" is still the biggest advertising and sales tool out there.

For example it you have a .net which I call the "Orphan extension" folks will automatically lose 25% of all their business and all their efforts to the guy that owns the .com. Word of mouth is still a powerful medium and you can never ignore how big that pool is. Point is with a .com you have the wind at your back. With a .net it is the wind in your face. Like paying an extra 25% for everything. It's just a much harder hill to climb.

Now the seo guy doing his thing sees no difference. But down the line in a place he never deals with or sees there is a difference. There is a dividend. One that makes seo work have even more clout when matched with a keyword domain that is a .com as well.

I am the beneficiary of much work from other people when they try and brand the .net and I own the .com version. I KNOW how much they leak. How much they lose. How much it costs them. They don't. It's substantial. And this is the CREAM of their business. This is the business that they were recommended to by their friends. Very potent more than even the actual visitor numbers suggest. They still may get to the right place, but if I am sitting there with a competing business, I just swallowed their customer that they paid for. That they cultivated. That does not work in reverse.

It may be the disconnect between the search department and the marketing department and the sales department and the advertising department. But when all these components work in harmony, they get a much more explosive result. The company is healthier and they can grow faster and spend more.

I have written about this extensively for years. I probably have a blog post that focuses on this very subject. Many will never agree. But I have the numbers and the actual proof that suggests otherwise.

Hope that helps to show the view from my side of the table.

October 15, 2008 - 7:13pm

Thanks for the comment Rick :)

October 16, 2008 - 10:56pm

Rick - I agree with most of your post, but when you say

Point is with a .com you have the wind at your back. With a .net it is the wind in your face. Like paying an extra 25% for everything.

you fail to mention that the dot net has probably cost you at least 20 and possibly 1000 times less than the dot com. Say you are looking at $10k for the dot net and $1 million for the dot com, most businesses will never lose $990,000 worth of business to the dot com, and if they do, I suspect they won't be too disappointed that their business has become so successful on the back of a $10k domain investment.

October 20, 2008 - 3:43pm

Then I would say spend less and just get a decent dot com. Sorry, but .net is an orphan extension. It is like building a boat that you know leaks. Leaks badly. I don't like to make money for my competition and that is exactly what a .net does. So besides losing the business you also empower your competitor and the better you do the more power you give him.

So if the choice were blogger.com or blogger.net, I would say skip both if the price is prohibitive and before you buy the .net that helps the competition, I would say buy MikeTheBlogger.com that would be available for registration fees or something else that fits. It just has to be easy to spell, easy to remember and easy for folks to tell others.

October 17, 2008 - 6:12am

"...if for instance you get hammocks.com, and the industry grows it means that you're brand is overwhelmed with other domains all very similar to yourself. hammock.com, myhammock.com, yourhammock.com, hammocks2u, hammocks4u, etc..."

Agree - generics get swamped and over-used. Isn't branding meant to be about creating a unique identity? If your brand name is very similar to 20 other competitor brand names, I don't see how this helps. Also, maybe this is just me, but generics tend to look a bit spammy. All that's missing is .info or .biz at the end (again, maybe it's just me).

Generally I think branding is about creating a unique identity that people can easily recognise (and therefore remember and recommend).

Or is it all about domain name keywords? For me, that's the tail wagging the dog. Your brand should be uncompromising and unique. Your quality of product/service and branding come first, no matter what. Everything will follow.

Just my 2 cents :)

October 17, 2008 - 7:09am

Most businesses lack the budget to build a brand from scratch. Domain names act as assistants that help you build an audience for far less than the cost of building a brand from scratch.

January 1, 2009 - 4:24am

Hi, I am new to SEO, but I have waken up to the power of generic domain names. I bought the name www.panknobs.com and hosted my website, and one morning discovered that I was ranked in No. 1 and 2 positions for the term "Pan Knobs". I knew nothing about SEO at the time I did this. If you notice, (don't laugh) I even used the name of my company as the title tag instead of putting keywords in it (I am afraid of making any changes now. In fact I am even hesitating about putting up new product info on the page not knowing if that would negatively affect my rank). As we all know, Google doesn't care much about keywords tag anyway, so it seems that the only hint they have about what I do is from the generic domain name itself.

I am also of the opinion that exact match is very important. If you do a search for the singular term "Pan Knob" without the "s", you don't see me on page one.

So, that means that names like mypanknobs.com or or any other variations other than the exact match itself will require a lot more SEO effort to achieve the same results.
I think this will help answer many SEO questions about exact match vs variations of the exact match.

But let me be honest about it. Pan Knobs is not a very competitive keyword, with monthly searches at about 200.
I get about 2 enquiries a week for no effort on my part, and I am not complaining.

The million dollar question is, will exact match generic dot asia domains have the same power? I have invested in some dot asia names. Does Google give preference to .com over other TLDs in it ranking algorithm?
Aaron, maybe you know something about this.

January 1, 2009 - 4:35am

On more thing I wish to add about my earlier post (panknobs.com). The only backlinks I have are from two of my other sites, nothing more. I added those links just to tell visitors about my other product offerings, not with SEO in mind. They are all low page rank pages. What I am getting at here is, it all narrows down to the generic domain name. Amazing.

January 1, 2009 - 4:38am

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