How To Choose Domain Names For SEO

Oct 1st

Domaining.

It has been a hot topic for a while now, yet many domineers aren't overly active in the SEO space. Yet.

Domaining is when you register a domain, or buy a domain on the seondary market, with the intention of deriving traffic, and turning that traffic into revenue. Traffic comes from type in traffic. i.e. people type a keyword into the address bar and add .com on the end. Domains can be valuable internet real estate, because, unlike a search engine, there is no middleman between you and the visitor. A lucrative pursuit, if you choose the right names.

Let's take a look at how domineering strategy can be applied to SEO.

Background

Aaron has a great interview with Frank Schilling. Frank is one of the biggest domaineers on the planet, and an articulate advocate of this strategy.

Add this lot to your feed reader:

http://www.sevenmile.com/
http://rickschwartz.typepad.com/
http://www.whizzbangsblog.com/
http://www.domainnews.com/

If anyone has other suggestions for great domaining blogs, please add them to the comments.

How To Select A Domain Name

Google tends to give weight to keywords in the domain name. This increases the importance of selecting a good name.

When choosing a domain name for SEO purposes, there are three main factors to consider:

  • Brand
  • Rankability
  • Linkability

Brand

Should you use hyphenated, multi-term domain like search-engine-marketing-services.com?

I'd avoid such names like the plague.

Why?

They have no branding value. They have limited SEO value. Even if you do manage to get such a domain top ten, you're probably going to need to sell on the first visit, as few people are going to remember it once they leave. It is too generic, and it lacks credibility.

In a crowded market, brand offers a point of distinction.

It is easier to build links to branded domain names. People take these name more seriously that keyword-keyword-keyword-keyword.com, which looks spammy and isn't fooling anyone. Would you link to such a name? By doing so, it devalues your own content .

It can even difficult to get such domain names linked to when you pay for the privilege! Directory editors often reject these names on sight, because such names are often associated with low-quality content. Imagine how many free links you might be losing by choosing such a name.

Is there a downside to using branded names?

Yes.

Unless you have a huge marketing budget, no one is going to search for perseefgxcbtrfy.com, which is a new killer, brand I just made up ;)

Thankfully, there is a happy medium between brand and SEO strategy.

Rankability

SEOs release the value of keywords. When naming your site, and deciding on a domain name, try combining the lessons of SEO, branding and domaining.

Genric + term is a good approach to use. Take your chosen keyword, and simply add another word on the end. SeoBook, Travelocity, FlightsCity, CarHub, etc. These words have SEO value built into them, because people are forced to use your keywords in the link. Also, Google (currently) values a keyword within the domain name for ranking purposes. Finally, such a name retains an element of unique branding.

These types of domain names score high on the rank-ability and link-ability meter. They are generic enough to rank well for the keyword term, yet contain just enough branding difference to be memorable.

The SEO Advantage

There is another advantage for SEOs in the domain space.

Dot com's can sell for 5-20 times as much as a .org or .net. Keyword + .com can sell for millions of dollars, depending on the domain name.

Expensive, huh.

But...

By registering or buying the cheaper .net or .org equivilent, building out the site, and ranking well for the keyword + net, or +org, you increase the value of the domain name markedly. Sure, you're one step away from pure domaineering and you still have Google to contend with, but you'll be head and shoulders above those who are undervaluing these names.

A lot of domaineers aren't operating in this space.

Yet.

Other Tips And Ideas

Leave The Keyword Out Entirely

Used the related search function on Google ~ + keyword and see if any of the related keyword terms fit. This can be a good strategy to use if all the good generic keyword names are gone. It might get you close enough to the action, without the enormous price tag. Might be more memorable, too.

How To Test A Domain Name For Penalties Before Buying It

  • Verify the site is not blocking GoogleBot in their robots.txt file
  • Point a link at the domain from a trusted site and see if Google indexes it
  • Within a couple weeks (at most a month) Google should list the site when you search for it in Google using site:domainname.com

Further Reading:

Published: October 1, 2008

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Comments

October 2, 2008 - 12:58pm

Is it only necessary to test whether a domain name has been penalized before if y ou buy the domain from somebody else or should you do that when registering ab rand new domain, too? Never thought about that until now, but technically couldn't somebody get their domain penalized and then abandon it and not use it again. Then you register it and got a domain name that got penalized before? Sounds very unlikely of course, but maybe this is something to look out for if you're registering a domain name and are happy that genericnameDOTcom is still available?

October 2, 2008 - 2:01pm

Yes domain names can have long lasting penalties associated with them. But if you put up a quality value add site AND file for re-inclusion with Google you should be fine.

October 2, 2008 - 2:02pm

It is still hard for me to understand.

October 2, 2008 - 2:15pm

Thanks. I'd kind of distilled this from your book... but had to read between the lines. In the end, I went for keyword + generic in a .com and I'm killing on the SERP's. This pieces puts everything in one place, so I'm grateful to see I went with the right advice. Other 'experts' were saying other things. You the Man : )

October 2, 2008 - 5:11pm

Hi Peter. You asked for other good domainer blogs. Here are a few I like, particularly the first one:

http://domainnamewire.com/
http://conceptualist.com/
http://blog.domaintools.com/

HTH

October 2, 2008 - 6:01pm

I disagree with the statement that I see posted here and on several other SEO blogs "Google tends to give weight to keywords in the domain name". I've yet to find any evidence that supports this.

It is my finding that domain names themselves do not pull much weight in Google, the domain just creates a “halo effect”, boosting the ranking indirectly. Google provides keyword highlighting of the domain name in the SERPs, thereby increasing clicks. A keyword in the domain name also forces web managers to use the keyword in their copy. This also ensures that all link backs contain the keyword.

With that being said I do agree that it’s good practice to use a keyword in the domain.

October 3, 2008 - 12:43am

All I can say is that you have not done the testing I have done. ;)

October 3, 2008 - 4:55pm

I challenge your theory but accept the advice.

October 2, 2008 - 7:16pm

For all who can't get enough:
http://www.domainbits.com/domainersphere/ a list of domaining blogs.

October 2, 2008 - 10:57pm

somerandomseoguy

Search for SEObook

First page of results seobook.org.uk and seobook.name

October 3, 2008 - 4:52pm

Not sure what that has to do with the conversation here?

I disagree with the conclusion that Google gives weight to keywords to domain names. A keyword in the domain name inherently forces good SEO methodologies on the site owner. I've never seen verifiable proof that domain names do anything directly.

Perhaps someone smarter than me can provide evidence?

October 3, 2008 - 10:44pm

There are many examples inside our member forums. One was a nice a/b split test from a week ago...quite stunning proof. If you are a member you can read it here
http://community.seobook.com/domain-names/3867-dump-dash-your-domain-nam...

October 6, 2008 - 8:27pm

@somerandomseoguy Google most definitely gives weight to keywords in the domain name. I've run across domains with no back links that rank in the first page of Google when their domain name matches the keywords searched for.

Example:
http://www.google.com/search?q=corporate+housing+Richmond

http://www.corporatehousingrichmond.com/ is in the top page of 331,000 results. The domain name matches the keywords I searched for. If you check Yahoo & Google backlinks, there are none (currently). The domain was also registered only a couple weeks ago, 9/17/2008.

October 3, 2008 - 3:47am

I think it would also be very beneficial if keyword traffic volumes were taken into account when considering a domain name purchase. If you came across two domains that you liked, all else equal, the keywords with the higher search volumes might be a better choice.

October 3, 2008 - 5:33am

Agreed. I look at both keyword volume and click value when looking at domain names, as well as...

  • how deep the site can be made
  • how easy it will be for me to market the site
October 5, 2008 - 6:30am

Aron is absolutely right, and as a domainer/ light SEO guy. I changed my business name from vague to specific. Now search me on google, i come up first for the term. Infact i rank well for most terms with new york and dating .

You can see web site here: www.NewYorkDatingCoach.com

Now try new york dating coach and give a shot to nyc dating coach as well

also google: new york dating, i come up on first page as well
Infact just type in, dating coach

That never happened with my old name.

Here is an experiment, i have a comepetitor. Search in google NY Dating Coach, and she comes up first and i come up second, except my site is PR 4 and her is 1. She ranks higher ONLY because of domain name exact match.

Any other question, disbelievers?

October 3, 2008 - 9:56am

Hi Motion,

Surely that's an over-simplification of the situation. Remember Page Rank is not the be all and end all...I agree with the point made, but in this instance I'm not sure you can guarantee a like-for-like comparison by comparing the sites performance in this way.

Aaron / Peter, I've just tried posting a comment to the 'buying links' post and I kept being directed to:

http://www.seobook.com/user/login?destination=does-buying-links-make-you...

...which failed to allow me to login...am I being dumb here?

October 3, 2008 - 10:31pm

It may have been a cookies issue...that can happen sometimes. Sorry about that :(

October 3, 2008 - 3:09pm

I see the following words being used in the article above:

1: domineers
2: domaineers
3: domineering

How the heck could that have made it into the article?

It's completely spelled wrong and it looks like it's not a innocent typo either.

Domineering isn't even a word being used by domainers <-- the correct reference used for someone involved in the domain name business.

Domineers is also a ridiculous word that is mentioned in the above post.

When you speak of domainers, say/write domainers and not domineers, when you speak of the act of domaining you say domaining and not domineering.

October 3, 2008 - 3:56pm

other blogs to look at:

elliotsblog.com
ricklatona.com
directnavigation.com

October 4, 2008 - 6:12pm

Aaron,

Thank you for the thoughtful post.

You mention "Generic + term" as a reasonable approach. Is "Term + Generic" just as good? Any data to support one way or the other?

October 4, 2008 - 6:20pm

Either can be effective. The one biggest thing that makes term + generic better in my mind is how Google search suggest currently functions. Though if they change to being more like Yahoo!'s Search Suggest that would put it back at nearly even.

October 6, 2008 - 11:18am

Aaron, I'm sorry to say it but this article is probably the worst I saw on SEOBook and I read the blog for about two years. First like E mentioned those terms are not used in the domaining sphere. Second it looks like a cheap rewrite because all these facts are things most of the people already knows.

As for the importance of keywords in a domain I completely agree that it helps.

October 6, 2008 - 10:59pm

There are stories of people doing a search for a keyword phrase and seeing a site come up with a domain that has the same keywords, but in most of these cases that I have seen there is either NO competition to speak of, the page is also optimized for what the person is looking for, or there are links pointing to the page that contain the phrase. In SEO there is a REAL LACK of scientific method. People look at an effect and think they know the cause when in reality there are many factors that can be at work...!

But, we have over 1,600 domain names and I can assure you that the keywords in a domain name DOES have a positive effect on SEO. HOWEVER, keywords that are embedded in the domain, such as keyword1keyword2.com, will not get any benefit after the first keyword UNLESS both keywords are searched for.

What I am saying is that Google is not going to try and figure out if they should do a match for keyword2 since they don't know where the words stop and start. But if you want a small boost from large numbers of searches for a specific exact phrase in a specific order, it can help to have one.

But if you want more of a boost, then get an ugly domain such as Best-Free-Search-Engine-List.com. You will you get some benefit from not only the main phrase, but also the sub-phrases in the domain. The hyphens are treated like spaces and therefore can provide a match.

Now I know Aaron is rising to his feet and so are other SEOs out there, so I have to add that the effect gained by keywords in the domain IS SMALL, and can easily be overshadowed by on-page and off-page optimization. So there is NO NEED for the world to be flooded with ugly domain names.

But I can tell you that with over 1,500 parked domain names that many of the long, ugly, hyphen-infested, .info domains that we have, generate nice traffic and income. And in my opinion that justifies their existance.

October 10, 2008 - 6:53pm

Aaron, in your article, you mention the economical use of buying a .net or .org keyword domain. Do you think any of the search engines or Google rank foreign Keyword + .me or .bz or .tv extensions (or any of the 60+ others) any diffently than more common .com, net or .org?

You can still find some "killer" keywords in these small abstract domain extensions.

Thanks and I enjoyed the article. I have dovehunting.us that ranks #1 in Yahoo for the key word "dove hunting" so I know key word domains rock!

October 11, 2008 - 12:17am

I think the obscure extensions do not have the same pull that the lead extensions do.

April 19, 2011 - 10:35pm

Okay, before I had mostly used the following article to help choose a domain..

guidetostart.com/?page_id=4

I never would have thaught about the issues with buying a previously used domain that may have been penalized. I very much appreciate your help and will continue to research into this and some of your other ideas to consider before purchasing my next several domain names. THANK YOU!!!

April 26, 2012 - 6:21am

Actually, I am confused with the words used in the article, @E has his point. Anyway, using or buying a domain that has your target keyword is a good technique in SEO. There are lots of strategies accessible online in conducting SEO. Knowing the basic step and answers of all the Questions Commonly Asked About Search Engine Optimisation would be the best start.

June 29, 2012 - 9:45am

This is an excellent post. I have tried this on my .com website and it really works. Just few high-quality backlinks my website ranks on page one of google in our country.

Aaron, have you tried to implement this on cctld? like realestate + suffix .uk, .com.au, ie

Which would you choose between realestate + suffix. com and realestate +hub . com.au, .uk, ie why?

I''m getting a domain name for a real estate website that will target a local market and still undecided if I have to get a .com or a shorter cctld.

I hope you will answer this comment. This is my first post on your great website. I just signed-up few days ago.

Thanks.

June 29, 2012 - 8:33pm

different ones act differently. but if you want to get any more specific advice than that feel free to ask it in our member forums.

domainka
January 22, 2013 - 5:16pm

I am having the same trouble at first in choosing the right domain names for my business. I recently got my high pr domains from domainka.com and I never thought they have a wide variety of domain names to choose from. Thanks for the tips.

January 23, 2013 - 2:10am

...you managed to lower the bar of what I considered to be the lower bound threshold for humanity.

You are so stupid that you put in a fake testimonial for yourself AND set your own username to your site name. Then you further filled out the profile stating that you run the site that you are an alleged client of.

Best of luck pushing your scams elsewhere, as your account has been banned here.

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