A Domain Name May Not Matter - At Least Not As You May Think
For quite some time, there has been talk about finding “keyword rich” domain names when selecting a domain name for your website. In reality, this does not really matter… at least not for reasons you might think!
Limited Top Level Domain Names
To start with, there is a major limit on available top level domain names. Most of the “relevant” .com names that you would love to have have already been taken by someone else. In many cases, these have been taken only to sell back to someone else for a profit because you just have to have some special domain name that is relevant, or keyword rich, to your intended audience. If you are intending to start a website about credit cards, for example, good luck finding a good domain using “creditcards” anywhere in it. The same can be said for roughly any broad term that is out there. You can always drop to a .net, .org or even .info, but they aren’t as desirable as the .com name is. So there is a limit on what is available.
Strategy: Be open to any name, not just related keyword domains
Unrelated Domain Names Actually Work
What is a trulia? What is a google? Anyone ever find a definition for a flickr? These are all names that are made up, yet they are some of the major websites found online. Yahoo was probably one of the pioneers of this idea… after all, the definition of Yahoo was never “search engine” or “website portal”… well, at least not until Yahoo made it as such! And taking Flickr as an example… the domain name itself does not indicate pictures by any means. Yet, it is one of the largest online photo services available (and very popular!)
Strategy: You’ll make a name for yourself, regardless of the words (or lack of) in your domain
What About Dashes in Domain Names?
Some people will use dashed versions of a domain name in order to get a “keyword rich” domain. They may not be able to get TopCreditCards.com, but “top-credit-cards.com” might be available. So why not use the dashes? Does it impact search engine results? Is it considered spam? How many dashes?
Actually, the dashes in a domain will have little to no impact on search engine results! The major impact here is the intended audience… the one actually targeted to view the website itself. In my opinion, the use of dashed domains should be reserved for websites that are only planning to use search engines and links as a way to get traffic. Once the visitor lands on the website, they are not as focused on the domain name itself, but rather the content. However, if you are looking to use your domain as a brand, or just something memorable that a user will enter the URL directly into a browser, dashes will lead to loss of visitors. They may not remember the dashes and end up at someone else’s website, or worse, see the website as something “less than trustworthy” and never visit it.
Strategy: For direct marketing and easy to remember, avoid dashes. For search engine only marketing, who cares?
Future Use of Domain Name
This is one of the most under-thought-through parts of choosing a domain. I myself have been guilty of this one. What will you do with the domain name if down the road you choose to go a different direction?
Here is an example, from my own experiences. Years ago, when I entered the mortgage industry as a loan officer, I wanted a domain name that I could use. Not knowing any better, I followed an example I saw often in the real estate industry and registered my name (EdNailor.com) to be used for my mortgage site. After all, I reasoned, if you know my name, you will know my website.
I worked hard and eventually had EdNailor.com dominating the local mortgage search results for a mortgage in the Charlotte NC area. It was the content that did it, after all, what did the term “EdNailor” have to do with mortgages from the search engines’ point of view? My content was solid and my seo strategies allowed me to be on top of my game in that arena. So what was the problem with using my name as the domain? I left the mortgage industry!
If I had chosen a different domain, I could have sold the domain to another mortgage professional and walked away with cash. I did get offers for EdNailor.com, but that was MY NAME… and I did not want something down the road to come up with my name that would embarrass me.. so I would not sell it. I lost out on a financial opportunity. And now, to transition it to a different focus would be a long and tedious process, and would seriously confuse any visitors to the site. Side note: Since then I have transitioned the site to a more appropriate domain name, but with any domain change, SERPs are impacted (at least short term) and I have to wait a while to use EdNailor.com for anything else.
Strategy: Choose a name that would allow you to make changes in the future. If you leave your industry, you can always sell (if you have done a good job with content and rankings!)
Domain Name Choices
A domain name matters, but not for the reasons you may have heard. Choose something that is appropriate for your method of marketing, is fairly easy to remember and can be used in a different way (or sold) in the future. Don’t be afraid of a new word or term, as long as it isn’t confusing or extremely difficult to remember. And above all, remember that your content and seo strategy will determine your long term success, not the domain name you register!