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What Makes a Good Domain Name? [Video FAQ]

Aug 3, 2012 / by Preston Van Dyke

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Determining a good domain name comes down to 3 different approaches. They are brand, brand plus keyword, or simply a exact or broad match keyword domain. Of these 3 choices the most ideal approach is the second. One in which you can obtain a domain that has all the needed aspects of a well branded domain name as well as a keyword targeted name for search engine optimization. Often this option is not available. In the case that it isn't available for you the second best approach would be a branded only domain name.

But before we go into the details of these 3 domain name approaches and the benefits and deficits of each one. Let's first lay out quality domain name practices no matter your choice. A domain name should be:

  • Short and succinct—easy to remember.
  • Provide an idea of what will be found at the site.
  • Easy to spell/read; one of the most common mistakes in this regard is when a domain name is chosen with the last letter of the first word and first letter of the second word are the same. This would be something like infoonline.com. Whether you decide to use both o's or just keep one (infonline.com) it's still confusing and bound to cause issues.
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens unless it is part of your business name; these cheapen the way you appear and often cause navigational issues.

Brand-Only Domain Names

A branded only domain name is one where it ties directly to the business name without any regard to terms indicating products or services. Most often these types of domain names are not real terms at all. Some very well known or common domain names that follow this approach are:

  • Nike.com
  • Google.com
  • Bing.com
  • Dell.com
  • Hapari.com

Strengths

All are straight forward, short, easy to spell and easy to remember. But what makes them a good domain from a branding perspective is their uniqueness. To be able to take a name that otherwise has little or no significance and turn that into a term that clearly identifies the product/service your business offers is a powerful thing.

Branded domains like these are also not as likely to mistyped when linked to or forgotten when navigating directly to the website.

Weaknesses

Initially, a branded-only domain name holds no SEO value. Meaning, without any links pointing to it and no keyword to identify relevance within the domain name search engines have no reason to pay attention. This can make the starting months of on organic marketing campaign slightly slow going.

Branded + Keyword Domain Names

The ideal domain name incorporates the best of both worlds. Most commonly you will see these domain names for online focused businesses. Businesses that depend largely on online performance typically consider their domain name choices while finalizing a business name and establishing a business entity. (Side note: Every business should be doing this whether or not you'll depend on internet performance as a lifeblood for your business). To be able to make your target keywords—the term that clearly defines what your business is about—your brand and domain name as well can have drastically positive effects.

Here are some examples of when a the keyword literally became the brand:

  • Hotels.com
  • SEO.com
  • About.com

This also works with the combination approach:

  • SEOmoz.org
  • HomeDepot.com

Strengths

These domain names place their website in a strong position of authority. Clearly defining what they are about through the ideal keyword, while establishing a domain name that is highly brandable. With a brand+keyword domain such as these you can expect quick growth in your organic marketing that will remain consistent as you continue link building and content strategies.

Weaknesses

Finding and obtaining a domain name like these can be very difficult. Often the domain is either already in use by another business or the cost of the domain is far too high for a start-up to justify. The second set of domains (the combination approach) are usually your best bet.

Keyword-Only Domain Names

A keyword only domain name would be those with no tie to the business name or brand. They use only keywords that indicate what the website is relevant to. In the past, and even still, domain names that fall under this category perform very well within search results. A few examples of this approach would be:

  • PromotionalCodes.com
  • TravelandLeisure.com

Strengths

While it is a slowly dying trend, search engines do still provide benefit to domain names with head terms or priority keywords. This can assist your website in getting up and off the ground quickly by establishing relevance to subject matter and queries for the audience you seek.

Weaknesses

The most common problem people often run into with this approach is in lack of availability. Because the shorter more exact phrases for terms frequently searched have already been snatched up this approach often leads to long and very spammy looking domain names. Because of this these domains are not typically remembered by users and are likely to be further devalued in the future of search ranking factors. Although it may take slightly longer to get the site off the ground in terms of organic rankings for keyword+brand or brand only domain names they tend to maintain stronger rankings for longer with less SEO efforts simply due to the strength in brand and what that means for naturally acquired links.


Do you have a question about SEO, internet marketing or social media? If so, post your questions on the SEO.com Facebook page, Tweet us, or leave a comment on the SEO.com Google+ page. For Twitter and G+ use the hashtag #SEOCOMFAQ. Maybe we will use one of your questions in a future video.

Topics: Blog Video Marketing

Preston Van Dyke

Written by Preston Van Dyke

Preston's addictions include SEO, Web Development, Diet Coke and Online TV.

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