Saturday

Domain Name Insanity
Does Your Name Really Matter?



Your domain name is the .com, .net, .org or some other dot something that
people use to get to your web site. Affiliateblog.com is mine.

A group of investors headed by Jake Weinbaum (the guy behind Disney's
go.com) paid $7.5 million for the name Business.com back in 1999, aiming to
make it a showcase B2B site. According to their own press they have
succeeded. Yes, it's a terrific name - short, sort of descriptive and easy
to remember. There's some cachet there, but is it $7.5 million worth? That
cäsh could have bought a lot of promotion or branding for whatever name they
could have had for ten bucks, or a hundred, or two hundred grand.

Each year for 15 years The first $500K in profït goes toward amortizing the
cost of that domain name. That could also pay for a terrific affïliate
program, a truckload of banner and PPC advertising, and a nice BMW lease for
Mr. Weinbaum (who probably doesn't need a BMW).

But the Business.com thing has set off a wave of domain name speculation
that staggers the mind. People are snapping up domain names and ransoming
them off to wide-eyed entrepreneurs with business plans and dreams of
riches. Being a hardcöre capitalist I am torn about domain name
speculation - I am tempted to applaud the person making a buck by getting
there first and grabbing up the good names, but I am annoyed at the
restraint of commerce that takes place while someone negotiates with one of
these guys to get the right name.

So if I look at the top 50 websites on Alexa, most of them should be easy to
remember names, right? Wrong. I would argue that only one, match.com, is an
easy-to-remember name that describes what the site is about.

I keep hearing that the reason these so-called generic or descriptive domain
names are so valuable is that some people just type domain names into the
address bar of their browser rather than using a search engine. This fact
seems to be intuitively false. I find it hard to believe that someone
looking for information on a particular business would type in
www.business.com. Furthermore, if I look at the top 50 websites on Alexa
only one, match.com, is an easy-to-remember name that describes what the
site is about.

I wondered how many people actually type in their address bar (address bar?)
instead of using a search engine anyway. I didn't find the answer, but
Jupiter Media tells me that 64% of people looking for something use a search
engine.

That means that 36% of people use something other than a search engine. What
makes me believe that people typing stuff into their address bar doesn't
happen much is this simple fact...of the people using search engines last
November, 43% searched for common websites like Ebay. In other words,
instead of typing in http://www.ebay.com, people Googled Ebay and clicked on
one of the results. That is absolutely hysterical. And totally believable.

What do all these facts mean? They mean that as far as getting the person
there the first time, everyone starts off on the same square. If your domain
name can get the minority of people who just type into their address bar to
your website without a search engine, it's worth more than someone who
can't.

Hëre are some of the legendary domain name salës in the past several years,
according to Zetetic:

Amount Year Domain

7,500,000 - 1999 - business.com
5,500,000 - 2003 - casino.com
5,000,000 - 2002 - asseenontv.com
5,000,000 - 1999 - korea.com
3,500,000 - 1996 - worldwideweb.com
3,350,000 - 1999 - altavista.com
3,300,000 - 1999 - wine.com
3,000,000 - 1999 - eshow.com
3,000,000 - 1999 - loans.com
2,750,000 - 2004 - creditcards.com

All of these with the exception of eshow.com (computer networking) should
get address bar traffïc, because people who type will type in the
descriptive names - Where my mind gets boggled is in ROI. If you're selling s
omething on asseenontv.com that nets you $25, you'll need to sell 200,000 of
those George Foreman grills just to pay for your domain name.

So nöw everyone gets dollar signs in their eyes and thinks they can make a
million with their domain name. Hëre are some examples of asking prices from
Ebay:

Domain Amount
6usiness.com - 7,000,000
(yes, that's a 6)
ajobformom.com - 3,500,000
Exbay.com - 1,000,000

What does this mean for you? Well, there's some good news and some bad news.
Remember back a few paragraphs when I said that everyone starts on the same
square? That's really the good news. You can choose a pretty good domain
name, put together some terrific content, employ some simple Search Engine
Optimization and buy some keywords or exchange some links and you have a
pretty good chance of getting people to your site the first time. Since most
of them are coming via a search engine they're not going to notice your
domain name until they get there anyway, so your domain name means the same
thing (nothing) to the majority of people using the search engine.

One last thing: if you're hoping to be close to the top in the search
results (the so-called organic SEO), having your keywords in the name of
your website gives you a huge boost. For example, if you're looking for
affïliate blog, we will be in the top five search results. In this case,
Google ignores TLD unless you tell it otherwise. Affiliateblog.info will
come up before us because their pagerank is higher (that's a discussion for
another day). So if you think getting near the top of the organic search
results is more important than having someone type your name directly into
the address bar (and you very well could be right), then grab yourkeyword.cc
or yourkeyword.to. I've done it, and I've suggested it to others.

Once the user comes to your site the name just needs to be memorable enough
so they type it in to get there the next time. Or they may forget and Google
you again. I do it every day. No matter how great your name is, if the
content is lousy they won't come back anyway.

So should you buy a domain name? I don't know - I bought this one. And I
made honorable mention in the Domain Name News for the price I paid ($2500).
I bought the name because I liked it, I liked the number of incoming links
to it, and I felt comfortable paying for it. I've nevër paid more than a
couple hundred dollars for a domain otherwise, and I have more than 200 of
them. My favorite by far is Blozzo.com, which I just bought for $25. I have
a pretty terrific idea in mind for Blozzo too.

I would try to come up with my own name before I bought someone else's. Hëre
are some tips:

1. Try to go with a .com. It's the name everyone associates with the
Internet. Any other Top Level Domain (TLD) like .org or .net is just going
to confuse people, unless it sounds better than the .com. For example, if
you are about networking or a network, a .net is more natural. If your site
is informational, you should use .info if it sounds okay. One of my favorite
$10 domains is seosecrets.info. I think it sounds good. Hands down the most
ingenious use of a TLD is del.icio.us, the social bookmarking site. The use
of the .us TLD is absolutely brilliant.

2. Leave out the dashes and meaningless numbers. If it's a choice between
this-domain.com, thisdomain123.com and thisdomain.net, take the .net. No one
remembers to put the dashes or the numbers in, unless they are an integral
part of the name like studio54.com or e-books.com.

3. Use the fewest letters possible to describe what you do. I own Purple
Monkey Media Group. Purplemonkey.com would have been perfect. It's taken, of
course. Purplemonkeymedia.com was not. I grabbed it. I could have taken
purplemonkeymediagroup.com, but it would have been too long. Remember, every
additional letter is a potential typing errör.

4. If you have a domain name that needs to be reinforced, get a good logo
and sprinkle it liberally on your web site, along with some slogan that will
reinforce the name in people's minds. You would be surprised at how
inexpensive this can be.

5. If you can save a few bucks with your own domain name or by buying a
cheaper domain name, do it, and use the monëy to get yourself placed higher
in the search results or Adsense placement.

6. If you can't come up with a descriptive domain name, go the other way.
Depending on your site's focus, pick a memorable short name that will stick
in people's minds, get a great logo and include the name prominently in your
advertising and marketing. It's called branding, and it's tried and true.

7. Ask your wïfe, friend, boyfriend, husband, dog, lawyer, associate, Mom,
Dad, cousin, uncle, Police Chief, blog writer. They're smarter than you
anyway, and they are going to be the one looking for the site, not you. Some
of my best ideas have come going to or from somewhere with my wïfe and just
brainstorming.

Here's the bad news: it may take you a while to come up with the right name.
There's more good news though - in the real world most domain names sell for
$1,000 or less.

Can't get started? - Go to a site that sells domain names, and put in a word
that describes your business. See if the name is taken (it probably will
be). Open your word processor or go to thesaurus.com and put the word in.
Get a few more words. Chëck those. If there's a .com available and it looks
good, grab it. If not, add the word site or blog or online to your word, and
see if that works. Don't wait. If you think it might be useable, spend the
$9.00. I came up with blogduck.com. I liked it. I decided to think about it
some more. Someone grabbed it that afternoon. Just chisel loose the nine
bucks (or less) and buy the domain.

If you want something a little more sophisticated there are several sites
that are good for helping you come up with a name, like DomainsBot and
Nameboy.

If you draw a blank, go over to Sedo or Afternic and see what's for sale.
Search for a word that describes what you think people will associate the
name of your site with, and see what pops up. That may give you some ideas.

These sites and more can be found in Tools section of
http://affiliateblog.com.

Domain Name Journal tracks domain name salës. Going there is always fun.

Matt DeAngelis

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