One topic of conversation that comes up a lot when discussing web design projects are the domain name(s) that have been registered for a new site. Often domains have been registered in advance in order to grab the best available choices and in a number of different top level extensions to be prevent competitors using the same domain. It is not uncommon to be handed a list of domains for a single project that contains over thirty domain combinations already registered. As domain names are comparatively low cost to register it is easy to register a large number of domains without giving much thought to their future use or strategy. However the cost will start to build up over time as renewals are charged, for example twenty five .com and twenty five co.uk domains over a period of 10 years will cost approximately £5000. There are also a lot of opportunities to purchase premium domain names which contain keywords related to your business or service and the value of these can vary dramatically. We are regularly asked by our clients if a particular premium domain they have been offered may be worth purchasing.
With this in mind and given that there are a lot of misconceptions about the value of registering domains this article looks to address a number of factors that will help you to evaluate your domain name purchasing decisions.
There are essentially three uses for a domain name, one to host a website, one to redirect to another website and the other to block a competitor registering and using a domain that is similar to yours even if you never use it yourself. For any website there should only be one true domain for that site and any other related domains for that site should be set to forward to the main site.
In the eyes of Google there must be a single domain associated to a website and any other domains that are forwarding to the site will not be included in the search engine results. Google will also instantly ban any company using Adwords advertising to link to the domain that forwards to another site as it deemed misleading and against Google’s quality guidelines. This means that the primary domain for your website is by far the most important and that any forwarding domains are of little use unless there is regular traffic arriving at that domain outside of a Google search. This could be because it is such a popular word that people type it straight into their browser e.g. weightloss.com or that it is domain extension variation (.co.uk instead of .com) or a common misspelling of your brand name. In these instances the traffic from these domain variations will be worth capturing but it will be a lot less that your primary domain name secures. In most cases people will run a Google search instead of typing the address straight in to the address bar and in nearly all instances if there is a misspelling or incorrect extension added Google will correct this for the user.
Purchasing domain names to protect your brand is a good way to eliminate a lot of wasted time and legal costs when trying to claim back a domain that is clearly benefiting from your brand name. In all cases it is worth registering both the co.uk and .com of your company and product names. These are words that users may well type in their browser address bar to find your service. If a competitor registers a domain that users are never likely access then whist annoying it probably doesn’t pose any financial risk. The thing to remember is that unless the competitor builds a full website underneath the domain they have registered it is unlikely to ever see any traffic.
Finding a good domain is becoming harder and harder especially if you are looking for a co.uk/com combination. In almost all cases it is better to register a domain name that includes your business/brand name rather that the keywords associated to your business e.g. SunshineHealth.com is better than healthandfitnesslondon.com. There was a time when this wasn’t necessarily the case as previously Google placed a lot of emphasis on the words contained within a domain and if those words matched the content on the site it would generally rank very favorably for those keywords. That all changed when Google implemented the EDM (Exact Match Domain) algorithm in October 2012 and down graded the importance of the words within the domain name. There is another disadvantage to using keyword loaded domains as Google looks very closely at the links you have from other websites. It doesn’t like artificial links and typically these are links which include all your keywords in the link text itself. Instead it much prefers to see a link that includes your brand name. If your domain contain lots of keywords it is harder for Google to differentiate between artificial links and genuine natural links and you are at risk of being penalised.
Since the EDM update the value of keyword loaded domains has dropped as there is no longer a quick win benefit from them. For any domain registered you really need to build a high quality website and integrate it with the many different social channels. With this in mind it is probably best to avoid premium domains that are priced in the hundreds to thousands as you can most likely find as much success by registering a new domain at a fraction of the cost.
The best domains to register are generally single or two word combinations (without hyphenation) based on your company name that are memorable and easy to spell. They should ideally provide some indication of what it is you do rather than being totally abstract.