GUIDE: What to look for when buying a website domain name

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What’s in a name?

Well, quite a lot when it comes to the web, actually. Picking the perfect domain name can be as difficult as naming a child, and when you think about how much time and effort you’re going to put into nurturing your online baby, it’s potentially an equally daunting undertaking.

But it needn’t be, so long as you consider a few key factors. We spoke to Paul Roach, SEO pro and CEO of parked-domain monetising specialists Product Wave about what most to look for when buying a domain name.

Every website starts with a domain (but not all domains are equal)

There are 18 (soon to be 19) domain extensions to choose from, but the majority of businesses choose either a .com, .net or a country specific domain (such as .co.uk). You don’t see too many sites on .biz or .info domains because they have been somewhat devalued through widespread availability and spam. There are always exceptions to the rule, however and you can use other domain extensions creatively (think bit.ly).
 
 
What should you look for when you’re buying a domain?

If you’re looking for a .com or country domain you’re probably going to have to be pretty creative when you’re choosing a new domain name. You can choose to go down the keyword route (user-testing.com is a great example of this, they rank at #1 on Google for their chosen name, mainly due to the keyword-keyword domain) which ensures that (almost) every link you get is going to hit your target keywords, or you can start a brand from the beginning, and build through brand awareness.
 
Whatever you do, don’t go down the route of buying-a-great-domain-with-hundreds-of-hypens-in-it.com. How many times have you seen a link to a site with multiple hyphens and clicked on it, never mind bought anything? There is nothing inherently wrong with multiple hyphen domains, but the user perception is bad, and there’s good evidence that it counts as a negative factor in search engine ranking algorithms.
 

All the “good” domains are gone

Following on from the point above, it’s true that the majority of single (and double) keyword domains have been snapped up already. That leaves you with a couple of options. Try to pick a domain that is very brandable, rather than keyword led (you may still need to buy it from someone, but it will be cheaper) or enter the domain auction marketplace to pick up the perfect one for your business. This can be expensive, so set a budget, and don’t set your heart on a specific domain name unless you’re willing to break the bank.
 
 
Google doesn’t give any love to new domains… does it?

It’s true that starting from scratch with a new domain puts you behind the curve as far as immediately competing for high volume search terms, but the idea that you can’t compete at all is wrong. You aren’t going to rank at #1 for “poker” in month 1 (or probably even month 10) but there are plenty of long tail terms that will drive you qualified traffic while building towards a bigger keyword.

For example, if I’m entering the “fishing” market I’m unlikely to rank for generic top level terms like “fishing” and “fishing equipment”. But I can probably rank for secondary and related terms such as “fly fishing equipment” that contain my long term keywords. In this example, a more brandable domain name is probably going to be a better long term bet than fly-fishing-equipment.com (which is not available but the .co.uk and .net are!). Unless all you’re going to sell is fly fishing items that is…
 
 
What about the new gTLDs?

Considering they are going to cost $180,000 dollars, and require around the same level of qualification and application criteria as “building a skyscraper” they will be out of reach for the majority of businesses. However, big brands will have to decide if their current domain strategy is adequate, or if they should they move to a new .BRAND domain (or should they simply reserve the domain to stop other companies potentially using it)? A lot will depend on how the new domains are perceived by the public (and the search engines) and whether global brands think it’s worthwhile to redo years of domain management. For newer brands, the question will probably be easier to answer; it would be a surprise if .twitter and .google aren’t reserved in the first round of registrations.

Product Wave is a new service designed to make the most of un-used or “parked” domains. The platform allows even those with no coding skill to purchase a domain and make cash from it within minutes, quickly turning a dormant domain into a website products for sale and money to be earned from merchant feeds and affiliate marketing programs such as the Commission Junction and Amazon.

Free to use for anyone with one domain, a small monthly fee upgrades Product Wave to a pro service for those with multiple domains, providing analytics, automatic sitemap generation, reporting from a central control panel, content generation, template and logo creation, link development, and domain management services.

Click here for more info on Product Wave.

By Gerald Lynch | July 5th, 2011





Gerald LynchGUIDE: What to look for when buying a website domain name
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