Why Domain Names Matter
Before we get into the significance of domain names, let’s have some fun and take a look at the 10 highest prices paid for domain names:
Does anything stand out to you? The latest year on the list — 2010.
Is it any coincidence that this was right before Google introduced Panda and Penguin?
Google’s developers created an algorithm that would seek out sites that it found to be artificially inflating their views to reach the highest rankings. It would basically punish them by throwing them to the bottom of the search results. The next algorithm introduced by Google was Penguin. It was introduced in 2012, to take out the deceptive sites that snuck by Panda.
After both updates, most of us in the website building, buying, selling, and flipping world were feeling a little like this:
After we got over the icy chill of the falling search results, we realized this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Google wants to provide its users with the highest quality search results. There are multiple variables Google takes into consideration when determining a good site from a bad one. Finding the right domain name is just one piece of the puzzle.
Exact-Match Domain Algorithm
In September 2012, Google introduced the exact-match domain algorithm to filter out junk websites from search results. An exact-match domain is a word or phrase that is an identical match to the search keywords. An example would be, “green juice” and an exact-match domain (EMD) of greenjuice.com.
Prior to Google’s 2011 and 2012 updates, having an EMD entitled you to a huge leg up in Google’s rankings, even if 80% of your site was affiliate links and repetitive, crap content.
Unfortunately, the algorithm not only filtered out the crap, but also filtered out legitimate websites with hundreds of pages of great content which just happened to have an EMD domain name.
The value of EMD domain names crashed overnight. What was once your wayto cut to the front of the line–being within the coveted #1-10 Google rankings–was now only likely to land you around #20-35. If you weren’t so lucky, #100-200.
5 ‘Ks’ to Domain Name Perfection
Unless you already have an established brand name (one that’s available with a .com extension) you’re going to have to do some brainstorming to come up with a domain name that will serve to identify and establish your brand or business. There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to come up with a domain name that will represent your brand and stand the test of time. Here are five rules of thumb to help you throughout the domain name development process:
- Keep It Short— Some of the most valuable website names are words that are under 4-letters long. As of 2013, according to WhoAPI, you can no longer create a 4-letter domain name. All possible 4-letter combinations (of which there are 456,976) have been used. If you are determined to use a specific 4-letter domain, and it doesn’t appear to be for sale, contact the registered domain owner of the domain you’re interested in. You can check ICANN’s WHOIS here.
- Keep It Relevant— You wouldn’t own an ice cream parlor but call yourself something that alludes to being a massage parlor or car dealership, so why would you do it to your website?
- Keep It Memorable— Make a FB poll on your personal FB page or join a creative ‘think tank’ (where people bounce all sorts of creative ideas off each other) either via online forums or at a local library. Think of sites like etsy.com or picmonkey.com. Etsy is simply a fun word to say. It’s whimsical and perfect for a website offering homemade crafts. PicMonkey creates a great visual of a monkey holding a camera. Again, a great fit for a website that offers easy photo edits that anyone of any age can do (‘even a monkey can do it’).
- Keep It Spelled Like It Sounds (Phonetically)— The last thing you want is for someone to have trouble finding your site due to forgetting how to spell the word. If you own a fish store you wouldn’t want to have a domain name such as ‘freshphish.com’, no matter how cool you think it looks. If you are dealing with a business, industry, or brand name that is difficult to spell, but is your proper name, consider a 301 redirect with the phonetic spelling. Our Content Editor here at Empire Flippers has a unique first name, so while her primary domain name is the correct spelling (elisadoucette.com), she has a 301 redirect set up for the most common misspelling (alyssadoucette.com) to solve the problem.
- Keep It Legal— Watch out for trademark and brand infringement. You can actually run a trademark and patent search online, here’s how you do it in the US. This will obviously vary depending on the country you are doing business in.
The Different Types of Domains
Partial Keyword Domains
Instead of an EMD name, these days it’s necessary to have something extra to keep from being caught in Google’s ever-expanding net. When selecting words to add to your EMD, take your time and choose carefully. You should be aiming to get in Google’s good graces as one of its trusted page one sites, while also securing your spot as an authority figure in your industry or business.
Here are some examples of EMDs changed to partial keyword, Google-friendly domains:
- exoticmotorcycles.com to exoticmotorcyclesinc.com
- hairproducts.com to hairproductsusa.com
- orientalspices.com to orientalspicecentral.com
Not only are these changes Google-friendly, they also allow you to potentially scoop up both the .com and .org domain names.
The All-Important Domain Extension
You’ve thought of a great domain name. There is only problem: the ‘.com’ is already taken. What about if ‘.biz’ or ‘.net’ are available?
If you’re able to, try and stay away from other domain extensions.
Unfortunately, your best bet is to return to the drawing board and come up with another name. Using ‘biz’ or ‘net’ will immediately put your audience on scam alert!
You can think of it like buying a condo in NYC on Madison Avenue or buying an apartment in the Bronx. Which address is more attractive on paper? Surely, Madison Avenue, which is synonymous with prosperity and the entrepreneurial spirit.
Eventually, more domain extensions will become mainstream and universally recognized as being of the highest quality, but for now, people remain a bit standoffish towards these non-top-level domain extensions (e.g. ‘.me’ or ‘.good’).
Though you should try to get a ‘.com’ right first, shunning the less reputable extensions, like ‘.ly’ and ‘.net’, isn’t always the best choice.
If you’re an established brand or company and you can’t afford the ‘.com’ price tag yet, you should purchase the more affordable extension with the goal of eventually purchasing the ‘.com’ extension once your business gets off the ground and finances allow you to do so.
Companies like Bitly started off this way. Bitly’s original domain name was ‘bit.ly’. When business took off, they were able to purchase bitly.com.
Domainers Hall of Shame
Domainers are individuals that purchase hundreds, sometimes thousands of domain names, with the sole intent of striking it rich. They’ll either sit and cash in on them in the future when the time is right, or purchase a big brand name site in the hopes of a generous legal settlement.
Domainer, J. Taikwok Yung, purchased four domain names; trumpmumbai.com, trumpindia.com, trumpbeijing.com, and trumpbudhabi.com. He had high hopes of being on the receiving end of a cash windfall.
He ended up being on the receiving end of a phone call from Trump’s legal team demanding he hand over the sites. They even offered him $100 per domain to peacefully hand them over. Yung stuck up his middle finger. Bad move. Trump sued him for $400,000. Yung had to pony up $32,000 as well as hand over the domain names.
Lesson here? Avoid the Domainers Hall of Shame and play by the rules.
Getting Down To The Brass Tacks
The value Empire Flippers assigns to a website comes down to its financial status. We do take into consideration domains when it comes to EMDs, short words or phrases with ‘.com’ or ‘org’. Generally speaking though, we want to know the profit X multiplier. We want to know what your site brings to the table.
Primary metrics we take into account when determining the value of a website include:
- How old is the website?
- How diversified is the revenue stream?
- What are the number of email subscribers and unique visitors to the website?
- How much time and effort goes into maintaining the site?
- What are the monthly operating expenses?
- What is the quality of its backlinks/SEO strategy?
Even though our primary metrics don’t include the domain name, the domain is the bedrock for getting you established and recognized. A quality domain name will help attract unique visitors to your site. Once there, if they see you can provide them with value, you’ll get the email subscribers, which given time and consistent effort, translates to greater revenue.
When valuing a site,we need to be confident that it will provide residual income in the long term. We pride ourselves on offering only quality, proven sites, and we guarantee this by being selective about what we list on our marketplace.
We don’t have a crystal ball to show us what other updates Google has in store, but we do know that providing quality content and value will remain at the forefront of every update Google rolls out.
Are domain names as important as they were 10 years ago? Why or why not? We want to hear what you think in the comments below!