How To Be An Expert At Buying Domains: A Definitive Guide
When it comes to building a website of any kind, the domain name is one of the most important considerations. Do you want a keyword-rich domain that works well for SEO? Or do you want a domain name that is memorable and works with your brand? Is there a way to have both? These are the questions you might find yourself asking. Even if you know the answer, the hard part is actually formulating the perfect domain name.
On its face, buying a domain seems so simple – type in your word or phrase, decide on your domain extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.), and boom, you’re ready to go. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy if you really want to achieve astonishing results. Today’s your lucky day though – I’ve put together what I think is a definitive guide to expert domain buying.
Why is the Domain Name So Important?
The domain name is the internet’s gateway to accessing your site. Without it, your site is invisible. Imagine a post office worker trying to deliver mail to an address that doesn’t exist – it’s impossible! You already know this, however. While you would never create a public website without a domain (that’s just absurd), you must first understand why it’s so important.
For a business that is primarily based online (and even for those that aren’t), the domain name is a key component of the business’s (or blog’s) brand. Because it’s the way that customers will access the storefront or additional information about the company, it’s critical to consider concepts of brand and image when determining what a website’s domain should be.
For example, Amazon.com has a simple domain name that is perfectly in line with the company’s name and brand, and it’s memorable. Sure, they could have gone with BuyAllKindsofConsumerProductsHere.com, but that wouldn’t be in line with the company’s brand, nor is it an attractive or easy URL to remember.
If you’ve been involved with any kind of search engine optimization, it’s no secret that domain names play an extremely significant role in how a particular site is ranked in the search engines. Having a domain name with your exact target keyword is so powerful that it could propel your site ahead of hundreds or thousands of websites that have more content, more backlinks, and more authority with Google (i.e. higher PageRank).
Let’s take a look an example for the keyword USB storage device. I did a quick SEO competition analysis of the keyword in Market Samurai and here’s what I found:
There is a .org site that has the exact keyword in its domain, and it’s ranked #6 with virtually no other positive SEO factors. It has a PR of 0, only 7 pages of content, only 13 backlinks, and hasn’t even been in existence for a year. And this site is outranking a Microsoft.com site. Microsoft has a 14 year-old domain, the ranking page has a PR of 6, it has 27 backlinks to the exact page, over 43 million backlinks to the Microsoft.com domain, and over 700,000 pages of content.
This example should illustrate for you exactly how powerful an exact match keyword domain can be for SEO purposes. Like I said, this isn’t a secret to internet marketers, and there has been a lot written about this subject (one I really like: an in-depth case study by Moon Hussain).
So Which is More Important: Brand or Target Keyword(s)?
I’m sure this can be debated forever, so I’m going to give my general thoughts on the answer to this question. For smaller niche sites (like many of those in the niche site duel), I think it’s important to focus on keywords in your domain vs. trying to establish a brand. When you’re trying to get a smaller niche site more traffic and get it to start earning quickly, it’s important to get all the SEO factors in your favor, so this is an easy one that will help you tremendously right from the start.
For larger, authority-type sites, or those that represent an actual business, brand is probably the most important long-term consideration, and should therefore be somehow incorporated into the domain name. Focus on something unique and memorable, and you’ll likely have a good, “brandable” domain name.
Ways to Ruin a Domain Name
Regardless of whether you decide to focus on your brand or opt to build your domain name around certain keywords, there are a handful of ways to ruin your domain name. Become familiar with these domain no-no’s so that you don’t make any of these mistakes. I’ve made several of these mistakes, and I’ll point them out below.
1) Use of Date/Time References
Ideally, you want your domain to be timeless (aside from a few exceptions). For example, let’s say you start an arts and crafts blog this year, and you decide that ArtsAndCrafts2010.com is a catchy domain name. Sure, it’s catchy this year, but five years from now (or heck, maybe 1 year from now) you will be kicking yourself for using the year in the domain name.
In some cases, the date may make sense – for example, let’s say you want to build a niche holiday site that targets a specific season, such as Christmas2010.com. In this case, your site’s life will be limited, but it may still be a valuable purchase if you can reap the benefits of the upcoming holiday season.
2) Use of Numbers
While this won’t kill your site, it’s generally not a good idea to use a number in your site’s domain name simply because it creates confusion when you try to communicate your site’s URL verbally. I made this very mistake with this blog – Is it My4HrWorkweek.com? Or MyFourHrWorkweek.com? You don’t want to put yourself in the position to lose visitors simply because your domain is difficult to type correctly.
3) Use of Abbreviated Words
Yes, another mistake made by this blog! Is it “hr” or “hour?” Similar to using numbers, using abbreviations creates confusion when trying to spell out the URL.
4) Use of Hyphens
In general, Google doesn’t seem to like domain names that use hyphens, because they appear spammy. Also, this creates confusion for your potential visitors. Is it myblog.com or my-blog.com? I may be beating a dead horse here, but you want to avoid confusion whenever possible.
5) Use of a Copyrighted Name
Sometimes this is okay, but it’s better to avoid risking the long-term integrity of your site by avoiding copyrighted names altogether. I made this mistake with my P90X blog (P90XReviews.me), which prevented me from becoming a direct affiliate of the P90X product. I was still able to work around it, however, so it hopefully won’t hurt me in the long run.
6) Failure to Research Keywords Thoroughly
It’s never going to be perfect, but you may be missing out on valuable traffic by simply failing to perform a proper keyword analysis. It may be as simple as making a keyword plural (as I explained here with the mistake I made on my niche site).
It’s not the end of the world if you make one of these mistakes – after all, the domain will probably cost you $10 at most, and you can always purchase a new one. The problem comes, however, when you don’t realize your mistake until after you’ve invested hours and hours of your time on the site. It’s best to get the domain name correct right from the beginning.
The Best Way to Research a Domain Name
Now, I’m going to focus primarily on keyword-rich domain names, as brandable domain names will most likely come from your imagination, not from some tool online.
I’ve spoken at length about Market Samurai (link to free trial), where I perform most of my keyword and competition research, so I’m not going to go into that process. I’ve written about my Market Samurai keyword research tips here, here, and here, in case you’d like to see them. One feature of Market Samurai that I haven’t discussed (and that most people who use Market Samurai don’t discuss) is the domain research feature.
If you’ve already tried the free trial version of Market Samurai or have simply decided not to try Market Samurai (maybe because you don’t think you’d want to spend the money on it), I want to bring to your attention a completely free tool by the same company that’ll help you purchase a domain: Domain Samurai. This software is completely free (not just a free trial), so if you don’t use Market Samurai, there’s no reason to not download Domain Samurai.
Here’s one secret that many people don’t know: Although you can’t do competition research and many other features found in Market Samurai, Domain Samurai gives you the same keyword research tool that Market Samurai has. Let’s run through an example of how it works.
Domain Samurai Example
Let’s say I want to build a niche website around wireless keyboards. For purposes of this example, we’ll ignore the fact that we generally try to avoid very low traffic keywords.
1) Input General Target Keyword
Here’s where we input the general keyword for which we want to look for related keywords to potentially build our site around (and in particular, base our domain name on). Once you’ve input the general keyword, click “Create.”
2) Perform Keyword Research
Click on the Keyword Research button to begin the research process.
From here, you should specify your keyword phrase length. I always begin with a minimum of at least 2, because we know it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be targeting single word keywords. Click on Generate Keywords.
Once the list populates, you can manipulate it however you want by adding filters or removing certain keywords, but for this example, we’ll run with the list we’re given, and click Analyze Keywords.
From the list of results, we should immediately filter out the very low traffic and irrelevant keywords. The important column to look at is the SEOT column, which tells you the maximum daily potential clicks that site would expect to receive if it’s ranking #1 for that particular keyword. Depending on how competitive of a niche you want to target, you can set the minimum value for this column accordingly.
You may be wondering, “Why should I do keyword research in this software instead of using Google’s Keyword Research Tool?” You’ll see why in the next step below.
3) Research Domains
This is where Domain Samurai adds value to your site creation process. Instead of taking each potential keyword and manually inputting each one into your domain registrar’s website, the software will run through each of your keywords and determine the availability of each one. It’ll even go one step further and suggest domain names if the exact keyword isn’t available.
The first thing we need to do from the results generated in the previous step above is select the keywords we’re interested in, by checking the box next to the keyword(s).
Next, click the button “Find Domains.” You’ll be taken to the domain search screen where you can then click Find Domains once again. Note: You can change what types of domains the search looks at, but by default, it will look for .com, .net, and .org domains.
4) Analyze the Results
Once your results are listed, you’ll want to click the column above “Density” to sort the domain names by keyword density. A value of 100 means that the exact keyword domain is available. Because we selected fairly low competition/low traffic keywords in this example, it looks like there are a lot of relevant domains available.
[Click to enlarge image]
For more competitive keywords, we may not find the exact keyword match domains. In such cases, Domain Samurai will recommend other domain names:
These obviously aren’t as good as exact keyword domain names, but they could still work for you.
5) Buy Your Domain!
If you find a domain you like, you can click the Buy button next to the domain name, and Domain Samurai will direct you to a page that allows you to choose from some of the more popular domain registration websites. Alternatively, you may go directly to the domain registration site of your choice, and I’ll discuss that more below.
Where to Purchase Your Domain
My favorite place to purchase domain names (and this site currently holds over 90% of the domains that I own) is Go Daddy. I prefer Go Daddy because they have a strong reputation and you can almost always find coupon codes that help you purchase domains at a discount. Here are some coupon codes that were active at the time this article was written (I’ll do my best to update it whenever I find out the codes have changed):
GoDaddy Coupon Codes
- FAN3 – 35% off .COM domains
- FUN3 – 35% off .COM domains
- FAN749 – 50% off .ORG domains
- YES749 – $7.49 .NET domains
- GAM749 – $7.49 .BIZ domains
- MIN1 – 10% off .CO domains
- SPN1 – 10% off any order
I never buy a domain from Go Daddy without a coupon code, so these codes (or ones like these) are always available. You can certainly buy domains from other registrars.
Other domain registrars that I’ve heard are reputable are:
As you can see, buying a new domain is somewhat of an art and a science. If you’re trying to establish your brand for an authority website, you’ll need to give careful consideration to how unique and memorable your domain name is. On the other hand, if you’re aiming to boost your site’s SEO right off the bat, you’ll want to perform the appropriate keyword research before purchasing a domain.
Either way, it’s definitely not something you should rush into! I’ve pointed out several of my own mistakes that were made by moving too quickly, so hopefully by sharing those with you, it will keep you from making similar mistakes. Best of luck to you on your domain buying ventures!
Do you have any other domain buying tips to share? I’d love to hear about them!
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