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.

Branding Benefits

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, 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, but that wouldn’t be in line with the company’s brand, nor is it an attractive or easy URL to remember.

SEO Benefits

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 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 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 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  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  Or  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 or  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 (, 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.

Download Domain Samurai for Free

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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23 Responses to “How To Be An Expert At Buying Domains: A Definitive Guide”

  1. I strongly disagree with point #2. 😉

    Everyone always suggests buying up the .com, .org and .net but no one ever really lets in on what to do with them. Most people pick the .com for the main site and just redirect the other two to it. I think a better approach is to build a landing page about your niche on one and maybe a negative/positive spin/review about your niche/product on the other. Both of course, leading to your main site.
    Jason recently posted… Article Spinning- The Bane of the Literate Web


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Jason, I think in your case, the number works just fine. Because it’s a larger number, I highly doubt anyone would mistake it for “sixtyseven.” My “four” is a bit more troublesome though.

    I think that’s a great approach when you buy all 3 of those domain types – I never thought about that before. It seems especially important when you’re going for a brandable domain, so that no one steals your brand name on a different domain. Generally when I’m trying to buy a domain for a niche site that focuses on a particular keyword, I often can only get the .net or .org, but not the .com. I like the idea of using the .net and .org sites to create reviews related to the .com site.

    The only reason I wouldn’t bother buying up all three domains is because it essentially triples the amount of work you need to for SEO purposes (backlinks especially), but doesn’t necessarily triple the income potential. Depending on your niche and product though, I can definitely see where it’s a good idea.


    Jason Reply:

    Just yanking your chain.

    Yeah, I don’t think I’d bother worrying about SEO on the 2 odd men out for exactly the reasons you listed but if you’re getting them for branding purposes it doesn’t hurt to slowly turn them into review type sites that may eventually have some SEO benefit.
    Jason recently posted… Passive Income & Blog Report 002 – October 2010


  2. Hey Eric,

    Nice post! There seems to be an art in buying the correct domain name, and getting an exact domain name match to a niche keyword can be exciting!

    It’s interesting that Google doesn’t like hyphenated URL’s, but if you want to have an image ranked in Google you must ensure that the images keyword is hyphenated (if more than one word).

    Jay recently posted…Building Backlinks With Microworkers


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Jay! I didn’t know that about images – that is pretty interesting that hyphens actually help images rank better.


  3. I really, really hate GoDaddy’s domain management tools – they take forever to load on slow connections, and it is a pain to update domains.

    I recommend Namecheap. Also, Namecheap offers an affiliate program – may as well make some $ from the link in your article :)


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Lyndsy – I know what you mean, although I haven’t really had much trouble with the tool loading slowly. Honestly, once I register a domain and properly configure it with my host, I never touch it again except to renew or cancel it.

    I’ve heard Namecheap is good, and I looked into their affiliate program awhile back, but for some reason I had trouble getting my affiliate link. I’ll have to take a look at that again. Thanks!


  4. Great post, Eric! These are great tips. I now own 100s of domains across many TLDs such as dot com, dot net, dot org, do me, dot co, dot info, and dot us. In terms of hyphenated URLs, you’ll be ok as long as it’s dot com. I’m running some tests now on hyphenated dot com and will let you now how it turns out. Any other TLD hyphenated is bad, at least in my opinion.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for weighing in, Ian! To me, you’re the expert, so I appreciate the information. I’m looking forward to seeing how your hyphenated tests turn out!


  5. Eric,

    Nice post! And of course I appreciate the link! I hope your niche site is progressing well…!
    Moon Hussain recently posted… Fun Friday Round-Up- 11-5-2010


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Moon! Great posts always deserve links, so I’m happy to link to yours in this article. :)


  6. Hi Eric. Didn’t know about the hyphens in the domain name. I apparently did this mistake with the site for my first ebook. Damn. And of course the one with the numbers, but where in the same boat on that one.

    I’ll also recommend market samurai. I recently found an excellent .com domain using it.
    Rasmus recently posted… What entrepreneurs can learn from cartoons


    Eric G. Reply:

    Yep, we both made the same number mistake for our URLs, but I think we’ll both be fine. :)

    Regarding the hyphenated URLs, I don’t think it’s necessarily a nail in the coffin – I’ve seen high ranking hyphenated sites before, but I’ve also heard plenty of advice about staying away from them. I think if you do everything else properly for SEO, your site will rank well.


  7. Eric – What’s your take on re-directing or linking from an exact match .org or .net (or .com for that matter) to a page that you’re trying to get to rank on another site for that exact term.

    For example:

    If I have an authority site for fire trucks with the domain and I’m trying to rank one of my sub pages for the term “red fire trucks”.

    Would it be helpful for me to buy the domain or and then put a link on that site over to or just a straight re-direct?

    Hope that’s clear :-). Curious to hear what you think and if you’ve had any experience doing that…


    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer with certainty (I’ve never dealt with it before), but I’ll take a stab at it.

    I think if you take a step back and look at what Google views as the primary factors involved with ranking a particular page in the search engine results, the actual domain name of a backlink is probably not too relevant. If you’re trying to rank your red-fire-trucks sub-page and you’re using as a backlink, Google is still going to consider the same factors that it considers with any other backlink. What’s the site’s PR? How influential/authoritative is that backlink?

    In this case, I would think your would be a PR0 site and probably wouldn’t have much weight when it comes to helping your sub-page rank for that keyword. If you were to try to boost the authority of your site (by giving it backlinks and whatnot), you’ll probably find that actually *outranks* the sub-page, which is contrary to what you want. In the end, you’d likely just have two of your own sites competing with each other.

    I can’t see a straight re-direct doing much either, but I’ve never seen someone trying to rank a sub-page by having a keyword-rich domain re-directed to it.

    Overall in this scenario, I think if you have valuable content about red fire trucks and it’s worthwhile to you, you should build out the entire website, and get that to rank independently of Because it’s an exact keyword domain, it will likely be easier than ranking the sub-page from the other site. Then, if you want to incorporate it into your site, you can simply link to it from there (or have re-direct to If there’s an issue of wanting to make both sites appear related, you can simply use the same site layout/design/logo/etc. for each site.

    Just my two cents!


    dinesh Reply:

    Makes sense (and will probably save me some money on domains I didn’t really need anyway…).

    Thanks a bunch for the in-depth response!



    Eric G. Reply:

    Anytime. :)

  8. Eriiiiic – this is all kinds of epic.

    I know what you mean about that difficult choice in seo-friendly domains vs. brandable. The good thing is that you can often find a compromise by taking that extra time to find something that works really well such as “beginner” in front of it – that way you could be known as the person to go to if you’re a beginner but it’s also great for SEO purposes.

    I think if you’re going very niche than seo is the way to go but if you ever plan to step it up and creating a community you’d want to go with a brand.

    Btw, I do have trouble sometimes Googling your name because I’d occassionally type in ‘my four hour work week’ and T.F.’s site comes up since it uses that keyword. It’s not really a biggie but I can see the problem with other sites.

    For example: If you did – that would be great but no one would care to visit it next year.
    Murlu recently posted… How To Work 24 Hours A Day And Love Every Minute Of It


    Eric G. Reply:

    I definitely agree that “brand” is the way to go for any sort of long-term, large project type website, especially one based around a community like you said. Finding a compromise between brand and keywords for SEO is pretty sweet when possible.

    As for Googling my site – if anyone else’s site is going to pop up for that search phrase, might as well be the original inspiration for this blog (T.F.). :)

    P.S.: I’d love to own


  9. Hey Eric,

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and found your post. Good stuff!

    If you use the analogy of where telephone numbers were 20 years ago(ie having your number spell out a memorable phrase), then maybe the relevence of having keywords in your domain name is low. Big companies still do it though.

    Since we’re talking online business, we have to play the Google game to be found, since search engine traffic is so important. It is a big part of your brand and in some examples – the biggest part.

    This is my thought – as long as its still important, you need to do it for branding and SEO. Modeling parts of your business after a big business doesn’t hurt either.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Excellent points, Jeff, thanks for sharing them. It’s funny to think about how important it used to be to have memorable phrases in your telephone number (if you were a larger company). There is somewhat of a parallel with domain names, so I wonder what we’ll be saying about it 10-15 years from now.

    As for now though, it’s clear that domains are critical for SEO and branding, so it’s really a matter of balancing the two elements and figuring out what’s more important to your business/website. And I agree, if you look at what’s working for larger, more successful businesses, you may be able to see some pieces that can apply to your business.


  10. I’ve heard about Market Samurai, but is it really the best tool for this kind of thing? It seems complicated, and sometimes complicated isn’t good.
    The biggest problem i had with picking my domain name was that it was already taken :)
    And then i had to spend a week trying to find some variation on that name that’s free. I believe i tried tens of names, and they were all taken, it’s incredible how hard it is to find a domain in a relatively competitive niche.
    Maria Pavel@CNA Training recently posted… Certified Nursing Assistants-CNA Wanted – Las Vegas


  11. I’ve seen a lot of people wanting to buy domains with their company name, when that name actually means nothing to the customer.
    I’m all for branding as long as you have a strong offline campaign and people will google your company or product name. You don’t even need to rank for that, you can be on page 10 for your keywords.
    Antonia recently posted… Using Hypnotic Language


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