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The Domain Name Debate: Brand Versus Keywords

Aug 12, 2008
As prices have never been so low, you may consider buying multiple domain names as a cost-effective option to drive more traffic to your website.

When it comes to choosing a domain name, there are two schools of thought. You can either elect to register a domain name based on

1- a new or existing brand name e.g. business name, trademark, product brand name or

2- one or more keywords that you perceive will help your target market to find you.
Both methods have their pro's and con's.

(For this article, to avoid filter penalties, my domain name examples will start with a Capital letter and end with /.)

Domain name based on BRAND

The web is populated with unusual and recognised domain names e.g. Google/, Amazon/ and Yahoo/. Naming your domain using a new or existing brand name can be a powerful and rewarding long-term strategy. Developing a brand name from anonymity to stardom is any marketer's goal.

Pro's

A branded domain name may

- Attract attention for its originality and for being catchy e.g. Yahoo/ or Dogpile/.

- Stand out from competition e.g. compare Google/ with Searchengine/, Searchengines/ and Bestsearchengine/. Which one stands out? Sorry, no price for this easy answer.

- Facilitate direct search. Repeat visitors can guess your name and type it in the address bar or location field and find you directly, bypassing competitors.

- Encourage brand recognition. Each time people are exposed to your domain name, it reinforces your brand.

- Increase credibility and loyalty. In general, people prefer to be associated with a brand name rather than a generic name. If price is not a consideration, wouldn't you prefer buying Chanel branded sunglasses from Chanel/, Eyesave/ or Sunglassesportal/?

- Promote viral marketing. It is easier to refer someone to a domain name that you can remember and spell without difficulty.

- Provide flexibility. Your domain name can be used on business cards and offline promotions.

- Protect your intellectual property. Get in first before someone names their domain with your product brand, business name or title of your book.

Con's (for new brands only)

A domain name using an established brand name may not encounter the problems below. A domain name based on a new brand may:

- Be difficult to choose. Selecting a name to convey instantly business core values and benefits of website is a very difficult task.

- Need time, money and effort to break through the online noise and be recognised.

- Necessitate a strong unique selling proposition.

- Require an arsenal of internet marketing tactics e.g. linkage strategies and search engine optimisation to improve the search engine ranking.

Domain name based on KEYWORDS

Keywords are the words that web users enter in the search box of the search engine to retrieve information on a specific subject.

The current trend is for web searchers to enter a string of keywords or keyword phrase rather than single keywords e.g. a person may look for 'free family tree', 'decision tree software', 'artificial Christmas tree' instead of 'tree. This practice provides less search engine results but of better quality. Similarly, website owners are creating generic domain names made of a string of keywords to reach their target audience e.g. Paylesscarrental/, Collectorcartraderonline/ and Carbuyingtips/.

Pro's

On one hand, generic keywords domain names may:

- Generate instant results with drive-in traffic from search engines.

- Attract qualified prospects looking for your keywords.

- Communicate and position instantly your site's benefits and core values e.g. Justfreestuff/, Best-home-mortagage-loan/, Indoorgardensupplies/.

- Improve search engine ranking. (The use of keywords in the domain name is a strategy which you cannot rely on to increase your search engine ranking: it is only a very small part of search engine optimisation.)

Con's

On the other hand, generic keywords domain names may:

- Be perceived as boring, lacking in imagination and sometimes dubious.

- Require more effort to remember. This could lead to domain names being misspelled e.g. Barnesandnoble/ or Barneandnobles/ or placed in the wrong sequence e.g. Homefinancialservices/ or Financialhomeservices/. These common mistakes have prompted shrewd business people to piggy back on popular websites e.g. Ezinearticle/ benefits from spelling mistakes of customers from Ezinearticles/.

- Restrict the usage of the domain name. A long string of keywords does not look good on offline promotional material.

- Be wasted if you don't choose your keywords carefully. It is important to research the words used by your customers and not rely on your assumptions. Jeff, a Printer, had optimised his site for 'self-publishing' only to find that self-publishers were searching for printers using keyword 'printing'.

The best of both worlds: consider complementary domain name strategies:

1. Create a short, easy to remember brand name using keywords e.g. Diabeticgourmet/, Netdoctor/ or Houseweb/.

2. Purchase a few domain names made up of keywords and have them pointing to a main branded domain name. This strategy requires you to buy an URL forwarding option when you purchase your domain name. A word of caution: if you overuse this tactic, Google may respond negatively to these 'sneaky redirects'.
About the Author
Henriette Martel is a website strategist, author of 200 Marketing Ideas for Your Website and director of the Australian Training Guide, Australia's A to Z Training Database and Resources for Speakers, Trainers & Coaches.
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