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Domain Names Forum

Domain-Naming Techniques for Maximum Traffic

 9:52 pm on Apr 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hey guys, brand new user here with some very basic questions. My first application is a review site; the second (to come later) is a content+user rich political site with articles, guests, comments, etc. I looked around a bit and didn't find any specifics, so...

(1) Which domain types are most preferable? I'm fairly certain the answer here is dot-com, but if your interest is in maximizing traffic to one domain, is it inadvisable to look into .org/net/biz/info/cc/us/etc.?

(2) Any advice on the usage of characters? For example, ipsum-lorem.com vs. ipsumlorem.com (note the hyphen). Avoid if possible or does it really matter?

(3) How targeted should domain names be?

(4) I'm already fairly certain that shorter domains are better than long ones--correct?

Any related advice is welcome and let me just say I have been lurking for the last week and am hugely interested in the comments I've been seeing. Thanks!

[edited by: Webwork at 2:51 am (utc) on April 13, 2009]
[edit reason] Per Domain Forum Charter Example.com is our favorite hypothetical domain [/edit]



 10:22 pm on Apr 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

Welcome to Webmasterworld!

1) .com pretty much rules the roost so to speak. I think you already pretty much know that. That is not to say that a good domain using another TLD cannot succeed or even outdo a .com domain, just that, when a user types in a domain, they virtually always type it in as a .com so I always go for that if possible.

2) I don't see anything wrong with 1 hyphen, possibly even two depending on the case, but never more than that. It just looks spammy. As to whether there is a difference between hyphen and no hyphen, as for ranking, I don't think there is any appreciable difference any more.

3) The domains should be as targeted as your site content. If the site content is about electronics in general, then the domain should be general, if it is specific, the domain should be specific.

4) Yes, the shorter the domain, the easier it is for people to remember. It can also give you other benefits when you advertise your site (think character limits in adwords, twitter, etc.).


 2:41 pm on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Speaking from personal experience ...

Hyphens in the domain name can work well for the search engines, and sometimes they can make visual recognition easier for the user, but they are a problem for offline promotions. They're awkward to pronounce in your phone message or in a radio interview, for example. If you're promoting in print, some users will forget to include the hyphen when they go to look up your domain.

Use the hyphenated domain if that suits your purposes but I would strongly recommend only doing that if you can get control of the non-hyphenated version as well.


 11:00 pm on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

1. .Com. .Org sometimes fits but unlikely for what you are describing.

2. What Buckworks said.

3. Keyword vs. Branding. I favor domains with unambiguous meaning since I don't have a large budget for branding.

4. Shorter domains are great if you can find one or afford one. IF I had a site about money I'd sure like to have Money.com, but it's already taken. ;P


 12:19 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Either .com if you're doing business internationally, or the cctld of the country you're located in, if it's widely used in that country (e.g. .co.uk, .de, .nl are all VERY widely used in their respective countries).


 2:26 am on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

chipdouglas - To which country is your contect directed?

Do not use an hyphenation unless you own the unhyphenated name.

Name targetting is very important IF you get everything else correct.

Short domains are nice...quality information under ANY name is better however some TLD extensions take longer to rank in Google.


 6:44 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Agreeing with most of ^^^

Get both the hyphenated and non-hyphenated domains. Don't buy one if you can't get the other. If can only afford one domain, get the non-hyphenated. Redirect all hyphenated domains to the non.

.CA is very popular here in Canada. No one really thinks twice about a country-specific TLD - if you have a geographically localized site, getting the country TLD (us, ca, co.uk, etc) is often preferable since to the .com, because it brands your site with a little geo-patriotism. I'd expect a site about Canadian Politics to live at a *.ca domain. But if you want a global reach, .com is pretty much prerequisite.

some TLD extensions take longer to rank in Google

MYTH. I'm calling you on that. I've seen less-popular TLD's get fully indexed and ranking well within days, while dot-coms get forgotten in the imaginary sand all the time. I have one *.ca site that shot to #1 in G for its target keyword within 48 hours of launching it. The TLD truly, honestly, does not matter. If you're seeing patterns that indicate otherwise, then you're being fooled by factors like geotargeting and IBL's.

The country-specific domain I mentioned in the last paragraph may not rank as well in Mexico or Germany for its generic keyword, but it dropkicks the SERPS here in the Great White North. Having also run parallel sites like "example.com" and "example.ca", the .com outranked simply because it had more content/traffic/popularity and was attracting better IBLs. end of story.


 7:58 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

MYTH. I'm calling you on that.

Hmmm...well it's actually happened to me!

I'm not going to mention which TLD extensions they are but I can assure you it does happen.


 8:00 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Get both singular and plural versions.


 8:47 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

chipdouglas, Welcome to WebmasterWorld. I agree with the previous comments. You will find great advice on this forum from very experienced and successful people. I'm of course not one of them (YET!), but here's my 2 cents:

I have one *.ca site that shot to #1 in G for its target keyword within 48 hours of launching it.

Having to travel 100% for my job to different states and countries I have seen completely different results in Google SERP's based on location. I was shocked to see the Google results for a popular term in a foreign country!

I would recommend buying the hyphenated domain even if the non-hyphenated one isnít available IF: #1) its a great domain that you can buy cheap and #2) your main concern is getting organic traffic.

In regards to extensions I donít think there is a general rule of whether to buy the non Ė dot comís or not.

You will have to evaluate each case differently and the domains individually.
i.e. Are all other extensions parked? Can you benefit by owning the example.org or .net regardless of the .com getting a free ride. ...

You never know, it can be a win-win situation?! At least thatís what im experiencing right now.

[edited by: dailypress at 8:55 pm (utc) on April 15, 2009]


 8:55 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

you may want to explore registering foreign tld's - foreign to the us, @ least ;) - if you are targeting people internationally; i have seen country specific domains out rank their more optimized .com counter parts on their country's google query; for instance

widget.co.uk with 10 links out ranking widget.com with 1000 links on google.co.uk for the keyword 'widget.'


 1:46 am on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

ok, I hate to contradict a mod, but I disagree with buckworks.

Hyphens used to be better for ranking. I would agree that 2 years ago, a hyphen would be great to separate keyword1-keyword2.com.

But recently, after some testing, I have noticed that this is no longer the case, in fact, from my recent experience, google will prefer keyword1keyword2.com over the hyphenated version. I'm guessing this shift has come about from people abusing the hyphen and causing it to be seen as a factor that can indicate heavy SEO.

To answer the OP:

(1) .com is preferable, but I have noticed some niches are dominated by local domains (.co.uk is very popular for uk, also .eu is popular in some circles). I'd say that if a large number of competitors have a other than .com, then you are safe. The idea being that you want users/customers to be accustom to that domain extension.

(2) Don't use characters. KISS and stick to the abc's and 123's :)

(3) Doesn't matter, what does 100 to the 100th power have to do with search (Googleís name). If you are in it as a business, brand able can be better.

(4) YES and by far. again, KISS. Doesn't mean a long domain is bad, just that it is less likely someone will remember it/type it in.


 4:10 am on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

But recently, after some testing, I have noticed that this is no longer the case, in fact, from my recent experience, google will prefer keyword1keyword2.com over the hyphenated version. I'm guessing this shift has come about from people abusing the hyphen and causing it to be seen as a factor that can indicate heavy SEO.

I agree with this point. Goes back just about exactly two years. I used to have the hyphenated version of a domain as the primary site. It slowly slipped in rankings, and ended up being the only hyphenated domain in its niche in the top 20 - at which point I switched over to the non-hyphenated version (which I also owned but had 301'd to the hyphenated domain). After a very painful 3-4 month roller coaster ride, I largely regained all my rankings.

Gone are the days of cheap-tickets.com. In fact, I just took a look in G for 'tickets' and kennedy-center is the only hyphenated domain in the top 50. For 'cheap tickets' there is not a sinlge hyphenated name in the top 50, although there are some sub-domains.

I cna't speak to the other SE's on this point.


 4:53 am on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

In the past people would say that search engines liked domains with dashes because it helped them to separate the keywords. However, for quite some time it is easy to see that Google, Yahoo, and even MSN can very easily parse out keywords from a domain without dashes.


 7:08 am on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

A .com/net/org domain will allow you to split out language versions in GWebmasters tools. Allowing greater range of results in specific language versions of said engine.


 2:20 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

chipdouglas, here are my comments/suggestions:

1) As the others here say the best is a .com for the US market, while international websites can have great success with the country domain.

Sticking with a gTLD also means that Google will let the website target each/any county in the world, this means for SEO reasons a gTLD will outperform a country domain if you want to get traffic from then 1 country.

Currently this is the list of gTLDs, they all have different rules as to who can register them but these are the options at present: aero, arpa, asia, biz, cat, com, coop, edu, gov, info, int, jobs, mil, mobi, musuem, name, net, org, pro, tel, travel

In terms of long term branding the best is a .com, but you might have to get creative with the company name, there are still a lot of great names available in a .com and for less than $10,000 you can find some 3 letter .com domains that can become a great acronym for anything, 4 letter .com domains are often still available for registration.

2) Some of the others here have made comment about Google liking non-dash domains, this is not really true, but has some logic. What happened in the past was Google scored the domain match with the users search very highly and using a dash ensured that google read the domain to match what the user was searching. This metric has been removed/turned down to a degree that itís no longer a big SEO gain to have your keywords in the domain.

Now why people are saying Google likes non-dash version of domains actually isn't so much Google preferring one over the other it is based on 2 factors of the algorithm, the first time is based on CTR of the search results. Users have advanced and they no longer are quick to click on www.cheap-home-insurance.com so those website lose some of their value and ranking due to less CTR on the results page.

The other item is based on traffic to websites, itís very hard to brand and market a domain with a dash offline, and since Google has been tracking and taking traffic into the algorithm those names that are getting less traffic are getting less value and rankings. Just like the other here have commented on the fact that trying to do a phone/radio and even print/tv ad using a domain with a dash often times is hard and/or drives people to type in the non-dash version.

3) The domain should be a brand, in that itís something you have created and can bring users to know related to your company/service. While getting a KEYWORD.com name can be useful it often is costly and can cause users to think of the brand as being generic , similar to a No Name type product. You can create a 3 or 4 letter acronym to mean just about anything and if you are creative enough you could find something that works as a word/brand and run with that.

4) Size is critical if you are trying to do an acronym type domain, 4 being the longest you want to use, 3 being the best and while 2 it possible costs is a minimum $100,000 for a 2 letter .com so spend $10,000 but a 3 letter .com and spend the other 90,000 of advertising. As for a name/word the length isnít as important as that is readable/pronounceable.

Hope that helped and provided some insight,


 2:34 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

I like to go with Descriptor + Keyword for my domain name since the keyword is almost always gone at this point.

Going off Webworks's Money.com reference: SmartMoney, EasyMoney, FastMoney, NewMoney...would all be potential names. Keep it short, positive, and memorable. The descriptor could either be another keyword or you could make it brandable.


 2:48 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

disagree with buckworks

In my experience a hyphen or two in the domain is neither here nor there for the search engines. However, hyphens create a handicap for offline promotions.

I recommend choosing a domain where you can obtain both the hyphenated and nonhyphenated versions. No matter which you actively use, you want control of both versions if at all possible.

Alas, in my own case there's no realistic prospect of obtaining the nonhyphenated versions of my hyphenated domains so I just have to live with the limitations.


 3:27 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

it's also good to think outside your keyword list for possible domains - ones that elicit the right imagery, but don't necessarily have power keywords stuffed in them.

The power of good inbound links and memorable branding far outweighs the relatively small SEO influence of keywords in the domain, hyphenated or not...


 6:40 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hmmm...well it's actually happened to me!

And just how do you know the TLD was the reason for the problems?


 10:37 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

In my experience a hyphen or two in the domain is neither here nor there for the search engines...

I would suggest that Google, at least, discounts hyphenated names. They are getting few and far between in the top 20 across a wide number of searches in different genre, and my experience would point to even established domains having lost positions when they had a hyphenated domain name. Again, this started about two years ago.


 8:32 am on Apr 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hyphens are irrelevant.
Keywords in domain names dominate.
Too many keywords in domain names works as well as a good pair of handcuffs.

Google gives us these answers, there is no mystery.

Set up a google search page for publishers. Enter a keyword as a suggestion when setting up, lets say "widgets". Now lets get straight to the point...

Search for Widgets, perfect.
Search for "Blue Widgets", not so good, something about the double "widgets" sends things awry.
Search for "blue", bingo, perfect again for "Blue widgets".

Now for the fun part...
Search terms are equal in power to exact article titles. If your domain name is "blue" and you write an article about "widgets" you will want to name that article "blue widgets" even if it's ONLY about widgets and more importantly you will give it a URI of your domain name + /widgets. Voila, top rankings for "Blue Widgets". The domain name Matters bigtime.

Now about the handcuffs...
If your domain name is "widgets central" and you want to rank well for "widgets" you've got dead weight on your sites proverbial back. The term "central" works exactly like that pre-defined keyword that gets added to everything.

You'll still rank well but when Joe Smith comes along with his domain name of "widgets" he's got the advantage (all on page SEO considerations being equal and both sites internal link structures being equally optimized).

It's not rocket science.

edit: I want to add that I believe every page is perfect to begin with and it's when we add too much or add the wrong things that we weaken it's strength. Keywords in domain names is no different. You've got competition to beat, don't start out with a keyword based domain name that limits your potential. You'd be MUCH better off fabricating a word and then teaching Google what it means.

[edited by: JS_Harris at 8:37 am (utc) on April 17, 2009]

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