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Hacking Into a Dominating Domain for Your Site

Domains and domain names are a huge part of what determines whether a user visits your website or not. It makes sense, then, to select a dominating domain name that can attract a lot of organic traffic and convert as many users as possible into clients. This selection will influence the SERP standing of the website and even the demographics of the traffic that visits the website. So how do you hack a dominating domain name for your website?

The process starts with your company’s name. You should choose something that is easy to say, pleasant to hear and can be easily shortened. It is wise to brainstorm a few ideas and present them to a test group to see how various people react. Naturally, not everyone will be satisfied, but try to aim for your target audience. It can also be worthwhile to pay a professional firm for some great ideas.

Assuming that your business already has a name, the problem then lies with converting it into a website address. Let us take a look at some data: the median URL address is 15 characters long, but the most common length is only 8 characters, which is roughly 2 to 3 words1. The data shows a negative correlation of -0.072, which means that for every extra character in the URL, the website’s traffic decreases by 0.07 units. This is quite small as it is so close to 0, and can be due to data bias. Nevertheless, shorter names are easier to remember, and shorter domains are usually older, more authoritative websites. As a conclusion, shorter names are preferred, but not at the cost of lack of clarity.

An even smaller correlation exists between domain endings, with small preference given to .com and .org, and negative preference given to regional endings. There seems to be a connection between the types of sites that are registered under different top-level domains (TLDs). However, with the approaching addition of thousands of new TLDs by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), this connection will soon disappear. Therefore, if your business is primarily local, it is better to choose a regional TLD to rank higher on regional searches, and also for the psychological customer effect (to buy locally).

Another problem arises when considering whether to go for an exact match to your business name or to shorten the URL3. As mentioned, shorter URLs will not work if the client cannot make out your name. Furthermore, according to The Open Algorithm, exact matches yield a big boost to traffic, more so when combined with a .com ending, with a whopping +0.18 correlation. So if your name and industry permits it, go for the direct match. Sometimes a direct competitor may have already acquired the domain, and it is O.K. to include one hyphen but no more as hyphens are interpreted as a bad sign. Search engines see numerous hyphens as an attempt to trick them.

The domain name choice is perhaps the biggest long-term investment a website owner can make, and as such, the ramifications of a less than perfect selection are huge. Therefore, it is extremely worthwhile to spend $100 to test the click-through rates of the different options available3. This test is quite simple and can be conducted using AdWords to test how many people actually click on the link. For comparison purposes, devise a simple ad text and picture, and insert different names into the different advertisements. After some monitoring, a pattern will emerge that shows the click-through rates of some are better than others.

Domain name hacking and choice are as much about luck as they are about careful planning. Sometimes good ideas pop out of the blue, but you should be ready to justify them with figures.

References:

  1. http://www.theopenalgorithm.com/correlation-data/domain-name-seo/
  2. http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors#metrics-2
  3. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/domain-name-hacks

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