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    The domain name equation (brain teaser)


    Suppose I have some domains due for renewal and I am trying to estimate their value in terms of probability of getting ranks whenever I finally make the time to build the sites for them.

    Scenario disclaimer:
    EXCLUDE the "identical content" penalty for this scenario.

    Scenario:
    Just to isolate the domain name as the determining factor, suppose several different people register their domain on the same day, build an identical site targeting the same keywords, each site gets exactly the same reciprocal links with identical link text & descriptions, etc. The ONLY difference is the DOMAIN NAME. Let's also assume that the words are highly competitive and that all other factors of SEO efforts and strategies are "ideal" for the engines. Using the following domains as examples, where would the sites land within the SERPS?

    Domain #1) "www.Keyword1Keyword2.com"
    Domain #2) "www.Keyword1-Keyword2.com"
    Domain #3) "www.Keyword1--Keyword2.com" (notice double "-")
    Domain #4) "www.Keyword1---Keyword2.com" (notice triple "-")
    Domain #5) "Keyword1.Keyword2.com" (k/w as subdomain)
    Domain #6) "www.[keywords].[net][org]"
    Domain #7) "[any combo above].[foreign TLD]"

    Comment about #1/#2: Don't ask me to quote the source, but I have read an article in years past that said a Keyword1-Keyword2.com will outrank a Keyword1Keyword2.com by isolating the keywords.

    Comment about #3/#4: Unless the engines specifically search for hyphens for any reason other than to separate keywords and exclude them from consideration in determining the appropriate SERP for the site, a double or multiple dash might only be a 1 position penalty per hyphen. Right? The question is: does G, MSN, Yahoo specifically penalize for having multiple dashes? I think I know the answer since every competitive domain k/w combo has been registered up to 10 hyphens deep, yet it's very rare to see a multi-hyphen--together domain appear within Google search results. Example: the k/w search "hotel--reservations" put "hotel--canada.com" around #70. The search for "hotel reservations" put "hotel--canada.com" at #94. Searching for "car rental" didn't have ANY double-hyphen sites in the first 1,000 results.

    Comment about #5: I have seen some sites actually get decent ranks by using subdomains. Like: http://[city].hotels.com and http://www.city.hotels.com.

    Comment about #6: Everybody knows that a .COM domain is "worth more" than a .NET, or .ORG. Is that only because .COM is more memorable? Or, is it also because the engines favor .COM domains over .NET and .ORG for natural search results?

    Comment about #7: Are domains with foreign TLD's "filtered" based upon the location of the person doing the search? It would make intuitive sense that an engine would want to show a user from a German ISP search results that put sites with ".de" (German) domains above sites from .cn (China), or .com. If the user is from Nebraska, USA, then .com might be given priority above foreign TLDs. Does this happen? Are sites with TLDs given priority if the search source's IP is located in the TLD's country? If not, does that mean .com's are given priority over all other TLDs globally?

    Another challenge is in knowing HOW MUCH each of the factors weigh into the SERP equation. If the k/w combo yields 10,000,000 results, would the site that should be #1 of 10,000,000 become #2? Or #20? Or #2,000,000? And, how are the factors different between engines? Too many questions for one thread, but they are all significant in guesstimating how the engine's domain name equation works.

    Andrew A
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    Today's answer is likely tomorrow's history lesson.

    IMO, the domain name you choose may have a significant effect on other webmaster's willingness to link to you. It will definitely affect the ability of visitor's to remember the URL. There are other considerations than search engines when choosing a domain name.

    That said, IMO, currently domain names with keywords that can be parsed have an advantage over domain names that do not.

    Comments on this post

    • ezhilraja agrees : sure
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    I have enough experience with Yahoo! about its preference for keyword-rich domain names. It gives a little more weight to those sites that have the search term / keyword in the domain name. But don't keyword-stuff on it!

    Comments on this post

    • agrees : I think it does make a big difference for yahoo and msn
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    If you are building a truly useful site that you hope people will bookmark, link to and tell their friends about then #1 is the clear choice and none of the others are even close. I would always get #1. It is the easiest to remember and communicate.

    If you build a great site on any of the others, please tell me so I can register #1 and get your type in traffic for free.
    * "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog." Mark Twain
    * "Free advice isn't worth much. Cheap advice is worth even less." EGOL
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    Well, when I have to buy a domain name, I tend to look at the following checklist prepared by Lisa and rightly called 'Self Domain Appraisal – The do it yourself test ' :

    1) Marketability
    2) Phone Test
    3) Name Length
    4) Brand Recognition
    5) Development Value
    6) Dot Value
    7) Site Traffic natural
    8) Site Traffic by Search Engines
    9) Industry Strength and Positioning
    10) Search Engine Popularity
    11) Grammatical / Linguistic value
    12) Revenue Generating
    13) Comparable sales value

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    1) Marketability

    How many parts make up the name?

    A part is classified as a word, a hyphen, or a number.
    Example.com has only 1 part, the word “example”.
    JoeTheFisherman.com has 3 parts, the parts “Joe”, “The”, and “Fisherman”.
    Joe-Fisherman.com has 3 parts, the parts “Joe”, “hyphen”, and “Fisherman”.
    1Fisherman.com has 2 parts, the parts “1”, and “Fisherman”.
    eFisherman.com has 2 parts, the parts “E”, and “Fisherman”.

    1 part award 100 points
    2 parts award 10 points
    3 parts award 2 points
    4 parts award 1 point
    5 parts or more award 0 points

    2) Phone Test

    Try giving out the Domain Name on the phone. How does the domain name sound on the phone.

    Does the domain use a hyphen or a number?
    Do I spell out a number inside the name ex: (“one”)?
    Does the domain use a miss-spelling at all?

    If the answer to these questions is all “no” then multiple current score by 5.
    If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then divide current score by 2.

    3) Name Length (doesn’t include the length of “www.” or “.” or the ending extension)

    Find the highest rule that applies.

    If 1 part and the name is less then or equal to 8 characters, then multiple current score by 6.
    If 1 part and the name is less then or equal to 15 characters, then multiple current score by 3.
    If 1 part and the name is less then or equal to 19 characters, then multiple current score by 2.
    If 2 parts and the name is less then or equal to 10 characters, then multiple current score by 4.
    If 2 parts and the name is less then or equal to 16 characters, then multiple current score by 3.
    If 2 parts and the name is less then or equal to 19 characters, then multiple current score by 2.

    If 3 parts and the name is less then or equal to 12 characters, then multiple current score by 2.

    4) Brand Recognition

    Do people know what the site does even before they even go there?

    Either through the meaning of the name or by advertising.
    An example of advertising is everyone knows Microsoft.com or ATT.com.
    Normal people will need to use the domain meaning to score on this point.

    If name has Brand Recognition then multiple current score by 3.

    5) Development Value

    How much work as been put into Developing the site?

    Just a Splash page then multiple current score by 2.
    Something more then a Splash page then multiple current score by 3.

    Has the domain ever hosted a website that received more then 1000 visitors a day then multiple current score by 25.

    6) Dot Value

    If .COM extension multiple current score by 3.
    If country extension multiple current score by 2.
    If country extension is now generic no bonus (example .CC, .TV, .WS)

    7) Site Traffic Natural

    10-39 natural type-ins multiple current score by 4.
    40-100 natural type-ins multiple current score by 8.
    100+ natural type-ins multiple current score by 25.
    Natural type-ins means (Unique IPs without referrers)

    8) Site Traffic by Search Engines

    10-39 Unique IPs multiple current score by 2.
    40-500 Unique IPs multiple current score by 3.
    500+ Unique IPs multiple current score by 4.

    9) Industry Strength and Positioning

    Does the domain have a calling? If the domain has a targeted industry how crowded is that industry? Does the domain accurately and generically describe what it was registered to do. Here is an example, For a travel agent, FlyCheap.com is a score 3. For a travel agent TravelCheap.com is a score 7.
    Describes generically the industry then multiple current score by 7.
    Describes specifically something in the industry then multiple current score by 3.

    10) Search Engine Popularity

    How do the terms in the domain name rank in Search Engines?
    “Great”, then multiple current score by 7.
    “Good”, then multiple current score by 2.
    “All Right”, then no bonus.

    11) Grammatical / Linguistic value

    Does it sounds correct? Does it read like a human normally speaks. For example: ShoppestMall.com, this sounds wierd. But ShoppingMall.com sounds correct. The plural form verses the singular form makes a huge difference.
    If the name sounds correct, then multiple current score by 2.

    12) Revenue Generating

    Multiple yearly income of the domain by 2.5, add this dollar value to your final price.

    13) Comparable sales value

    What other domains have sold at that price. Is your name the same score?
    Market analysis on your domain price is very important. Being able to justify your price against other domains selling price is key. Don’t do marketing analysis off of list price. Only selling price will work. To find prices of domains that have sold use Afternic or other domain auction sites.

    The highest score possible is something huge like 6,615,000,000

    Score doesn’t correlate to actual price very well, You need to use percentiles to figure out what the price is.

    Total score:

    Lowest = $15 (40 percentile)

    Low score = $25-$40 (30 percentile)

    Mid score = $100-$300 (25 percentile)

    High score = $500-$1000 (3 percentile)

    Extreme score = $1000+ (2 percentile)
    Last edited by sufyaaan; Aug 23rd, 2005 at 06:45 AM. Reason: Sorry modz for the lengthy post! ;-)
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    This is a very good summary! Thanks for posting!

    The tips provide great advice for choosing a primary domain name for your company. In this case, suppose your business sells 50 categories of products; and the keywords for those products are so competitive that the chances of getting into the top of the serps are very slim without an advantage such as having the exact keyword in the domain name. Although www.Keyword1Keyword2.com would be ideal name, it is LONG GONE because the k/w is so popular and the domain squatters are asking a quillion bucks to release it. Gee, www.Keyword1-Keyword2.com is also taken. So, what's going to get better results? Registering www.MyCompanySellsKeyword1Keyword2.com? Or would www.Keyword1---Keyword2.com beat the domain name with unrelated words in it?

    Suppose your site sells LCD monitors. Without a time machine, or a whole lotta money to spend, you're not going to get http://www.realestate.com. Gee... http://www.real-estate.com is taken, too? Huh. Well, let's try http://www.real--estate.com! Or, how 'bout http://www.real----estate.com? Is that better than http://www.LongNameSinceOtherCombosW...WereTaken.com?

    Assuming that all SEO is equal for "realestate.com" AND "real--estate.com". Will real--estate.com rank as #2 under "realestate.com"? Or, would real--estate.com be pushed to page 694 of the 25M search results due to having two hyphens placed together? That question applies to Yahoo, MSN, and Google separately.

    After crunching numbers, suppose you calculate that if site that lands in a top 20 position for a highly competitive keyword will be profitable. If you know your expenses, conversion ratio, and profit margins, you can calculate a financial "break even point" based upon search engine position. The only untested variable is the domain name. Will the engines allow an SEO-friendly site called www.real--estate.com into the top 20? Knowing that the only purpose of the site is to generate leads by dominating the search engine ranks, if the site doesn't land in the top 20 then every penny invested in a site under that domain name would be wasted. Do you register multi-hyphen domains, or not?

    Andrew

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