Selecting A Domain Name For Your Ecommerce Website
It All Starts with a Domain Name
Domain name selection is an important first step in the planning of your online business. Your domain name (or "Web address"), tells customers who you are and how to find you on the Internet. It is the core of your Internet identity and because no two parties can have the exact same Web address, it is totally unique to you. Often business owners are neglectful when considering the domain name for their online store. Be mindful that the consequences of selecting an ineffective domain can be just as devastating as selecting the wrong physical location were you to open a traditional brick-and-mortar store. So, as you sit down to consider your options, remember to think strategically. You should give at least as much thought to your domain name as you would the address of a physical retail location. As you perform your research, you’ll find that in today’s crowded market, finding a quality domain befitting your business can be extremely difficult and in some cases, very costly. Fortunately, there are still many valuable domain names out there if you think strategically. In this article, you will learn the most important considerations for identifying a powerful domain to represent your online store.
Domain names can essentially be broken into two categories:
Branded Domains – Typically sought by businesses that either already have an established brand or company name when they decide to launch their web presence or, businesses who plan to allocate significant resources toward promoting and advertising their brand name so that it becomes well-known and established. Some examples of branded domain names are: target.com, sears.com, expedia.com, amazon.com, itunes.com and newer brands who are currently making a significant marketing push (and are spending big money!) in order to build familiarity for their brand name such as: magicjack.com, kayak.com and etrade.com.
Keyword-Rich Domains – Are domain names that are selected based on keywords or phrases that describe a business or product and that have been identified as keyword terms that consumers are searching for in order to find a product or service. If you’re a new business, in a competitive market, want to ensure that you can compete for search-engine rankings and do not have the advertising budget to strongly promote your company or product name, you may want to consider a clever keyword-based domain name. Some examples of keyword-based domain names are; commercialmatsandrubber.com, motorcyclehelmetsandjackets.com, fireplaceessentials.com & coppersinks.com.
Choosing the right keyword-rich domain name will likely save you significant marketing dollars over the long run. Conversely, choosing a non-keyword rich domain name might be a mistake that is hard to overcome and could be a factor that leads to your business failing. To see an example of how important a keyword-rich domain name can be, go perform a Google-search on the phrase "copper sinks". You’ll notice that 6 of the top-ten results have either "copper" or "sinks" or both words in their actual domain name.
There are many factors that determine how well a Web site ranks in search engine results. Backward linking is perhaps the biggest. In fact, traditionally, if two Web sites are optimized equally, the number and quality of each site’s backward links will determine who ranks higher. Well, typically that is correct however a keyword-rich domain name can trump that theory. Let take a closer look at the results set for "copper sinks". The domain name www.coppersinks.com ranks #2 in Google (at the time that this article was authored) and has only 107 backward links (according to Yahoo) to their site. The domain name www.finecraftsimports.com ranks #3 and has 2,000 backward links (according to Yahoo) to their site.
This builds a very strong case that keyword-rich domain names are very important and can save you money. Why save you money? Well, building backward links can be very difficult and time consuming. Chances are that a site such as ‘finecraftsimports.com’ has paid an SEO firm thousands of dollars to obtain them backward links. Some companies pay tens of thousands for backward links to boost their search rankings. The fact that www.coppersinks.com beats www.finecraftsimports.com with only 107 backward link (compared to 2,000) is AMAZING and clearly illustrates the value of a keyword-rich domain name.
Researching a Good Keyword-Rich Domain Name
Start by creating a list of 10 search phrases that you think will generate relevant traffic to your site from search engines. Run these searches in Google and take notice of the domains that are coming up in the top five results, and if you see the same domain names coming up across several searches. The domains that appear in the top search results for several of your potential phrases will likely be your main competitors. We can learn from what they are doing.
Identify your (hypothetical) top three competitors, and write down the words in their "title tags," "meta descriptions" and "meta keywords" from their homepages (if you’re not sure what these refer to, look up these terms). You can see this information by right-clicking on the page and choosing "view source." The info will be toward the top of the page.
The keyword phrases that come out of this exercise will likely be the big phrases in your industry that people search for on a regular basis. Based on this information, further refine your list of keyword phrases.
Pairing Down Your Phrases
Now that you have a rough idea of phrases that you think will work and the phrases your competitors are targeting, it’s time to look at the data. There is a great (free) tool that lets you see how many searches are done each month for a given phrase. Try plugging your keywords into this powerful tool. It can be found at: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Some choice phrases should start to jump out at you. Make a list of the 20 potential keyword phrases that are:
- Generic enough to represent all of the products you will be offering
- No more than 4-keywords long (preferably 2 or 3)
- Seem memorable and not too awkward to speak or spell
- Searched very frequently (800 plus times per month)
- Include in your list, the number of times the phrase is searched for each month.
Finding out if Your Domain Name is Available
Now that you have a list of potential phrases that can be used for a domain name, you must search to see if they are available. You’ll want to find one with a .com extension, no other extensions are as strong (unless you are a legitimate .org). You can also use hyphens between words in your domain name. Hyphens will not make a difference to search engines and could help people delineate your name. A good place to check and see if a domain name is available is:
Keep track of the available domain names in your list as you go. At the end of this process you will start finding some good potential domain names.
Consider Buying a Used Domain Name
Following your research, you could now easily choose one of the available domain names from your list and get started, but there is another option here and in order to make your decision, it’s important to know a few things about domain names. Google considers the age of the domain name (and its history) in its search algorithm. Old domain names rank higher than new domains. In the recent past there was a phenomenon called "the sand box effect." This describes the theory that new domain names will never rank for competitive phrases in the first 6-9 months of their existence. Another way of saying it is, "Google respects its elders" (elder domain names anyway). Domain names that were registered before the year 2000 have a very big advantage when it comes to ranking high in search results for competitive phrases. The industry calls these domain names "last millennium domains".
So, with all that said, you have the option to buy domain names that are already registered from individuals, businesses or domain name brokers. There are companies out there that actually buy domain names and develop them for aftermarket use by posting a basic site with relevant content and backward links. Purchasing one of these aftermarket domain names can short track your search marketing strategy and potentially save you money in the long run. You can expect to pay $350 and up for an aftermarket domain name. It can often be a good business decision to purchase the right domain name in the $350 – 2,000 price range when building a new site. It could save you 10k or more in marketing services over a few years.
How to Buy a Used Domain Name
There are a number of sites out there that sell/broker domain names. They handle all of the communication between buyer/seller and ensure that you get your domain and the seller gets their money.
Here are 3 sites you can use for purchasing aftermarket domain names:
Buying an Existing Site
What if you found the perfect domain name but it’s unavailable and you can’t find it on a broker site? There is still a chance that you can buy the site (and domain) out-right from the person or company that is currently using it. Try typing potential domains from your research list into a browser. You will find that some of the site’s that come up look as though they have not been kept up over the years or have been abandoned. The owner might consider a reasonable offer and not be aware of the actual value. However, don’t insult the Web site owner with offers of less than $1,000.
To get an idea of what the site might be worth to you consider the following:
- Does the domain name contain a keyword phrase that is searched frequently (more than 800 times per month)?
- Is the domain name at least 3-years old?
- Is there currently content on the site that contains any keyword phrases you will be targeting?
- Does the site have any backward links (quality links are very valuable)
- Does the site come up in the waybackmachine (http://www.archive.org/web/web.php)? Do the old pages look legit?
If the answer is yes to 3 or more of the above items, the site would be worth at least $2,000. You can find the contact information for a domain name by doing a "whois" look up at: http://whois.domaintools.com. Generally you want to contact the person listed under "administrative contact". If you find someone who is willing to sell, you can use a service (http://whois.domaintools.com) to broker the deal for you.
Summing it All Up
Choosing the right domain name is a very important decision that can make or break the success of your online business. Take a week and do the research and then make an informed decision on the best domain name for your business. Don’t be afraid to spend some money for the right domain, consider it an investment that will make all future SEO endeavors more effective. Seek council with a trusted adviser (someone with knowledge on the subject) and share your research with them. After all, you will be building on this foundation for years to come.
Taunia Lin Kipp is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Security Officer for Mountain Media, a privately held corporation located in Saratoga Springs, NY and serving both national and international markets.
The company’s proprietary eCommerce management platform, known as "Mountain Commerce" boasts the top ecommerce features in the industry and was named to Practical eCommerce magazine’s list of notable shopping cart solutions in late 2007. Additionally, the company offers a full compliment of commercial Web services and ecommerce solutions such as Search Engine Marketing, Graphic Design, Web Hosting and Merchant Services.
Learn more at: http://www.mountainmedia.com
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