What in a domainname works with a user? Keywords or Trust?

Recently I read an article “Domain Name Matters: Searchers Pick Brand Over Quality, Study Finds” which talks about what kinds of domain name works well with a user (and possibly search engines).  Is it important to have keywords or should the brand be trustworthy to make a domainname work?

For many years we heard it is very important to have the appropriate keywords in the domainname, for e.g. a classifieds site should ideally have the word ‘classified(s)’ in the domainname. But then there are only so many .com domains you can get with few variations of the word ‘classified’. Then came reports which said name really doesn’t matter, the content in the site that really matters. I can relate to the latter, in the 1990s I operated an India specific site (news, links etc) under the domainname mahesh.com, worked like a charm. The name as you can see has nothing to do with the contents of the site. But then, those were the early days and the concept of “SEO” did not exist.

My understanding from the article is,

  1. It is really not important to have the keywords in the domain, e.g. for a classified portal having “classified” in the domainname MAY not be mandatory but establishing the credibility of the domainname is more key (for e.g. people do trust click.in and they click on it)
  2. When you spend on display advertising it helps to have the related keywords in the URL if the domainname doesn’t have the keyword. e.g. “click.in/bangalore-classifieds.html” is more likely to get clicks as compared to just advertising “click.in” under the banner.

I asked my good friend Phillip Davis of TungstenBranding on what he thought about this topic. This is what he had to say,

My takeaway from this article is that, while a keyword-stuffed domain name might help you gain a slight advantage in the rankings, it might also adversely affect actual consumer click behavior. Internet users have become savvy enough to spot spammy sounding domain names, and tend to go with trusted domains. The question then becomes “what constitutes trust?” Is it simply familiarity? Or previous experience? Or massive advertising?

From a branding perspective, trust comes from having a domain name that sounds simple, inviting and intuitive. If you are shopping for a car or truck, a name like DriveSpark.com, while not literal, is likely to gain more attention and trust, than a higher ranking site that reads like auto-deals-online-specials.info. The consumer has become acutely aware that many sites are optimized for advertising and devoid of good content, so they migrate towards sites, and names, that sound more meaningful and trustworthy.

The goal is to eventually “own” your name and become the actual search term itself. Then you will eliminate all search competition. For example, our company name is now our most searched for keyword, and we rank #6 globally on Google for the word “Tungsten.” This is what happened as well for Amazon and Monster, they become the destination.

Getting good domainnames is not easy. Being creative and building trust is the only to make your domainname work. But then that is true for all lines of businesses, not just online.

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