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Domain Names and Anchor Text

May 21, 2004

Branding vs Naming

Many people say that the name of a website should be original. It should convey some sense of branding unlike any other site. They say your name should not be generic.

The truth of this matter is that branding is more developed by how you interact with people than by what your name is. Your name can be used to help develop brand, but many smart webmasters use their domain name for more than just branding.

Superstar Websites

People take the branding idea one step further and rattle off some of the best technological leaders. Amazon, Google, Yahoo!, Ebay, etc. None of these sites say what they do in their site name.

Google is so powerful because it is the only Google. It was a wide open market. Yahoo! became Yahoo! because there was no great well marketed directory on the web. Ebay became Ebay because there was so much market friction in trading junk and they made it easier.

Business Facts

Most successful businesses or websites will not be like Google. Most will not be a runaway technological success. Most businesses become successful from soft innovations. Small focused consumer centric changes can help you craft a successful business model.

For every Yahoo! or Google on the market there are 1,000 Door Hangers.com or Cheese.com websites which are doing just fine "bringing in the cheese."

Anchor Text

Anchor text is extremely important to search engines. What a link says is as important as who is saying it. When I link to your site with the words "I eat cats" as the link text a search engine will evaluate that link and assume you eat cats.

You can't control all the links you get (meow), but you can help control some of them. People often link to you using the words in your domain name as the link text (also known as anchor text.) If your domain name has your primary keywords in it then you have an extremely powerful business advantage over your competitors.

Using Dashes in Domain Names

Most of the benefit of dashes in the domain name have eroded in the last year or two. Domain names themselves have been greatly devalued in search engine algorithms, and most links use the site name versus the domain name as the anchor text.  

I am of the opinion that you usually can pick out a keyword rich domain name without needing dashes. It may take a bit of creativity and a bit of time, but it is possible. If you are aiming to sell products versus become a consultant you may be able to do well making a living from search engine traffic and not need as strong of a branded name behind your domain.

Brandable Generic Domain Names

Sometimes they do still exist!

I wanted to write an ebook about SEO. Less than a year ago the domain name SEObook.com was still available. It will not always be that easy to find a domain name, but if you think hard enough you should be able to find a brandable domain name which is also keyword rich.

High quality directories usually prefer to list sites by their name versus "insert keyword phrase here."

Having a domain name like mine makes it very easy for me to get inbound links with "SEO Book" or "Search Engine Optimization Book" as the link text. This allows me to rank better for those search phrases, and eventually it will allow me to rank good for "SEO" and "search engine optimization."

Creativity in Domain Naming

If the domain name with your keywords is already taken you still have many other options. If my domain name was taken odds are I could have still got a domain name like seo-ebook-book.biz, but that seems a bit too generic and lacks the creativity to keep it somewhat brandable while still making it keyword rich.

Usually you can add other words around the main words in your domain name to keep the keyword rich words in there without making it overly long. TheSEObook.com is one example of an alternate domain I could have used. I could also try synonyms. I just looked and SEOreport.com was gone. My next guess for a name was SEOsecrets.com, and it was still available. There are a ton of good domain names still on the market.

Domain Name Summary

  • Search engines such as Google heavily weight link text in their relevancy algorithms.
  • Soft innovations drive most successful businesses. It is highly unlikely that my business or your business is going to be the next Google.
  • Often times keyword rich domain names are available which will give you a considerable competitive advantage over your competition.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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