In light of all the recent hoopla regarding Google’s constant tweaking of their algorithm (Panda, Penguin and others), there’s some concern about how they now factor in domain names. Some believe that generic URLs simply don’t have the power that they used to. Should we diminish the weight previously put on domains?
First, what exactly is a generic domain name? A generic domain is a URL consisting only of keywords that describe a product, service, location, concept or a combination of those. The keywords in generic domain names are what people search for online. People search for insurance, Denver hotels and wifi hotspots for instance, making Insurance.com, DenverHotels.com and WikiHotspots.com generic URLs.
Generic domain names became one of the most powerful weapons in online marketing for their power to get easy rankings in Google for their keyword phrases. The targeted traffic from a high ranking on a highly searched lucrative term could singlehandedly launch and sustain a business.
With how Google has been penalizing or banning sites for reasons such as duplicate content, poor quality content, redirected URLs and certain linking patterns, some are wondering if Google may already be reducing the effectiveness of generic domains.
Here is why you should NOT worry about the value of your quality generic domain names:
1. Generics still achieve high rankings easier
Among one of the first things Google factors in its rankings is relevance. They don’t want the results to be something completely different than what the searcher is looking for – that’s what gets people to try out different search engines. The bolding of the searched phrase in the results shows the searcher where each result is relevant, and one area of SERPs that still gets bolded is the domain.
Are keyword domain names still ranking well however? We’re seeing among our money sites little impact on keyword rich domains as far as SERPs go. Given we deal primarily in keyword domains and have many repeat clients still coming back for more, they still seem to be working fine for other developers too.
2. Generics have a solid and sustaining asset value regardless of Google
One of the key draws for premium generic URLs is their asset value as an investment. There’s no denying the long-term asset value of generics, as their increase in value over the past 10-15 years has been unparalleled in the investment world. This value is entirely independent of whatever happens with Google, as generic domains continue to fetch massive interest and jaw-dropping sales.
3. Macro-level generics (“category killers”) offer massive trust, authority and other benefits
When it comes to domain names like Cars.com, Insurance.com, Hotels.com and other “category killer” domains, there are so many different benefits they bring that Google is generally an afterthought.
The trust and authority that those URLs convey is perhaps their biggest value. Consumers may not realize the effect, but in the back of their mind, they know that a company using such a valuable domain name wouldn’t be fly-by-night, offer fake merchandise or otherwise try to scam their customers. Additionally, simply by the fact that all other companies in their industry are on strictly lower quality names from an objective standpoint, the company appears as somewhat of a leader and an authority, whether they actually are one. Cars.com simply appears like the domain of a much more major company than JoesCarLot.com.
Those domain names are also eye-catching and highly memorable, which keeps people coming back. Companies on those domains could expect higher performance of their marketing efforts for that reason, and search marketing may not even be necessary (though as we mentioned, those URLs still do have the power to rank highly for their term).
4. Micro-level generics (“long tails”) offer laser-targeting in marketing efforts and specialization
The majority of generic URLs people buy are micro-level generics, or “long tail” keyword domain names that target a niche within an industry rather than the whole industry. While one of the bigger draws for micro-level generics is their ability to rank highly for their term rather easily, what if that stopped happening?
The targeted nature of these domains can help in other marketing areas as well. They allow you to do more targeted ad campaigns and appear more relevant and specialized for the niche that they cover than any other domain name – even the macro-level generic(s) that cover it. If you were looking for garden tillers and saw Tools.com and GardenTillers.com, which would you feel more confident in finding what you’re looking for?
Again, these URLs do still rank highly for their term – in fact, SEOMoz indicated that exact match domain names like these actually increased in ranking power over the course of 2011. But even if their ranking power diminished, they would still have a lot of value otherwise.
Overall, for people doing more serious business online, their decision of building on a particular domain name should never be predicated on what Google is doing anyways. It should instead be based on overall marketing and branding strategy. Relying on one source of traffic such as Google is extremely risky and some businesses following that strategy have collapsed on a single change of algorithm outside their control.
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