Just as in the bricks & mortar world, location is significant to the success of an online venture; your choice of domain will either place your business right on the “High Street” or two blocks back. High Street rents reflect this, as do domain sales prices, but in most cases domain name rights are owned (occasionally leased), become an asset in themselves, are transferrable, and once paid for the cost of ownership is very low.
Think of a keyword descriptive domain name as a filter, the traffic that passes through it will automatically be targeted to the keywords it contains. 100 targeted visitors will be likely to generate more revenue than 1000 untargeted ones, and if you’re using your domain for paid advertising campaigns (Google AdWords or Bing) that can reduce your advertising costs considerably. You still have to convert those visitors, but that’s down to your website content and interface, which is within your control. The more specialised, or niche, the domain keywords are the more effective this targeting is likely to be. In this scenario two and three words are often better than one – the so called “long tail” – a fine filter.
With the quantities of useful free search traffic reducing, mainly due to increased competition, the need for using paid advertising is increasing and the cost of customer acquisition is set to increase too. This places an emphasis on customer retention and the need for returning visitors. A memorable web address that does “exactly as it says on the tin” is one way to help achieve this. A web address that uses a keyword phrase that is highly relevant to its niche will also reflect a level of authority on the website that uses it, improving visitor confidence and increasing your virtual presence. This influence can be extended across to all forms of your website marketing, including email campaigns, display advertising and social media.
For many years keyword descriptive domains were prized for use in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for their ability to boost ranking positions within search engines for the matching search phrase and close variants of it. This is an artificial factor, built-in to the ranking algorithm, based on the assumption of a high relevance to the searchers needs; a fair assumption. These days, with search engines being more sophisticated, this assumption now has to be supported with some solid website content, but all things being equal there is still an advantage to be had. Even a boost of a few positions can significantly increase traffic levels, particularly if that search phrase is in popular use.
Perhaps the true value of descriptive domains is their inherent ability to achieve higher than average click through rates (CTR); confirmation of the high relevance assumption made by search engines. Clearly, a website that has an address matching a user’s search phrase will stand out within a page of search results and is likely to be clicked on more frequently than the others. This performance factor is relevant whether your website link is placed within either free or sponsored search results.
It’s well established now that the use of a UK web address will send out a clear signal that you have a UK presence and that strongly encourages UK focused visitors to visit your website over and above other domain extensions. Using a geographical locator, ie. “.uk”, can prove to be more beneficial than even a .com address, which lends itself more to a corporate, or worldwide, presence, rather than being market specific.
What business owner hasn’t at some point imagined their brand as a household name, but of course the reality for most of us is that without a multi-million Pound advertising budget, a stroke of marketing genius, and some luck, it’s not going to happen any time soon. In the meantime perhaps the best way to expose visitors to your brand is not via an unknown web address, but via a descriptive address carrying your branded website. Alternatively, use your brand domain for your corporate presence and use the performance of a descriptive keyword address for a second website (carrying your branding), but with unique content focused on a specific group of your products. Using a small portfolio of sites is viable too, but don’t extend this idea too far or you may be seen to be “gaming” the search engines.
In the majority of cases the number of popular search phrases used within any particular market niche is small; it’s conceivable that by owning a few of the right domains you could also effectively “own” your niche. This means that in reality there is a very limited supply of relevant descriptive domains for your business, and if a competitor gets their name on any of them it’s likely they’ll never be available to you again.
You may not be familiar with the .uk domain names launched by Nominet in the summer of 2014, but they’re likely to become the premium choice for UK businesses in the coming years, potentially undermining .co.uk. In reality though, whatever the outcome of this change is, from a commercial perspective your preference should be to own both. Only then can you feel confident that one day you won’t be leaking traffic to the other confusingly similar version that you’ll then wished you owned. For more insight into these new domains see .uk Domains – The New Premium UK Domain Name.
In the UK hyphenated domains aren’t a popular choice, they’re harder to market than non-hyphenated ones, particularly by word of mouth, and we wouldn’t recommend building a brand on one; even with ownership of the non-hyphenated version to make a pair. However, as far as the keywords they contain are concerned they have the potential to perform in the same way as non-hyphenated domains, so their use in PPC advertising campaigns (eg. Google AdWords and Bing), or for any search engine based marketing, can provide a cheaper alternative to the non-hyphenated version if it is unavailable or beyond budget. Expect to pay 10%-50% of the full value for these names, depending on how competitive the keywords are.
Please get in touch with any comments or questions you have on the use of keyword descriptive domains.