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Affiliate Domain Name Anxiety Syndrome

  |  August 16, 2002   |  Comments

What's in a (domain) name? Search engine rankings, brand equity, customer loyalty, and profits... for starters.

Are you an affiliate marketer with several Web sites? Do you break out in a cold sweat when you decide to build a new affiliate site and every solid domain name combination is taken? Are you constantly trying to get the edge over competitors on the search engines?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, you're suffering from Domain Name Anxiety Syndrome. The syndrome is rumored to have been created when affiliate marketers discovered having relevant, keyword-rich domain names could boost rankings on search engines.

Ever since, affiliate marketers have snatched up every possible domain name available, no matter how long or how silly. Why? Affiliate marketing is a business. The difference between a number one search engine rank and a number two could lead to success or failure.

That means we need to use every possible advantage we can to beat out our competition. Result: super long, keyword-rich domain names.

Does It Work?

Mark Stockton of SEO specialists 1 Design 4 Life thinks so. "It is emphatically the case that having keyword-rich domain names does help boost rankings a little. It is a factor in most search engines algorithms.

"If your site is called keyword1-keyword2-keyword3.com, it is likely that this will be the anchor text for most of a site's inbound links, and, certainly in the case of Google, the anchor text of inbound links is very important in their algorithm."

In theory, if you had two identical Web sites, the one with the keyword-rich domain name should have the edge and rank higher in search results.

"The real advantage of a keyword-rich domain name is in Yahoo, as they draw heavily on only three elements to decide rankings -- the title, description, and domain name," said Stockton.

"Just having a keyword-rich domain name is not going to make a great difference in ranking in most search engines. But if you combine it with the factors above and other SEO techniques, it is an advantage."

Nonscientific Case Study

I searched for "party invitations" on Google. I got 407,000 results. Look at a few of the domain names that showed up on the first page (none are paid listings):

  • www.party-invitation-announcement.com

  • www.party-invitations.com

  • www.partyinvitations.com

Still not a believer? I searched for "DVD" on MSN and got 4,443 results. Here are some from the first page (again, none are "featured" or "sponsored" links):

  • www.dvdfile.com

  • www.dvdreview.com

  • www.dvdinsider.com

  • www.dvd.com

  • www.dvdcity.com

  • www.dvdsewer.com

  • www.dvdangle.com


Wordtracker's long-term report reveals that among the most searched-for words on the Internet are "google," "hotels," "yahoo," "sex," and "lyrics."

If you believe Wordtracker (and you should), wouldn't it make sense to string those words together and buy the domain name? Not necessarily. Long domain names have disadvantages, so be wary. Two of them are:

  • Brand recognition. Sure, your Web site might show up first. You might even get clicked on first. But will your visitor remember your domain name? Simply put, shorter and simpler domain names work best. They allow visitors to easily remember them, so they can visit repeatedly.

  • Length. Not only are long domain names difficult to remember, they're hard to type into a browser. Errors are more likely. With errors comes frustration. Consider a shorter version of your name to use for branding only (e.g., "Coke" rather than "Coca-Cola").

More About Domain Names

Ready to get started finding keyword-rich domain names for your next affiliate Web site? Start here:

  • Ever wonder how to create profitable domain names? According to WebReference.com, you first need to understand what makes a domain name valuable.

  • Domain Notes contains tips, tools, domain software, and links to domain name resources.

  • Unclaimed Domains will alert you when the names you want become available. DomainBook.com catalogs names currently for sale.

As always, feel free to contact me with any suggestions or comments you might have regarding this topic. You can read more about search engine marketing in my colleague Danny Sullivan's column.


Jim Kukral Jim Kukral is the chief design officer for AffiliateMakeover.com, a Web site design company focused on professional Web design for affiliate marketers. He has been designing, building and marketing Web sites since 1996. During that time, he has written no books, nor spoken at any conferences. He has instead spent all his time working in the field and learning by trial and error what does and doesn't work.

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