Recently a client of mine has been once again approached by someone who wanted to sell him an exact match keyword domain for one of the main keyphrases we optimize for. It was a German domain so I will use another similar phrase as example instead.
In this SEO tutorial I want to show you the process of assessing a keyword domain for purchase and finding out whether buying it does make sense or not.
Most common domain names that have keywords in them have been grabbed already.
That’s a shame as many are empty or only filled with low quality ads. We know for sure that both Google and Bing prefer exact match keyword domains in some cases.
For instance if someone searches for [iphone shop] and you own iphoneshop.com you have ideally an advantage compared to someone having unrelateddomain.net/somedirectory/iphone-shop.html
SEO experts disagree as to whether it’s really the search engines that prefer such matching domain names or whether it’s the people who tend to link to keyword domains with their keywords as anchor text that push them up. Webmasters tend to link this way: <a href=”ipadshop.com”>iPhone Shop</a> or <a href=”iphoneshop.com”>iphoneshop.com</a>. In both cases the website gets the additional SEO push for the keywords.
No matter why, it’s often easier to rank with exact match keyword domains.
Take note that I say “keyword” for the sake of simplicity but nowadays you will use a keyphrase instead. This keyphrase will contain more than one actual keyword.
Are you a new kid on the block?
Do you already have a website, domain or brand for that niche you trying to rank for or not? Or are you a new kid on the block?
In case you already have a website like most businesses have these days you should thnk twice before buying an expensive new domain. Maybe you can cover the niche or market with your existing domain.
Is your old domain really old as in older than 3 years? Then our old domain is really valuable. Anything older than one year is already OK as Google judges domains based on their age. So even a domain without any keywords may have an SEO advantage compared to a newer keyword domain.
Take a look at your current online real estate. Do you (or your client) have reputable domains already? If you’re new it makes more sense. An established domain is in most cases better than a keyword domain.
Are similar domains available?
Try a little trick add a random charachter or number and search for a similar domain. Something like ziphoneshop.com or 7iphoneshop.com You will notice that all relevant TLD domains are still available (as time of writing). For a guy named Zack or a shop located at 7th street this domain domain name might be even better. Consider competing in the seacrh reults with many generic domain names like that.
You might end up on the first page of Google with iphoneshop.com, iphone-shop.com iphoneshop.net and iphoneshop.us and you are the only person that stands outs with your initials. In case you already have a brand you might consider even a longer domain name. Something zacksiphoneshop.com or 7thstreetiphoneshop.com
Check whether domain names with added branding are available with any hosting provider or a tool like domai.nr
In our example you’ll notice that in Google.com there is iphoneshopusa.com ranking quite well. I see it at #6.
What’s the TLD?
While you can’t really prove the superiority of .com domains it’s by now consensus that .com domains are worth more than other TLD’s aka Top Level Domains like .net .org .us .eu or .info
This is one of the reasons why a domain name like sex.com sells for 14 Million Dollars. It’s not just the keyword in it. People are used to .com domains, that’s one of the key factors. They just assume that the default domain ending is a “.com”.
This may vary internatioally though. The British co.uk might be the better choice in the UK and .fr or .de in the respective countries.
In contrast .info and especially .biz domains have a bad rep. This goes as far as that Google even ascribes lower values by default. Nonetheless I still prefer .info domains when I have to choose between .info, .net and .us/.eu for example. .net is just meaningless nowadays and .us/.eu has a limited meaning. People might assume that the geographic orientiation of the site is US/EU only centered and bounce.
On the other hand I haven’t seen many reputabable .biz domains to this day. I always see somthinng cheapcrappyseoservices.biz instead.
There are lots of exotic domain TLD domains you can buy as well. Especially for short URLs o funny Web 2.0 services it may make sense to take the rare domain instead of the common one.
Check whether other popular TLD or exotic domains are still available using a tool like Domai.nr
Who sells the domain?
The particular seller who has approached my client this time was a competitor. Why would a competitor give up such an advantage? So that offer sounded suspicious to me. In most other cases some “domainers” or domain grabbers will either contact you or wait until you contact them. They can wait for years. This way many good domains get wasted indefinitely. Many people in th edomain business will also try to be more or less anonymous.
In all these cases you have to double check the domain. The only way I can think of where I would buy a domain without really be wary of the seller is someone clos eto me, I work with or trust for years. In all other cases you really have to check the domain you wnat to buy looking for several things. Read on.
The person who approached my client has written an email from their company account so it was obvious. Oterwise I’d simly use Google. In case you can’t find the person on the Web its smells like potential fraud of course.
Check the email address and visit the domain or if it’s generic like Gmail or Yahoo.com search for the email address.
Do people search often enough for this keyword or better type it in the URL bar?
Check Google Insights for search for the actual and historical search volume. This is of course the first thing to do. Even obvious keyword domains might not use actual keywords real people use. You can also check Google Trends and Google Adwords Keyword Tool or your favorite keyword research tool. Insights is just my personal preference.
It shows me a quick comparison with other keywords (I know the amount of search traffic of) and historical data. For instance you might notice that traffic is stagnating or dwindling over the years. Other keywords might get steady traffic for years while there are plenty of keywords that just arrived a while ago and have experienced a meteoric rise in traffic. I’m not a domainer so in most cases I’m late here.
Check the keyword on Google Insights and compare to some keywords you already rank for and know the number of searches/visitors for. Does the domain already appear in the search results for the respective keyphrase? You can check that manually by searching on Google. Also scroll down for additional suggested keyword combinations. In our example we see that the keyword par [iphone shop] is quite popular but it’s far less popular than the query [iphone store].
Does the domain have a history as bad neighbourhood?
One of the foremost Google ranking factors these days are both domain age and domain history. Many people in SEO even speculate that Google uses its position as a domain registrar to take domain ownership into account for its ranking. Google will check and know whether a given domain was a link farm with dozens of unrelated links or links to porn or gambling sites.
Check whether the site is in the Google Index with the site: and cache: commands.
A site that has been penalized might not appear at all in the Google Index. Even a for sale domain should be in the Google index. iphoneshop.com for example is neither cached nor indexed. The domain my client was offered was both in the index and the Google cache.
Check the Whois of the domain. Has the owner changed frequently? The less often the better.
This domain had far too many owners to be of any SEO value historically.
Check the domain age and history using Archive.org. The older it is the better.
An older domain should have some archived version there. Just click them and view the archived pages. Do they contain spammy links?
Check the domain with Web of Trust.
The domain itself is green on WOT but if you take a look at the souce code you’ll notice it displays a frame from another domain. Searchnut.com
This domain in contrast has the mmost awful record on WOT I’ve seen in a long time:
How much does the domain cost?
The particular domain I was asked to assess was 750€. That doesn’t sound much does it? Basically you have to count here. Will the profit from this domain pay back the price in a reasonable amount of time? A year still sounds reasonable but a month or two sound great.
So let’s just say that you sell two iPhones via iphoneshop.com per 750€ each and your profit margin is a healthy 50% than your domain already paid for itself.
So paying 14 million for sex.com or 5 million for slot.com must make some sense financially. Although I guess that in some cases it’s just trading for the sake of it. The buyers might resell the domains in future for even more money just like collectors resell Picasso paintings.
Use a calculator to determine how long it will take to “repay” the domain. Take into account your current sales. So you find out how many more items you’ll sell using this keyword domain.
Both the domains my client was offered and the domain from my example (iphoneshop.com) are not really worth it from the SEO perspective as both are actually bad neighborhoods.
It would take much longer to overcome their dark past than to optimize a completely new domain, even an unrelated one.
I wish you good luck with finding a better domain than these two.