This is a guest post by Lewis Ogden, founder of cloudincome.com. Lewis has been extremely successful with his online ventures and stays ahead of the curve with his “outside the box thinking.”
Finding a brandable domain is a hot topic these days. Lewis breaks down what you need to know about finding a great domain name that has lasting power.
Thanks for the fantastic information.
Take it away Lewis!
A Changing Landscape
Sure they’ve been around in different forms for a number of years. First you had your micro niche site, a small 5 page website that targeted a single keyword or phrase with not much chance of ranking for anything else.
Then Google got angry and went to war with SEO’s and Internet Marketers. These Micro Niche Sites had trouble maintaining their previous market dominance due to their spammy nature and lack of useful content.
We then got smarter, we moved onto niche sites. These typically contain around 20+ pages of content, which gives them a huge amount of scope for additional long tail traffic.
To me niche sites and authority sites are much the same. An authority site ALWAYS starts its life as a niche site, then if things start moving in the right direction, we can quickly turn these into an authority site.
This should be your goal with any niche site you start, to extract the most amount of value and to give them the best possible chance of becoming BIG.
Take Pat Flynn’s SecurityGuardTraningHQ.com, this site began life like any other niche site with just a few pages of content. However Pat continued to build and expand the site which now has pages upon pages of content. This has helped turn this simple niche site into an authority site that dominates the search engines for his niche, and bring in around $1,500 /month from AdSense.
The thing with these authority sites is that they need to be treated as a real business. You need a plan, you need a structure, you need to know who your competition are and how you can out-play and out-rank them.
Before we do all this however, there is one very important step in the creation of an authority site, and that is Branding. More specifically your brand and domain name.
Why Brandability Is So Important in 2014
There have been a number of case studies over the past few months which have highlighted the effects of having a brandable domain name.
Take Perrin’s APennyShaved site. This is a perfect example of an authority site built on a brandable domain. I’m a little jealous that I didn’t come up with that one, however under the guidance of Spencer, Perrin has built what I consider to be an awesome brand and he is continually developing and increasing his reach.
Another example is Matthew Allen from DumbPassiveIncome.com. Matthew shares how he built a niche site on a bad domain and how he overcame that by switching to a brandable domain.
Along with these case studies we have seen good number of blog posts on the subject of branding and brandable domains. One example is from Spencer of NichePursuits.com, where he shared his thoughts in this article on why exact match domains are out and brandable domains are in.
There are many reasons why you should choose a brandable domain, however 3 of the most important are:
- Easy to remember and bring back repeat traffic
- Less chance of over optimised anchor text when using your brand name and URL
- They look and sound better and their future potential and resale value is magnified 10x or more
TLD’s, EMD’s & PMD’s
If you are targeting a specific country other than the US market, then I would say buy the countries TLD.
For example I am from the UK and I buy many brandable domains that have the .co.uk extension. For the simple reason that I have found country specific TLD’s rank better in that country. Without getting into SEO too much here, it’s not always the case but it does help.
Same goes for niche sites that target the Canadian market, go for the .ca.
The largest market by far however is the US market, for which I buy .com and .com only. Why? Because it’s the most widely recognised and it screams brand.
No EMD’s required
I will put this plainly. EMD’s, from an SEO standpoint, DO still work. I have the research to back that up.
However, if you are wanting to build an authority site in any niche, stay away from EMD’s and PMD’s (partial match domains), we want brandable, roll-off-the-tongue domain names only. No brand has a domain like:
Now if at this point you’re thinking about Pat’s site in my example at the start of this article, let me tell you right now, Pat is the exception here. The SEO he performed to get this site to number 1 in Google DO NOT work today, at least for an extended period of time. The reason Pat’s site is still ranking #1 for its main keyword is that he has built it out into an authority site.
(plus having such a huge audience talking about and sharing your site helps 🙂 )
What we want is a domain that has the legs to carry us into 2015 and beyond.
If you are looking at the bigger picture, you may eventually consider selling your website for a multiple of the monthly income. That multiple is enhanced greatly by a brandable domain name with a .com TLD.
Selling up should be a part of you thought process before you start each site. Have a look on Flippa.com for previously sold sites and see which ones fetch the highest number of bids and final sale value.
Tools & Resources I Use
Below is a short video featuring a selection of tools that I use to find great brandable domain names.
As I mentioned in the video, below are some of the forums I use when hunting for these brandable domains.
- NameSlot.com – Buy, Sell & Talk Domains
- AcornDomains.co.uk – a .UK TLD forum with a very active member base and some great domains.
- DNForum.com – A forum for domainers that also buy & sell
- DigitalPoint Forums – I have seen some good domains here, just be sure who you are dealing with as PayPal don’t cover digital items.
New vs. Aged Domains
There are pros and cons of buying a new free to register (FTR) domain vs. an aged domain. The primary difference between the two is often the price. You can pay upwards of $500 for a good brandable domain name, however this is not always the case and there are some great domains you can pick up for much less than that, by using the resources in the video above.
However, that’s not to say you cannot find great Brandable domains that are free to register, you just need time and patience. For example back in January I registered the domain LifeOfMen.com, for a project I am working on with a couple of other guys.
Before I began my research I was certain that I would have to make some sacrifices in my selection criteria. However after a week of searching (around an hour per day) I finally came up with this gem which explains my brand perfectly whilst maintaining an air of authority.
I have since had many questions from my readers on how I managed to find such as great name that was available to register. If you follow this guide you will be able to find your own super brandable domains for your niche sites.
There are of course other things to consider in the New vs. Aged domain head-to-head, such as:
It is know that having a domain with age that has a previous history with the search engines can accelerate the growth of your niche site. The speed in which your pages are indexed and the immediate authority/recognition the search engines give you is certainly a bonus.
Recently however I have seen some great results from brand new domains, I have found that this all comes down to niche selection and the market competition.
If you are stuck between a New FTR domain and an Aged domain, there are steps that you can and should take to help make up your mind either way.
The first step is by checking the current backlinks of the aged domain. Using the 3 tools below, you can see just what kind of sites and links are pointing to the aged domain.
- OpenSiteExplorer – Along with the commonly used DA (Domain Authority) and PA (Page Authority), OSE also offers a free snippet of the top backlinks to the domain, along with a “Top Page” feature which I often use to look for any inner pages with existing backlinks and the related anchor text.
- Ahrefs – I have found the ahrefs provides the most complete backlink profile of all three tools and often brings up links the others miss. They also offer a page dedicated to anchor text breakdown, which provides a quick overview of the general market the domain was once operating in.
- MajesticSEO – I use Majestic for the cool anchor text pie chart they provide, along with the TF (Trust Flow) as a guide to the ‘neighbourhood’ the domain resides in. Majestic looks at the number of clicks from trusted sites to score this metric. There is also CF (Citation Flow) which is scored by the number of citations (or Links) to a given URL.
There are also free tools that can give you an idea if a domain has been hit with a penalty in the past (although they are no replacement for good old common sense):
- PixelGroove.com – a fairly simple tool that checks for 3 Google penalty identifiers, Deindexed, Penalised, Sandboxed.
- Gabblet.com – a free tool that will check for a Google penalty along with a whole host of other features such as checking PageRank, Backlinks, DMOZ and Alexa etc
Using the WayBack Machine from Archive.org, you can go back in time to take a look at what the domain you’re considering once looked like. A few things to ask yourself are:
- Was the domain part of a bad neighbourhood, such as being used for Adult, Pharmaceutical or Gambling. (if you are in any of these industries, a bad neighbourhood to me means anything that Google doesn’t like to give love too!)
- What was the content like? The quality, quantity and was it helpful or spun junk?
- Did the content contain unnatural looking outbound links (OBL) that used keyword anchor text?
- Was there any audience engagement and participation? A site with comments is a good sign of a ‘normal’ none spammy domain, but not in all cases.
Again, using OpenSiteExplorer and MajesticSEO we can get a good feel for the quality of the expired domain. For Private Blog Networks, I typically look for a DA over 20 and a PA over 30. However for a brandable niche site domain, any kind of authority is welcomed.
The important thing to look for here is the quality and relevance of the existing backlinks and the anchor text. Look for branded or URL anchor text over spammy keyword anchor text, that is used to manipulate the SERP’s.
Doug has also started a New vs. Aged domains case study so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for his updates.
Example Brandable Domain Names
I thought what better way to show you how effective these tools are, than to go out and find one domain from each resource and share them with you, along with an example of how you could use each one.
Domain Name – MotorResources.com
Tool – Excitemental.com
Price – FTR
Niche – Automotive
Idea – An affiliate or Dropship model in the automotive industry. Amazon has plenty of products to promote, from car polish to exhausts. Alternatively if you’re feeling adventurous you could use Magento to build a ecommerce site and contact manufacturers and offer to dropship their products. The margins are higher than on affiliate products but there is an added element of selling involved.
Domain Name – FinalFitness.com
Tool – blog.goldnames.com
Price – Backorder (NameJet)
Niche – Exercise & Fitness
Idea – Perfect for an information site with either clickbank products or again our favorite Amazon associates program. Its a large market and some say it’s saturated but I know firsthand from a client site that I help rank, that this is not the case. Do some product specific research and you will find hundreds of low competition keywords out there.
And YES you CAN outrank Amazon.
Domain Name – SoCollege.com
Tool – ExpiredDomains.net
Price – $100 USD (Make Offer – GoDaddy)
Niche – College Magazine/Hub
Idea – There are hundreds of affiliate programs out there for student related products. The student loan niche pays out very well. Check out Jon Havers blog for example. Alternatively online magazines are killing it right now and have sold very well in the past on Flippa. Check out BroBible.com as an example site that targets a demographic very well.
SoCollege.com could be your next big win!
Domain Name – ScubaTown.com
Tool – Ebay.com
Price – $25USD (Buy It Now)
Niche – Scuba Diving
Idea – Just to whet your appetite, Amazon products are perfect for this niche along with the hundreds of manufacturers and ecommerce stores that offer affiliate accounts. Just looking at the prices of some of the items on Amazon should give you an idea of the kind of commissions that can be made here.
Domain Name – FamiliaFood.com
Tool – BrandCrowd.com
Price – $1,500 USD (Buy It Now)
Niche – Food and Cooking
Idea – Food blogs are huge right now, a little tip for those of you thinking of entering this niche.
Food Blog + Pinterest = TRAFFIC
To Wrap Up
With the end of EMD’s & PMD’s comes a more exciting time for those of us involved in Internet Marketing. We can now use our imagination and creative flair to build our sites on a foundation that is set up for continued growth.
No longer will your domains look out of place in the top 10 of Google, now we can compete with the big boys…plus having a brandable domain looks super cool…!
Lewis runs a blog over at cloudincome.com where he talks about what’s working right now in SEO and Internet Marketing. Some of his more popular guides cover how he made a $1,000 /month niche site in just 4 months, along with his how to guide for building a private blog network. Head on over to his site and say hello or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.