How keyword domains can boost search strategy

Nora Nanayakkara, business development director at Sedo, says brands should think more about their website addresses to optimise search better.

The start of the new decade presents a host of new opportunities for brands and marketers looking to promote their presence online. It is no longer simply about having a single website with the company’s name in the URL: it’s about creating a presence, building a brand, and ultimately improving the reach and sales of the company’s product or service.

Marketers already recognise that domain names present a wealth of opportunities. They are the bedrock of an organisation’s web presence; acquiring key domains is an important element of a fully protected online brand image. It is about far more than simply registering domains for brand protection: there is also scope to drive traffic and business through the strategic use of existing and prospective URLs relating to your company.

The most successful domain name strategies will use more than the company name alone – incorporating keywords relating to a particular vertical market will reach a wider audience and build brand associations far more effectively.

Some good examples of companies already doing this include Johnson & Johnson with Baby.com; Calvin Klein with Underwear.com and Proctor & Gamble, whose Crest brand owns Toothpaste.com.

The trend for consumers to use domain names as a search tool – i.e. typing a generic domain directly into the address line of their internet browser – is set only to increase. For organisations looking to create a strong and consistent presence online, therefore, the ownership of one or more domains relevant to their core product will become more important.

Acquiring this kind of keyword related domain names offers a number of other benefits. A keyword plus a .com or .co.uk extension is often the first stop for those looking to purchase a new product and service. Studies show that more than one in six searches are performed by internet users directly typing a domain into their browser, something which accounts for more than 10% of Google’s search revenues.

Consumers recognise these domains as a trustworthy source of information that often leads to the authority in a particular market. For example, a quality, generic domain like cruises.co.uk offers a high search engine ranking in the competitive online travel market and gives its owner instant brand recognition with consumers looking to book a cruise on the internet. Other good examples include news.co.uk, which redirects visitors to Times Online and holidays.co.uk, which redirects to First Choice.

Domain names can be a vital part of an organisation’s pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. Studies have shown that keyword domains related to the search term appear higher in natural search listings and receive a higher quality rank when running paid search campaigns.

This will also increase the number of listings of a brand in search engines and assist with link building. Indeed, studies show that quality keyword domain names can perform better than branded terms in search marketing campaigns.

Another advantage is that Google highlights sites with the search term within their domains, helping to build click through rates. A full domain portfolio will hinder competitors’ online standing in a particular market place and minimize brand damage.

One brand that seems to have taken this strategy to heart is Toys ’R’ Us’, who recently purchased toys.com for $5m (£3.2m). The retailer correctly viewed domain names as an asset not an expense and Toys.com is putting them in the top search ranking for their market and to considerably improving their digital brand recognition.

Organisations need not worry – the cost of a domain is rarely as high as in this instance. The current average price for a .co.uk domain is about £2,000 and .com £1,600. In addition, research shows that domains often see a return on their investment within two years, in comparison to the expense of bringing in the same number of visitors via a search engine.

Taking time to develop a strategic domain strategy is crucial for brands to steer their online presence in the direction they want. By identifying top keywords in each market and developing a list of target domains, a brand can start registering URLs that are available immediately, driving traffic and ultimately business to their core website.

Variations of brand names can be a valuable asset to this strategy, including domains that include abbreviations or even typos! This will all help to ensure that traffic intended for that brand is redirected to the home page itself.

For more specific domains, using a domain marketplace or domain broker will help you acquire those web addresses which have already been registered.

The ’Teenies’ consumer will be more web savvy than ever and as search habits evolve, brand marketing strategies need to develop a complementary approach that will ensure that their names and products are still appearing in front of the right eyeballs.

A wide-reaching, well-targeted vertical domain portfolio can complement search engine strategy, improve ROI and ultimately enhance business benefits in the competitive but crucially influential online environment.

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