The Best Domain Names For PPC and SEO

May. 30

I’m a huge fan of domain names and now own several hundred domains across the dot com, dot net, dot org, dot me, dot us, dot co, dot biz, and dot info extensions. I also own over 100 developed websites across these same TLDs. Domains are the real estate of the future and one of the best investments around, in my opinion. I recently got an excellent question from a PPC Ian reader, Anthony, which I paste below.

Red and Green Apples

Hello Ian,
I came by your site via a dot co article you wrote some time ago. I am in the process of deciding wether to purchase a .co or launch a site under a .info, which the article was critical off. How has you experience been with .co, have they ranked well?
Any advice would be welcome.
Thanks,
Anthony

The post Anthony is referring to is my piece titled Dot CO Domain Names Rock. I’m thrilled to answer Anthony’s question about dot info and dot co domains in today’s post.

PPC Domain Names

The first point I want to call out here is the difference between PPC (pay per click) versus SEO (search engine optimization). If you know up front the domain will be primarily used for paid search, you will have a lot more flexibility. If you’re building a PPC only site, you can really build it on any TLD you’d like.

My main advice for paid search domains: Make sure they are keyword rich. If the keywords you’re buying are in the domain, your display URL will display bold, which in turn helps you earn a higher CTR. These days, keyword rich domains are table stakes in paid search (unless you already have a hugely recognized brand name within your industry). Of course, I always prefer an exact match dot com. Those, however, can be pricey. Quinstreet, my old employer, recently purchased CarInsurance dot com for a cool $49.7 million (domain name plus existing business). By contrast, your going to be able to pick up the same name with a dot me or dot co TLD for considerably less.

In sum: Get the best, keyword rich domain you can find for PPC. Don’t worry as much about TLD as long as it’s one of the big ones mentioned at the top of this article. Want to learn more about paid search domains? Check out my article all about PPC Domain Strategies.

Best SEO Domain Names

Let’s now look at domains for SEO (or for a hybrid PPC and SEO strategy). First and foremost, I’ve had success with all TLDs in SEO, some more than others. Of the second tier domains, dot us, dot me, and dot co are my favorites when I just can’t get the dot com dot net, or dot org (although I’m less of a dot org fan versus dot com and dot net).

There are really two point that go into this. First, I have found that search engines have a higher affinity for certain TLDs, with dot com and dot net topping the charts on Google. On Yahoo, dot com, dot net, and dot us rank the quickest and the best. You might pay more for these domains but they will rank quicker and higher, helping you recoup your investment.

Second, SEO is all about branding these days. Build a great brand and you will do quite well. Gains are exponential so I’m really focused on my top sites and recommend a single site strategy (or handful of sites strategy). I personally own over 100 active websites, but that’s because I love testing new stuff and I’m addicted to big numbers (even though this might not be the best financial decision). In my experience, it’s much easier to build a brand on a dot com or dot net domain. Therefore, if Anthony is going for an authority SEO site, I’d recommend going after a good dot com or dot net. (Side note: Check out my guide for Buying Domains on Sedo. This will come in particularly handy when buying high quality domains on the aftermarket.)

A quick distinction: While my bias is dot com, dot net, and sometimes dot us for authority SEO sites, I’m much more flexible when it comes to smaller minisites. In the case of minisites, I’d consider all the domains listed in the intro and definitely rank dot co ahead of dot info. Dot co has a ton of marketing dollars behind it and is a hot TLD right now. It screams ©commerce" and "e;commercial", making it perfect for most sites. Dot info is regarded as a cheaper domain name and has many questionable sites on it due to its ultra-cheap price for the first year on GoDaddy.

Intent of The Domain Name

I’d like to close out today with one last word of advice: Buy the TLD that most closely matches your business. Let’s say your are going to build a pure, informational site. In this case, dot info could make sense. Let’s say on the other hand, you are building a site for a non-profit organization. Of course, dot org makes the most sense. Let’s now say you are building a personal blog. In this case, dot me might be best. Last, dot us makes a ton of sense for sites that are strictly about the United States. I’ve had a ton of success with finance-oriented sites on dot us. I’m a huge fan of making sure my website strategy aligns with the true intent of the domain TLD.

As you can see, there is no clear answer since there are so many sub-questions that go into choosing the right domain name. The best news: The opportunities in domain names right now are unparalleled. My closing advice is to really think it through, but at the same time just go for it! The sooner you start, the quicker you will achieve success!

Image of red and green apples © iStockPhoto – pederk

Leveraging ccTLD Domain Names In PPC

Mar. 15

I started domaining back in 2007, but really caught the domaining bug in 2009. Over the last year, I have been absorbing pretty much any information I can get my hands on regarding the domain industry. A big turning point in my domaining education: Attending T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas.

Global Flags

Lately, ccTLDs have been getting a ton of buzz. What the heck is a ccTLD, you ask? ccTLDs are country code top level domains. Some of the really popular ones are dot us (United States), dot me (Montenegro), dot in (India), dot de (Germany), and dot mx (Mexico). In fact, according to Ron Jackson, ccTLDs sales are now outpacing gTLD sales (global top level domains such as dot com, dot net, and dot org). So why am I talking all about ccTLDs on this pay per click search engine marketing blog? Simple: I’m here to pose a test (slash challenge) to all of you. My challenge: I propose that ccTLDs will become an important part of pay per click online marketing within the US over the coming years. The remainder of this post will explain why!

ccTLDs are Cheap Right Now

I’m going to start off with a freebie for all of you loyal PPC Ian readers. Here it is: Right now (as of 11:44 PM pacific on 3/15/2010) the domain Degrees.mx is available to hand register for only $49.99 on GoDaddy! I’m serious. If I wanted to go out and buy Degrees.com on the aftermarket, I’m probably going to be out anywhere between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000 depending on how good I am at negotiating.

Why is Degrees.mx a great domain name? This is obvious to anyone in the education vertical. Education is one of the most lucrative and competitive verticals on the Internet. With a domain like Degrees.mx, you can have great display URLs in your pay per click campaigns like Accounting.Degrees.mx and Business.Degrees.mx.

The challenge here: Users aren’t as used to seeing the dot mx ccTLD. My hypothesis: I think it will work as a PPC display URL in the US. Will it perform as well as the dot com, dot net, dot org, or even dot us? Most likely not. Is it going to beat a long, convoluted domains like so many of us use? Quite possibly, in my opinion, definitely worth a test! Now, I don’t have the time or resources to test this, but would love to hear if one of you does. Could be some money on the table here. Because of their cheapness, I view ccTLDs as a great option, one that we’ll see more of in the US and global pay per click landscape over the coming years.

The Meaning of ccTLDs Transcends Their Country

One of my personal favorite ccTLDs: dot me. I have been accumulating a portfolio of dot me domains since the first day they launched several years back. While dot me is the official ccTLD of Montenegro, it has been marketed as a global TLD. In my opinion, it makes total sense: dot me is all about "me."

Let’s take another really popular category: mortgage refinance. Imagine if you bought the domain Refinance.me. In my opinion, this is an awesome pay per click domain. It flows really well and is personal. The Internet keeps getting more and more personal. If you don’t reach out to your users on a personal basis, you’re not going to get the conversion. Dot me ccTLD makes the personal connection easy.

Another great ccTLD: dot co. Dot co is the official ccTLD of Colombia but it’s being marketed as the next huge global TLD. It makes sense: What do you think of when you hear dot co? I think of company and commerce, very similar to dot com. For that reason, there’s a lot of opportunity here. Currently, GoDaddy is taking pre-orders for the dot co ccTLD (to be released to the public later this year) so it’s a great time to start thinking about investing in a few for your PPC future!

PPC Organizations Are Becoming More Global

Let’s go back to my first hypothesis, that one can successfully leverage generic sounding gTLDs in the US AdWords market. Let’s say I’m wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time! I love testing and embrace my failures because they only mean I’m one step closer to success. If I fail every week, I know I’m doing my job and pushing the boundaries. In this case, I’d like to argue that these generic gTLDs are still very useful in paid search. Why? The industry is becoming a lot more global. A lot of the easy money in the US is gone. However, when I look at other countries, we’re just getting started. Buy your domains now so that you can leverage them in the future.

One nuance: Degrees.mx is unlikely to work in Mexico because it’s an English word. However, if you choose countries where English is very prevalent, especially in the business world, you’re golden. One example: Degrees.in. I imagine this would do well in India.

As a closing point, make sure to research before buying domain names. Some countries have restrictions. A good example is Canada. Unless you’re a Canadian business or citizen, there are some restrictions that you’d want to become very familiar with before registering dot ca domains. There are ways to make this happen, but I’ve been sticking to the basics myself: Registering domains that don’t have restrictions such as my beloved dot me!

Image of Global Flags © iStockPhoto – yesfoto

PPC Ian Featured On Teen Domainer

Mar. 11

Hey Everyone,
Today’s another exciting day! Shortly after getting interviewed by Jonathan Volk and getting featured on John Chow, today I’m featured on Teen Domainer. For those of you that don’t know, Teen Domainer is one of the best domaining blogs on the Internet!

Guest Post

As you may know from my 2010 goals, domaining is a focus for me this year. Specifically, I wanted to develop at least six domain names and attend at least one major domaining conference. I’m excited to announce that I recently crossed both of these off my list. I have six new 5-page minisites live and also attended T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas back in January. I’m really excited that I’ve learned so much and now feel like an advanced domainer (a great compliment to my pay per click background).

One thing that has really surprised me is the fact that the pay per click world knows very little about domaining. Similarly, I have found that the domaining world has a lot to learn about pay per click. It makes perfect sense to me: Both subjects are extremely complex. If you master just one of them, you definitely have my respect. However, I truly see huge value in mastering both. There are great synergies in leveraging domain strategies in pay per click and vice versa. To that end, I decided to focus on pay per click search engine marketing strategies for domainers in my guest article on Teen Domainer.

Please check out my guest article on Teen Domainer and let me know what you think! I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Brian from Teen Domainer for featuring my guest post. It’s a true honor to be featured on such a prestigious and awesome blog, one of my personal favorites!

Sincerely,
PPC Ian (Ian Lopuch)

Image of Guest Tag © iStockPhoto – wragg

PPC Domain Strategies

Nov. 27

As you may know from my blogroll and also some of my previous posts, I’m a big fan of domaining. In my opinion, domaining is the natural extension of pay per click search engine marketing. Today, I’m going to look at domain selection from a different perspective and offer my personal advice on domaining specifically for pay per click websites.

PPC Domains Versus SEO Domains

Blue Network

Let’s start off with an interesting distinction: Sometimes it makes sense to have separate SEO and PPC websites. Whether you’re like me running pay per click campaigns for a large corporation or are a small business owner, there are often cases where you’ll want to have separate domains (and websites) for PPC and SEO. Now, this definitely is not the case all the time. In fact, most of the time, I’m a proponent of leveraging the same website for PPC and organic. Why? You keep a unified brand and get compound effects in your brand equity. However, there are cases where it makes perfect sense to split your domains for these two media channels. I’ll briefly highlight a few of them:

  • Your SEO site gets a ton of traffic and is very old, but the name doesn’t include the most important keyword(s) from your vertical. For PPC, it’s essential to include the keywords in your URL. Otherwise, your click through rate may be low and you’ll get priced out of the market.
  • Your vertical is incredibly competitive and you want multiple if not hundreds of PPC websites targeted toward niches within your vertical. Many of the most sophisticated affiliate marketers out there leverage this strategy.
  • You’re make a lot of money in SEO and want to shield your established SEO site from potential bans against your pay per click activity. Please note that I never advise pushing the limits. It’s all about the long term and your relationships with the search engines. However, recently I have heard stories about advertisers getting banned from PPC with little recourse. Some of these advertisers believe they were banned by mistake. If you’re making a ton of money organically, you may choose to play it safe and only send PPC traffic to new sites that shield the risk.
  • You’re an affiliate marketer with very little SEO presence, but a huge PPC presence. If you’re in this bucket, you’ll be thinking primarily about URLs that will improve your PPC click through rate and conversion.
PPC Domain Strategy 1: Keywords Are Critical

So we’ve established that there are times where you’ll want to have a separate PPC versus SEO domain strategy. In the remainder of this article, I’ll highlight a few strategies that can work wonders for your PPC click through rate and conversion rate.

First and foremost, make sure the most important keywords in your niche are actually in your domain name. It’s that easy! Google and other search engines will bold each part of your ad that matches the user’s query. The display URL is considered part of your ad. If the keywords are in there, you will see an improved click through rate (and therefore position) not to mention possible improvements to your conversion rate because the ad is more relevant to the user’s query.

Now, you may find when you search for keyword rich URLs in verticals such as insurance, mortgage, debt, education, and others that they’re all taken. My suggestion: Consider the dot net or dot org versions (these work well in PPC), buying your domain on the aftermarket, or leveraging dashes (see next tip).

PPC Domain Strategy 2: Leverage Dashes In Your Domain Name

This is one of my favorite tips because it’s counterintuitive and can save you thousands of dollars while adding huge value. The tip is simple: Consider PPC domains that have dashes in them. In the SEO world, URLs with dashes are often frowned upon as cheap domains for those that can’t afford "real" domains.

However, dashes can really help in PPC. When you separate the words in your URL with dashes, it makes the URL easier to decipher and can improve your click through rate. Moreover, URLs with dashes are cheaper and widely available because at this time they hold little value on the resale market.

PPC Domain Strategy 3: Buy Domains That Read Well With Subdomains

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to include the important keywords in your display URL to improve your click through rate. Now, one way of doing that is registering hundreds of domains and creating hundreds of corresponding microsites for all of the sub-niches within your vertical. However, there exists an easier way to do this: Buy short PPC domains that follow well with subdomains.

Let’s say you’re in the education vertical. If you have a long URL like ApplyForOnlineCollegeDegrees.com, you’re not going to be able to do too much with subdomains because the URL is already getting a bit long and there’s a 35 character maximum in Google’s display URL. Now, let’s say you own the URL Degrees.com. Obviously, this is going to cost you quite a bit of money, but you will have incredible flexibility in using subdomains for your PPC campaigns. For example, you can use Nursing.Degrees.com for your nursing keywords, Law.Degrees.com for your law degrees, and Accounting.Degrees.com for accounting. As an important note, Google does not care if you actually have a site present at these subdomains. The only requirement as of right now is that the root domain Degrees.com works. In sum: Short and flexible domains are awesome for PPC.

To close out, I sincerely hope these tips help in your quest to acquire and build out PPC-specific domains. Many times, your PPC domain strategy has strong parallels to your SEO strategy. However, other times your PPC domain strategy might be very different!

Image of Bull Market © iStockPhoto – enot-poloskun

  • Darren (1)