Domain Names: the ultimate "vanity plates"

Online vanity plates, think domain names.

The market for domain names is unlike any other. The supply of domains is unlimited. They were running out of the .com domain name version. So they’ve started selling many other extensions. The selected TLDs are: .aero (for the air-transport industry), .biz (for businesses), .coop (for cooperatives), .info (for all uses), .museum (for museums), .name (for individuals), and .pro (for professions). They’re still selling like hot cakes. In a sense it’s like the ‘roll-your-own’ phenomenon. Anyone can make up a domain name and provided no one else has ‘bought’ it then they can pay for it and it exists.

There’s an interesting thread in the Cre8asite Forums that got me thinking more on domain names. Someone is frustrated that his boss wants to optimize a website for the search engines with no domain name at all. Well the boss isn’t as wrong as he seems on this question of domain names.

Why does everyone want one? I believe this stems largely from two popular misconceptions. The first is that a domain name is worth something. Well yes if the domain name is business.com or sex.com or man.com, perhaps that’s true. However the vast majority of domain names have value only to their creator.

The second misconception is that search engines place some value on domain names in ranking websites for keyword searches. Domain names probably have as much influence with the search engines as those keyword metatags. That influence is close to zero. Some people are convinced that their keyword-rich domain name was the factor that increased their search engine ranking. However rarely are tests done to see whether it was the domain name or the content or the backlinks text.

Domain names are important in bringing some visitors to company websites, but that requires a careful choice of company name in the first place. Even the experts often get the choice of their domain name wrong. A better approach is to choose your company name and your domain name so that you “own” that domain name on the Internet. In other words, typing that domain name without the extension in a search engine field will produce your website at the top of the list.

Few domain names pass that test. Most are really just a way of someone feeling a warm glow that they are getting their 15 minutes of fame. There are other and perhaps better ways. In Canada for example you can give recognition to the name of someone by dedicating a piece of the Trans Canada Trail. Dedicating 1 metre of the 18,078,000 metres of the trail to a given name costs $ 50 Canadian. That’s about what it costs to have your own personalized number plate for your automobile in some regions. Or for about the same cost, you can create your own domain name. It’s an interesting speculation as to which of these, Trail dedication, automobile “vanity plate” or domain name will give the best visibility.

7 thoughts on “Domain Names: the ultimate "vanity plates"”

  1. Regarding the value of domain names, consider the fact that each year multi-millions of dollars change hands buying and selling premium domain names (in most instances, with a dot com extension). Obviously, many people do place a very high value on domains that far exceeds the value of a vanity plate! Vodka.com just sold for $3million a couple of weeks ago, along with other 5, 6 and 7 figure sales. Anyway, good luck to you….
    Didi

  2. With more and more people getting online each year, the value of domain names will only continue to rise. In my mind, there are still very sound investments if and only if you know what to buy!

  3. Your comments that the keyword richness of the domains do not help search engine rankings is interesting to me. I’ve found that my domains that contain my keywords (or at least my niche)- as long as they are not spammy- do help a good deal. I wonder if they would have done as well with the keywords as each domain and situation is unique. Interesting points to ponder 🙂 But I’m leaning more toward keywords for those initial rankings.

  4. As I understand it, search engines want to make us believe that keywords in the domain name do not help a sites’ ranking. But in reality they do, although not as much as they used to. The total list of factors that help a site to good rankings is large nowadays. The more competitive the business you are in, the more of thes ranking factors you need com comply with to rank anywhere decent. Hance the importance of keywords in a domain name.

  5. I do not believe it is any secret that Google takes a domain name into account when they calculate search results. Their algorithm is very complex, but domain names that are a 100% match to the search request should be given some extra points.
    Also, like dntrader said, the Internet usage is growing each day and the number of good .com domains are indeed limited. Therefore I believe (and the stats/recent sales confirm this) that domain names do increase in value.

  6. “The second misconception is that search engines place some value on domain names in ranking websites for keyword searches”…I dont think this is a misconcept. As a matter of fact, search engines do place high values on domain names ranking if the keyword is competitive

  7. I haven’t seen any test results that confirm that. Such tests would be difficult and somewhat academic if you want to evaluate only the effect of the keyword in the domain name. If you have test results in confirmation, I would be most interested to see them, even if sent via e-mail in confidence.

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