Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 6, 2009 8:19 PM

The Power Behind Your Website Name, Vanity URLS And Generic Domain Names

What's in a name?

When the dot com boom happened in the early nineties it was nothing short of a virtual land-grab as companies and individuals gobbled up all of the domain names they could. This multi-million dollar industry (it could be multi-billion... I'm not sure) continues to flourish. Having a powerful domain name drives traffic, clicks and attention. Even if it was not able to deliver on all of those metrics, at the very least, a great URL is memorable and easy to pass along to family, friends and colleagues.

In the past little while, there has been some interesting news on the vanity URL front. With Google Profile, anyone can now have their own Google-based vanity URL (and it's free), many agree that part of the amazing charm of Twitter is how it does display users through a vanity URL (i.e.: www.twitter.com/mitchjoel), and now there is talk that Facebook is looking at potentially charging users for a vanity URL (see: Mashable - Would You Pay For A Facebook Vanity URL?).

These all make perfect sense when you consider that one of the easiest ways to grow your personal brand in the digital channels is through consistency. Countless people - who have many more connections, retweets and trackbacks than all of us combined - always make sure that their usernames, photos and the like are always uniform across the multiple platforms.

A good, strong and memorable URL counts. It may seem like something very basic and obvious, but all too often we tend to forget just how powerful it can be.

"Generic website names that feature descriptive words of products and services deliver significantly higher click-through rates (CTRs) and overall clicks than those with non-generic domain names, according to a UK study conducted by MemorableDomains.co.uk," says the news item, Generic Domain Names in Ads Outperform Non-Generic, from Marketing Charts on May 4th, 2009.

What was the key points from this report?

  • Because a generic domain name describes a product or service using the words people automatically associate with the topic, it encourages them to click more.
  • The presence of search terms in the domain name leads to higher organic rankings or a better ad quality score in pay-per-click ad ranking algorithms.
  • Search engines commonly automatically bold any word in the domain name that matches the search term, drawing attention to the listing.
  • There is a potential positive impact of the domain name on ad quality score.

If you combine vanity URLs, with your brand-driven URLs and add in a layer of generic domain name URLs, just imagine the possibilities.

Keep in mind, there are some technical implications to how you name, structure and redirect URLs to ensure that the search engines help you (instead of hinder your hard work), so make sure to do some research or work with someone who has done this sort of stuff before.

As more and more people use a search box as their first interaction with brands, never before has it been as important to focus on the basics - and a good URL/naming strategy is a great place to start.

By Mitch Joel


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