Thinking of a great domain name, registering it or if unavailable, buying it from its owner, and possibly initiating trademark proceedings are the first steps to implementing a domain name strategy. The next step is to make sure your online brand is locked down with a mind to controlling brand reputation, both in terms of promotion and protection.
Register Domains for Multiple Years
Domain names are quickly becoming one of the most important parts of search engine optimization (SEO). In a wilderness littered with spam content, search engines are looking for ways to discern the legitimacy and intent of a web property. In a world of “splogs” and illegitimate sites, Google and other search engines are starting to rely on the length of registration as an indicator of intent. Most illegitimate sites only register domains for a year or less.
Registering a domain name for multiple years indicates to the search engines that you have committed to the property. In most cases, registering your primary domain name for ten years is a relatively inexpensive way to curry favor. In effect, you are telling Google that you aren’t going anywhere.
In a patent application from back in 2004, Google told SEO firms that a domain’s age and the length of time for which it was registered were important factors. Google has since become a domain name registrar itself, which grants them direct access to WHOIS data. WHOIS data is the specific contact and domain name server (DNS) information associated with each domain name that is registered in a top-level-domain (TLD) registry database. This information is provided free of charge to the public.
As a registrar, Google can see the age of a domain, to whom it is registered, and where it is hosted. The older your domain or the longer the commitment, the more invested you seem, and the more legitimate and credible Google sees the registration. Consequently, Google is more likely to rank it favorably.
Private Registration of Domain Names
A private registration allows you to shield your personal information from the public WHOIS database when registering a domain, while still retaining the full benefits of ownership.
When you register a domain name in the normal manner, an historical title is created for that Internet address. Like the title of a house or car, the entire history of the domain name is documented, including owners, entities, contact information, server information, and transactional history.
ICANN, the governing body of all Internet addresses (domain names), requires every domain name registrar to maintain a publicly-accessible WHOIS contact information directory for all registered domains. This directory includes a complete history of changes. This means your personal information is available to anyone who wants to see it 24-hours-a-day.
While this information is important to domain marketers, researchers, and brokers, this information is also interesting to your competitors. One may access sites such as DomainTools, www.WHOIS.sc, in order to explore the domain history, including who has bought the domain, domain, history of ownership, and who is associated with the domain name. DomainTools, the industry best, keeps historical WHOIS records tracking the history of millions of domains since 2002.
A common way to work around the problem is to provide false contact information, particularly a false e-mail address, but this is dangerous. There are many examples of users losing domains because their registrars could not contact them through their contact information. Private registration allows you to use alternate contact information rather than your personal information for the WHOIS database when registering a domain name.
While converting your current, normally-registered domain names to private registration is a good idea, full privacy is maintained only when you use a private proxy server during your initial registration of domain names.
Register Many Variations of the Domain
yourcompany.com, yourcompany.net and yourcompany.org are great buys. We all know how difficult it is to even secure a unique, pithy domain name these days.
There is an industry that registers Misspelled Domains, Variations Domains, Similars Domains, and Transposed Letter Domains as a way of stealing traffic. For large sites, this can mean hundreds of thousands of page visits lost to you. In order to lock down the brand, it is important to make sure you have all of your bases covered by registering the following iterations of your domain name:
- Misspellings Domains: yourecompany.com, yurcompany.com, yourcompanie.com, for example.
- Variation Domains: xyzprogramme.com for the British, for example, rather than xyzprogram.com.
- Similar Domains: Domain investors and marketers often steal traffic and harm brand by creating similarly-branded and named properties that succeed parasitically off of common user error and intentional misdirection. One example is bedbathbeyond.com, rather than bedbathandbeyond.com for the home wares superstore.
- Transposed Letter Domains: youcrompany.com, yourcompayn.com, etc.
Other domains to register include:
- Search String Domains: Make a list of keyword search terms and phrases that one might use to find yourcompany.com and register as many of them as possible. For example:
- Slogan Domains: Register domains that spell out your site slogans and trademarked catch phrases. For example, for a travel services site:
- Site Content Domains: Register domains that describe Categories and sub-Categories of your business.
- yourcompanyrecentvideos.com forwards to yourcompany.com/video/recent
- yourcompanypopularvideos.com forwards to yourcompany.com/video/popular
- uploadingvideostoyourcompany .com, yourcompanyuploads.com, uploadyourvideotoyourcompany.com and yourcompanyvideouploads.com forwards to yourcompany.com/upload
- Your companyTags.com forwards to yourcompany.com/tag/list
- Unfriendly Domains: It is important to make sure that any derisive domain names are registered. Competitors are not above hosting slanderous web sites and web properties. Even though yourcompanysucks.com may never be used or even registered, the price of registering even dozens of domain names at $9/year is cheaper than any crisis response or legal actions.
- Email Domains: Consider registering a domain to be used exclusively for your company’s corporate email. www.washingtonpost.com uses washpost.com for their corporate email address andwww.nationalgeographic.com uses ngs.org for their corporate email address. This is especially important if the main corporate address is long and easy to misspell.
- Top Level Domains (TLDs): Consider yourcompany.info, yourcompany.us, yourcompany.tv, yourcompany.ws, yourcompany.jp, yourcompany.ca, yourcompany.co.nz, yourcompany.net.nz, yourcompany.org.nz, yourcompany.de, yourcompany.co.uk, yourcompany.org.uk, or yourcompany.eu in addition to the regular domain name purchases. In many cases, you cannot register foreign domain names unless the purchase is via a local proxy, even in the case of .ca and .eu.
Domain Forwarding and Masking
Many registrars offer the ability to forward your domain name to another URL or Internet address. Redirecting one domain to another domain isn’t viewed well by Google and doesn’t offer much benefit outside of making sure your Misspelling Domains, Variation Domains, and Top Level Domains direct to the correct site. Be sure to park Misspelling Domains, Variation Domains, and Top Level Domains as aliases on your server instead of just forwards from your registrar.
When it comes to maximizing Search String Domains, Site Content Domains and Slogan Domains, it is important to follow some simple SEO best practices because search engines favor web sites that have consistent content across the Page Title, Meta Tag Description, Meta Tag Keywords, and full-text content.
To optimize Search String Domains, Site Content Domains and Slogan Domains for maximum SEO impact, use a service such as the Domain Forwarding and Masking tool offered by GoDaddy.com. This service offers the ability to take a Search String Domain or Slogan Domain and forward it to either the main site address, www.yourcompany.com, or to a content-specific page on the site. Unlike traditional domain forwarding, Domain Forwarding and Masking masks the Site Title, Meta Tag Description, and Meta Tag Keywords and replaces them with the Title, Meta Tag Description, and Meta Tag Keywords of your choosing.
This method optimizes a site in which the site administrator or the bureaucratic red tape blocks the deployment of Site Title, Meta Tag Description, and Meta Tag Keywords. If you register several domains each with a unique domain for each menu item and page and set them up with domain forwarding and masking, the “surface area” of a relatively small site can be doubled or tripled. It is important to make sure that each unique URL is customized with each forwarding URL directed to a discrete page and each masked content written exclusively for the target content. Here’s how it’s done.
Domain Forwarding and Masking offers you four masking fields to fill out: Forward To, Masked Title, Masked Description Meta-Tag, and Masked Keyword Meta-Tag. Using uploadingvideostoyourcompany.com as an example, use yourcompany.com/upload as the forward address.
Under Masked Title, use “Upload your travel videos to your company.” For Masked Description Meta-Tag, “Your company allows you to easily upload and share your travel videos for free.” Under Masked Keywords Meta-Tag, use “video upload, video hosting, video sharing, free videos, your company, video blog, travel videos, vlogging, vlogs, vlog, etc.”
Avoid the temptation to drop generic content into the masking fields for all of the Search String Domains, Site Content Domains and Slogan Domains. The reward comes from custom-crafting each to its content, making sure that the words for every domain are mirrored in the masked title, the masked description, and the masked keywords.
I hope that gets you on the road to domain name success. Don’t be cheap.
Get as many variations and topics as possible because in the scheme of things, domains are so cheap — even if you do something stupid like buy then from Network Solutions, one of the most expensive sources for domains on the Internet.
Right now, I am running sites on SquareSpace and they allow unlimited mapped domains, which is good; also, Google Apps allows you to map quite a few domain names to your Google Business Mail so you can always run variants. For example, I have gerr.is, gerrisd.com, gerris.co, gerriscorp.com, and gerrisdigital.com to my Google account. If you need any help with any of this, feel free to call or text me at +1 202-351-1235 or email me at [email protected]
Go register and go git ’em, Tiger!