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How to Choose a Domain Name – Brandable Domains vs Keyword Rich Domains

Here’s a question that I get quite a bit that I thought might make an interesting question for discussion:

When choosing domain names do you get a keyword rich or more brandable name?

What do I mean by keyword rich vs brandable names? Let me explain further with a segment from a previous post on choosing domain names for blogs.

  1. Keyword Based Domains - these domains, as the name suggests, incorporate keywords that your blog is about in them. This is good for a number of reasons. Firstly it communicates something to your readers very quickly with regards to what your blog is about. The other positive is that Search Engines take a good look at the words in your domain name when deciding what your blog is about and how to rank it. As a result if you’re after SE traffic then these types of names can be worth looking at. Examples of blogs with keyword based domains are Cellphone9, the Movie Blog, Sims Gamer and Digital Photography School.
  2. Brandable Domains - these domains might often have some relation to their topic in terms of their feel or sound but are much more about creating something memorable that can become an identity in and of itself. In terms of traffic strategy – these blogs would be suited ideally to developing a blog that is aiming to build a community of loyal readers. Of course these blogs can also do very well in search engines but this is usually for other reasons (keywords in URLs are just one of many factors). Blogs that have these types of domains include Boing Boing, Gizmodo and Dooce. In fact if you look at Technorati’s Top 100 blogs – you’ll see that most of them have brandable names and not Keyword based ones.

Like I said in the post that I’ve taken those descriptions from – these two options are not mutually exclusive. Domains like Engadget and even ProBlogger are quite brandable yet also incorporate keywords (gadget and blogger) – however it’s not always possible to get both (in fact it’s getting harder and harder) and many bloggers are faced with the choice of one or the other.

So back to our question – which do you prefer when you’re starting a blog?

What have you based your decision upon in the past and if you had to start another blog today which would you go for?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    Darren,

    “Keyword rich” is the new term for easily understood and located, and that in my opinion is far more important than brandable.

    Stretch your mind way back and pretend you don’t know them both–how much more money do I have to throw at “McDonald’s” to get the customer to know what they sell, than at “Burger King”? That is what it’s all about for branding/ marketing/ becoming top-of-the-mind. Dollars and time-to-memorable.

    Now, if you can also be super-positive and remarkable (a la Seth Godin) with your name (Burger KING has a lot more going for it than Burger BARN), then you’ve hit on it. Hence the genius of “ProBlogger.” Layers of intention, understandable, low dollars and time-to-memorable, super-positive, remarkable. (Of course you had to back it up with inspired content, but you were going to do that even if you named it “Darren’s Closet,” weren’t you?)

    Your name is the most important ad you’ll ever write. This goes for your domain name just as much as your business name. They both deserve strategy and planning to get them as close as you can to representing your Vision, and the solution your ideal customer is searching for.

    Regards,

    Kelly
    Maximum Customer Experience Blog

  2. Mine was just a word play. Necrophilia.. necro files.
    I didn’t know that there already was a film called ‘necro files’, otherwise I would’ve chosen another name.

    At least I get the google and yahoo page ranks.

    http://necrofiles.blogspot.com

  3. Personally, I don’t think it matters that much. What a Blogger should try and do is get an aged Domain Name…even pay a few hundred for a nice aged domain name that has been around for over 5 years! This is a very effective way to rank well in the search engines! Trust me on this one…I was shocked to see this…I think Google puts HUGE weight on the age of the domain!

  4. I’d always prefer a memorable name. The question one must ask himself is: ‘What is the purpose of my creating this blog?’. If it is SOLELY for profit, I think the blog fails right there.

    But good blogs focus more on the reader-blogger relationship, and that is what blogging is all about. Making money should be secondary. Therefore, a memorable name would be a better choice in any case. Even if it is completely silly and unrelated, it will make the site memorable. (Like Rottentomatoes)

  5. If you can come up with a domain that encompasses both keywords and branding, that would be the ideal.

    GoalGuru.com is an example of that.

    In my work, I appear on TV, radio, pocasts and teleseminars and having something powerful and memorable is a necessity.

    Here are the ingredients I was looking for:
    Keyword
    Short
    Catchy
    Memorable
    Expandable Brand
    Authority and expert status

    Think about what you want to convey, what you want your name and brand to encompass in the highest vision for your company and mission, what are those words. After you narrow down the words, brainstorm other keywords or phrases that encompass it. Break out the old trusty dictionary and thesaurus.

    Live Your Dreams,

    Jill

  6. rodel says:

    id rather have both if possible to lessen the load.. :)

  7. Josh says:

    Brandable is my vote. I want people to remember my name more than funky algorithms. Google, Yahoo, Myspace, YouTube… I feel those are more clever branding names versus keyword rich names.
    But then again, it is all relative. If your site is about Chicago, you should want chicago.com and not rottentomatoes.com.

  8. In December 2006, I registered AppleiPhoneReview.com because I knew lots of people would be searching for an “iPhone review” once the device came out.

    I was right; I’m still on the first page of Google for the term as well as for the term “Apple iPhone Review,” which both bring me a couple thousand visitors a month still (even more before, and it will probably spike once new versions of the iPhone are released).

  9. I went for a keyword rich name because I am a relative newcomer to the internet for running my business. Most of my clients find me because they want to write and sell their ebook, or to learn the technology I am teaching them in my weekly teleseminars. It would be unfair for me to brand myself at this point and disappoint my future students.

  10. If your niche is already fairly crowded, a key-word name won’t stand out; there’s probably already several just like it. Brandable has a better chance of gaining traction, because people are going to remember it – it’ll stand out from the crowd.

    I have a blog about Autism called HappyChucks (http://www.happychucks.com), and I’ve many people comment how much they love the name in just a very short time (it’s a fairly new blog)…

  11. Ebony Jones says:

    We went with the brandable domain….our niche – news & gossip is filled to the brim…so a keyword like name wouldn’t have worked well for us.

    I think brandable is easier for your reader to remember …tell some one else about, email someone else about….etc. I think a memorable name helps build a relationship with your reader more effectively. I love the Gizmodo example…who’s gonna forget a name like that. I think it’s better to let the meta tags and your friendly urls do the search engine work rather than your name.

    We wanted to create a site for people who would like and appreciate our particular slant on current events, gossip, etc. …and just a fun place to get some news, laughs, gossip and commentary. So after a little back and forth – urbanswirl.com – because we’re a blogging team, because we’re different ethnicities, different sexes, different sexual orientations…and we’re from the city.

  12. Jody Mitoma says:

    Brandable, definitely without a doubt. The URL must be easily remembered, or else it is useless! But then again, my website title is both Keyword Based AND Brandable… So if you can do that, you’re well on your way to success. :]

  13. Nate D. says:

    Great post. I prefer brandable domains much better. If I was starting a new blog today I would definately go for one with some sort of brandable value.

  14. Cynthia says:

    The question is – what is the purpose of your domain buy? If you’re hoping to develop and sell or simply park a domain using keywords is the way to go. I work with one of the top name parking companies and our portfolio includes Free.com, CheapCars.com, Divorce.com, Singles.com.

    But personally, I’m a writer and I like a combo – my TV site is TV of the Absurd. I doubt many people are searching for Absurd TV, but once they find me, I hope the name sticks.

    More keyword style is my Supernatural Update which is all about the show Supernatural. Or StopSkynet which is about Sarah Connor Chronicles.

    My most off the wall domain name was TaffetaPhrases.com, it’s Shakespearean, but I intended it to be one of those everything and anything blogs. It didn’t work out and I won’t go that far out on names again. Thinking I should stick Shakespearean Amazon links on it 0r perhaps links to buy fabric?

  15. Barbara says:

    I have a keyword rich name with “Blogging Without A Blog. com”, however, that wasn’t intentional. It was a name that came to me in a light bulb moment, and that’s what I went with.

    In the process of blogging, and visiting other blogs, I am finding that it’s not your name that’s important….it’s what your write. As long as you can get your blog found, if visitors like what you write, and you are providing them with educational/valuable information, they will either bookmark your site, or subscribe to your blog .

    A domain name (unless you’re looking for branding), really isn’t that important. Content is.

  16. AsiaPartTime says:

    I will go for Keyword Rich Domain. It save me a big step in terms of SEO. e.g. my domain saved me times in SEO since the main keyword “Part Time” is there. But the “Asia” word is a bit mis-leading.

  17. masdhenk says:

    thats difficult choice,
    sometimes we want to have the brandable name but poor in targeted keyword.
    I think, only our intuition guide us to choose one of it.

    masdhenk

  18. Brad Shorr says:

    Really interesting question. If the main reason you’re blogging is to generate transactions, a keyword rich domain may be the way to go, since driving traffic is paramount. But if you’re blogging to generate conversation and build your reputation, I think branding is by far the best strategy. When I see a domain packed with keywords, my first thought is, this blog is trying to sell me something. The blogger is writing for search engines, not me. Not sure if I’m typical, but that’s not the attitude you want if you’re trying to build a community of readers.

  19. markowe says:

    I think with “keyword-based” domains names I think there are a couple of questions:

    1) Is the name going to be so inspid or generic that you aren’t taken seriously? I think “buy.com” is an awful brand, I guess the “only” reason for their success is type-ins and subsequent SEO and content-building. Otherwise it’s desperately unmemorable, even if they ARE probably pretty successful (hey, what’s that got to do with anything!)

    2) Does a “keyword-rich” domain name REALLY impact SEO that much? I mean, it is just one of a multitude of factors and once your site has good content, it is an irrelevance.

    I’d prefer to build a strong brand every time.

  20. Tina says:

    It’s funny when someone stuffs their domain with keywords presuming this technique will do magic to their rankings, ending up with something like Matt Cutts suggested:

    buy-cheap-viagra-online-while-consolidating-your-debt-to-play-texas-holdem-and-watch-porn.com ;)

    On a serious note,

    1) My experience shows that *keywords in domain names can be the decisive ranking factor only when all other conditions are equal*, but this will hardly help if someone has done a better job than you optimizing their site on the whole. (like Peter Cooper said before re Technorati Top 100)

    For example, compare results returned for query “SEO services” and “football ticket prices” (use intop20 for US IP). In the former case only 3 out of 10 top-ranking sites have the word ‘seo’ in their domain (at least in Google), while in the latter case the 1st spot is taken by footballticketprices[dot]com in all the three SEs, and the site merely has any backlinks at all.

    2) A brand name may also be preferable as nowadays finding a good domain with keywords may turn nearly impossible.
    For example, when registering a domain for our link-building site, we found that not only linklink[dot]com was taken, but also linklinklink[dot]com, too!

    It may also be a good idea to start with your primary keyword and than add some meaningless (or meaningful) suffix, preferably, a well-known one, like -moz, -tube, -ster, – ous, etc. Note (better not hyphenate words in your domain)

    Like, for our domain, we made up that ‘LinkZaZa’ word eventually – just because it seemed to sound good – and then it turned out that ZaZa means plenty in some language.

    Now we only need to make it rock :)

  21. Esp says:

    If possible, a combination is of course best, but I agree that that can be rather difficult to attain these days. However, I have to admit I am quite pleased with mine, although in retrospect it also has a keyword that won’t necessarily help me. I run an auto blog and I run it because I love cars, they’re a passion. Therefore I ended up with Automolove.com. I personally think it is quite brandable – it conveys a message (a love for autos), it contains the keyword auto (but also love…), and it is a variation of the words automobile/automotive, which is what the site is about. So I’m pleased with that. =)

  22. Reddy says:

    It would be good to have keyword based domain, if it is also easy to remember for visitors. Otherwise will go for branded domain which also can be easily remembered.

  23. suresh says:

    Having domain name with key word will help as readers easily remembers it and pass to community and friends.

    The indexing problem and comepetetion with good keywords is the problems that has to be overcomed.

  24. Hi Darren, this past week I registered 2 domain names for a couple of new projects that I’m working on.

    I purposely researched & chose the new names with SEO in mind.

    With a bit of creativity & planning, we can have a well branded and a keyword rich domain, both at the same time.

  25. I went with brandable therefore appealing and memorable. But keyword rich would need to be memorable as well to keep readers coming back.

    Ginger
    http://www.girlsjustwannahavefunds.com

  26. Orfej says:

    Brandable Domains are my choice because it is future – uniq brand, personality.

  27. Hi,

    Given the fact that there is almost zero availability for keyword base domains with .com, would it be wise to choose one but with .info, .biz, etc.?

    Are these kind of domains equally ranked in search engines?. I’m about to start a blog about cars and I can’t find a name that I like, so this option seems interesting to me.

    What do you think?

  28. Tim says:

    My lack of experience in this area hasn’t given me time enough to form a bias towards one camp or another. This makes it interesting to read through the many responses to this topic.

    The tally shows most respondents prefer branded domains or a combination of branded and keyword, but many do not, and some believe the issue doesn’t even matter. So it’s all over the place. Lots of good points on all sides. Maybe you all are right.

    Underneath it all, the consistent issue discussed here isn’t about naming domains. It’s about how to attract visitors and create a successful blog. How this can be accomplished, I would think, must be a combination of many, many factors, some of which are beyond any blogger’s control. I’m not sure a real strategy that works across the board could exist. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be anything to ceaselessly debate. I feel we do our best and some succeed and some fail, due to mistakes and/or just plain lucky or unlucky circumstances.

    Another observation is what names people believe are “memorable” or not. Some of the “memorable” examples I’ve read above are domains that I would not remember. It must be a personal thing half of the time.

  29. ComCloset says:

    Brandable domain names are the way to go. That’s why we have set up a unique domain name boutique that offers very clever and catchy domains as well as branding concepts to give the buyer an idea of the domain’s potential.

    Check us out: http://comcloset.com

  30. Madeira says:

    I also agree with some of the posters that the way to go is to have a short brandable with a single keyword domain. However I also believe that you cannot think too long about the name as you business or functionality will make your company more memorable anyway!

  31. Branded domain names are good, but i would suggest the keyword-inspired domain names.

    Your domain name must reflect what your site is all about even before they click on it.

    Choose a good domain name tutorial here:
    http://www.CreateAndMarketYourWebsite.com/Choose-a-Domain-Name/
    The Future Web Owner’s Guide in Building a Website

  32. This is a great post, I favorited your blog and added your feed.

  33. Very informative post. Keep it up. And thanks for such a great site.

  34. Denise says:

    I suggest going with a ‘brandable’ name, and forward keyword rich domain names to it. That’s what I’m about to do… hope it’s successful!

  35. As long as the name of the domain is related to the key word content of the website you are in good shape. For instance if you google mp3 downloads the first websites will usually contain mp3 in the domain name.