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Why’d You Choose That Domain Name?

This guest post is by The Blogger.

Let’s admit one thing. We all started this web thing honestly, naively.

Our first site was designed to help people, to fill a gaping void we saw in the online world.

We wanted to do so much good.

Where, then, did it go so wrong? And why? Why did we end up with a website like “www.how-to-earn-money-online.com” that we can barely mention across the dinner table without blushing?

In this post, I’m going to target the psychology behind our seemingly harmless paths to web domination. I’ve been curious for a while about why a few of us start the Zygna.coms and Digg.coms while others go a, well, different path. It all dates back to the mid 1970s, when a man name Albert Bandura, the guy behind Social Cognitive Theory, examined how we seek to replicate success we see in our surroundings and in media, often at all costs. It gets a bit creepy.

Day 1: A new beginnning

It all began with GoDaddy.

“What is GoDaddy?” we ask Google. And Google responds with a full tutorial on GoDaddy.

“Thank you, Google. Now I’ve got my first domain and I have no idea how to use it.”

Well at some point, no thanks to GoDaddy, we find Blogger or WordPress. Your first domain name most-likely had a .blogspot or .wordpress in it. Hello, new blog.

“Wow, this is so interesting,” we think. “I can write posts, post images, create links, and put things in my side bar. And what exactly is a sidebar? I’m going to grow this blog to be huge! I’m getting 100 views a day! Wait, I was tracking my own views. Shut that off. So this actually is difficult … okay, I can handle that.”

We set up our first Google Analytics profile and hardly use it. We’re too focused positioning Adsense ads and garnering Facebook likes.

“Suggest to friends? I think so. Why did he not like it? Not my friend anymore! Write posts, write posts, write posts. Write even more. How am I ever going to have as many posts as that other site? Three a week, that’s it. Must happen. Three great posts of 500 words at least. More coffee. You can do this! Backlinks. Backlins! Need more. Alexa tells me I don’t have enough. Must network. Got one! Got a tweet too! Oh my dear god prepare yourself for traffic! Traffic didn’t come…why not? More posts … more domination!”

At some fateful point after much deliberation we decide to hack off the .blogger/.wordpress and basically think the world will rejoice over our decision.

“Sigh, they don’t. People don’t care. They’re focused on their own websites. Oh well, more networking, more Facebook marketing! Backlinks!

Day 2: Day 1 got old

At some point in blogging, we become jaded. It just isn’t like it was on Day 1. Our community blog, our niche review site, and our Google Adsense landing page just didn’t work as planned. It wasn’t all we were told it would be, but we did learn in the process.

So, we start a new blog. We suck up our pride. We hobble back over to the computer. We probably woke up later that day because we were up late making it big the night before.

This is where it gets interesting.

The day we start up a second website defines us in our blogging careers.

Why? Because (in case you didn’t realize yet) everyone starts a semi-successful-yet-pretty-mediocre website at first, then moves on to another project. It’s in that second project that we either:

  • show the world we’ve learned from our mistakes and are ready to build something useful, or
  • totally sell out and continue down the path to eventual existential failure.

I’m sorry, but it’s one or the other. Which path are you on?

Maybe you’re on a different path?! If so, let’s hear about it in the comments.

Day 3: Pick a new domain

It may not be on actual day 3 of blogging, but the “third day” in your blogging career is the day you choose your next domain name. On Day 1 you made your first website, on Day 2 you decided to build another one, and on Day 3 you picked this new domain. And on Day 7 s/he rested.

So what did you pick?

The brandable domain

If you picked a brandable domain then I’d like to buy you a beer. I’m proud of you. A brandable domain is something like “Twitter.com”. It’s something like “Coursehero.com” or “Koofers.com”. It’s a brother of “Problogger.net” and a cousin of “Alexa.com”. Its recognizable. It stands out.

It holds its own in a conversation across the dinner table. (Should that be the new standard?)

People learn not just from trying and failing, but from observing, sometimes subconsciously, sometimes for means of survival, what works for our peers.—Albert Bandura

The importance of a brandable domain is five-fold:

  • Unique: It stands out.
  • Recognizable: People remember it.
  • Bizarre: It’s weird enough to generate some intrigue the first time someone hears it.
  • Worth mentioning: People want to talk about weird things.
  • Worth putting on a t-shirt: Yes, you would consider wearing that logo with it’s branded image on a t-shirt.

If you picked a brandable domain I commend you because, while you won’t get immediate “direct match” traffic from Google, you will get many more returning visits because you have a pretty cool concept.

These websites are more likely to get blog comments and will inevitably build larger email followings. They may not be the best at making a quick buck, but they do have a long-term trajectory to success. Props to you for choosing this option!

The keyword-rich domain

If you picked this type of domain, you may want to watch this short video as Matt Cutts talks about how Google is changing the algorithm.

Short summary: A lot of noise and competition exists among keyword-rich domains. Google is altering the algorithm so websites with keyword-rich domains won’t get as much an advantage over similar websites with less keyword friendly domains.

If you picked a keyword-rich domain, this is my advice for you.

  • Check out onlineprofits.com: It’s a successful community that makes online profits.
  • Check howtomakemyblog.com: It’s actually an awesome how-to site by Marko Saric.
  • Check out onlinecolleges.com and literally every other domain name with some variation of the phrase “online colleges” in it. You’ll begin to see just how competitive things are getting.
  • Learn some on-page SEO: It’ll help you immensely against the waves of others like you.
  • Get used to being #2: Hey, look at how well Monster does in the shadow of Redbull.

It’s okay, as a few of these examples will show you. With your keyword-rich domain your blog might actually make that six-figure annual income you dreamed about on Day 2.

However, as time passes I can’t help but think keyword-rich domains will become a dime a dozen, and will get sifted out to the bottom of the blogosphere while unique, original concepts rise to the top. It’s a process that may be happening as you read this.

Why did we choose one option or the other?

We’re human. We don’t want the things we do to eventually lead to failure.

We want to succeed, sometimes badly, and will often consider every means necessary to do so. Sometimes this means selecting a domain we at first would have scoffed at.

Albert Bandura was a renowned Canadian psychologist. He examined the characteristics we learn in our adolescence that leads us to success or failure. From the existing Social Learning Theory, it was known four key factors affect how we learn new behavior: drives, cues, responses, and rewards.

What Bandura found, in plain words, was that those of us who are more aggressive often skip a couple steps to get to the “rewards.”

This can be dangerous.

When our aggression outweighs our engrained moral compass, we exhibit “lapses in judgement,” as Bandura called them, where we totally avoid “cues” and “responses.”

It’s these tendencies which lead us to choose a certain domain and make larger, more long-term business decisions. It’s pretty hard to say a domain doesn’t hold vibes and messages that follow our website throughout its entire existence. So next time you’re sitting at GoDaddy about to make a purchase, remember Bandura and think about the long-term implications of your choice.

Bandura became the endowed chair of social psychology at Standford University in 1974 and is believed to be the fourth most cited pyschologist of all time. Go find more of his related work on Wikipedia.

The Blogger is a 25 year old guy from Manhattan who answers 150 blog questions before breakfast and holds a world record for comment response time. Sign up to his email club if you haven’t already (jeez) and find him on the Twitter.

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Comments

  1. I don’t know where my impression came from, but, for some reason,whenever I see website addresses that are so keyword rich (as described above) I instantly assume ‘spammer’! I know they obviously aren’t all spammers, but it’s what comes to mind for me personally. Of course, that said, my previous blog was titled The Fridge Door Blog. It was a cooking and craft blog, so obviously I’m not one to talk, seeing as I suppose it could be taken as a keyword-rich domain.

    Something I have noticed though is that there is a lot of keyword branding competition in the ‘mummy-blogger’ (I hate the term as a description too, but hear me out). Every third blog seems to have a variation of mum, mom, mama, mother, etc. in the title and domain – making it very confusing for the readers to differentiate between. As a result of the competition, a lot of writers are moving away from these clichéd domains and are using their own names instead.

    Which brings me to my question: is it better to use a hard-to-spell name as your brand than a clichéd keyword sequence, or is better to select the third option of using a unique turn of phrase or play on words instead?

    • The Blogger says:

      FridgeDoorBlog sounds legit Chantelle. Unless you were hyper-selling fridge doors…haha.
      I’ll never understand those mommy blogs.
      I think it’s best to use a creative domain that sneaks a keyword in there too. It shouldn’t be tooo off the beaten track, unless you’re the next Twitter, but even that one makes sense now.
      Greg

  2. I have been stopping myself from going over to GoDaddy and purchasing a few domains, now I have a reason behind it – Bandura’s “long-term implications”.
    Quirky non-English names keep popping in my head, but a bit later sense prevails and I realize that they would be not be good long-term choices!
    Thank You Greg for reinforcing it :)

    • The Blogger says:

      Ol’ Bandura, his principles still hanging on. No prob Mavneet, happy to help. I definitely get those “This website is the BEST idea!” ideas too…I bet GoDaddy loves those. Cya over at Dear Blogger.

  3. Tony Nguyen says:

    The post makes me thinking a lot. In the past, I have got many domains to keep up with all the ideas I suddenly find out. But most of them haven’t used even once. This repeats again and again. Until I found that there’s no need to make all the ideas become true, and we definitely don’t have ability to do that. Just choose one thing that we actually have passion, get a suitable domain, and stick with it.
    Thanks for your post.

  4. Peter says:

    Nice write ups, Its of great benefit for a domain name to be catchy as explained above. It took me a while (mins lol) to figure the domain for me.
    Meanwhile, what do you think of my domain name
    http://www.gistland.com

  5. I wanted a keyword rich domain, but everything was taken and all the alternatives weren’t catchy. So I decided to have fun and I’m glad that I did. I share dog care tips on my blog, but I want my blog to also reflect my personality so Keep the Tail Wagging was perfect.

    I was worried that it was too long or that people wouldn’t get it; but it’s stuck in people’s mind. The only problem I’ve had (and this has only happened a few times) is that people think it’s Waggin’ not Wagging. Either way, they can find me.

    Since I decided not to have keywords in my domain name, I made a point of scheduling 30+ days of content when I launched in January 2012. And I promoted my blog on social networking sites, via guest posts, and with press releases. This and good timing helped me reach a PR of 2 in less than 2 months.

    I still love my domain, but I’ve picked up a few others over the past 11 months too. It’s not easy coming up with a good name, with keywords, that isn’t super long or has dashes.

    Thanks for the tips!

  6. Stephen says:

    This post was a really good read, as it brought up memories of the naive beginnings we had with this blogging/online business thing. It’s been really interesting to see how things have evolved.

  7. Junaid khawaja says:

    Why can i write like you? Your starting was amazing..it was near to watching a suspense movie!

  8. Junaid khawaja says:

    Why can’t i write like you? Your starting was amazing..it was near to watching a suspense movie!

  9. Brian says:

    What do you think of my domain?

  10. Ehsan Ullah says:

    I made the mistake, I made it because of the same reason you shared in this post Greg. It reminded me my first days of blogging because I also started with a free blogspot blog without being much knowledgeable about blogging thing.

    The blog in which I’m working right now and I’m focusing on doesn’t have a good domain name, but I accept the challenge of getting success with unbrandable domain name.

  11. Daniel says:

    Some good points regarding the choices we often make for our domain names, and the motivations behind our doing so…

    I think most people either went the ” Ultra catchy” “Original” “Keyword rich” ” Exact match keyword” ” our own name -Joe Blogs.com” ” or simply went for a name that covers the area we write)work in) grabbed the first available name, without stressing out, or giving it too much thought……

    I think Branding names are best, in the long run.

    Though, it’s probably more to do with the person(s) behind the name, and how they go about establishing their site(name, branding, etc)…..

    • The Blogger says:

      Last point is a good one Daniel, it’s all about the mastermind and how she/he incorporates personality into the site.

  12. Hakim Mahmud says:

    to choose perfect domain name very hard but we can make the domain like perfect.Do something unique with the domain

  13. John says:

    we need choose one domain name and make network for domain, it will be famous but need times.

  14. Spark says:

    hurm , i choose my blog name because i think it unique that all.

  15. Bill says:

    Great post, and timely! With Google’s EMD algo update, now is the perfect time to forget about using exact-match-domains for new websites/blogs. It was just a matter of time. Too many spammers registering EMDs and building junk duplicate content sites loaded with ads. Not too long ago this strategy worked quite well, but finally Big G took notice and weeded out *most* of the garbage!

  16. Thanks for sharing this information. I guess that having a key word rich domain would be the best option. After all, I think that if a person is looking for your product, they will likely enter your product keys on their search query.

  17. Natalie Webb says:

    This is an issue that has been weighing on my mind for some time. My blog name does not roll off the tongue (although it is what I mutter when I have knitting and crafting to do, and people want to “hang out”), but after a lot of thought I think I finally found a new (and available) name that I feel fits me. Other than the non-tongue roll-y name, I love my blog. It still has a lot of growing to do, but it is really feeling like home, and I don’t want to give it up.

    So the question is, with my WordPress.org blog, can I basically just change my domain and keep the rest, or do I have to start from scratch? If it’s the former, how in the name of flaming purple monkeys do I do that?

    • Feels good to find & get that name, doesn’t it?
      Since it’s a wp.org blog, you can do that quite easily!
      If you plan on keeping both the domains with you, since links with the old domain also exist, you can use a htaccess hack (read more at http://www.sitepoint.com/htaccess-for-all/)
      You need to do the 301 redirect from that.

      Your site looks good, btw :)

  18. Another issue whilst trying to come up with a good catchy or even keyword name is finding something that is available across platforms. Often you’re not only going to be interested in a domain name, but also Twitter, Facebook, etc. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with the *perfect* name and finding that somebody already has that Twitter handle and only ever made 3 posts 2 years ago. Maybe fodder for your next article.