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

Posted By Darren Rowse 2nd of February 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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.
Comments
  1. I’ve always tried to make my domains brandable and keyword rich. I have Manga Fukushuu (blog about manga) and BlogiBlogi (metablog in Finnish. “Blogi” is blog in Finnish).

  2. Brandable with the keyword is the way to go. It helps get the name across to those not in touch with your blog already, and the brandability adds a “cool” factor for it. Like my blog, Blogosis. Brandable and the Keyword Blog in there.

    Justin Dupre
    http://www.blogosis.com

  3. I recommend brandable over keywords if you want people to come back to your site again and again. If your domain is not memorable then having keywords won’t help you.

    Off topic but I use the word brandable in our blog a lot but dictionaries do not see it as a word. Is it a word?

  4. My personal choice would be a brandable domain. I don’t know exactly why, but I love names that sound a little funny. It’s pretty strange that these names are also easier to remember.

    But I guess all that depends on what you want your new blog to address. If you want to discuss issues like politics, religion or education I doubt you would have much success with a domain la SmackIt or something similar. If however you decide to create your own brand, a personal blog or social networking website, as you already said, it seems brandable domain names have more success.

    So the bottom line is, if you don’t have the possibility to choose a domain name that blends both types, you must decide what you want to do with your project and choose a domain name accordingly.

  5. If I have to lean one way or the other, I think branding makes the most sense. A unique name is going to be more likely to stick in someone’s mind as that blog/site that they “stumbled across that one time”. I’ve found my way back to many a site just because I was able to retrieve a unique name from my memory.

  6. When i picked my domain I had in mine that it should be easy brandable. :)

    For blogs i think domains that are brandable best, for other sites like info sites and such i always goes for keyworddomain.

    Staale aka Vikingblogger

  7. I prefer the brandable names.

  8. I prefer both, as anyone would, but without that I’ll take brandable. Besides, if a combination of brandable and good keywords domain isn’t available, odds are the available keyword domains will be unavailable or ugly.

  9. While I was trying to decide on domain names I found that my internet activities had created a couple of brand names for me so I ended up with brandable domain names instead. If it wasn’t for the online activities that created Netvalar.com and timelineonline.org I would have shot for keyword domains.

    Now though after spending the last year making changes on my direction and realizing that things change I am glad I went with teh brandable names instead. I can make a direction change now or add to my directions and keep building upon my current domain names via branding.

  10. I’ve tended to stick to domain names with keywords, rather than trying to get clever with a brand. Whether it works, I don’t know.

  11. My belief is the domain name that means the most to you personally, will get you far.

    esvl
    fromtheold.com

  12. I feel brandable blogs are risky, but do have a chance to become very big. . .Keyword blogs can get a good head start early on via search engine traffic

    Thanks,
    Doug
    InstallerApps.com

  13. I chose The Internetling because it is easy to remember and brandable. I knew a bit about SEO even back then but I still chose a brandable domain over seo. Though from experience I know that Google puts weight onto domain names, but only when it comes to coutnry-specific sites (NOT domains, sites!)

    I wanted something cool, not just some web 2.0 name, like ooogliuoooo.co.uk :D

  14. I prefer keyword-rich, because any name is brandable. My own domain is not keyword-rich, which is why I like them. If I could go back to fix it, I would.

  15. But then again I have over 50 and I need some reason to stick to one.

  16. Brandable names are always the best, by definition. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a keyword or two in there, but if you’re JUST using keywords, people aren’t going to remember it too well and it sounds generic and lame, like those generic early dot-coms (dogs.com, shopping.com, etc.. lame!).

    I’d consider “Digital Photography School” to actually be brandable (as is Cellphone9), because even though it has your main keyword in there, it’s “school”. It’s not something unmemorable and generic as “The Movie Blog”! You need to mix something in with the keywords to make it brandable, like “school”, “9”, “modo”, “crunch” or whatever.

    As you note, the Technorati Top 100 says it all! Engadget (it has “gadget” in it, but it’s a brand), Techcrunch, Gizmodo, Boing Boing, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker (two keywords become one brand!), Ars Technica… how many of these are “keyword rich” domains in the sense of your article? None. Because those sorts of domains suck and rarely work as well (though there are exceptions).

  17. I think the preference should be based on your business goals – if you can find a way to get both keywords and branding in a URL, you’ll do well.

    Although eMoms at Home wasn’t perfect, I bought it because there wasn’t much competition at all for the term “eMom”, which has allowed me to establish t as a pretty strong brand that stands on its own.

    At the same time having “moms at home” in my URL has certainly helped me to be found for certain keyphrases that I otherwise wouldn’t rank for.

    The hard part about finding a good keyword domain is that most of them are already taken, or are hard to brand. It pays to be really creative and brainstorm with others who are creative to get the right domain from the start. It’s arguably one of the most important decisions you can make in your online business, as a future rebrand could kill your site.

  18. I prefer a creative use of the keyword, that could be brandable.

  19. With Frugal Dad I was really thinking “brandable” because it was catchy (or so I thought), but I have discovered the world of frugality is popular in the search engines, especially in these lean economic times. If I had it to do over I would stick with a brandable name that’s easily recognizable (and memorable) to readers in my niche’s online community.

  20. That is so try with keywords in your domain name. I actually have a combination of keyword and brand name in my url. It’s a mixture of a very popular controversial term with a totally random add on. It helps a lot. Especially when you search for ‘mujahideen’, my blog is number 2 on Google. Wikipedia is number 1.

  21. I think we should try to do both, as with ProBlogger, I think mine

    Go2Linux is also both is “brandable” and also includes the keyword “Linux”, I have looked for that when I have chosen it.

  22. I personally went with brandable, because much of what I came up with that met both criteria was already taken. I think if you can find a way to incorporate both, you’d be best to go that route.

  23. Ugh. I have the worst time coming up with names… of any kind. Domain names, my business name, character names when I’m writing fiction — it’s a great source of frustration for me. Usually when I finally come up with something I really love, it’s taken, and that just compounds my annoyance. If you know any tricks for making up brandable domains, those are the ones I like best, although for my own site, I did use the keyword approach.

  24. Brandable or keyword rich doesn’t matter. What matters is memorable. Google only became a brand after we remembered the name. If their domain name had been keyword related – using “search” in some combination – it would never have been passed on by word of mouth. People often forget that most people visit web sites as a result of being told them by another person (word of mouth) or having read them in a newspaper or magazine. Search only accounts for around a third of all visits. That means for people to get to your site, your domain names need to be memorable first. If they also use your keywords that’s a bonus for the smaller proportion of people who’ll get to you via search. But if you concentrate on keywords, you could well be missing out on a significant proportion of visitors who need to remember your domain name.

  25. Brandable

    InMyHeels.. you know .. like walk in my shoes..
    walk InMyHeels bc I’m a female

    the site has nothing to do with shoes .. has to do with experiences and personal development

    but I really like the name :)

    hmm come to think of it.. my other blog (new) is keyword rich

    myfavoritedietblog.com

    … whats there to miss :)

  26. Here is my suggestion when picking your domain name.

    Is it easy to remember?
    Is your site content based on that name?

    Pick a domain name that you know will stand out and make people pause, read more about you, and wonder why you choose that name.

    And last but not least, which I think people should seriously follow, you have to live up to the name of your domain. Don’t choose a very attractive name, yet your site content is mediocre and have nothing to do with it at all. I came across a lot of blogs like that and it makes me wonder about what’s going on in people’s heads when they blog.

    In the end I think the domain name should be brandable and keyword rich. That makes your blog stand out. It is hard to do, but if you are a good blog writer than it shouldn’t be so hard. :)

  27. I prefer both also. It is important that the name get the point across and be memorable at the same time. You should however try to get the keyword in there.

    This will tell you how much of a niche you are going to fill. If all the brandable names you can think of are taken, then you are in a largly populated niche. Maybe try to narrow down on your focus.

    The real important thing is that you are happy with it!

  28. One of my sites I run is a brand name generator (http://www.mybrandnewbrand.co.uk), it’s amazing from the stats seeing what people come up with as domains.

    Personally, I go for both. A keyword + an unreleated word but sounds cool can still be achievable. Trust me :)

  29. I went the keyword way, but if I were to do it again I would go brandable because of the great possibility of building a community that I didn’t originally realize existed.

  30. We were discussing the exact same thing today at work. For me it depends on how fast you want to rank and how much time / money you want to spend on seo. Keyword rich urls rank quicker than brandable urls – that’s a given, however for a long term strategy brandable is best especially for blogs.

  31. If you can make it brandable and keyword rich in a tasteful way then you are definitely on a winner. :) Tricky task, though.

    But its definitely true that what is in the address affects how the engines assess the site – for example, I set up a blog recently called “What the photographer’s wife saw” and dropped it in a subdomain called ‘photo-bride’ on the photographer’s website.

    I put an adsense adlinks line on it (more as an easy way of tracking traffic than a revenue generation method), and for the first while all the ad topics were russian mail order bride type topics :(, until a proper crawl for content could happen.
    So, they initially judged the content from the ‘bride’ in the url.

  32. I believe it would be best to have a keyword rich domain. You want folks to know what your site is about when first reading the domain since websurfers move so quickly. It seems that if they’re not interested in your domain they will move quickly to the next. Just my opinion.

  33. My website is Understand Media, and it teaches you to, well, understand media. The blog’s name isn’t too imaginative, but it’s created a brand in and of itself, the Understand Media Blog. I think both domain naming techniques should be used together.

  34. I can offer two suggestions that have worked well for me.

    Don’t forget the dash option in domain names. Google treats dashes and other punctuation as spaces. Dashed domains suck from a branding point of view, but are great from an SEO point of view.

    All things being equal, blue-widget would outrank bluewidget for the search term “blue widget”

    Why not have two domains, one pointing to the other with a 301 redirect?

    For example, for US$15 I bought seo-training-australia.com

    It points to searchtempo.com

    I use the dashed domain name for some online promotion and the business/brand name for branded offline promotion.

    I have also noticed that the dashed domain ranks very highly in live.com (not that many people use live.com).

  35. hi darren

    i’ve been lurking here for months.. fantastic site.

    this particular post caught my attention, becuase i recently acquired ‘starsite.com’, and have been thinking about how best to build that into a brand/blogging network. The guys i bought the name from sold it for less than 1/2 their asking price because… it was too VAUGE. I was happy to take it off their hands. :)

    presently, i’m doing WP installs for starsite.com/mac, starsite.com/music, etc.. I’ll start with 2 or 3 and see what other ‘blogs/channels’ i can add over time.

    i’ve learned so much from problogger, and from doshdosh.. both of you are invaluable. Thank you so much. I’m going to be spared a number of mistakes because of your advice. I’ll have plenty more to make on my own. ;)

    looking forward to participating more here, now that i’ve broken the silence. Enjoy your weekend.

    brian

  36. @Brisbane SEO Guy, your advice seems to fly in the face of most SEO sites, re: the hyphen in the domain name. I have one in mine, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt.
    Can you elaborate a bit more on where you got the info on this from? Since most of the good domain names are taken, hyphenization, if it’s not going to hurt, is a great alternative.

    Truly, the best domain names are keyword rich, though. If you’re lucky to find one that’s descriptive of your site, putting together two words is the best way to go. It’s easily remembered, and easy to type in, if someone hears your site mentioned besides coming in through a search engine. And some can even be considered brandable.

    For example, some domains I own include midcoastliving.com, pemaquidlight.com, hauntedlights.com, roadsidehaunt.com, nightbeacons.net, midcoastlife.com. Not all are developed yet, but are for future projects. And of course, the hyphenated one, lighthouse-news.com

  37. What kind of keyword would lately be the most brandable for a blogger posting random internet stuff Darren?

  38. I went with brandable and let the sub-header handle the keywords. The domain name is still related to the topic, but doesn’t do much for searches.

  39. I would go for Keyword rich domains.

    Why? would be the obvious question. my simiple answer would be,

    so that search engines find my domain easily and that I get a higher chances of being found out in a search engines.

    However, I don’t say that I don’t prefer Brandable Domains but I prefer Keyword Rich Domains.

  40. Brandable domain is the name of the game. Regarding keywords… I let the meta tags and keyword rich pages handle the rest.

    Cheers.

  41. When I chose The Auction Rebel I was going with brandable. I suppose it could be described as keyword and brandable, but the keyword auction is pretty generic to attract a lot of traffic on it’s own.

    If I were to register another domain I’d go with brandable with it also.

  42. It really depends on the type of traffic you hope to generate. Many of the brandable domain blogs are going for daily repeat traffic from the same people. Keyword-rich domains can help with placement in certain search engines. I’m of the opinion that your domain name doesn’t matter – it’s your content that will attract people.

    I have a domain that’s neither brandable nor keyword rich, in that I’m using my name, which people routinely add an extra ‘D’ in to the point I purchased mispellings of it. And yet, I get tons of traffic from search engines because I write stuff that solves people’s problems. If people find you through a search engine, they don’t really care what your blogs domain is.

  43. I recently sweated over this question, brainstorming over 20 good names and two great ones. I was starting a blog about blog theming.

    I ended up with ThemeShaper.com. The idea being it’s brandable—I “shape” themes—and it has a keyword in it—”Themes”. In the end, I’m really happy with my choice. It was worth brainstorming.

  44. Always go with Brandable, especially if we are talking about your primary web site. If you launch a series of niche products, you can risk using more words or being less “brandy.”

    When it comes time to sell, the Brandable domains are much more valuable.

    Most people feel if the domain is taken, they should move on and look for another, but many domains are parked and available to you at a reasonable price if you contact the owner and make an offer, you may get it!

    * The shorter the better
    * Use as few words as possible
    * Never dashes
    * Never mis spells
    * Avoid using numbers

    Here are some examples of domains for sale in our portfolio:

    HomeBizSystem.com
    HomeBizSystems.com
    HomeBusinessSystems.com
    HomeOpportunities.com

    If you run a home biz authority site, you can see these are extremely powerful and convey maximum authority and most of all – credibility.

    Here are some more examples:

    Diets101.com
    DietDr.com
    WeighLossInfo.com
    WeightLossInformation.com

    They are simple, authoritative and it’s obvious what they encompass. They are memorable and can survive word of mouth advertising as well as TV, radio and other mass promotions.

    Aside from your business idea, products and plan, your domain is the most important factor.

    Sterling Johnson

  45. I’m with Justin Dupre–use a combo of the two if you can swing it.

    However, I tend to think using something keyword rich can be more important for a blog, particularly if you’re narrowly focused on a particular topic (e.g. cellphones). This can help give you some extra search engine juice, but traffic building is important as SEO juice, so again, striking a balance is key.

    For general website sites and company names, I’d advocate choosing something more brandable (e.g. squidoo.com)

    A strong blog with a keyword rich name can become a brand in and of itself later. Problogger.net is a good example ;)

  46. Interesting that you should have this post at this moment. I spent part of my evening searching domain names and the best (available) ones I came up with tended to be a combination of branding and keywords — maybe with more of a lean towards branding. In other words, something catchy or memorable.

  47. I’ve struggled with what I thought was a very brandable, keyword rich domain:
    http://www.bigcitytravels.com

    Have built it up and torn it down in various formats several times over.
    The travel niche seems flooded, but as you can see it has other rich keywords to play off of.

    I do believe I’m going to sell this one off to the highest bidder.
    Tired of working, and need more play time ; )

  48. Oh no! I am so way not cool, hip trendy and creative.
    I just do what it says on the packet – you see my thing is walking in the mountains, okay, so I am not much good at this blogging thing, but, you see I Love walking in the Mountains. So I went for that. I guess it’s kinda both, anyway I like it and people are reading it.

  49. I went for a bit of both (though I didn’t think it through in those terms)

    “The Office Diet” had words that did well when I compared them to other similar terms on google trends (“office” and “diet” both get a lot of hits).

    I’ve not come across a book or website using the same phrase — did a fair bit of googling and checking on Amazon. I think it manages to be both memorable and descriptive.

    I think brandable domains can sometimes be tricky to remember, especially if the word has nothing to do with the topic. (To me, Facebook and MySpace are more memorable than BeBo, for instance…)

    Ali

  50. It is obvious that the most recommended is the case when you manage to have both brandable and keywords rich options in one name. But as long as this is not possible, I would go for brandable.

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