Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How To Choose The Best Domain Name

I wanted to put up a new website about A/B testing (split testing) web pages, and it needed a domain. I decided to go after a functional domain name, which would be based on keyword analysis (e.g. online--a-b-page-split-testing.com). The other approach would be to try and establish a customized domain name (e.g. qaxat.com) that had no lexical basis or keyword connection.

Procedure to Determine The Most Effective Domain Name

Here is the systematic and quantitative procedure I followed to identify and register my desired domain name:

1. Keyword Phrases. I brainstormed a quick list of keyword phrases, and then added to it with some keywords from similar and competing web sites.

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2. Domain Availability. I then checked for domain name availability at my domain registrar of choice (my own embode.biz). After reading Syed Balkhi's "Which TLD is the best for SEO?" blog, I decided to restrict domain registrations to the top 5 most common TLD's (.com, .net, .org, .us and .info). Of course you could go crazy and use all 951 TLD's from someone like http://www.101domain.com/discount_prices.htm. The other condition I imposed on my procedure was that the domain had to be available in the same TLD both with and without the dashes. In this manner I compiled a list of available domains from the keyword phrases in step 1. e.g. abresponsetesting.com/.net/.org/.info/.us and a-b-response-testing.com/.net/.org/.info/.us for the first phrase on the list.

It was important to me to have the name be available both with and without the dashes, as I was going to set up a 301 redirect from the name without the dashes to the name with the dashes (redirects are commonly used to point Site.com to its www. version). That way, the search engines would be able to parse the keyword phrase of the domain with the dashes, while I could just tell people verbally to go to abresponsetesting.com, and they would be able to quickly find the site.

I now had a spreadsheet listing the keyword phrases of step 1, collapsed to just those that had domain names both with and without the dashes.

3. Keyword Analysis. I then took the phrases that survived step 2 (it was pointless to include the phrases for which domains were not available), and I ran those phrases through the (free) Google AdWords Keyword Tool. For each phrase I recorded the Global Monthly Search Volume back on my spreadsheet.

The wonderful thing about the Keyword Tool is that made its own contribution of new keywords to my list. I took those new keywords and ran them through step 2, which expanded my population of keyword phrases for which domains were available.

As well as Google's Keyword Tool, I went through a similar process using my accounts on both WordTracker and Trellian Keyword Discovery. My list of names was growing.

4. Sorting. I now had a list of all the domains in my target TLD's, available both with and without dashes, together with their Global Monthly Search Volume. I then simply sorted this list in descending order of Search Volume, and my new domain spoke so loudly to me that I immediately registered both web-testing.us and webtesting.us. My confidence was buoyed knowing there were 74,000 searches globally for this phrase every month. Now .. to build the site!

Steal This Idea (Please)!

You know, I believe that someone is going to make some money automating this procedure into a web application. Imagine it ... a combined keyword analysis site and domain registrar .... you go to a site and enter your initial keywords into a text area ... you click on the "Make it Awesome" button and it goes and finds additional keywords from the meta tags of websites matching your existing keywords, does the domain name availability searches and the final keyword analysis. Revealing to you the optimum domain name(s), the web application instantly monetizes by accepting payment for your domain registration(s).

Sites like WordTracker could actually add significant additional value. WordTracker incorporates Sumantra Roy's Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI), that compares the number of times a keyword has appeared with the number of competing web pages to pinpoint exactly which keywords are most effective. Not only could the nascent web application quantitatively determine the optimum domain name, but it could weigh how many other sites are competing for those keywords.

Usually when someone gives away a good idea, no-one does anything about it. They figure if it's such a good idea, why don't I make such a website? The reasons are simple: I have challenges enough with my own web applications about which I have considerable more knowledge, familiarity and ambition than something I barely understand. I know that Andy Mindel of WordTracker and David Warmuz of Trellian are able to mysteriously log all requests made at the Metacrawler/Dogpile Metacrawlers, giving them a database from which to perform their magic. Anyone who knows how to do that could have a killer web app. I just want to use it. Perhaps they'll give me a free account.