On Dec. 16, 1999, Register.com announced it would begin accepting domain name registrations up to 67 characters in length, versus the old 22-character limit. While much of the hype promoting the value of this new service is just that, there are compelling reasons to use long names nonetheless. Consider this top-level domain name and others like it as illustrations of how not to leverage this new freedom:
And while the example above may seem of little value, consider the opportunity for companies whose actual company name is so long that it could not be effectively abbreviated under the old 22-character domain name schema. In practical terms, this new longer domain name may hold some real value for companies (including these Fortune 50 examples below) whose long names lost out to old character restrictions on the Internet. Benefactors include:
Short, memorable domain names have recently commanded sale prices bordering on the obscene, most recently with "Business.com" selling for $7.5 million in November 1999. "Cybersquatters," sometimes known as domain name speculators, register available domain names, hoping to resell them for a king's ransom when somebody wants one badly enough. Now that 67-character domain names are available, these parasites are in full-frenzy mode, snapping up the obvious choices.
It begs the question, does a longer domain name have real value for my company? If attaining high ranking in major search engines is a goal of your online marketing plan, pay attention. The availability of longer domain names affords an opportunity to educate online marketers about the value of keywords in the top-level domain.
There has been a relevance "boost" reported by search engine positioning consultants in the following spider-based search engines for Web sites whose domain name includes keywords. These include:
1. Excite 2. AltaVista 3. HotBot 4. WebCrawler 5. Google
Simply put, if your domain name includes keyword phrases, it will tend to rank higher than Web sites that do not include those keywords in these engines. You may already know that most search engine users do not scroll past the first three pages of search matches after performing a query. If your Web site is not found in the top 10 to 30 matches, your site may as well be invisible. Any edge you can give yourself will pay dividends.
Many Web marketers are learning the value of a search engine positioning strategy that includes several domain names. If a Web site contains content on several topics, products, or services, why not break out that content onto separate URLs? Each of those new URLs may be eligible to be listed separately in directories like Yahoo and OpenDirectory as well. There are myriad benefits to breaking your content out into separate and multiple URLs.
If your company, Joe Smith Co., sells indoor/outdoor concert speakers, your Web site might have been located at www.JoeSmithCo.com. If you hoped to rank well in the search engines when someone queried "Joe Smith Co.," you'd be on your way. However, if your company name does not have national brand recognition, you'd be well advised to work toward ranking well on targeted keyword phrase queries instead. Under the previous domain name length restrictions, the best you could've hoped for would be a domain name like www.indooroutdoorconcertsp.com (22 characters before the ".com"). Now, with new longer domain names available, you could register www.indooroutdoorconcertspeakers.com or even www.indoor-outdoor-concert-speakers-at-Joe-Smith-Co.com.
We recognize that either of those two domain names would be too long for branding purposes (47 characters in the second example!). And we're not encouraging companies to register such long domain names for their primary company Web site. But remember, domain names are inexpensive, at just $70 for two years. Hosting a Web site is also relatively inexpensive, with some companies charging as little as $25 a month. A top ranking in the major search engines is free. However, just a few top rankings in the major search engines can drive more targeted traffic to your Web site than just about any other online marketing method. A search engine positioning strategy that uses multiple domain names is generally beneficial. The ranking improvement possible will likely pay for the cost of the additional hosting and registration fees.
There are several valid reasons for implementing long domain names, including long company names and appropriate keyword and phrase inclusion. However, much of the recent, breathless advice on registering long names comes from Web marketing firms that charge you fees based on registering additional domains. Often these companies link to registration companies through their affiliate program, which pays a commission to the referrer. Regrettably, there is as much hype as valuable discourse on this topic. Registering very long domain names containing several of your targeted keywords or phrases such as:
Probably won't help you accomplish your search engine positioning goals in the long term. Search engines will likely flag domains that contain more than two dashes, or that contain dissimilar keyword phrases. However, longer domain names that help Web site marketers focus in on a particular product or service that is composed of more than 22 characters may reap considerable benefits.