Domain names were an essential element in the Internet’s growth beyond its early “gopher” days. Domain names gave the earliest “finding tools” a much faster, more concise way of labeling sites for information. It could be said that domains paved the way for the creation of the modern search engine. Search engines, in turn, defined the next stages of domain names. The two, in conjunction, helped facilitate the development of the World Wide Web.
Keywords and domain names were once essential partners in web marketing. The modern search engine has multiple means for identifying subject content in a given website, including website coding. With the growing sophistication of the modern search engine, keywords have become less essential in a chosen domain name. This sophistication has permitted more freedom in choosing a domain name. The Internet shift has been toward short, memorable and brand-able domain names.1)
The average surfer appears to prefer short and memorable domains that suggest a pattern2). A perceptive word or potential word is also preferable. Squidoo.com is an example of this. Bogo.com would be another. They are memorable domains in that they are short (up to 67 characters are allowed). Such a domain is easy to recall visually as well as semantically.
Further reading: Things to consider when choosing a domain name for a startup company.
Keywords domains are still a solid investment for type-in traffic. At one time, hyphens appeared to improve the search engine’s ability to discern keywords in the domains. This positively affected search engine rankings. This hyphenated preference appears to have been eliminated by a greater sophistication in search engine technology.3)
Additionally, a hyphenated domain appears to be disadvantageous for type-in traffic. The theory is that it is easier for the surfer to remember clickthis.com than click-this.com. The surfer will usually first type-in the unhyphenated choice. If the target site is demand-music-now, the surfer is more likely to type-in demandmusicnow.com. Even with search engines, a non-hyphenated domain appears to rank higher at the present time than hyphenated domains. The hyphenated domain-buying customer risks losing traffic to another company’s domain.
For ranking purposes, search engines favor older domain names (domains registered prior to 2004). This is due to the propensity of “black hat” search engine spammers to purchase masses of keyword-containing domains in multiple tlds. The spammers would then be able to populate the search engines with one company’s domains. The spammers could then dominate a larger share of search engine traffic looking for a product. An older domain is interpreted by the search engine to be a site with more provenance. Provenance suggests to the search engines that an older domain name has more prestige on the Internet.4)
The earliest, prime tlds (top-level-domains) of .com, .net, and .org still retain their dominance in surfer preference. The term “the Internet” is synonymous with “.com.” As search engines become more sophisticated in technology, however, the dominance of those tlds will be lessened. In fact, the importance of all tlds will be lessened.
Because of this deteriorating trend in tld importance, some have suggested that .coms are the only tld to buy. In the global marketplace, that may be the case. In the local marketplace, the Australian surfer will be more likely to seek out laptops.au. The international surfer will opt for the home tld in many instances. In the US market, there is less consciousness of locality. This may be due to the predominance of US companies on the WWW, in that a .com is more likely to bring up a US company.5)
As global attitudes toward the Internet change, so will the tendencies of surfers to interact with it. The aware Internet marketer should be conscious of every possible element that will impact emerging trends. Everything impacts the Net. Additionally, the volubility and rate of change of search engine technology and all search methodology will continue to shape the future of domain names. Through it all, domain names remain the best, most stable investment possible for the future of a company’s Internet presence.6)