Merging the Worlds of Domain Names and SEO

Adam Stetzer of HubShout discusses domaining and SEO, and how they fit together.

By Adam Stetzer, Ph.D.

[Editor’s note: It always amazes me how far apart the SEO and domainer worlds are. The two combined could have tremendous power. All traffic – whether type-in or organic – is valuable. Adam Stetzer, president and co-founder of SEO firm HubShout, explains the basics of SEO and how it can be applied to the domain industry.]

Guest-writing for DomainNameWire is a departure from my usual audience. Coming to the domainer world as an outsider, I like to think I can bring a fresh set of eyes and observations to those knee-deep in domain name parking. From what I’ve learned, the market for domain names has seen ups and downs. With the economy as a whole in a severe recession, the market for domain names is also currently soft. I’ve also learned that the majority of traffic for domainers comes from “type-in” traffic – a term that didn’t exist in my lexicon before Andrew educated me. It’s called “type-in” because people literally type it into the URL address window of their browser. I know, this is old hat for those reading this. But it’s sometimes refreshing to remember that information you may take for granted is completely foreign to those on the outside.

The current issue for domain name parkers is one of dropping ad revenues. Specifically, lower earnings-per-click and tighter rules from the large advertising companies (i.e., Google). Again, this is what I’ve gathered from the little research I’ve done. Intuitively, I would think another issue currently facing domainers is the finite number of words. The dictionary is only so-big. Really. First we ran out of single word .com domains. Now two-word phrases are becoming hard to find. Unless some the newer suffixes really take-off, I would think that domainers will hit an issue related to long names. I have a hard time believing that the type-in traffic is any good for a three-word domain name.

My trade is SEO. And of course, when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. So my first reaction is that domainers should be embracing SEO as the next-generation of domain name parking strategies to increase revenue. As I understand it, people who buy domain names as an investment tend to do so in bulk. They then hold these assets with the hopes of appreciation as well as some level of revenue for the years while they hold ownership. The parked domains I have visited usually have very simple content structures and are really not built for SEO. To me this seems like a huge missed opportunity.

A little history on SEO

In the late 1990’s, SEO was firmly in the charge of the technical crew. The clever webmaster soon learned that if they stuffed keywords in all the appropriate places on their sites, the search engines dutifully categorized their sites and sent free traffic. As in all free markets, an easy lunch doesn’t last long as new players are attracted to new revenue opportunities. As more and more websites were brought live on the Internet, the on-site SEO techniques were discounted by the major search engines due to heavy manipulation. Google, in particular, lead the charge to redefine the rules of SEO in pursuit of the highest-quality user-experience for their searchers. And this has been a game-changer.

In a similar fashion to the domain name parking industry, the scale of SEO has grown exponentially. There are currently between 45 and 80 million active domains on the Internet (depending on who you ask). There are approximately 250,000,000,000 (billion) links on the Internet. By now everyone within a stones throw of Internet marketing knows that links reign supreme as the core ingredient for good search engine rankings. Several high-profile SEO analytic shops have developed tools to help the search engine optimization community understand why certain sites rank better than others and which links are most helpful. There are copious websites that purport to offer you the secret to great rankings – some of them are even useful. Here are a couple bottom line conclusions about the evolution of SEO:

1) SEO is no longer a one-time event. The days of saying “my site is optimized” are over. SEO has earned a position in the ongoing marketing efforts of most major websites.

2) You are but a drop in the ocean. The scale of the Internet is so huge that the notion that a site can be put up and traffic will just appear from the search engines, even with great content, is fairly laughable.

3) Off-Site SEO is now as important as on-site SEO. While unique, end-user-focused content will always be king, even my lawnmower needs a prime before it will start. In this analogy, the content of my website is the fuel that will create the user-experience, but SEO is the prime that allows the entire mechanism to start by bringing traffic.

4) Link acquisition is a critical component of SEO. There is wide acceptance that the number and quality of the links to your website drive performance in the search engines.

How can SEO help Domain Name Parkers?

If you digest the current state of affairs for domain name parking and SEO, there seems to be a mutually beneficial marriage brewing. The domain name parkers are facing declining revenues and, I believe, will have to reconsider the content they put on their websites. The days of a single-page, adsense-heavy, pages are probably numbered. On the flip side, the SEO guys are out there trying to hustle as many links for their customers as humanly possible. They especially want links from sites that are related to their client’s business as these are much more powerful for search rankings. I know that I see the world through SEO-shaded glasses, but these two components seem to fit together wonderfully. The domain name parkers should think seriously about putting useful content on their sites and the SEO guys should start offering content to the parkers.


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