Chris Raines: All right. Welcome to episode 12 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. My name is Chris. I'm here with Michael, how you doing Michael?
Michael Utley: Hey, I'm Michael. Good to see you.
Chris Raines: Good to see you.
Michael Utley: Happy Friday.
Chris Raines: Happy Friday. Today, our topic is going to be choosing a domain for SEO.
Michael Utley: A domain's a website address.
Chris Raines: A domain is a website address, if you don't already know that, probably do. But this is something a lot of people think about, especially when you're starting a business. You first want to pick a brand name and then want to go out and buy a domain for that brand where your website will be housed. But sometimes it's you're starting a new initiative, sometimes you're rebranding, you change the name of your company.
Michael Utley: Or you've got a domain that's one that you've been using for 20 years and it's kind of cryptic. Maybe it's got some abbreviations and you're trying to get oriented to what should we do going forward, should we change it?
Chris Raines: Exactly. So we're going to cover what are the best practices and actually maybe busting a few myths around domain, importance of extensions, all that kind of stuff. So let's get started. The first thing that people think about in domains when it relates to SEO is keywords in the domain. So used to be, Michael, that you could go out if you were a plumber in Seattle, all you had to do is go by seattleplumber.com and suddenly you were the top listing for it when someone typed in Seattle plumber.
Chris Raines: So that got people in this mode of thinking like, "I really need that, whatever my business type is, I really got to have that keyword in the domain if I can." So tell me based on what we know in 2020, how Google's operating now, how important is it to have your keyword in your domain? Does that matter? And should people fret about it?
Michael Utley: Yeah. So two things that used to be the case. The one that you're mentioning is, we have this domain, it's got some great keywords, and. . .wow, that's really, 20 years ago, literally 20 years ago, wow. . .That makes us number one. Boom. Or the other problem of we have our internal name, what we call ourselves, something manufacturing. Well, let's just call it MFG. Well, MFG's not really the same as manufacturing, so depends on what people search for. So we've got these old ways that still hang around.
Michael Utley: Ideally, if you were selecting a new domain, you would be able to go ahead and pick some good keywords and have something really valuable. However, it's not like the old days where it's automatically going to help. Really a domain is only as good as what you invest in it in terms of content, having a website, having inbound links, all the other factors, you can check episode 11 on what makes up good SEO. But really these days a domain is only as good as the overall investment in that domain. Otherwise, it's like having a box of business cards in the desk drawer. They may be printed, they may look great, but they're not doing anything. And that's really how a domain is these days if you're not investing in it.
Chris Raines: Yeah. So given that, I would say if I were starting a new business right now, I would try to name it my brand name. And then use all the other SEO signals too, if you want to get listed for Seattle plumber, do that with all your content, your off-site signals, but don't feel the need to just cram in. And also kind of dilutes your brand and genericizes it, if that's a word, it genericizes your brand. It makes you your category as opposed to your name.
Michael Utley: That's right. And yeah, if I was doing something today, I might try to include at least maybe one good keyword in the name of the brand. If it was reasonable if it was maybe a service business that served a location or a region. But yeah, outside of that you want a really strong, clear name and then you want to invest it with meaning over time through your online presence and actual branding.
Chris Raines: Right, yeah. That's good. Let's get moving here to the next ones. Are extra domains helpful for SEO?
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: Like what are my extra... Well, yeah.
Michael Utley: So yes, I'm going to answer that, no, they're not useful.
Chris Raines: I was going to start answering it for you, but I think you know where we're at.
Michael Utley: So yeah, you and I have talked about this before, but we get so many incoming questions from our clients who say, "Hey, I got this email, this new domain's available. They just want $500. I could tolerate spending that much. Should I get this?" And we're like, "No, no, you don't need that. You have a domain." You're not really going to get any extra value or any extra juice from having other domains that have nothing on them pointed to your domain. That's not really a real thing. That's a holdover from literally 20 years ago when just owning the domain and having it redirect was valuable.
Chris Raines: But what is a real thing is getting a domain and actually populating it, using it [crosstalk 00:04:51]
Michael Utley: Yeah, so the alternative is if you are developing a secondary business unit or a secondary company, and it's been kind of glommed onto the side of something else and it needs to be broken out, we've done that too. And in those cases, we have often found domains that were owned that were ideal. And we had the opportunity of starting with a fresh approach and we've gone out and purchased domains.
Michael Utley: Domains in my experience tend to either cost $500 or $5,000. For a lot of different situations, of course, if it's some really unique set of three initials or something, the price skyrockets after that. But yeah, for the most part, if you're doing something new, yeah, you can break it out, but you really have to be careful. You're not really going to get a lot of benefit by dividing your marketing budget across multiple domains. And so if you're doing this, it's going to have to be something that's funded and that you have at least a 12 to 24 month commitment to before you evaluate how well the new domain is doing its job.
Michael Utley: But yeah, you can definitely have a situation. We once broke out emergencytreeservice as a separate domain for a landscaping company. And it was hugely successful for a number of years. And it became such a big part of their business that we ended up rolling it back in. But during that time it did help get them going because we invested in it. It was a long-term commitment there to make it stick.
Chris Raines: So to buying it, it's not the buying it, it's the [crosstalk 00:06:29].
Michael Utley: It's not the buying it. There's no free lunch and there's no $500 ticket to replicating the value that your main domain has.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Let's talk about age of domain. As we go on, as we move forward in the age of the internet, eventually you're going to be more likely to buy a domain from someone else that's already existing versus buying something that's completely new and has never been populated. Talk about how much does age of a domain matter, if you buy it from someone else where the domain's been around for 20 years versus grabbing a fresh domain that's never been claimed.
Michael Utley: Right. So if you're acquiring, if you're handling websites and businesses as assets, one of the often overlooked business assets is the domain itself in terms of how long it's existed and how long it's been integrated into the search landscape. Those things have value. I wouldn't be able to say percentage wise how much it matters, but if I have to choose between an existing domain that has some traction and a brand new domain, I'd like to have that traction available to me as an SEO professional.
Chris Raines: It might be worth paying a little extra for.
Michael Utley: Sure. Yeah. Like if I'm buying a domain or a business in order to launch something and I can either buy an existing domain, it's a little bit like a bank that's opening. The biggest challenge in opening a new bank is getting a license to open a new bank. It's not picking a name. It's not real estate. All those things are easy compared to getting a license. Well, domain age is a little bit like that. If you have something that's a good fit for what you're trying to do, that's a business asset. And that's a real thing. Now how you evaluate that might take some further discussion from what we can do here.
Michael Utley: And then the corollary of this is even more important. If you were starting something with a new domain, that's fine, but you are not going to have success out of the gate. You're going to have a minimum of 12 months of investing, developing, and growing what you're doing on that domain before it really reaches equilibrium to get the search engine presence that it deserves, based on the business that you're doing or the amount of content you're producing or any other thing that you're pushing down on the gas on. Domain age can be a sandbag or slow down or an undue burden on a new project or a new business. And there's no way around it. Just get in and get moving.
Chris Raines: Let's talk about the extensions. So that comes after the dot. So everybody knows dot com, there's dot net, and there's also myriad, you can get a dot ninja or a dot pizza now, there's all kinds of extension. So I want to talk about first how that matters in terms of SEO, does Google and Bing and the other search engines treat dot com differently, do they favor it? And also I want to talk about after that, the perception of the public. If you're a financial consultant, you probably don't want dot ninja. Right? So let's talk about first, the SEO. Give me your thoughts on how much does it matter in terms of SEO whether you have a dot com or dot net or et cetera.
Michael Utley: So here's the reality, there's almost a egalitarian sort of take on different extensions. There's this sort of concept that they're all equal, but here's the problem with that. That's not really true. And I'm going to tell you why. Search engines don't necessarily publish that they favor dot com, but I'm going to tell you who does: users. And if users favor it, search engines favor it. So we are big fans of a good dot com extension.
Chris Raines: Even if you have to put a dash in there, even if you have to...
Michael Utley: Gosh, I hate it. Yeah. I hate dashes. [crosstalk 00:10:18] Domains are another one, yeah. We're not big fans of dashes in names, skip that if at all possible.
Chris Raines: What I'm saying is sometimes you have to add something extra to get the dot com.
Michael Utley: Sometimes you have to add a 'the' or 'your' or 'my' or something, or just come up with something goofy. Like Dodgeball Marketing, DodgeballSEO, this is really a new brand that GoEpps is creating just so we can launch some new real estate in a new direction for what we're doing. But it's, it's a nonsense idea. Dodgeball Marketing, we're not marketing dodge balls.
Chris Raines: It's Ben Franklin Plumbing.
Michael Utley: It's Ben Franklin Plumbing. Yeah. That's a great comparison.
Chris Raines: Gives me a reason to do this.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Our strong recommendation is to get yourself into a dot com situation so that you have the reduction of friction on how users are behaving with your company on the search results page. And that in turn will favor your website over dot nets or anything. People are creatures of habit. They really like things that feel comfortable. And dot com is a little bit of a tacit approval in the way that dot gov and dot edu were meant to be, and that are often functioning now in the healthcare space for any health questions, there's a lot of emphasis on dot edus or anything that's perceived as coming from an official source, since the medic update of Google. But for most searches and a lot of what's happening, dot com is almost like that checkmark or that seal of approval. It's just one that search engines don't necessarily acknowledge because it goes through this loop of user experience and expectations.
Chris Raines: I love how you kind of answered both of those with one answer. So Google cares about the user experience, and back to my earlier example, if your financial firm has dot ninja people might not click on that on search results. It doesn't look real.
Michael Utley: It's cool. And I don't get the idea of dot mobile. Some of these things are nonsense, some of the ideas that have happened with domain extensions, I really think they should open it up to anybody who wants to make any extension as opposed to having an artificial regulator on it. Because they could, and I know that there are reasons for why people want to do things one way or another, but there's really no reason to enforce neighborhoods on the internet with extensions. It's really not useful. Search is far and above the navigation tool. Nobody's scrolling through all the list of local links in a Yahoo page.
Chris Raines: Yeah. The extension's kind of a relic of the early internet, too.
Michael Utley: Yeah, that's right.
Chris Raines: Let's move on. I like this [inaudible 00:13:02]. So locking down common parody and protests domains. So what in the world are we talking about?
Michael Utley: So before I started GoEpps, I had a career working for other companies for 12 years, I did internet marketing for other companies. A couple of those companies were companies that were... One was an agency and one was really sort of an early e-commerce web development shop that then was acquired by one of its biggest clients. But they still had another client through that partnership, it was a major retail store that is a nationwide chain, a global brand since probably the 80s. And they did not want any risk of someone mocking them with domains. So we had from another project, a list of profanity words. So my job one day was to come up with all the different domains that we could purchase and lock down. So this domain sucks, this domain blows, this domain et cetera, screw this domain, F this domain, hundreds, we bought hundreds of domains.
Chris Raines: [crosstalk 00:14:15] it's really something to think about if you are an existing business or you're in the public eye in some way. So if you were to run for local or national office, Michael.
Michael Utley: Yeah, that's right.
Chris Raines: You would want to snatch up as soon as you made the decision, you would want to snatch up impeachMichaelUtley.
Michael Utley: Impeach name.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Get rid of Michael, like everything related to MichaelUtleySucks.com. You would want to snatch all those up because you would want to own, it's kind of a defensive play, right? You want to own real estate people could use against you.
Michael Utley: That's right. And let's talk about who this applies to, and we'll kind of wrap up here, but if you're a major national brand and somehow you've gotten interested in SEO and you're hearing this, this applies to you. For everybody else, it's outside of the pale of what you have to worry about, but we're going to tell you what is something you should do. Go ahead and get your brand dot net, dot info, dot us.
Chris Raines: Especially if you... Not to interrupt, especially if you don't have your dot com.
Michael Utley: Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Chris Raines: As soon as that dot com becomes available, you should get it. You should have it already, but if you don't already have it, because people are going to naturally put in the dot com and they could, yeah. If you can get that and redirect it back to your main site, that's preferable.
Michael Utley: And I think the most common situation would be somebody who's got a dot com, they're using it and they're coming across these other domains, and now there's suddenly hundreds. You don't need to get into hundreds. You don't need to worry necessarily about the dot mobile, dot ninja. But I would say the big ones, dot net, I would say dot info. If you're able to swing in a dot edu or a dot gov, that would be fine. [crosstalk 00:15:48].
Michael Utley: But usually that's more difficult, but let's talk about that dot org. If you've got any aspect of your business that is a philanthropic activity, you really do have an argument for getting the dot org, just saying, "Hey, we want to get this and own it in case we break out our philanthropic activities as a separate unit." But it really is about knowing where you fit in the universe and not overdoing it. You don't need to buy hundreds of parody accounts, unless you're a national brand. If you're a national brand, I would get the 'sucks' and the 'F' and I would get a handful of those. But then for everybody else, you want to make sure you're getting just those basic, out of the top three, make sure you can get as many of those as you can.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Awesome.
Michael Utley: You don't want to lose your brand in court to somebody who says, dot net's as good as dot com, we're the brand," and this growing regional business has no claim on the brand. They need to change the name. You don't want that to happen. So shut as many of those down as you can.
Chris Raines: Yep. That's good. All right. That's all we have for domains. Hope that was helpful for you. And we'll see you on the next one.
Michael Utley: Yep. Thanks.