Time to choose a domain name?
Some business leaders work backwards when it comes to selecting a name for their company. They find an available domain name that’s brandable and purchase it.
That domain name then becomes their company name. This article tells you how to avoid that.
It’s certainly not a new practice to look for a generic or brandable domain name. Internet giants Amazon and Monster selected brandable domain names years ago. It’s safe to say they’ve done okay with them.
If you’re in the market for a new domain name, you can head over to GoDaddy Auctions or one of the other auction sites. There, you can search around for brandable names.
In some cases, you’ll find a great domain name that won’t bust your budget.
However, there’s a danger when buying expired domain names. Some of those domains have a shady history.
That’s why you should follow this checklist before purchasing a domain.
Choose A Domain Name – Check It on Google
The “acid test” for any domain name that you’re thinking about purchasing is performed by checking it out on Google. Fortunately, that’s very easy to do.
Just head over to Google and type “site:” plus the domain name in the search bar.
For example, if you’re thinking about buying domain xyz.com, go to Google and type “site:xyz.com” in the search bar and then hit Enter.
You should see search results. If you don’t see results and instead see “Your search – site:xyz.com – did not match any documents,” you should probably run away from that domain.
Why? Because Google might have deindexed the site for violating its terms of service.
That means, even if the domain name is perfect for your business model, it’s likely that the site will never rank. Obviously, that’s going to hurt your online marketing efforts.
Sure, you could ask Google for reconsideration after you purchase the domain, but that could take months. It’s best to just move on to another domain name.
Check It With Majestic
If you’re like most digital marketers, you have a variety of tools at your disposal. One of those tools is probably Majestic.
The self-described “planet’s largest link index database” is a great second place to visit when you’re evaluating a new domain. Just plug the name of the domain into the site’s search bar and check out the results.
Some SEOs will tell you to pay attention to the Trust Flow (link quality) and Citation Flow (link volume) metrics. But you only need those numbers if you’re a black-hatter who’s planning on using the domain in a private blog network.
If you’re purchasing the domain solely for the value of its name, those stats are usually irrelevant.
The exception to that rule is if the primary topical trust flow is related to your niche. If that’s the case, and the trust flow is high, you’re probably looking at a domain that could be a big winner for your brand.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the primary topical trust flow, it’s Majestic’s way of categorizing the domain. Ideally, you want a domain that fits into your own category.
For example, let’s say you have a business related to pet care and you’re planning on purchasing a domain. You plug that domain name into Majestic and it reports back that the primary topical trust flow is “Sports/Skateboarding.”
Clearly, the primary topic has nothing to do with your business model. In that case, you might want to look for a domain name that’s more suitable.
Keep in mind, though, if there are only a few backlinks pointing to the domain, then you can get away with ignoring the primary topical trust flow. On the other hand, if there are thousands of backlinks with anchor texts unrelated to your niche, you’ll likely face some SEO challenges.
Another thing to keep in mind: if those topical backlinks point to internal pages that you plan on wiping out once you purchase the domain, then the primary topical trust flow will change accordingly over time. However, if many of them point to the home page, then you could be stuck with a topical trust flow unrelated to your brand.
While you’re on Majestic, you should also check the backlink profile. If you see a variety of backlinks from foreign sites or porn sites, that’s an immediate red flag that the site is the target of link spam.
Also, if you notice an unusually high number of links all coming from a single domain, that’s an indicator that the previous domain owner paid for links. Google won’t look favorably on that domain.
Use Google Search Console (If You Can)
If you’re by-passing an auction site and looking at a domain name that somebody wants to sell you in a one-on-one transaction, you should use Google Search Console for your due diligence.
Just ask the current domain owner for the credentials to the account. Then, login to Search Console and check it out.
First, click on “Search Traffic” on the right-hand sidebar. Then, select “Manual Actions” from the dropdown menu that appears.
If all is well, you should see “No manual webspam actions found.”
If you don’t see that and instead see any kind of text indicating that the domain is the target of a manual action, then you should avoid purchasing the domain. It already has one (big) strike against it.
Next, click on “Security Issues’ on the right-hand sidebar. That’s a great way to check if Google thinks the site has been hacked.
Use Sucuri to Choose A Domain Name
Sucuri SiteCheck is yet another tool you can use to check on a domain. It will tell you if the site has been blacklisted due to previous shady practices, such as sending spammy emails.
Head over to that site and just plug in the domain name that you’re considering. After a little bit of time, the tool will give a report on the health of the site.
If all is well, you’ll see “Not Currently Blacklisted” next to “Web Trust.” Further down in the report, you should also see green checkmarks next to “Malware” and “Website Blacklisting.”
Remember, Sucuri is trying to sell you its service, so you might see red or yellow indicators next to “Website Firewall” and “Website Outdated.” You can ignore those for now if you plan on hardening your site once you’ve purchased the domain name.
You should also check the page speed of the domain as it currently stands. Fortunately, there are a few free tools you can use for that purpose.
Start with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Just plug the domain name into the search bar and check out the results.
If you see a lot of red, that means the site is currently way too slow. That’s a negative ranking factor.
Although you could (and should) speed up the site once you purchase the domain, it might take Google a while to recognize the change in speed and adjust the rank accordingly. That’s something to think about as you consider the domain name
Check the WHOIS Record Before Choosing a Domain Name
Before buying a domain, you should also check its WHOIS record.
If you’re not familiar with the WHOIS record, it tells you quite a bit about who owns the domain. It also offers details about the administrative and technical contacts.
When you check the WHOIS record, you’re basically verifying that the domain isn’t owned by someone or some organization with a really bad reputation. That could hurt you with promoting your own brand.
Fortunately, it’s easy (and free) to get WHOIS info. Just head over to ICANN’s WHOIS checker and plug in the name of the domain that you’re evaluating.
Check the Registrant Contact. If that individual or organization name is unfamiliar to you, do some Googling to learn more.
Look for reviews about the business from previous customers. If you see a lot of negative reviews, that means you’ve got negative buzz already working against you if you buy the domain.
Also, be sure to check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.
Check the Domain History
Next, head over to domainIQ and plug in the name of the domain that you’re evaluating. Once you click the “Research” button and get the report, you’ll see plenty of info about the domain.
The domainIQ tool not only acts as a great “second check” after the ICANN WHOIS checker, but also gives you details about the history of the domain.
Click on the “Whois History” tab at the top of the report. Take a look at the historical WHOIS records.
If you see that the domain has changed owners several times in a short period of time, there’s probably a reason for that.
Note: it’s most likely not going to be a good reason.
Sometimes unscrupulous marketers set up “churn and burn” websites. They blast them with backlink spam to make a quick buck, then get out.
Domains that are owned for only a short period of time could have been used for churn and burn.
Use Common Sense – Choose A Domain Name That Wins
Finally, use your common sense. If you’re looking at a great domain name that’s offered for only $20, then you should ask one very important question: Why?
Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s more true when you’re thinking about purchasing a domain name than anywhere else in business.
Follow your gut. If you’ve got a bad vibe about the deal, look for another domain.
One more thing!
I’ve seen companies spend hundreds of thousands on domains and others spend almost nothing.
It’s not the domain, its the company that counts. On the flip side, stick with a domain that is easy to remember, has no dashes, is on a recognizable domain name extension and has a good history. You will be happy you did.
If you still need help, find a digital marketing agency to help you select one.