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E-Marketing Performance Blog

The Wisdom of Buying Alternative Domain Names

Return to SenderLast week I wrote a post about how poor product categorization can frustrate shoppers and search engines alike. Strictly from a user standpoint, improperly thinking out how each product should be categorized can cause many products from being found by your shoppers. When determining the category or categories of any product, you have to put yourself in the mind of the searcher. How would they look for it?

In much the same way, the domain name(s) you select can also be a preventative measure against someone finding you. We can use The Home Depot as an example once again. My first attempt to get to their site I typed in www.thehomedepot.com. That goes nowhere. The URL to reach them is www.homedepot.com. This is a clear case of “what are they thinking?” The last time I checked (which was today) they bill themselves as THE Home Depot, not just Home Depot. It’s right there in their logo!

The Home Depot LogoWould you believe that, according to WordTracker, approximately 63 people per day search for www.thehomedepot.com? That’s a reflection only of those typing that into a search box. Who knows how many are typing it into the address bar.

Just for fun, let’s assume that twice as many people mistype The Home Depot’s URL into the address bar as do those who attempt to search for it. If we then assume that only 10% of those searchers give up after the first try, The Home Depot is losing almost 5,000 potential shoppers each year, and that, I think, is a pretty conservative figure. That may not be a lot for a company like them, but no one ever makes money by being hard to find!

URL Alternatives

While the majority of people may naturally type your URL in properly, there will always be a handful that won’t. You have to consider carefully any variations that someone else might use, including:

  • Alternate spellings
  • Misspellings
  • Abbreviated / Long-form versions
  • phonetically similar versions
  • Plural / singular versions
  • .net, .org, etc.
  • …sucks.com, …sux.com, etc.

Home Depot got the misspelling correct. If you type in www.homedepo.com you’re redirected to their site. But again, not if you type in www.thehomedepo.com. Another missed opportunity.

A couple of years back I did an interview for an online radio station. At the end of the interview they asked me for my domain name, in which I pronounced, but didn’t spell. As soon as the interview was done I realized my error. How many different ways are there to spell “pole”? “Pull” and “Poll” both come to mind! I immediately registered those domain names and redirected them to the main site.

Minimizing the competition

By purchasing these extra domain names, you’re not only securing alternate, yet mistaken paths to your website, you are also preventing your competition from siphoning off traffic meant for you. If you don’t buy these alternates, chances are someone else will. At best, the URL will have nothing on it and just show an “unavailable” error. At worst, they’ll redirect your visitors to their own website!

How strong your branding is will be a pretty significant factor in what domain people type in when looking for you. But no matter how good it is, there are always those that will get it wrong. Are you OK losing them to a competitor? If not, then consider carefully what domain names you might want to own and redirect to your primary URL. In The Home Depot’s case, I’m sure an additional 5,000 visitors each year is worth the purchase price of any alternative URLs.

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