Playing 21: SEO Domaining

21 Tips on domains, domaining and SEO:

  1. Domains and portfolios thereof are like fine wine. A lot of it, purchased originally with foresight and then aged over time, is a very good thing.
  2. Domains are like real estate. There's varying quality and limited inventory, so demand can be high and the competition aggressive... (and yes, to-day I'm shamelessly not posting much beyond my own expansion on Quad's earlier list, and drawing on a couple unoriginal analogies in the process).
  3. .com, .org, .net and country-specific TLDs can have weight for ranking whereas all others are much, much weaker.
  4. Newly registered domains are not trusted by engines for a trial or sandbox period that can last months.
  5. Expect that recently-dropped domains are put on a probationary period by search engines to limit their value to spammers
  6. Some recently-dropped domains are "damaged goods" and/or may have a shady past, so use archives to try to look into that.
  7. Aside from branded domains, keyword-rich domains can help.
  8. Use alert services e.g. ClubDrop if watching for certain keywords and/or key phrases.
  9. Consider the value of snagging visitors with easily-made typos, and what one can do with Typo Generators and/or Wordtracker in hand. Try to nail typos that you've verified are happening in the real world. Don't think this is a big deal? Try any easily-made typo of one of the largest sites on the Web, and see where it leads you... You might not want to try this while at the office. 😉
  10. Use reservation services if hoping a registered domain will be dropped and up for grabbed, i.e. not renewed upon its next expiration date.
  11. Own your brands(s) and variations thereof thoroughly. If planning to go international, learn per-country requirements and register early on.
  12. Don't forget how vanity domains can make for brand impact, and keep watchful for situations where you should get creative. See where you can go applying this concept to TLDs as discussed in the previous item. If you see great chances which don't have hurdles aside from price, you may end up doing something kinda special. Be sure to send me letters of spanks, anyone who runs with this approach and finds it fruitful.
  13. Know registrars and their reputations well, e.g. Godaddy vs. Registerfly etc. - check customer references. Some registrars are huge beasts that have large, robust infrastructure but a habit of treating loyal and paying customers poorly and/or being real fascists with SEOs especially. Others have a reputation of looking other way re. things like spam content remixing but still treat their customers poorly. So ask around.
  14. If hosting externally, never have that ISP double as your registrar (in case of disputes with that ISP). The last thing you need is some situation where there's some dispute tempting a host to hold your domain(s) hostage as leverage, because they happen to be able to.
  15. Buy in bulk, and watch for discount offers (coupon codes) to save money.
  16. Assume that search engines and other people are reviewing your WHOIS information which BTW can never be fake details, legally speaking. Keeping your WHOIS current is your responsibility, but forgetting to sometimes does happen. Also, use private registrations to avoid solicitations if unwanted, and/or general privacy. If people really want to get in touch with you, they probably will still find a way to do so.
  17. Never leave registered domains sitting just pointing to default park pages. In each case apply a simple "Coming Soon" page that has at least some relevant content on it, until your new site and/or targeted landing page is ready.
  18. Mind redirects and URL rewrite rules - issues of duplicate content (manage canonicalization) in cases where you're focused on promoting (1) main property. Engines need to be clearly shown it, whenever a rose by any other name is still a rose. As for (segue) when trading in domains with other registrants...
  19. Get them appraised through a mutually-agreed method and/or service between buyer/seller.
  20. There can be a fine line between a transaction and a dispute. Know who trademarked vs. registered first etc. details, but keep solicitations to buy/sell friendly (carrot before the stick). Negotiating a deal can take a while.
  21. In worst cases when claiming domains from others, squatters or otherwise, use arbitration services and/or your lawyer. Know your rights and those of others in detail.
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Dup' Content Googlebombing

Duplicate content is easily created mistakenly and unwittingly by publishers. It's what happens when the exact same content presentation exists - or can be made to exist - at more than a single, unique URL. When engines find this lack of a squarely 1:1 relationship, it can confuse them about what's the authoritative and/or original source, and in some cases they may interpret it as spam. The jury is out on whether they apply filters or actual penalties (i.e. ranking demotions) for sites found with this problem, but everyone in the business is in agreement about it being a bad thing fundamentally. Engines do have sophisticated algorithms to try to avoid interpreting legitimate RSS feeds and other syndications as something to penalize, however making sure one isn't causing or potentially causing it is a critical SEO best practice. Doing this for sites within our influence and/or control is much of what we talk about when we stress the importance of establishing canonical domains via 301 redirects, for example.

I bring this up now because there's an illustration handy:

Jason Calacanis is an A-list blogger whom I've mentioned before. A former AOL exec who knows how to stir up activity by having a little fun flare for the dramatic (not unlike other masterful marketers like Marc Benioff, Steve Jobs and various other heavy-hitters), Calacanis has been in and out of SEO news over the past year with infamous quips like "SEO is bullshit."

Now, his blog is, which has up until very recently showed a duplicate content issue. Weblogs, the company he co-founded after his stint at AOL, has the same issue across its network. To be fair, many sites and their networks have various security vulnerabilities, but anyway continuing with the example: The problem here is with the potential for wildcard subdomains, specifically.

When something like this is found, what competitive and skilled SEOs can do is essentially pump URLs of their own design into the organic ranks, to knock down other domains' natural standing by hanging duplicate content issues over them. This kind of downgrading of other people's domains is one example from a set of methods usually affectionately referred to as "Googlebombing," though methods aren't always limited to any specific engine, technically. Note the following little pinch of litter, which took minimal time and effort:

Calacanis duplicate content trick

For posterity, here's the screenshot (evidence highlighted in red).

The "-15." was a randomly generated numeric suffix, appended to an array of randomly rotated, cheeky (and fake) subdomains:

  • jason-sucks-seo-rules
  • jason-must-go-to-supplemental-hell
  • punished-for-blasphemy
  • etc.

So crawlers would've picked up a different permutation upon every visit.

For courtesy, all of this BTW was done under some casual, lightweight cloaking... however admittedly without restricting engines' caches at the time (I don't have it in for Calacanis or anyone else for that matter. Were I to seriously try testing anyone/thing i.e. engines or otherwise, I certainly wouldn't go blogging about it as I'd be aiming to exploit from the shelter of anonymity). Doing this in earnest however, that is from a popular site getting crawled many times a day with its changes getting into the SERPs very quickly, could've perhaps harmed his blog's rankings - perhaps substantially after a bit of time. Engines say in their public documentation that there's "almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking" in their indexes. Yeah... "almost" just might be an operative word here. If not that, at the very least this kind of thing can make for pretty noteworthy PR stunts.

Now, in this particular case Calacanis has actually been alerted to this it appears, by a nice SEO (yes, we exist) who found and announced this publicly. Michael Gray could've kept this in the shadows and people could've exploited it for however long it could've flown under the radar. The hole has seemingly recently been hence patched... as of this writing though, only for the domain I assume. There are many blogs out there on the Weblogs network that still show the vulnerability (random example).

The main lesson here IMHO is not that one might do well to avoid talking smack about SEO (though one might infer that, obviously). It's that this is the kind of thing SEOs must educate their clients about and help them take care of, preferably as part of preventative maintenance.

The main (if not only) reason scientists say it's rare that hyenas take down elephants is because they've only observed and documented it happening in nature first-hand so much. This kind of method is just one example, in other words, of how it's totally possible for big brands to lose what should be their rightful rankings to packs of savvy affiliate marketers, spammers and/or general competitors.

As much as possible we SEO consultants (again, yeah some of us exist - still) must make sure our elephants can be helped to stay strong, mobile and without blind spots. Many sites, both with security and SEO, have a ton of work to do if they're to get it together. The reality of the situation is quite far from "bullshit."

Hat tip to Graywolf, and good on ye for the quick-fix action, Jason.

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Vanity Goes Global

For marketers willing to get creative and take a little risk, there are opportunities in leveraging international domain registrations for branded campaigns. Putting stuff like this into production would have some predictable political sensitivities, but in the meantime at the least this is an amusing train of thought:

If you're a brand manager, and/or you work with a number of company and product brands, how many creative domain ideas can you come up with?

Off the cuff, here are a few interpretations of brands I've worked with:

Some would be easier than others to grab, in consideration of international rules. While registration of many of these can be pricey at least for some, it's interesting otherwise to see how some countries make locality a condition whereas others issue open invitation.

This kind of thing would be of more interest to marketers working for companies where success really is all about brand impact. Perhaps consumer products delivering targeted online marketing aimed at specific localities for example, might have use for the method. More examples:

How much Coca-Cola is sold in Kenya, and how many pubs down under serve up Lowenbrau alongside mainstays like Fosters? I haven't the foggiest, but you get the idea.

(Hm, it seems I'm thirsty or something. I'll pass on the canned soda or beer especially given the early hour, but this now should probably now go brew some green tea to wash the hint of imperialism off his breath. Sorry.)

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Be One of .Us

These domains became trendy with the rise of, so just about every possible good one has already been registered (probably by people hoping to sell them to someone who has a particular desire for them). There's not much real estate left here at all as far as can tell, in consideration of potentially similar registrations (forming words ending in "us" as found in the English language).

Over the weekend I came across a list of remaining notable possibilities for creative a.k.a. vanity .us registrations, which I had made when trying to decide what domain to host this blog on. Please note that I made this list a solid couple months ago so some of these may have been snatched up since.

That said, here they are with hypothetical subdomains included in cases where such were needed to form the word:

So for anyone else still needing and/or wanting to jump on the not-so-long tail end of the trend, there's a shortcut to the remaining scraps.

While mostly for a lark this post actually does have something to do with our industry, and discussion of the implications of this principle on brands is coming soon (Translation: Please hold. I need to get a life and just made it a little more obvious than usual, so now that the damage is done I must devise a way to spin it).

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Based out of Northern California, is a bl.og dedicated to the advocacy and study of high-impact, data driven marketing disciplines and related concerns: Analytics and Data Mining, Marketing Automation, Integrated Advertising (targeting, retargeting), Demand Generation and Lead Nurturing, Social Media / Social Engineering (Crowd-hacking) and the new PR, Privacy, Security, CRM, SEO / SEM, CRO, ROI... more TLAs (three letter acronyms) than any sane person's daily lexicon should include.

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