SEO or a Premium Domain Name - It Isn’t “Sophie’s Choice” Any Longer


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This is a very real dilemma faced by many customers. When you are a medium-sized or larger company, you have a budget for securing a great name and a marketing team to promote the brand through advertising, social media, public relations, and SEO. (This doesn’t mean every company, even with deep pockets, is able to secure the name they really want.) 

If they feel the pinch, a company can’t afford to choose between getting a great name or investing in SEO. Startups, smaller businesses, and entrepreneurs feel this pressure acutely. The unfortunate reality is, it isn’t a “Sophie’s Choice” situation any longer – almost all businesses need the best name and the best SEO they can afford. Dreams and aspirations come in all sizes. So do domain names and SEO budgets. Let’s look at how we got here.

SEO is constantly changing. When Google implemented the Panda algorithm in 2011, it created a lot of consternation for website owners. 12% of sites were impacted directly with lower rankings. Panda had completely redefined what Google considered to be a quality website. There was a silver lining, however: Panda provided a new blueprint for web builders and SEO marketers to follow if they wanted to see better search rankings. The implementation of Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm update in 2013 increased the emphasis on what humans actually “mean” when they type something into the search engine. One thing we can be sure of is that Google will keep adapting their search parameters.

What else do we know?

  • SEO methods and marketers will adapt to whatever changes Google makes. This is what you pay them for.
  • The folks you entrust with this task had better be diligent, aware, and up-to-date.
  • SEO will always have some limitations.
  • There is a lot more to successful SEO than technical applications.

While the nuances of search engine optimization may stuff our brains until we fear a “Scanners” type explosion, domain names are much more approachable and easier to understand.

The term “premium domain name” is thrown around quite a bit, sometimes with fairly thin evidence to back it up. The best place to start learning about real domain values is Domain Name Journal ( There, you can easily see year-to-date sales prices on actual sales. Scroll through a few past years and you will have a much better basis for making your own name decision.

There are many factors that can determine the inherent value of a premium domain name. Here are a few of the big ones.

  • They tend to be shorter. However, well known phrases can command good money even if they are longer.
  • They are easy to remember once heard (they pass the “radio test”).
  • They are rarely misspelled.
  • They create interest. Think of Ring, Zoox, Google, or Zappos – these names just look cool. But so does a zebra – what do you do with them? It’s still up to you to make the brand into something that deserves a great name. Amazon was a jungle and a warrior woman before Jeff Bezos made it the brand of the world’s largest marketplace.
  • They often contain exact-match keywords. If these keywords match what a typical human would type into a search engine, you have a good name and the chance for a category dominator that lends itself to smooth Anchor/Link text. Some examples are UsedCarsForSale, UsedBoatsForSale, and NewportBeachRealEstate. As you can see, great names are not always short. Keyword-rich names will always enrich your SEO efforts.
  • Great domain names are brandable. They eliminate confusion. They become a valuable asset for the company and the face of the business. They clearly define the product or service in consumers’ minds.
  • Premium domain names are often generic, like These are composed of words that rarely conflict with existing trademarks because they are too generic to trademark.

Steli Efti and his team recently acquired to re-brand their growing company. The business development team at uses their CRM. Steli points out in his blog entry:

“We knew that owning this domain would illustrate to future customers that we’re here to stay for the long haul.”

This decision goes well past SEO, exact match, keyword, generic, or brand considerations. Every day, every hour, the name is telling their clients and potential clients, “We will be here for you.”

SEO and a strong domain name is no longer an “either or” proposition. To succeed, a business needs to buy the best name they can afford and pair it with the best SEO people they can put their hands on. If the price of your ideal name is out of your comfort zone, make a counter offer. The worst you will ever hear is, “No.” Ask if the price can be paid off over time. Be diligent and persistent. The price you pay for a quality domain name is only relevant on the day you purchase it. If you buy the wrong domain name, you will think about the price of it every day.

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