When choosing a domain name for your website or business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to go with a brandable domain name or one that is keyword-rich. Both options have their own sets of pros and cons, and the right choice will depend on your specific goals, branding strategy, and target audience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the key differences between brandable and keyword domain names, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and provide tips and examples to help you determine which is the better fit for your website or online business.
Defining Brandable vs Keyword Domains
First, let’s clearly define what we mean by “brandable” and “keyword” domain names:
A brandable domain name is one that is short, memorable, and evokes the image or identity of a brand. Brandable domains are made up of invented words, common words in unique combinations, or short memorable phrases. Examples include names like Google, Twitter, YouTube, and Zappos.
The key advantages of brandable domains are that they are easy to remember, can become associated with a brand identity, and are flexible across different products, services and campaigns. The downside is that brandable names typically contain exact match keywords.
In contrast, a keyword domain name contains one or more descriptive keywords relating to a site’s content, products or services. For example ecommerce-website.com, books-and-toys.com or newyorkhotels.org.
The benefit of keyword domains is that they make the topic and purpose of a website immediately clear. However, they are generally longer, harder to remember, and less flexible for branding purposes.
The Case for Brandable Domain Names
Here are some of the top reasons why choosing a brandable domain can be advantageous:
Brandable domains are inherently designed to be short and memorable. This makes them easier for people to remember and pass on through word-of-mouth referrals. Names like Slack, Pinterest and Pandora stick in people’s minds much more easily than longer keyword-based domains.
An effective brand name becomes associated with a company’s identity, values and products in customers’ minds. Brandable domains are flexible assets that allow a brand to evolve over time across different products and campaigns.
Trust and Authority
A professional, brandable domain can inspire trust and credibility for a business. Generic keyword domains may come across as spammy, cheap or untrustworthy.
Brandable names work seamlessly across different media like websites, advertising, mobile apps and social platforms. They also translate well into international markets.
Short, brandable domains are in high demand. Once established, they can command much higher resale values compared to long keyword domains.
Brandable domains tend to rank well when the brand becomes popular and widely-searched. Google’s algorithm recognizes established brand names like Wikipedia, Amazon and eBay.
The Benefits of Keyword Domain Names
While brandable domains have some clear advantages, there are also some solid benefits that come with choosing keyword-rich domains:
Including target keywords right in the domain name eliminates any confusion about what the website is about. Visitors instantly understand the topic or industry.
Keyword domains provide specific information users are looking for in informational searches. For example, someone searching for “New York hotels” may prefer to click on newyorkhotels.org over a vague brand name.
Exact Match SEO Value
Domain names that contain exact match keywords targeted by a website can improve SEO and organic clicks from searches.
Keyword domains communicate key information right away before visitors even reach a website. This gives them information scent and can aid conversions.
Low Startup Cost
While premium brandable names can be expensive to register initially, keyword domains are widely available and affordable to purchase even on a startup budget.
Keyword domain names often make logical sense to visitors based on a site’s content. Brandable domains require branding and marketing to establish meaning.
Tips for Choosing Between the Options
So when making this important domain choice for your business or website, how do you decide which is the better route to take? Here are some tips:
If creating an iconic brand is a priority, focus your search on inventing a short, catchy brand name. Strong brand associations trump descriptive keywords.
Consider Brand Expansion Plans
If you envision expanding your products, services or international reach over time, a brandable name allows room to grow in any direction.
Align with Marketing Goals
Brainstorm domain options that align with your overall business marketing strategy and identity. Does a keyword or branded domain better complement other branding?
Mind the Length
Shorter domains are more shareable and memorable. Leaning toward a single word or very short phrase can optimize branding potential.
Check for Flexibility
Ideally, look for a domain name flexible enough to work across marketing channels while conveying branding.
Factor in competition levels for keywords you’re targeting to determine if a keyword domain provides an SEO advantage.
Consider Acquisition Cost
Brandable names come at a premium cost, while keyword domains are widely affordable. But established brands command value.
Say potential names out loud, conduct memory tests. If a name is forgettable, it won’t gain brand associations.
Mind the .Com
For consumer branding, securing the .com of your domain is ideal whenever possible.
Examples of Effective Brandable Domains
To see brandable domain names in action, here are some real examples of successful and popular brands leveraging invented, creative domain names:
Slack – www.slack.com
Slack created a brandable name from whole cloth to represent their messaging app. It’s simple, short, and evokes the idea of efficient communication.
Pinterest – www.pinterest.com
Pinterest combines two common words “pin” and “interest” in a unique way to create brand personality.
Zappos – www.zappos.com
Zappos invented a fun, memorable name with no real meaning. But it came to represent a popular shoe and apparel company.
Squarespace – www.squarespace.com
Another made-up word, Squarespace communicates the idea of website creation in a metaphorical way.
Venmo – www.venmo.com
Venmo created an entirely unique and shareable name for person-to-person payments.
Hulu – www.hulu.com
A short, invented name like Hulu is flexible enough to represent the streaming media company across different services.
Examples of Effective Keyword Domains
And here are some examples of successful websites and brands leveraging keyword-rich domain names:
The domain name says exactly what the site offers, increasing direct bookings.
Clearly communicates the topic to attract targeted readers.
Speaks directly to the consumer intent and conversions for that industry.
Optimizes for informational search queries.
Matches high-volume keyword searches.
Conveys product authority for conversion-focused sites.
Should You Use Both Brand and Keywords?
One approach that combines the benefits of brandable names and keyword optimization is to register both a brandable .com domain as your main website address as well as various related keyword domains that redirect to that brand domain.
For example, a company like Basecamp uses the brandable domain name basecamp.com as their primary site. But they also own and redirect keyword domains like projectmanagement.com to reinforce their content and SEO.
This allows you to build a strong brand with a simple name while still getting SEO value from keywords in additional domains.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
To summarize the key points, here is an overview of the major advantages and disadvantages to weigh when choosing between brandable and keyword domains:
Brandable Domain Pros
- Memorable and shareable
- Flexible for branding and growth
- Evokes trust and emotion
- Premium resale value potential
Brandable Domain Cons
- Typically more expensive to acquire
- SEO value relies on brand building over time
- Can require advertising to explain purpose
Keyword Domain Pros
- Communicates site topic and purpose
- Provides exact match SEO value
- Immediate information for visitors
- Low initial registration cost
Keyword Domain Cons
- Harder to remember
- Not as flexible for branding
- Limits ability to expand scope
- Can come across as spammy
As you can see, both options have their own unique mix of advantages and disadvantages. The ideal strategic approach depends significantly on your specific brand, products, marketing goals and target audience.
The Best Domain for Your Brand
Choosing a domain name is a big choice, but the most important guidance is to focus on picking the name that best represents your brand identity and aligns with your marketing strategy.
A brandable domain can be a great investment if creating a memorable brand is a priority. Keyword domains offer inherent SEO value but may be limiting long-term.
Ultimately there is no one “perfect” domain type. The best domain maximizes your branding potential and ability to effectively reach and convert your ideal customers. By understanding the pros and cons outlined here, you can make an informed decision on which option best matches your needs and goals.
Brandable and keyword-rich domains both have their own unique sets of advantages when it comes to building an effective online brand and driving website traffic. Brandable domains excel at creating memorable and flexible brand identities, while keyword domains benefit SEO and clearly communicate site topics. With an understanding of the key tradeoffs, website owners can evaluate their specific goals and audiences to determine which domain strategy offers the most value. The best approach may also be using brandable domains with supplemental keyword domains. By reviewing the benefits and examples above, business owners can make an informed decision on selecting a domain name that maximizes results.