So you’re wondering “how many domain names should I buy?” Well here’s a quick story before we dive into 10 rules I use.
Let’s say that a person – let’s call him Fred – decides to learn a little bit about websites and marketing online. He finds how easy it is to install WordPress and setup a website. He learns all about keywords. He installs Google Analytics. Fred writes some content and gets some traffic.
Oh wow! This deal is so easy, fun, and might make me money someday! And I’ve got a million other website ideas!
So Fred goes over to his domain registrar of choice, and see that most of his website ideas are available! And they’re only $10 per year! He buys several.
But what about misspellings? Buys a few of those too.
What about the .net and .co versions? Buys a couple of those too.
And so on and so forth. And before you know it – Fred has spent $600 on domain names…without building out a single website idea.
Here’s the deal – “Fred” is really Nate (me) back when I knew little about how websites and digital marketing worked. I had this idea that thinking of an idea and buying a domain counted for something.
It doesn’t. But your domain name is still important – but important relative to other factors.
So whether you’re a freelancer, DIY type, someone getting your feet wet, or a small business owner concerned about your online presence wondering “how many domain names should I buy?” – Here’s 10 lessons I’ve learned to use when researching and buying domain names.
1. Don’t buy it if it’s not for a unique site
Here’s a typical scenario – you’ve got an existing website. You have new content, or new products that you want to promote…but it does not quite fit under the domain that you have.
You consider buying a new domain name for that new content or new product instead of using your existing domain.
Don’t buy that new domain just yet.
Why? Well, you will be starting from ground zero in terms of audience, search engine indexing, and content. If you use your existing domain, you’ll get to build off it’s existing “equity.”
However, other companies/bloggers/people obviously do this all the time (including me), so what’s the best practice? Here we go –
If the new site has a 100% different target audience, voice, or brand…then buy the domain name.
If the new site is a one-off content feature; if the content appeals to the same type of people who read your site now; if it’s really just a categorization issue for you…do not buy the domain.
Instead, look at ways that you can expand the description of the site to catch that one-off topic – because you aren’t writing for a topic, you are writing for the types of people who are interested in that topic.
If you don’t have a whole new audience, don’t buy the domain, especially because it is usually associated with Rule #2.
2. Don’t buy it if you can’t support it
Suppose you own several dozen domain names…are you actually going to be able to keep all those sites updated, much less fresh, relevant, and promoted? Even most full-time bloggers cannot keep up with more than 4 without a team – and those are typically people who really know what they are doing.
And what kind of budget (time and money) are you looking at when buying these domain names?
20 mediocre sites with chronic underinvestment will never go anywhere – and will never compare to 1 website done well.
If you can and you plan on support the new site – buy the domain…otherwise wait for another day. There will always be another domain name.
3. Don’t believe that boring is brandable
And why will there always be another domain name? Because the domain name should always follow the successful business. Sure, you have to have something to start out with – but it doesn’t have to be perfect. And it doesn’t even need to make sense. Why?
Because first, boring domain names are just that – boring. Who wants to get books from “bookstore.com” or search the Internet at “searchengine.com” or buy jackets from “wintercoats.com.”
No! We buy books from Amazon, search the Internet at Google, and buy jackets from TheNorthFace.com.
That’s because domain names are really “memory hooks” – if a customer knows your business, then they’ll know your domain name (rarely vice versa).
4. Don’t spend the money on premium domains
Or spend money on a domain just because it seems to be unique and useful. A good domain name is irrelevant to the success of the business – notice that North Face uses TheNorthFace.com. A very successful social media uses the domain name bufferapp.com – even though they are actually Buffer. 37signals – a multimillion dollar software company ran its premier product from BasecampHQ.com until just a few months ago.
Why? Because a successful business doesn’t depend on a perfect domain name. Sure, it’s nice to have…but not at the expense of buying a premium domain when starting or buying up dozens that you’re never going to use.
5. Don’t place your faith in “Exact Match”
So a lot of people don’t care about building a brand or a business right now – they just want the perceived SEO value for keywordkeywordexample.com. After all – who cares about the brand when you can get traffic from search engines!
The idea behind this idea is that you could buy a domain name with your target keywords in it (such as cookingrecipeblog.com) – and you would rank better in search results for cooking recipes…just because your domain name has “cooking recipes” in it.
Well – it turns out that the search engineers at Google actually already know about this game – and strive to even the playing field. They even released an update in September 2012 that explicitly devalues domains with “exact match” domain names.
So even beyond building a brand – you shouldn’t choose a domain name simply for its perceived SEO value. Here’s Google’s (former) Head of Web Spam & SEO Liaison Matt Cutts on the topic…
6. Don’t buy up misspellings (until you know)
You’re good to go with buying 1 domain name and building a fabulous, fresh, informative, and lucrative site – but what if people misspell your domain name? Shouldn’t you go ahead and buy up the misspellings to keep people from “cybersquatting?”
While yes, misspellings can be an issue – I don’t think they are a big enough issue to spend recurring fees on. But I’ll go one step further and remind you that you can actually find out if misspellings are a big issue in your Google Analytics.
Here’s how. Go to Google Search Console –> Search Traffic –> Search Analytics then just keep an eye on any really frequent misspellings that Google spots in search results. If you see a misspelling that continually crops up – go ahead and buy it, then 301 redirect it to your site, otherwise save your money.
7. Do look at real examples
I’ve already mentioned North Face, Google, Amazon, and 37signals for branded names, but be sure to look at others in your space.
How do they do it? Do you like it or hate it that your favorite company or blogger puts everything under 1 domain or scatters it over several?
8. Do consider memorability + readability + (good) SEO
But there are other sites like IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com or KopywritingKourse.com that violate nearly every best practice but are still succesful. It’s good to have a memorable domain name, and one that is easy to type in, and maybe has a keyword, or not – but the main goal of buying the domain is to allow people to get to your site.
If your site is good and well promoted, then people will come, and if not…then it really doesn’t matter what domain you have or how many you own.
9. Do use it well
When you are trying to decide “how many domains should I buy?” – the only real rule is to ask if you are going to use it well. Is the domain going to provide you with real value over the next few months?
Are you going to at least put a landing page up to start aging the domain? Are you going to at least redirect it to your real site? Are you actually going to put up an incredible website on that domain?
If not – and it’s just going to sit on your domain dashboard, then hold off. You only need the ones you are actually going to use.
10. Do bias towards a .com TLD
Here’s a throwaway tip to get to #10 – if your domain of choice is available – get a .com. It’s what people know, even though some of the top websites and blogs aren’t .com’s and have done just fine.
If you are focused on your specific country (ie, UK) – then get a country specific TLD.
Vanity TLDs are interesting, but I’ve personally yet to see them widely understood by the general public.
All said – buy the domains that you are actually going to use. Don’t buy them as placeholders for ideas that you want to execute on someday.
Oh – and if you’re buying, you should check out my review of GoDaddy vs. NameCheap for buying domains.
And once you buy – use this guide to get your website setup. That’s what really matters.