Thursday, September 07, 2006

Buying a Good, Established Domain . . . Will Google Love Me?

The answer is most typically yes. For all the discussions out there about the Sandbox and the fact that Google prefers older, more established domains, I definitely have seen first hand the benefits of launching a project through a domain that has some age to it. Unless you have a business idea that is completely innovative and has no visible competition online (a.k.a. in the SERPs), if you're looking to compete for business within 12 months it is almost imperative that you acquire a domain that has some history to it. One that Google is already indexing and has been (hopefully) running content relevant to your campaign already. For example, if you are looking to start an insurance company that generates business from the web (a competitive industry), then it would be advantageous to seek out a URL that has been running content related to the insurance industry and shows up in the Google SERPs for some insurance searches. Not to mention that at this stage in the game it is very likely that all the "good" domains are already snatched up and you'd have to settle for a crappy, long domain anyway (for info on picking out a good domain name and the benefits therein check next week's post). There are many methods for finding that perfect domain name to buy, whether it's going to a site like NetSol and seeing what is for sale or simply searching around related SERPs for your industry and emailing the site owners to see if they're interested in selling. I suggest trying both. Once you've compiled a list of domains, it's of course then important to assign a value to them. Like I said, first make sure it has a presence in Google. Then check its backlinks using a few different places to do so (Google, Yahoo, and how about from DaveN). Then run it through the Way Back Machine and see if it has some history there. If all those tests turn up positive, then all it takes is a projection of what sort of business you expect to be doing in the future to determine the final offer. There are domains out there that may be worth $200,000, even to a startup. It all depends.

Why go through all this trouble? Avoiding the Google Sandbox, showing up in the SERPs, generating business . . . that's pretty much it and that's pretty much what it's all about. SEOing a site for a year and investing all the time and money in personnel, overhead, the links, etc. and not seeing anything coming back in because you registered a brand new domain and aren't showing up in the SERPs is not a path many want to do down, nor is it a viable business model for most to follow. Granted, there are tales out there detailing how the mythical "Sandbox" has been avoided, and I believe that some of them are replicable. But for the average startup, it's not the case that they're going to get a ton of press in the WSJ or 50,000 links from blogs and newsfeeds picking up their noteworthy foray into the free market. You have to bulid yourself up, and while marketing online is a very powerful and potentially profitable tool, positioning yourself to succeed has come to include purchasing an established domain that will compete in your industry in the near-term. It is now one of the rules of the game.


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