How to Pick the Best Website Name

Early last week while still in the United States, I received an email on my Blackberry. I was surprised, because only one person has this email address (my contact from Egypt).

As I scanned the email, I realized Nicky Parsons, my secret agent SEO expert connection had somehow found my email and she wanted to meet ASAP – but in a bizarre location.

Thirty minutes later I was sitting in a Hooters (city withheld for security reasons) waiting for Nicky (the restaurant was her suggestion). She showed up 3 minutes late, walking out of the kitchen instead of through the front door.

Hey Nicky,” I said, “What’s up? Why did you want to meet?”

“Because I noticed you’ve been snooping around on something The Big G is doing,” she replied.

“You noticed?”

“Oh Craiggery, you’re so naive. The Big G knows everywhere you go – unless you use something like for searching. That search engine is encrypted for private web browsing, and doesn’t record your IP address,” Nicky explained.

“Cool. Thanks for the tip. So…what did you see that I was searching about?” I asked.

Well, the most important thing you were searching was the story about how The Big G is now going to index Facebook comments in their results,” Nicky started, “But don’t worry, it’s not a big deal.”

“You probably won’t see FB comments hitting #1 in the search engine. It might track the amount of comments on a post as a social signal, and it might indirectly affect search. But to me it looks more like just something The Big G is doing to continue to track every thought and word anyone ever has for their massive profiling database.”

“Oh, so good news and bad news. Classic Big G-FB outcome. Making everything easier to find online…including all the stupid things people say when they are drunk,” I replied. “But that’s all I have to be concerned about right, was just my poking around on that topic?”

“Yes, they don’t really care about your incessant searches for ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ or ‘Julia Stiles movies’, so just relax.”

“I can explain,” I started.

“No need,” she said, “So what’s that piece of paper you have in your hand?”

Oh, it’s a question for you. I figured since we were meeting, I’d get some advice.

I have a contact down under and he’s worried, like so many of my connections, about the Big G. Here’s what he wanted me to ask you,” I said, and slid the note across to Nicky.

It read:

“I have trouble finding good ‘.com’ website domain names and find it frustrating that most of the really good keyword rich domains are already taken.

One thing that I have noticed is that people are using hyphens in their domain names, for example: as a way to get around not having

Does this work or is this penalized by Google or is it not as valuable as Also, what about using .net as in Does any of this matter much anymore?”

“Well,” Nicky said, “It’s a good question. And of course, I have a secret insider source that I can pass along. You’re only going to tell this one guy, right?”

“Uh, yeah, oddviously,” I lied. (Hey, I was lying for YOU.)

“Ok, cool. Let me show you how to beat the other Big G. Godaddy.”

“If you are only looking at what is new and available in Godaddy you can be missing out on lots of domains that have recently expired that are sitting in other registrars. I like to use this tool: to find domains that have recently expired and that many times already have page rank and backlinks to them.

“You can search for domains that have your keyword in them already. I’ve been able to rank keywords on page 1 virtually overnight by using aged domains.

“Plus, you can get amazing deals for $8 if you are spending some time looking in there every week. Registercompass will also tell you what is available on the Godaddy auctions. I’ve got many high-competition keyword domains with PR1-PR3 for $12-$25 and have been able to monetize them with new content right away.

I prefer using a recently expired domain that has some age and backlinks over using a domain with dashes.”

“A domain with dashes can be a bit less marketable, and the Big G spam team has admitted that anything with MORE than one dash may set off some red flags as a possible spammer domain – that doesn’t mean it is a spammer domain, but let’s just say that a domain with a couple dashes may get an extra look over.”

“Dang Nicky, you are on top of your game,” I shouted.

“Whoa, keep it down, nerdboy,” she replied. “Besides, there’s a lot more to tell you.


“As far as ranking you are always best with a .COM, then .ORG, and then .NET. If you plan on selling or flipping a domain it is usually best to always go with a .com as it’s the most preferred. If you don’t plan on selling the domain and just want something purely for ranking in search engines and the .com isn’t available then always go with a .org or .net.

“Back at Treadstone SEO, I once did a 6-month experiment with three exact match domains. I bought the .net, .org, and .info versions of a single domain when the .com wasn’t available.

“I put the same amount of content on them and same amount of backlinks. Here are the results…

“The .org currently ranks #2 in The Big G for the search term, the .net  has usually floated around page 1 somewhere, and the .info has never made it off page 2.

“So for the domain name, it’s best to avoid dashes if possible. If you really want a .com there are some other things you can do, such as adding the plural form of the keyword.

“For example, if you wanted and it wasn’t available then go for, and if that isn’t available continue to add a suffix until you find what works best.”

“Hey cool, what about”, I asked.

“Craig, you’re an idiot. Stop interrupting me. Back to where I was going with that…

“Avoid a prefix unless it is part of a search term you would want to pick up. For example, would be a good alternative to because there are always going to be searches on the long tail.

Just remember that whenever you add a prefix it will make it slightly harder to rank for the root keyword.”

“When you add a suffix like a plural ‘s’ or ‘site’ or ‘blog’ or ‘store’ or yes, ‘z’, then the Big G is going to read the keyword first in the domain prior to reading the suffix.

Bottom line: Here are my standard RULES of domain buying:

1) Focus on Aged Domains with backlinks or page rank

I’ve found even if a domain has expired a couple weeks it can still retain the PR and backlinks. However, the longer after the expiration date the greater the risk of losing the PR and backlinks benefits. But if you don’t mind starting out fresh and just wanted it for the name then it’s not a big deal.

2) For SEO purposes go with the .com first, and if that is not available, grab the .org and then the .net

3) Avoid dashes

4) If you cannot get exact match then use a suffix instead of a prefix if you need to add a word to the domain – or go with a long tail keyword phrase that has a prefix

“Thanks Nicky, my network is going to love this. Oh, I mean that one guy is going to love this,” I blurted out before correcting myself.

“I know you’re giving this out to thousands of people, Craig. You’re such a terrible liar. You wouldn’t survive an hour in my world of secret assassin programs and SEO warfare,” she replied while rolling her eyes. “Ok, anything else before I get back to the lab?”

“Yeah, just one quick question. Why did you want to meet at Hooters of all places?”, I asked.

“Because, no one from the Big G would be caught dead in here. They’re all too nerdy and pretentious. It’s the social media guys you have to watch out for here. Those guys are like a bunch of frat boys on jungle juice,” she explained.

“Besides, I really like their fish tacos.”

And with that, Nicky disappeared into the kitchen and out through a back alley to take continue her world domination plans using the time-tested combination of assassins and Search Engine Optimization.

Craig Ballantyne

“With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower.” – Johnny Weissmuller