According to Uniregistry based on the 2016-2018 sales data, domains that sold for $100,000 or higher had an average of 5.8 letters. Please take a moment to think about that statistic; it is HUGELY important. Ask yourself WHY they are selling. When building a business, there is always a temptation to save money and register cheaper domain names (a long-tail domain name, for example).
What is a long-tail domain name?
A long-tail domain name is a domain name full of specific keywords that are targeting your brand. The idea behind using a long-tail domain name is that you can better compete for organic search placement over a more generic domain name.
Say you are a new entrepreneur that loves all things sewing and you want to create a sewing-related business. This business will sell sewing supplies, machinery, service, and instruction via retail stores and an online presence. For comparison purposes, let's take an example from a domain in Brandgy inventory that would work for this type of business, SewLab.com , and compare it to a sample long-tail domain name.
We will start with a long-tail domain name that has 19 characters www.onlinesewinglessons.com which reflects the business model. Let's dive into four caveats that can be attributed to most long-tail domain names:
Difficulty in Comprehension and Brand Visualization.
Why deosn’t it mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are in?
According to researchers at Cambridge University it doesn’t matter what order the letters in a word are in, the only important thing is that the first and last letters be in the right place.
Matt Davis, the program leader of the hearing, speech, and language group, clarified this statement (and we believe corrected) in his article on this phenomenon. Matt goes on to say that the specific properties of jumbled words need to be present for comprehension to remain intact. I have summarized some of these properties below that directly relate to our example domains:
1) Shorter words are easier to comprehend – 2 or 3-letter words don't change at all, or you will lose the meaning.
In our example, “sewlab” is created from two 3-letter words in order and easy to understand. Our sample long-tail domain name “onlinesewinglessons” merges much larger words that cause visual overlapping of words and loss of understanding. This is especially prevalent in trying to comprehend the “online-sewing” combination.
2) Function words (the action words in our example, “sew”) stay the same primarily as they are short words. This increases the predictability of what will come next, the target of the action word. This preserves the grammatical structure of the target and helps the reader work out what will come next. The operator (the client) – action (to sew) – target (what/where/why) structure presents a clear image to the person interacting with the brand.
In Brandgy’s domain example “sewlab”, the operator (the client navigating to the site) is assumed and omitted (since you are already on the internet) with the action (sew) in a strong position at the beginning of the domain name. The target (lab) is the location for services that have the ability to be anywhere (either online, in a brick-and-mortar location, a store, a school, or in an application).
In the comparison example “onlinesewinglessons”, the operator (the client navigating to the site) is assumed and omitted (since you are already on the internet). However, a redundant (you are already online) location is placed BEFORE the action word, reducing impact. The action word’s impact is diminished in placement after the location, as well as adding an -ing to the verb, changing it to a present participle. The target (lessons) is a process that is never-ending (hopefully!) and is not finite, giving an “unfinished, trailing off” sensibility to the domain name and not a firm statement.
3) People do not read individual letters and are likelier to miss letters in function words. This issue is prevalent in the “e” and “s” transitions in “onlinesewinglessons” as well as the “g” and “l” transitions. When reading the word, the “se” is easy to drop, returning “online wing lessons” comprehended a completely different meaning.
4) Richard Shillcock and colleagues, also suggest another mechanism that could be a contributing factor. They propose that since the retina delivers information to the brain that is split between two hemispheres, each word is split in half in the process of recognition. Keeping a domain name to two words (preferably short) capitalizes on this phenomenon. The effectiveness can be seen across the web involving some of the world’s largest brands including:
Matt’s article is a fascinating look at reading and comprehension. We have included a link here if you would like to do more research and dive deeper into the subject matter.
Long-Tail Domain Names Limit Future Growth.
Long-tail domain names, by definition, precisely drill down to a very tight specific descriptor. This can limit the future growth of the brand.
Using our example “Online Sewing Lessons”, what if sometime in the future, you would like to add a brick-and-mortar store? Maybe add eCommerce? How about adding a services division to capture the entire value chain for the client and solve all of their sewing-related issues? The customer can learn to sew, buy equipment, and get service all at the same place, which is better for you (more revenue streams) and the customer (excellent user experience).
How is the original brand and domain name now related to the business? It isn’t any longer – it no longer tells your story.
A ComScore report shows that mobile accounts for 60% of total digital media time spent, with mobile apps accounting for over 50%.
Enter “www.onlinesewinglessons.com” on your mobile phone three times a row using your phone’s screen keyboard. Imagine trying to enter it quickly in the middle of sewing something. How was that user experience? Your customers won’t enjoy it either.
Building a Business and Planning Your Exit.
This is a forest for the trees question you must ask yourself.
Building a brand is the cornerstone of building a company. It takes time and perseverance to build a company with a solid foundation. You are investing your time and money in an endeavor to build something of value over time. This value will pay you money along the way as well as pay you (hopefully a hefty sum!) when you sell the business. Even free online resources are available to help with business name generation and registering related domain names.
Short-term tactics (using a long-tail domain name for gaming the ranking systems) will always lose out to long-term strategy (the solid foundation of building a brand that gives tremendous value to your customers and helps them achieve their goals). This takes time.
One of my favorite quotes from Warren Buffet is:
“Successful Investing takes time, discipline and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
A business is an investment, and the digital real estate (the domain name) your business is located in is a large portion of that value.
An example of a domain appreciating dramatically in value is Vodaphone’s selling of 360.com to the Chinese firm 360.cn for a reported $17,000,000.
The domain’s appreciation added value to Vodaphone, and 360.cn feels that owning the 360.com domain name will add more than $17,000,000 in value to their enterprise.
Another way to look at it is to compare it to an investment in the stock market.
In December of 2000, a share of Apple Computer cost $1.14 per share. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money now and a great deal, but that was the price per share back then.
How much would you pay for a primary tool in building a solid business that earned you $200,000 per year that you could eventually sell for $1,000,000?
Spending $30,000 on a premium brandable domain name now looks strikingly similar to purchasing Apple Computer stock for $1.14 per share.
We will finish with another quote from Warren Buffet:
“In the short term, the market is a popularity contest. In the long term, the market is a weighing machine.”