Poker.org sells for $1 million. Wow!
It’s pretty evident that any ranking signal that Google uses creates value where previously there was none. Links, for example, change hand for cash – no matter how hard Google tries to stuff that particular genie back in the bottle. Google said that ranking was partly determined by links and so everything quickly boiled down to what individual links are worth.
The same holds true for domain names. A domain itself is worth a couple of quid, as any fool knows. But any fool will also tell you that people search for brands and that online brands are almost without exception tied in with a domain name.
So Google has to try and figure out what the intent is behind any search term. Is someone looking for a brand? A domain? General information about a subject? And where do those three things often converge? A keyword domain.
Taken together, that gives Google a powerful impetus to rank keyword domains. Search for something like ‘ghd’. With the exception of eBay and Amazon, the top results all have ‘ghd’ in their domain name – and you can probably think of similar examples in markets you know. As with links, that creates a premium for domains – a story that dates all the way back to that epic, multi-million dollar, decade-long battle for sex.com.
So will the purchase of the poker.org domain prove to be money well spent?
Well any such strategy is basically an attempt to short circuit the long hard slog that’s necessary to establish a proper brand. When you’re a brand, you’re almost exempt from the normal requirements of an SEO campaign. I could point you right now to sites with a first place ranking for pretty competitive keywords. Those keywords bring a fraction of the traffic that branded searches do. And the rankings themselves are in the face of poor on-site optimisation, no content and a barely-there backlink profile. The conclusion has to be that – pace Vince – brand is a big factor in ranking.
That makes a brand a far more powerful thing to have than a keyword domain. Taking the example of the poker market, someone like 888 will happily buy out another brand to get a lockdown on the market. The top 10 isn’t full of keyword domains – but a variety of brands. And f***ing Wikipedia, of course. This dominance by brand makes it difficult for keyword domains to easily slip into the top 10 as if by right.
Once the buyers of poker.org start linkbuilding, they will have natural keyword anchor text for most of their links, but the same could have been said about many of other domain names they could have chosen. One thing they have got is headlines about their purchase. No doubt that newspaper editors and bloggers are unthinkingly handing out headlines and keyword links to the domain – which in itself begins to create a brand. Hell, I’m contributing to that right now myself.
In the final analysis, like any other strategy buying a keyword domain will only take you so far. You still have to establish authority, backlinks, content and brand presence to rank in competitive fields. If you’ve got a million bucks to spare, there’s a lot of ways you could use it to get what you want beyond just sinking it into a domain name. Like give us a ring, for example