Performance marketing is a game of finding and exploiting underpriced attention and extracting more value from a traffic source (especially when running paid campaigns) than your competitors .
One opportunity I don’t see mentioned enough in affiliate circles is the impact of a domain name and TLD on a users perception, trust, conversion rate, and eventually the sales multiple of your business.
We are not talking about the historic link equity value of expired or auction domains that can increase rankings, but the intrinsic trust that the specific combination of letters, numbers, and extension invoke in users.
Potential Benefits of Choosing the Right Domain Name for Affiliate Marketing
Increased Conversion Rates
This one is pretty straightforward, you are going to be more likely to trust the advice and recommendation of site with an authoritative sounding name. How much? Depends on the niche, name, specific competitors, and target audience.
Increased Memorability & Brandability
If your domain is besttop10casinopromo2018.biz it will be much more difficult to build a memorable brand than if your domain is Tuck.com, TheWirecutter.com, Reviews.com, ect.
Direct Type-In Traffic
Some names come with the benefit of direct type in traffic either by users curious what’s on the site or interested in a product/service related to the name or by a typo of being closely related to another brand.
This has decreased substantially and is not a huge channel today, but worth mentioning.
Effectiveness Multiplier for Offline Channels or Verbal Mentions
If you ever grow to the size where you can begin to experiment with outdoor, radio, TV, or other advertising methods a powerful domain will ability the brand message and will be easy to remember and find on desktop or mobile phone.
Ego/ Flex of Being Proud of Your Site
Some people may not understand this, but when I’m building a site on a great domain I get much more pride when it performs well. It makes what I’m doing feel more “legitimate” and makes me more willing to share the assets I own with others. It can also help with the motivation to build it into a truly great site.
Increase Outreach Effectiveness
When performing outreach for link building prospectives site will be more willing to link to you if you site looks professional and is built on a strong domain.
On the flip side, potential advertisers are more willing to work with high quality sites built on strong domains which can improve your chances of securing exclusive agreements or custom commission structures.
Great Recruiting Tool
If you ever looking to build a team, a great domain makes your project appear more successful, important, and valueable to work for.
Increased SERP & PPC CTRs
When consumers see trustworthy, relevant, and familiar domains in the SERPs or PPC ad spots they are more likely to click.
Note: Google has been experimenting with hiding the domain and TLD in the SERPs, so this might not be a factor in a few years.
Halo Effect that Can Result in Higher Valuations
When looking to sell you business, a strong domain may directly be added to the value of the sale, or the perception it provides can add a healthy increase in monthly multiple and more than cover the initial cost of purchase.
Ok great, you see the benefits a great domain can have for affiliates, but what are the specific levers where this value can be captured?
Levers of Opportunity for Affiliates to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name
Exploit the IP of Existing Organizations (Without Getting Sued)
If you can include non trademarked words or phases that can leverage trust from an existing brand to your domain this can be a great opportunity.
Great examples of this include:
Leverage TLD Brand Equity
You can’t go wrong with .com, but I believe that .org can be even more interesting for affiliates.
The .Org extension has built up trust and authority over the last decades as the TLD for non profits, unbiased research groups, and other trustworthy sources. Millions if not billions of dollars have gone into traditional advertising channels to help solidify this belief.
Many web users even believe that .Org domains can only be used by non profits and public interest organizations, so they let their guard down a little with browsing a .org and are more likely to trust recommendations at face value.
Bit by bit as general web users encounter untrustworthy .orgs, they become more skeptical and this trust in the TLD will erodes over time, but currently I believe it is still strong and worth much, much more to affiliates than the $10/year renewal cost.
While I do think that the sale of the tld to private equity will result in higher prices, I believe that the true intangible value of the trust in .org can be worth thousands or even millions (ex. ConsumersAdvocate.org) to affiliates if utilized correctly with the right domain.
In addition, premium .org domains typically sell for a small fraction of their .com counterpart, so some pretty amazing names can be found for reasonable prices in this extension (Clearlink has some great .ORGs to look to for inspiration).
Great examples of this include:
Flex With Strong 1 Word Dictionary Names
Many casual users consciously or subconsciously respect and trust strong one word domains. The largest and most loved brands typically have an online presence that includes a premium domain and if you have a name that appears similar, users will think of you as comparable.
To marketers and savey internet users who understand the scarcity and value of one word .COM and .ORG domains, using them for an affiliate site conveys a level of quality, seriousness, and professionalism of the site.
Example: Tuck.com vs TheSleepJudge.com – both successful but don’t appear to be in the same league when only looking at the domain
What is a Reasonable Price to Pay for a Domain Name for an Affiliate Project?
This is a tough question to answer as the domain aftermarket is extremely illiquid and there no textbook way to value them. I can see a use case for spending up to $100k for a great domain for a strictly affiliate project if the potential earning opportunity is the niche can be covered by the value multiple increase the name provides when sold, and if the majority of the value can be retained if the name is resold.
Generally I think the sweet spot is <$25k as many extremely strong names (especially .ORGs) can be found at auction, domainer forums, marketplaces in that range and if site makes even a few thousand a month, the investment in the name will likely payoff in the sales price of the site.
Note: If you invest in a truly great name, it is an asset can still has value and can be sold even if your affiliate project fails.
Opportunity to improve a businesses through redirection to a more Powerful Domain
This is an interesting opportunity that I predict more website owners will begin to capitalize on in the coming years, especially those with large budgets. By redirecting a high performing site on a subpar domain to a much higher quality one, you can add all the benefits of a premium domain to an already successful traffic engine.
Sure there is always a risk when redirecting, however if the new name is fresh and doesn’t have much previous history this risk is greatly minimized.
Not Sure Which Domain to Choose for An Affiliate Site?
At the end of the day, for 99% of cases, especially with purely SEO driven affiliate sites, the name you choose wouldn’t make or break you. If you are just starting out it’s fine to just hand register a name you like and get rolling.
Heck, “AffiliateInsights.com” is probably a 6-7, based on the published scale and I am more than happy with it.
Once you have a few wins under your belt and have built a bank roll and confidence in your abilities you can begin to consider investing in some higher quality names.