Tim Anderson’s recent opinion piece for ITWeek, titled “Domain Names are so last year”, gets it half right.
Anderson talks about UnifiedRoot, the latest company to offer an alternative web address system. He discusses how it’s not worth registering a domain with UnifiedRoot, New.net, or any other alternative domain company. These alternative systems are a bad idea, and Anderson nails that on the head.
But I disagree with his notion that domain names are unimportant. Anderson writes:
“Presumably companies hope that new TLDs will make their sites more popular or easier to find, but times have moved on. Domain names are increasingly unimportant and of little interest to most users. Hyperlinks hide the actual URL from view, while those searching for a company site will type it into their favourite search engine, usually Google. If you mistakenly type a company name into an address bar, the browser will usually conduct a search and find it anyway. It follows that a high ranking on search engines is worth a great deal more than most domain names.”
Anderson got it wrong here. First, having a keyword domain name can boost your search ranking for that term. Second, good domain names get “direct navigation” traffic. For example, someone looking for mortgages will type mortgages.com into their browser. Direct navigation traffic is extremely valuable. It’s also the one thing Google and other search engines can’t take away. Search engines change their algorithms at will and this can result in web site traffic dropping 50% or more overnight. But the typical internet user won’t stop typing your domain in the address bar. Direct navigation traffic can’t be taken away by a search engine.