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Domain name search is much improved (at some registrars)

A look at how major domain registrars are handling domain search in the wake of new TLDs.

I’ve written a couple times about the state of registrar search as registrars grapple with an onslaught of new TLDs, most recently at the end of February.

There’s good news for TLD registries: search is getting a lot better.

Let’s run through the registrars I checked last time for an update.

(For this article, I chose to search for “valleyview construction” for three reasons: The second word exactly matches a new TLD, that new TLD has several similar alternatives, and the .com is taken.)

GoDaddy

GoDaddy still defaults to tacking .com on the back of whatever search term you put in. That makes sense because most people are looking for it.

Last time I searched, GoDaddy was pulling up TLDs related to the search topic but was not “spanning the dot”. For example, if you searched for Valleyview Construction”, it would offer ValleyviewConstruction.construction but not Valleyview.Construction.

ValleyviewConstruction.construction is still the top result, but GoDaddy placed the spanning-the-dot version as the fourth result:

godaddy-valleyview-result

That’s pretty good. Although I think ValleyviewConstruction.construction is redundant and not a good choice, I can see the other side of the argument as well. Are companies willing to put a dot in the middle of their brand?

By that token, perhaps ValleyviewConstruction.build is a better choice. That’s in slot 3. Or ValleyviewConstruction.contractors (slot 9) or ValleyviewConstruction.builders (slot 13).

Without seeing the data, I can’t fault GoDaddy for these results. It has a patent on an Adwords-style bidding system for new TLD search results. Maybe putting .build up there with its $99 price tag converts well overall compared to one of the domains with a $39 pricetag.

Or maybe I’m giving GoDaddy too much credit.

As for .org, that’s a sensible result given that both .com and .net are registered. Registrars also place domains near the top based on marketing programs. That may well be the case for the .org, given that it’s on sale.

Here’s a TLD breakdown of the first 20 results for this search at GoDaddy:

.construction 8
.com 3
.org 2
.build 1
.builders 1
.contractors 1
.engineering 1
.guru 1
.watch 1
.productions 1

This seems reasonable, for the most part. The .com suggestions are pretty bad, though, throwing in similar words for “view” (e.g. valleylookconstruction). Presumably the search system doesn’t realize this is likely a brand or geo domain. I imagine that’s difficult to teach a computer.

GoDaddy continues to improve.

eNom

eNom was on the ball early on. This makes sense given that it’s owned by a large new TLD applicant (Rightside).

Here’s the top part of the search results page when I search for “Valleyview Construction”:

enom-valleyview

You see that call to Valleyview.construction immediately below the “box” results? That seems like a homerun to me.

As for the domains in the boxes, .ninja and .haus are there because they are Rightside domain names. .Builders is a good match and is run by partner Donuts.

Scroll down the search page a bit and you’ll see more suggestions and some premium (aftermarket) options:

enom-valleyview-2

The suggestions are all .construction.

But scroll down more and other relevant TLDs come into play:

enom-valleyview-3

1&1

First things first: did you know you can’t put a space in the search box at 1&1?

That makes sense if you’re searching for a domain. Domains can’t have spaces. But in today’s world, registrars should treat the input as a search box, not a lookup box. It’s a name spinner, not an exact-match lookup.

1&1 still has a dropdown box next to its search box. The dropdown box is getting rather long!

Here are the suggestions I get at 1&1:

1and1-valleyview

Two possible conclusions: 1&1 hasn’t gotten around to programming new TLD suggestions into its main search results, or it has decided it’s more likely to close the sale if it gives familiar alternatives.

Hover

Here’s an interesting progress bar when you search at Hover:

hover-valley-1

More interesting is what Hover has decided to do with results. It has the most interesting search results of all of the registrars.

It doesn’t separate them into categories that don’t make sense to the user, like “regular TLDs” and “new TLD”. Instead, it separates them into categories:

  • “Domains About You” .guru, .me, .expert, .actor, .democrat…
  • “Domains with a Clear Purpose” .tv, .pictures, .webcam, .recipes…
  • “Domains For Businesses” .bar, .consulting, .ventures…
  • “Domains For Organizations” .club, .university, .community…
  • “Domains for Products or Services” .construction, .build, .catering…
  • “Domains for Shopping” .cheap, .blackfriday, .luxury…
  • “Domains with Attitude” .cool, .fail, .buzz…
  • “Non-English Domains” .uno, .viajes, .futbol…

There are also regional categories.

This is an interesting approach. Hover seems to not try to figure out the meaning of the search, and instead steer you to the categories.

It’s possible that the search term is taken into consideration at some level — .construction is the first results under “Domains for Products and Services”.

I think a combination of figuring out the meaning of the search (i.e., including .construction, .build et al near the top) and the categories makes a lot of sense.

Network Solutions/Register.com

Like 1&1, NetSol’s search doesn’t allow for spaces. You’d think a registrar targeted to non-technical SMBs would allow free form search.

Once you get past that, NetSol is now showing new TLDs above traditional TLDs:

netsol-valleyview

.Org and .info are at the bottom of the list.

So there you have it… a look at how some of the bigger registrars are handling domain name search as of August, 2014.

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  1. Joseph Peterson

    There’s a massive gap in registrar-based search algorithms between where they are and where they ought to be.

    A few months ago, I and a potential partner actually pitched an ambitious project in this exact area to one startup incubator. They didn’t see any value in the domain industry, however. And I’m not in a the mood to boot-strap another project. So I’ll have to be content to look on while the registrars continue falling on their faces!

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