Hi Mark. My name is Soren, calling from Denmark. Denmark is a small country in Europe, just north of Germany and southwest of Sweden. I am a veterinarian and I have a small site with advice, video guides, and other cool stuff for dog and cat owners. It started as a hobby before I knew anything about internet marketing and SEO. I’ve been listening to your show and I find it very inspirational. I went back and started with the show at about number 30 or so, and I’ve been listening to you ever since. I’ve been listening to your three or four episode series on niche finding and keyword research, and I’ve actually listened to those episodes several times now. I encourage everybody to go back and listen to those episodes, it’s really great stuff.
You talk about judging the competition from other sites from the number of backlinks a site has. And I have a question. I’ve been monitoring the Danish word for veterinarian. In Danish it’s pretty competitive, but it’s not unreachable. I have the goal to rank in the top three for that keyword. I already rank for other related keywords, but the short tail keyword “veterinarian” I keep getting dropped for that keyword. I appeared at place 66, then go up to 50, then getting dropped again, and reappear at 25, and so on.
That doesn’t worry me too much yet, but I’ve been noticing something. There’s a small vet clinic in Copenhagen that keeps turning up. He’s always in the top 10, if not in the top four, and he certainly beats me. What usually will happen when you Google for veterinarian is you will get some local search results for vet clinics that are close by and then two or three top Danish sites with veterinarian advice. That’s good, but then there’s this guy. Even though I Google from other places in the country, he keeps turning up.
He has a very small site with some pictures, an about us page, a price list, and then 10 to 20 pages of very thin content. I have over 200 pages, I have videos, I have links, I have everything. I’ve also checked his backlinking profile and he has two external links pointing in. I have over 130. I’ve just recently changed the URL and I’m building up new links, so I’m not there yet, but it’s growing still.
Should I judge the competition from the link profile, I would say that I could easily beat him, but I can’t. So where does that leave me? Can I really trust the link profile as a fair measure? It certainly fits with the other sites and then there is the local search, but with this guy it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been noticing that he has been running Adsense campaigns for a little over a year now. You mention in your show that the searcher is not Google’s customer, the ones who are running the ads and paying Google are Google customers. So is Google honoring him with good rankings for his Adsense engagement and honoring him for his payments to the program?
If you want to take a look at my site it’s at Spoergdyrlaeten.dk. I hope to hear from you. Take care. Bye.
This is an excellent question and a tough one for me to deal with specifically because, as Soren mentions, it’s all in Danish. If you haven’t looked at Danish, I have a link to the site in the show notes and I’m going to tell you that’s some crazy business here because they don’t use letters the same way we do here, I guarantee you that. So it’s very hard for me to even understand what the Danish word for veterinarian is and look at Danish search results to try and decode this. In addition to that, the question is from months ago and I’m actually quite interested to understand perhaps what has changed in the meantime.
I wanted to take a crack at the general issue that Soren is talking about. He says in the question he has this really quality website – and I’m looking at the website here, I can’t read the content but it’s a meaty website, he’s well passed 100 pages now. This is a serious website, clearly an authority site in this area with between 100 and 1,000 pages of content. So the question is with that great content, which supposedly is what Google is looking for, and what Soren describes as a decent backlink profile, 130 backlinks is a good size backlink profile, he wonders why he’s not ranking better in the search engines.
Specifically he wants to know why he sees what he describes as a thin website with five to 20 pages of content and five backlinks ranking higher than him in the search engines. This is absolutely something that we’ve seen before and while it’s hard to talk about this specific case, there are several things that I can point out and discuss based on what I’ve over the last several years.
One thing right off the bat I will tell you is that this particular case of thin websites ranking high for some period of time is something that we’ve observed in the search engine rankings for years and years. Eventually it is almost always the case that if you keep your eye on these things that those sites will eventually fall down in the search engine rankings, they’ll be discovered by Google as thin. What happens in a lot of cases we think that the Panda reviewers will get around to looking at those sites and they’ll be assessed a thin content penalty. They look around and see that this site is ranking alongside a veterinarian that is the equivalent of WebMD, that doesn’t make any sense, so they’ll push it down.
A lot of times after Google has a chance to catch up these sites will actually fall down. That’s the first thing that I can say about this. Soren, I know it has been months, but if you’re still around and you want to reach out to me and let me know what’s going on I’d be very interested in a follow up voicemail from you about what exactly is going on with that one site that you were looking at.
The second thing that I will say is that sometimes what we see with these kind of sites is that they are heavily influenced by the click through rate. We know that one of the strong search engine signals that Google has been looking at lately is when a site is listed in the top 10 results are people actually clicking on that result. It’s one of the ways that Google is measuring whether or not they’re putting the right stuff forward. If you have a website that is being clicked on and those clicks are not bouncing, Google takes the combination of those two signals and will actually help rank that site higher.
After all, the only way for Google really to know whether or not the search result that they gave you is a good one is A) whether you not you clicked on one of those 10 things and B) whether or not you bounced back to the search engine results real fast. If you click on it and you come back, that’s a signal to Google that you don’t like it. If you don’t click on it at all that’s also a signal to Google that you don’t like the results that they gave. So they’ll push that result down if it’s not getting clicks, they’ll also push it down if it has a high bounce rate.
As a result of this click through rate phenomenon, one of the grey or black hat SEO tactics that we’re seeing for sale in the marketplace, or at least we were at that time starting around Spring of last year, which was when Soren left this message, is an SEO tactic where you pay people to search your keywords and click on your website and not bounce. It’s kind of like when you pay for reviews or pay for backlinks. When you pay for click throughs you can actually impact the rankings. There have been lots of studies on this in the more advanced SEO communities about how to take advantage of this. There are even some services that you can buy where you can pay money to have people essentially click on your website and boost your rankings.
So I think there is the possibility that some tactic like that was also in play here, because the timing is about the same. Of course, I have no direct evidence of that. Everything is in a different language and it’s hard for me to assess exactly what’s going on, but those are some possibilities.
The happy thing that I can say is that as time goes on what we’re seeing in general is that better content wins eventually. A lot of times it takes Google awhile to get all of this sorted out, but it wins eventually.
One of the things that we’re not seeing that I don’t have any direct evidence of is that somehow Google is associating an Adwords account where you’re buying ads with a website that you actually own and they’re influencing the rankings based on that. Google has shareholders and they have to do what they have to do to make money, but I’ve never really seen any direct evidence of Google doing something that was just blatantly unethical like that. In their minds they’re one of these good guy companies that is trying to do the right thing. As search engine marketers a lot of times we get frustrated with Google, we say nasty things about them, and we wish they would behave differently.
It is true that we are not their customers as guys who are trying to rank in their search engine as organic search marketers. We’re not their customer, however I’ve never seen any direct evidence that there was this correlation between buying ads in Adwords and getting rankings. I really don’t think that sort of conspiracy theory is at work here. I think the most likely thing is that the site is ranking for some reason temporarily and will eventually go away. The second most likely thing is one of these advanced SEO tactics that doesn’t leave much of a footprint, like click through rate engineering, may be in play here and that may have been what’s going on with the site.
Again, Soren, if you’re around I’d love to hear what’s going on with you and whether or not you’ve had some more success with your site. The site looks great. If you guys would like to check out Soren’s site and appreciate the language barrier that I encountered, you can find a link in the show notes. I would tell you the name of the site, but I could barely spell it much less pronounce it.
One additional comment that I will make on the topic of SEO is a lot of times you’ll hear these general statements, like it’s the backlink count that matters. We know now that the quality of the link is important, the anchor text distribution is really important. There are a couple of questions here with Soren’s site. One is how come this other guy is ranking better, and the second question how come Soren’s site, at least at the time, was not ranking better. You can have general statements about all of these things, “These kind of links are better. This many are needed.” You will always be able to find counter examples.
What I encourage you to do, and Soren alludes to this in his message, in general when he looks at the backlink profiles of the sites that are ranking it sort of makes sense to him, it’s just this one site. There always seem to be these rouge examples that people bring to me, I’ve seen them myself, you see them when you look at keyword tools, when you look at ranking analysis in those tools you’ll see a site ranking and it won’t necessarily make sense.
That’s another thing to keep in mind when you’re working on SEO, these rules of thumb are exactly that. There is exact science to ranking in Google, but only Google knows what the exact science is. The best we can do is look at these broad averages. It’s kind of like when you go to the doctor and you ask them, “How long is my illness going to last?” and they say, “On average it lasts five months, but for some people their illness is two months and some people their illness is a year.” You’re talking about these kind of hundreds of thousands of people in this average, just like you’re talking about hundreds of thousands or millions of websites in these algorithms. You’re always going to be able to find a couple of websites that don’t fit the model you have in your head for SEO.
Goal Setting Thoughts
I mentioned to you that I have been working on goals for my business for 2016. I hope you’re doing the same. You heard from John Lee Dumas a couple of episodes ago that the one thing that he sees from all the thousands of people that he has interviewed are these goals and their ability to set and achieve them.
One of the things that I’ve been looking into is what else. We all have talked about it and a lot of you listening understand how to set good goals, you probably even know how to achieve them from an execution standpoint. You know to make them SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, and all the things that we’ve talked about.
The question becomes then what additional things are needed to really achieve success besides just these goals. Goals are one thing, you can write them down and you can achieve them. I guess the next question then is if you do achieve those goals, is that going to get you where you want to be?
Let’s take the Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast for a minute. I can set a goal of never missing an episode, which is a goal that I’ve set, but if that goal results in me being miserable or I don’t get any sleep and it impacts my health, that goal is not going to get me to where I really want to be from a holistic life design standpoint.
This was recently hit home to me in a video that I want to encourage you to go look at from Michael Hyatt. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of places online and I’ve talked about Michael on the podcast before. He is a really amazing guy. I got to meet him at Social Media Marketing World this year in March when I moderated a session in which he was a speaker. He’s a really amazing guy and one of the things that he’s an expert in is this area of goal setting. Every year he has a product, I bought the product last year and it’s an excellent product, it’s called The Best Year Ever. It’s a really good product, highly recommended by me. If you follow me on social media you know I’ve been talking about it quite a bit because I think it really helps people.
One of the things that Michael does in the way that he launches this product – it’s going to be launching later in the month of December 2015 – is he releases some really solid content as part of his presale process. One of the things that he’s released this time is a three video set that deals with this issue of not just having goals but having goals that are aligned with the lifestyle that you’re trying to design. When you achieve your goals, are you going to be where you want to be? Can you use that fact to serve as fuel to make sure that you achieve these goals?
He gives a tremendous amount of free information that is really worth your time. If it’s before the end of the year, I want to encourage you to go to LateNightIM.com/bye. You give your email address and Michael gives you these three videos. If it’s too late and you missed it, I’m really sorry because these are awesome. I don’t have the ability to steal them and preserve them for you or I would. These are worth watching, these are the kind of videos that I would recommend that anyone who is interested in being successful in life watch. Michael is a really interesting guy, an excellent speaker, and I think you’ll be shocked, stunned, and amazed at the production quality of these videos.
Full disclosure: Behind this thing after the videos there is a product that Michael sells and I am an affiliate for that. If you go through my link at LateNightIM.com/bye and then you buy the product, I do get a commission. If you’re not comfortable with that, that’s fine, just go to BestYearEver.me and get the videos anyway. For me, it’s important that you see the videos and I hope you get the message in time so you can do that. Really interesting content and a highly recommended way for you to spend your time looking at these videos as you’re planning for 2016.
Choosing a Domain Name
The main topic for today is this issue of domain names. Those of you that have started websites, you’ve all been down this road and you’ve sat in front of the blank box at the domain registration place of your choice. I personally have been using Namecheap for a long time, since 2008 probably, I love those guys over at Namecheap. Maybe you use GoDaddy or something else like that. There are a couple of reasons that I don’t use GoDaddy, that may be for another show. I really like Namecheap.com, highly recommended good bunch of guys over there with great customer service and they’re not super pushy with all the extras that they sell. I like those guys.
So you’re sitting in front of this box, you have this idea, and you have this little one line box in front of you that says “enter a domain name.” You put it in and the Namecheap guys will tell you whether or not the domain idea you have is available. I think the question that everybody always asks is, “How do I decide what kind of domain name to pick? How do I choose my domain name?”
I’ve recently been working with my buddy down the street who is in the process of starting a blog and online business and we’ve been talking through this issue of domain names. As I was having this conversation with him I thought it would be really great if I discuss this on the podcast, because I get this question a lot.
First, let me say that the kind of domain name that you choose to some extent has to do with what you’re going to do with it. I would argue that there are three things that you might want to do with a domain name in this context that are typical for a listener of this show.
One is you might want to start a thin affiliate site like we’ve talked about on here many times where you’re promoting a product or a couple of products, you are hoping to get search engine traffic, you will see that visitor one time, they will find what they’re looking for, click your affiliate link, and you won’t have a relationship with that visitor. You’re basically inserting yourself into their buying process, helping them make an excellent purchasing decision with your fantastic content on your website, and then they won’t come back to you, they won’t remember you, they won’t give the name of your website to their friends because they’ve bought whatever it is that you’re promoting on your website and they’re done. That’s kind of the thin affiliate site model.
Then there’s the kind of thing that my friend down the street is wanting to do, which is you are wanting to become an expert in the field that you’re working in, a recognized brand, you’re going to use your own personal name on this website. You may work on it for 10 years and become the world’s foremost authority in this area. It’s a passion of yours, it’s something that you care about, you want to help people with this website. There’s an importance for you to get a name that people can remember and do something with and that makes sense to people.
I’ll say that for that second kind of website, I think there is one in the middle that you should consider where you want to do both. You want to get some search engine traffic for your topic of interest and you also want it to be memorable. My favorite example of this, actually pretty much everyone in my mastermind group has this example for their website with exception of Ray Edwards. Ray Edwards has his website at RayEdwards.com. He’s an incredibly famous copywriter, so that’s good enough, that’s essentially synonymous with amazing copywriting so that’s okay.
- Cliff Ravenscraft is PodcastAnswerMan.com, he has the podcast keyword in there and I think that helps him with podcast related search engine traffic and with recognition for people who don’t know the Podcast Answer Man brand that this website is about podcasting.
- Michael Stelzner’s website is SocialMediaExaminer.com. What’s that website about? It’s about social media.
- Pat Flynn’s website is SmartPassiveIncome.com. What’s that about? It’s about passive income. Last I checked, he’s battling Wikipedia, and I think he beats Wikipedia now for the term passive income, depending on when you’re searching and where you’re searching from.
- Leslie Samuel is BecomeABlogger.com. What’s that website about? It’s about blogging.
In these cases these websites have some branding in them that tells you what the website is about, the names are memorable, but they also have some keyword power to them that is helpful in the search engine rankings. This hybrid case in the middle where you have some memorable name that has the keyword in it, that’s almost always going to be a really good answer. Pat Flynn’s Security Guard Training Headquarters is a great example of that sort of thing.
An example of the first case, if you could get the website name HowtoRegisteraDomainName.com or HowtoBuildaWebsite.com and build a fantastic website strictly targeted at how to build a website and use that as an affiliate site to sell Bluehost subscriptions, you could probably make a lot of money with an exact keyword match like that.
It’s kind of a scale. When you’re picking a domain name, in my mind, those are type one the thin affiliate sites, type two the sort of brand recognition site, and then there’s type three, which is where I put these things where the marketing is going to be way bigger than whatever the website name is and so the name doesn’t matter. Twitter means absolutely nothing. Amazon means absolutely nothing. Google means absolutely nothing. But those brands and the marketing engines behind them are so massive that it doesn’t matter what the website name is as long as you can remember it.
Most of us listening aren’t going to be in that third category. Most of us are going to be in this middle category where we want to build something that is sort of memorable but also has some SEO keyword power in it.
It’s not really just about the SEO keyword power, getting that word podcast or blogging or social media or passive income in the URL. It’s not just about algorithms. It does help Google, we think, indicate what the website is about. There are companies online that track the rankings of website names versus the keywords in those names and you can see a correlation between websites that have a keyword in their name and their ranking. That sort of keyword ranking still exists. It’s not as strong as it used to be, but that relationship is still there.
I think even more importantly is when you search for a keyword and you see a website name that sort of makes sense. If I type a question like, “What is the best mixer for podcasting?” into Google and one of the links shows the URL and the website is PodcastAnswerMan.com, that sounds pretty good to me. I’m a searcher and I see a website name that sounds good, makes sense, and is clearly related to what I’m talking about, it has the word podcast in it, and podcast answer which is exactly what I’m looking for as an answer to my question, then I’m going to click on that link preferentially over something that doesn’t give me warm fuzzies like that.
That click through rate is, I think, an even more important consideration when choosing a domain name. As we just discussed, click through rates are becoming increasingly important in search engine rankings, at least that’s what some of the data shows that is being published, so that’s a good reason to pick that.
Once you pick that there are some other “rules” that I have about how to pick this domain name.
In general, shorter is better. I don’t have a magic number for this, but you don’t want a 27-letter domain name. A lot of times those are going to be harder to remember, they’re going to look funny, and there has been some arguments that Google sees long domain names and/or domain names with dashes as spammy.
I’ve seen some very successful websites with dashes, it is possible to be successful with dashes. Like we were talking about earlier, in SEO there are always counter examples. I don’t like dashes. If you Google any keyword and just go look at the results, tell me how many websites have dashes in them in those results. I don’t see that many. Of course, that’s also related to the fact that there aren’t actually as many websites with dashes. The point is still I don’t like dashes.
I don’t like numbers. No numbers because it’s confusing to have to say to someone, “Is it 3cubes.com or threecubes.com? Is it the number three or three spelled out?” How do I tell somebody that? I think that’s very confusing, so I would stay away from numbers.
Also stay away from words that are hard to spell. Unless your hard to spell word is absolutely critical to what you’re doing, if you’re doing a paleontology website it’s going to be hard not to have that – I guess you could be “dinosaur guy” – you may need to use the word paleontology. In general, I recommend that you stay away from words that are hard to spell. A really good example is entrepreneur. Most people don’t know how to spell that word and if you tell them “I’m at BobtheEntrepreneur.com,” they’re going to struggle with that spelling. BobtheBusinessMan.com is much easier to spell. So that’s a consideration.
Also, I think you should make sure that it looks good visually. A lot of domains only look good when they’re uppercase or when they’re mixed-case. If you have the domain BirdsStore.com, maybe because you couldn’t get BirdStore.com, when you put that in all lower cases it’s going to have those two S’s together between Birds and Store, and to me that looks really funny. I would look at the domain visually, type it out in lowercase because that’s how a lot of your readers are going to see it a lot of the time, and make sure that it looks good.
I only buy dot com domain names. Again, if you Google any keyword you want, you tell me how many of those domain names are dot com. Yes, I know there are 40,000 other top level domains that are coming out. If you want the dot bubba top level domain, that’s fine, go do that. Just know that I really think it’s important to stick with dot com. If not dot com, dot net and dot org can be fine. I would never go beyond that. A lot of guys use dot co.
I think if it’s your personal name you might get away with dot name. Andrew Hansen has dot name for his personal website. I’ve never asked him if he has observed any SEO penalty for that. But, the only reason he has that is because AndrewHansen.com was already taken. I had to wait years to get MarkMason.com, it was very hard to get. You may have a reason to want to do that, but in my experience it’s best to avoid anything other than dot com if you can.
I mentioned search engine keywords. Exact matches aren’t important, but I think it’s very useful to get something in there that is related to what it is that the website is going to be about.
Those are kind of my rules about what to do and what not to do regarding domains. Then the question comes up, “Where can I get ideas about domains?”
If you will Google the phrase “domain name generator,” you will get a bunch of different kinds of domain name generators where you can put in your keywords or words related to your domain idea and it will generate all kinds of different combinations that you can sift through. I don’t have one of those that I love particularly. The good ones come and go, and they change. People, quite frankly, build these domain name generators as a way to capture leads so that they can send either clicks or leads into domain name services and generate revenue that way. You can generate a lot of traffic with a good domain name generator. So they come and go as people go in and out of those businesses.
I like those as a brainstorming tool because you can generate hundreds or thousands of ideas, and some of the better tools will actually tell you what domains are available or they’ll only present to you options that are actually available and that can save you a ton of time.
Ask for feedback when you get four or five ideas. My buddy is doing this now, he has a couple of domain ideas, he’s thrown them out on Facebook to say, “Hey, what do you guys think about this domain idea?” It’s helpful if you have a community of people that are savvy about internet marketing, because you’ll get a lot of ideas that either are obviously taken or that the domain names they suggest will violate one of the above rules. Still, you can get people’s feedback on the domain name that you’re thinking about. Especially if it’s your target audience you can get some sense of whether or not they would have a positive reaction to that domain name that you’re considering.
Finally, the one thing that I think is often overlooked is you can browse forums and auctions, you can look at sites like GoDaddy, NamePros, and other places for domains that are for sale that people have bought. You’re going to pay for those, especially if they have existing decent backlink profiles and a lot of domain age, you may end up paying a couple of hundred dollars or more for a domain, particularly if it’s a perfect match for what you want and there is a lot of demand for it. I paid quite a bit for MarkMason.com, for example.
Domain names are worth whatever someone is willing to pay. On their own they’re not worth anything, but they’re worth whatever someone is willing to pay and what revenue they think can be generated from that domain name. Sometimes you can end up paying a lot that way, but sometimes you can find a bargain. It could just be a domain name that somebody bought a long time ago that they never used and now they’ve put it up at auction to see if they can recover a little bit of their costs. Always worth looking for domain names and domain name ideas at auction and in some of those places.
Those are my inputs on how to register a domain name. If you have questions about domain names and what I think about how you should be picking them, please leave me a comment or a question at LateNightIM.com/093 or reach out to me on Twitter @Masonworld and I’d be happy to help you out.
Wrapping Things Up…
We’re a little over on time for the show today. I hope you enjoyed that.
Next week I have a treat for you. I’m going to be bringing you a talk that I gave at Social Media Marketing World. I was lucky to be able to be a speaker at Social Media Marketing World, and I did speak about small business internet marketing at that conference. The audio was captured there and I’ll be bringing that to you next week. I think you’ll enjoy that. There are slides that go along with that and I’ll provide those to you in the show notes next week.
Between now and next week, what I really want you to do is go to LateNightIM.com/bye and check out those videos from Michael Hyatt. These are the kinds of videos that can really make a difference in your life. I want you to see this stuff, I think you’ll really benefit from it.
Until next week, get something done on your business and we’ll see you soon.