Insights from 30,000+ Naming and Branding Projects

Overcoming the Search Paradox for Brandable Domains


For the last two decades, companies have been investing Billions of dollars in SEO every year with a goal to achieve high rank in the organic search results. In the early days of SEO, concepts such as “Keyword stuffing” were quite popular. The idea was to fill your website with tons of targeted keywords in order to “trick” the search engines in ranking your website higher than others. Over the last several years, Google’s search algorithm has achieved a high degree of sophistication, making these traditional practices not only obsolete, but also dangerous. Google now relies on the concept of “Semantic Search” where it pays less attention to the actual keywords, but more attention to the contextual relevance of search intent.

On the retail front, a similar transformation is occurring. With the rise of Amazon as the world’s largest retailer,  Marketplace sellers are applying  ‘Amazon SEO’ for their products listed on Amazon to rank higher in search results. The idea is simple – the higher that your product ranks on the search results page, the more potential buyers that see it. In order to ensure the integrity of search results, Amazon’s search algorithm has also undergone significant transformation and it relies on a combination of Data and AI to show relevant results based upon purchase intent.

The Search Paradox for Brandable Domains

Just like Online Search and Online Retail, similar discovery challenges exist for domain names. Names that are rich in industry keywords continue to claim the top positions in search results across most Marketplaces.

When a Buyer is looking for Brandable Domains,  they typically search for broad keywords such as “Fitness” or big ideas such as “Trust”. If your domain contains these literal keywords, it has the potential to naturally rank high in the search results. However, therein lies the paradox. Many buyers searching for broad industry or category related keywords do not typically want these exact keywords to be included in the name. For example, it is unlikely for an online retailer to use the words “online” or “retail” in their name even though they might use “online retail” as the broad keywords to search for names in the Marketplace.

An analysis of our top keyword searches confirms this hypothesis: 

Source: Google Analytics – Top 15 Keyword Searches in SH Marketplace (June)

As you can see, most of these searches appear to be for broad categories. What the buyer actually means is “Show me names related to Beauty” however the Marketplace Search algorithm interprets it as “Show me names that contain the word Beauty

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that names that include industry keywords are bad. When used correctly, industry keywords can work great. For example, names such as FitBit, Paypal and ModCloth make extremely powerful brands. However in a multi word name, there must be synergies among the words to create a viable brand. While Fitbit is a great brand name, “” would be a poor and unappealing choice as a brand name for a clothing retailer.

The main challenge for brandable domains is that keyword rich domains are much more easily discovered, both in the registration path as well as in a Marketplace search. As a result, there are more sales reported with such keyword rich domains and that leads to a vicious cycle – domain investors continue to invest in all combinations of industry keywords, even though many such combinations lack the synergy needed to create a compelling brand.

Improving Discovery For Brandable Domains

Imagine there is a Yoga company, looking to launch a Yoga App. If they search for the keyword “Yoga”, they will see all kinds of names which include “Yoga”. So how do you improve the visibility of a brandable name such as “Flexhale” when someone is searching for names for a Yoga app.

A hand-reg name submitted to a Squadhelp Contest

The answer lies in two parts:

1. Marketplaces Must Evolve Search Algorithms To Improve Discovery

It is time for Marketplaces to move beyond the traditional “keyword search” based discovery to a contextual discovery. For example at SH, we have begun investing in AI as well as other contextual signals to help buyers find names that are based upon their intent rather than explicit keywords.

We now look beyond the literal keywords to generate recommendations that are relevant to the context of the search. In doing so, we look at word associations as well as several other signals to create clusters of similar buyers as well as clusters of similar names. This is how we are able to associate names like “CupidMile”, “TrulyDate”, “Romancio” to a name such as “LoveNote”. This way, when a customer is searching for “Dating” related names, we can recommend other names that are relevant but do not necessarily contain the “Dating” keyword.

While we have laid the initial groundwork, there is a lot more work to be done to further improve the discovery experience.

2. Domain Investors Must Invest In Merchandising To Improve Exposure

As a Domain Investor, there is an opportunity cost of not merchandising especially for Brandable domains. By adding descriptions, root words, and category associations, you are “training” the Marketplace algorithm about the context in which the name can be relevant. This can significantly increase the possibility that your brandable name will be shown to the relevant buyers when they are looking for names in that category.

For example, in the above example (Flexhale), if you add the associated root words (Flexibility, Exhale, Breathe), you are providing a much better context to the search algorithm. Similarly, you can associate the name to Yoga/ Fitness categories, as well as write a description that not only explains the brand to end user, it also helps the search engine in discovering that name.

If you invest in Brandable Domains, and you are currently not merchandising your domains, you are not maximizing your portfolio sell through to its fullest potential.

There are still millions of high quality Brandable domains waiting to be discovered, and it will take collective effort on the part of Marketplaces, Registrars as well as domain investors to get them the exposure they rightfully deserve.

About the author

Darpan Munjal

Darpan is Founder and CEO of

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