Domain names are something that the internet, as we know it, couldn’t exist without. But how important are they, when it comes to affiliate marketing? Do you have to worry about choosing the most appropriate domain or can you just register whatever is available?
As always, the answer is not an easy one, and we have to analyze this a bit deeper. The determining factor here is, what are we actually trying to achieve. Are we going to build something, some site or some product … or are we just looking for something to put our promo material on?
The more long-term our goal is, the more important the domain name becomes. Let’s take a look at the possible options :
SIMPLE AFFILIATE CAMPAIGNS – USING PAID TRAFFIC
This is what I’m personally doing the most now : I buy visitors from traffic networks and send them to affiliate offers. To increase my conversions, I’m using Landing Pages pretty much all the time.
For this setup, I need at least 2 domains. First one is needed for tracking, the other one is used to host my landing pages. NOTE: I could actually do this without domains, but it’s not recommended, will explain below.
Tracking domain – this domain serves only for tracking purposes, your campaign links will always contain this domain since it will be tied to your tracking solution. Every tracker gives you the option to use a custom tracking domain, but some let you use their default domains – I don’t recommend this thou. If one of the users of the default tracking domain manages to do something REALLY nasty, the whole domain can get flagged (by google for example) and all users will be affected.
A campaign link with a custom tracking link can look like this :
When users clicks a link like this, they are sent to the tracker that records some information and redirects them to the destination specified in the setup of a particular campaign – the unique string at the end of the link tells the tracker what campaign it is.
This redirect happens so fast, that the user doesn’t really have a chance to notice it. This means, that whatever name you pick to serve as your tracking domain, it will have no effect on your conversions, since users don’t even notice it. Obviously, stay away from words like “porn, sex …” so it doesn’t get flagged by some parental filters for example. But any random name will do, I’ve seen tracking domains that looked like sometrckdmin.com, trckxyzdmn.com … it really doesn’t play a role.
Domains to host Landing Pages – here it’s getting more complicated, I’ve ran a lot of tests with LP domains, so I can give you a few tips.
1. Domains are more important with Desktop/WEB users compared to mobile. The main reason is, that the URL is not fully visible in mobile browsers.
2. Some verticals are more sensitive to domain names than others. For example the ADULT vertical responds pretty well to a bit more naughty domains compared to generic ones. Specific niches like healthcare, financial, diet, skincare … all of these work better, when the LP domain name matches the niche.
3. Based on a study on the STM Forum, done by one of the older moderators, words like “scam, cheat, fraud…” cause a domain to perform worse. Nothing surprising here.
4. Having the name of a country in the domain can help. For example, when running a dating campaign targeting German users, it would be a good idea to register a domain with the word “Deutschland” in it.
5. Domains can have an effect in case you are using entry or exit system alert windows, since those display the URL.
NOTE: You don’t need to buy a new domain for every new niche, vertical or country! Sub-domains and sub-directories are your friends. Register a generic domain and give it a niche feel by using the subs.
datingnews.com → datingnews.com/Deutschland OR deutschland.datingnews.com
newshealth247.com → weightloss.newshealth247.com OR newshealth247.com/skincare
Use common sense here and don’t mix niches/verticals that don’t go well together.
There is also a way to not use domain names for hosting LPs at all, by using CDN (Content Delivery Network) like rackspace.com for example. These services operate a network of servers across the globe and you can upload files to them – this assures fast loading times in whatever country your users are.
These services generate random URLs for you, that you can link to, without using a domain name. The LP URLs look like this in this case (it’s not a real link, I made it up as an example) :
You can modify the part starting with “/DIR/”. I’m using this method a lot in Mobile and it works like a charm. I even ran a test to find out whether it will perform worse than a targeted domain and it did NOT. Looks like mobile users don’t really give a damn about domains.
NOTE: CDNs are only good for static landing pages, you cannot use server side scrips on them.
BUILDING A PRODUCT OR A WEBSITE
In case you are aiming for something more advanced, like building an actual product, building an email list or simply a website where you want to get some search engine traffic … domain name becomes way more important.
One of the most important things you should focus on is Building a BRAND!
It’s always a good idea to build a BRAND, whatever you are working on. This helps your users to identify themselves with your product or become regular visitors of your site. Your domain name can become the brand.
Google also loves brands and authority websites – ever noticed how google suggests possible results while you are still typing the search query? These often resemble around brands and/or authority websites. If you manage to turn your domain name into an authority or a brand, you half-way won the SEO battle.
Check the domain name of this blog : Matuloo.com – try to google the term “matuloo” and you will see it on 1st place, which wasn’t the case a few weeks ago. Try to switch to image search and you will find images from my blog, or my photos. I’m slowly building the brand here – the fact that people link to my blog with the world “matuloo” in it, helps to establish the brand too.
In theory, once this blog get’s enough authority “points”, it should get a boost for all the other keywords too … let’s see if the theory is true, we should know in a few months.
Your brand can also contain a keyword that is related to the product/site you are building. Establishing a domain brand with a competitive keyword in it … this could really help your SEO efforts.
Don’t go nuts when looking for the perfect domain name tho, google isn’t putting as much weight on the keywords in domains anymore. The times of EMDs (exact match domains) are gone too. If you can find a domain related to your niche, definitely go for it, but put more efforts on the branding and gaining authority.
Domains VS Sub-Domains
While I recommend the use of sub-domains for simple affiliate campaigns, I do not recommend them when building sites with organic traffic in mind. This is one of those things that worked very well in the past, but google does not like them anymore. You should only use those, in case you want to develop relatively independent sections on one domain.
For example a classifieds portal with several sections like real-estate, cars, clothing … here it makes sense to use sub-domains as each of the sections can become huge. For the rest of cases, stay with sub-directories … they will do the job just fine and it won’t look spammy.
LET’S SUM IT ALL UP A BIT
This is not really a SEO blog, so I’m not gonna go deeper into this. I just wanted to illustrate the basic difference between the “Churn and Burn” approach of simple affiliate campaigns and a more advanced approach that building sites or products requires.
With simple campaigns, domains are just tools that you need to replace at some point anyways – they can get flagged, they don’t really carry any value, affiliates do not develop them … they are just sales tools at best. In many cases, you can use whatever domain you have, just follow some basic common sense rules. Heavy use of sub-domains and sub-directories is all fine and can help you utilize generic domains for many verticals.
When building sites or products, domains become way more important. They can become your BRANDs and help with your SEO efforts, so you should pay way more attention to them. Do not get obsessed with keywords in domains, those days are over, but turning a keyword related domain into an authority or a brand can still help you a lot. Try to limit the use of sub-domains in this case and focus more on directories for setting the site structure.
Thanks for reading!