Domain Names Are Mostly Irrelevant

Apr 22 2012

This is the title of an article from Henry Cooke over at No doubt the title was created to draw attention but his article doesn’t stray very far from the headline. In a nutshell, he states the more generic the domain, the more irrelevant it is. They are TOO generic. Add to the fact that most of the generic terms lead to ads and bad content, users no longer are giving extra credit to the super generic. And I can’t say I completely disagree. But

Henry Cooke is just stating his opinion without much knowledge about the value of a solid generic. He didn’t even know about the SEO value of a domain. He relies on on David Castello’s comment to inform him of basic info and examples.

David J Castello #1 11:27am

You missing the reason why certain generic domains can be very, very valuable. Branding. For example, was already an extremely successful business when they acquired for mid seven figures. The immediate result? A 15+% jump in revenue.

To which Cooke reponds with the “oh well then” type comment

@1 This is true, and that %15 stat is incredible. The SEO power of a good domain is obviously very important, and probably with more traditional type buisnesses (like hotel booking) the generic domain can be much more important, rather than pure web services.

So now he realizes they may have more value than just vanity names.  Yes, he calls them vanity names

Generic word domain names are all right, but I would class them more as vanity purchases (think “” for The Weather Channel, or “” for CNet) than an essential marketing strategy. Just think – Apple don’t own “”. If you are starting a new web service and you want to spend millions of dollars on a URL like “” then stop, build a better product, and sort out an excellent SEO (search engine optimisation) team. Note: Yeah they spell optimize with an “S” in the land down under.

So here is what I agree with.  A brand can be just as competitive and successful without a generic domain.  It all depends on what you are trying to sell. would certainly rather have had  And would rather have had to sell their kayaks.   But you buy what you can afford and build from there.  So I agree that generics aren’t necessary, but he missed the point that they add incredible value to your SEO and brand memorability.  Also, I do agree that a super generic can be boring.  Its like the can of beer from the 70’s that said “Beer”.   They can come across as cheap and bland without the branding.  The same can be said about some generics.

I also admit that all the parking and holding pages on some of the great names is slowly eating at respect level of the net’s user base.  Originally people assumed that a great name had to be owned by a big company.  A category leader.  Now they are starting to realize they are owned by all kinds of people.  Most of whom have no idea about the business of the domain they own.  But it doesn’t matter.  There were lots of people that owned beach front property that didn’t like the beach or do anything special with the land.  Its an investment.  And a damn good one.

So Mr. Cooke.  Don’t be jealous.  Just because you don’t understand the value is no reason to say there is none.  Google gives generics preference for a reason.  I would imagine that someone else owning your very common name started the “rant”

This was kind of a rant – but it just seems like a silly practice. The only domain squatting I approve of is grabbing your kid’s one when he/she is born. Because someone owns “” and they don’t even use it.

I didn’t get as many shares of Apple as I had liked when I was younger.  I would have liked to pay $25 a share again. Cooke would just bitch about how Apple is too expensive and doesn’t have value while I am still buying shares because I realize that anyone that is a big part of how and what we do on the net is something I want to be part of.  And yes, domains are a big part of how and what we do on the Internet.

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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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  1. Acro

    I received the same alert 😉 Don’t be so hard on the writer, he’s a student but he works for an established online publication in New Zealand.

    Now, search for “stuff” in Google and pops almost at the top and is nowhere to be found. Why? Because the owners of forward the domain instead of developing it. In that sense, a generic’s value is determined by how it’s being used.

  2. rathead

    as long as people keep getting fatter and fatter they’ll be less and less likely to ever leave the house and domains will keep becoming more valuable… and before i start taking advice from people in NEW zealand i just like to think about what happened to everyone in
    OLD zealand.

  3. Troy

    “Originally people assumed that a great name had to be owned by a big company. A category leader. Now they are starting to realize they are owned by all kinds of people”

    Great point.

    It is funny to watch the “Pro Domain/Anti Domain” arguments unfold.

    Its like having a “Pro Condo/Pro Family Home” argument. The condo people have arguments when family homes are inferior and unnecessary, the pro family homes people have arguments on why condos are inferior and unnecessary.

    Truth be told both sides can be correct. It just depends on what you like and what you are looking for. People have done it both ways.

    If you truly want to change an industry and have a product of superior quality then you can do it without a premium domain, ala Instagram.

    If you have a product that is average, but a great domain name then you can be successful as well, ala

    If you have millions of dollars to brand and develop your product then you can be very successful, ala or

    Truth is nobody “gets it”. Everyone is too busy arguing to realize that the other side has a point too=)

    Domains have value sure, they have been abused and might be loosing some perceptive value with each new ad riddled landing page sure, but they are still a great way to brand without dropping millions (or tens of millions).

  4. Rossco

    It would have been good idea if Mr Cooke had done a little research closer to home. Asked his country’s Tourism Department how well they are doing with The site was formerly on a non intuitive brandable domain.

  5. Devon

    Great post, Shane. People are waking up and getting it, albeit just a little slower than expected. As everyone knows, there’s a ton of money in vanity. Just ask any reality show bimbo. 😀

  6. sem

    Truth is domains are worth more now than ever. Good brands and generics are worth a ton of money. Brands vs generics is a false comparison. Marketing intentions are widely different. If you want to have good exposure, get the best brand possible. If you want the best search-engine rankings, better buy the generic. The internet is the marketing tool of today and tomorrow. So if you don’t have the right generic for your company, you will lose lots of customers.

    Google is still about generic words, and that won’t be changing soon. Words and numbers are the stable of the computer language world, not pictures or logos. Logos are of course helpful but nothing trumps words and numbers in terms of the internet. As long as people are searching for things, words and numbers will rule. This is why generics dominate on the internet and why the dewey decimal system ruled for many years in libraries. They are categorization systems. A “brand” can’t replace that or serve as a category flag.

  7. sem


    Good point. The value of the domain can be also determined by how it is being used and search-engine rankings. Very true.

  8. Bobolob

    “Note: Yeah they spell optimize with an “S” in the land down under.” Actually, they spell it with an “S” in England too. You know, where the English language comes from.

    1. Post author


      :). I do realize we Americans screwed up the language. Took out the “u”s and added phonetic spelling . Screwed it all up

  9. CloudDomainers

    We agree. The most generic domains are not the best SEO option. People are not typing in movies in the search engine to find movie facts, movies explained, movie trivia, movie quotes, movie tickets, movie endings, movie spoilers and etc. is a solid type-in. It gets ranked in many categories. However, moviegoers are searching for specific content. We can support this with many exact movie keywords that produce traffic based on SEO.

    100% of domainers would want to own At 3 million+ unique per month, the website probably cost a lot to advertise and run.

    Developing a super generic site may not be the bedf strategy, even for SEO purposes. and barely deliver any traffic. Most brandable job sites outperform and outperforms Domainers will say top genetics matter most. We would have to disagree with that notion.

  10. KimO

    The basic characteristics of a great name still apply for both brand names and generic names. Short, easy-to-spell, easy-to-pronounce, no funky spellings … and .com!

  11. Anon

    Google is still about generic words, and that won’t be changing soon.

    It already has changed.
    Google has aggressively started developing semantic relationships between keywords and brand identifiers.

    There’s no doubt that properly developed generic domains- that offer some kind of relevant user experience- can give certain SE advantages, but I just looked at three things in this room right now- a lamp, a table and a television.

    P1 organic for “Lamps” is “” is P1 for “tables” gets P1 for “televisions”.

    Notice a trend?

    Matt Cutts has talked about exactly this in videos. I won’t bother digging it out because I’m not in an altruistic mood right now, but the truth is out there if you want to find it. You won’t find it in domainer-dogmas.

  12. Jon

    Forget about SEO value, branding and type-in traffic. Those are additional benefits. Domains are prime real estate and names, which are purchased for positioning. It could be the positioning of a product or its entire company. Whether a company buys a name for memorability, vanity, or to keep it away from its competitor makes no difference. As long as there is perceived value, it will be valuable. Business is business.

    Prime examples:,

    Social and mobile are increasingly changing the web and as domainers, no scratch that, as business people we must adapt, but that only means domains will be even more important – generics, keywords, or brandables alike.

    This is your address on the web, remember that.

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