Navigational, Branded Search: WebSite101 Domain Name Tutorial

Get a Business Domain Name

One thing you tend to notice as an Search Engine Optimization Specialist is that a huge percentage of search referral traffic comes from branded search terms and/or URL’s typed into search engines instead of the search bar. It’s a frustration in analytics and reporting due to the need to filter out those pointless terms from statistics data. There is no challenge whatsoever in ranking for your domain name or branded terms

Some web sites see as much as 90% of their search referrals come from their company name and they think they are doing well at search engines when less than 10% of their traffic comes from search engines. Let me tell you that if your site doesn’t see at LEAST 40 to 70 percent of its’ TOTAL traffic from search, then you are doing very poorly.

There are two sides to this coin though. Domain names can contribute substantially to that total search referral traffic if they include your brand and/or major keywords in the URL. That’s two different things. Brand or keywords in the domain name. And if your analytics tell you that branded terms are driving the majority of your search traffic, then you need to do some serious SEO work on your site. If your major keywords are in that domain name, congratulations, because that helps (incrementally) to rank well for those keywords. But by the nature of domains and the number of keyword phrases most sites should target, you can only do so much there.

If you Search for WebSite101, you’ll see that we qualify for Google Sitelinks.

Now this happens only with sites that would otherwise get linked from the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google. There can only be one result for that button and that result gets those “Site Links” when you do a normal search.

But recently I’ve been noticing several articles about navigational searches on brands and domains. ReadWriteWeb’s story, which starts by discussing the recent Yahoo Special K Television commercials that suggest you “Go to Yahoo and search Special K” and gives further examples of people typing domain names or brands into search engines

Here’s a quote from Josh Catone at RWW on the navigational search phenomenon:

According to a Compete last fall, navigational searches make up about 17% of all searches on average, more on Yahoo! and Live than on Google. For well-known web sites, Compete found that about 9 out of the top 10 search terms for that site tend to be some sort of variation on the domain. Surprisingly, people actually often search for entire domain names rather than type them into their browser’s address bar.

That kind of odd laziness that makes people type full URL’s into a search box THEN click on results to make it a two step process instead of the single step of the address bar. If people tried typing Yahoo or Google or CNN in their address bars, they’d see that the rest instantly fills in for them if they’ve been there within the past few weeks and haven’t cleared their browser history. But apparently everyone has developed the habit, find it easier to search a domain name than to go directly there. What odd behavior – but who knew that it would account for such a high percentage of search traffic? How much search traffic would Google lose (along with Adwords income) if people used the address bar when they know the domain name?

Does any of that make you think twice before buying your next domain? Come on – give it some thought, some serious thought. Keywords (not brands) are hard to rank for – so wouldn’t keyword phrases make more sense in your next domain name? Look at the URL above in the address bar. I’d like to rank for WebSite101 Domain Name Tutorial. Hmmm.

Get a Business Domain Name



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Search Engine Veteran - Enterprise SEO & Small Business Entrepreneurs. Advisor to startups for pre-launch optimization SEO Audits & consulting.