Studies & Opinions
Optimizing Search Engine Presence
With Domain Name Portfolios
April 7, 2006
A large number of companies depend heavily on
search engines for their traffic. Yet, they have left themselves
vulnerable to unexpected changes in ranking. I propose a solution
using domain name portfolios to enhance their presence by increasing
traffic and reducing idiosyncratic risk.
Sources of search engine rank risk that are beyond
the company’s control include:
ranking fluctuations as a result of changes in search
engine ranking algorithms, new entrants in the keyword space,
and content modifications by keyword-result competitors.
Browser-specific. For the
same keyword entered in the browser’s URL box, Explorer and
Firefox, for example, default to different search results.
Thus, shifts in the popularity of a browser can produce significant
swings in traffic.
- Browser Tool Bar. When a searcher
adds or modifies the browser’s tool bar, the default search engine
The combination of these idiosyncratic effects
can be devastating to a company. Moreover, although (1) can be detected,
changes in (2) and (3) are unobservable by the company, and thus,
any resulting changes in traffic volume may not be easily accounted
One of the roles of corporate domain names is
to provide targeted traffic to a website through the use of domain
names with complementary keywords. However, domain names as a source of substitute traffic have
been ignored. Moreover, keyword advertising cannot duplicate the
latter role of domain names.
To reduce the above idiosyncratic risk factors
and to enhance traffic, I recommend using the following supplements:
Hyphenated domain names of a company’s brands.
Various signal neutral extensions, such as
The motivation behind a portfolio approach is
that when the ranking of one of the domain names drops unexpectedly,
others in the company’s portfolio may end up with a higher ranking.
Thus, reducing the risk of putting all the eggs in one basket.
To increase the likelihood of search engine listing
and reduce the potential of search engine spamming, a website’s
content should be divided among the above recommended domain names.
Thus, besides using domain names from complementary
traffic, a company should also register substitute domain names
to reduce search engine rank risk. However, instead of forwarding
them to the main website, the company should spread content across
the substitutes to increase search engine ranking and reduce search