Longer Domain Names Arrive

Longer Domain Names Arrive

From The Search Engine Report
Jan. 4, 2000

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Several domain name registrars are now selling names of up to 63 characters long (67 if you include the .com, .net or .org portions), which has sparked a wave of speculation that these longer names pose new opportunities with search engines. I've been flooded with questions on this subject, so here's a look at the issues involved.

In the past, .com, .net and .org domain names were generally limited to 22 characters (26 including the extensions). Now that the limit has been raised, names that were never possible to register are available. From a marketing standpoint, the new names offer some possibly significant value. From a search engine standpoint, the value is negligible.

Let's start with marketing. The advantage of having a domain name based on a generic term is obvious -- it's easy to remember for those thinking of finding a site about that product or service. Sites like cars.com, pets.com, news.com are just some examples of businesses that have been capitalizing on generic terms successfully, from a marketing perspective.

The longer domain names may offer a similar marketing advantage, to some businesses. For instance, "yosemitecampingreservations.com" is now possible. Potentially, someone could register that name, then hope that anyone looking for "Yosemite camping reservations" would run the words together and slap on a .com. Additionally, this company could run marketing campaigns and hope that the name would stick in people's memories.

Now for search engines. Does having yosemitecampingreservations.com (or yosemite-camping-reservations.com) mean a guaranteed rise to the top of search engine listings? Absolutely not. Could it help? Perhaps a little -- and only a little, in my opinion. I have looked at numerous cases where people are sure that having the terms in their domain names is what has improved their rankings. In all of these cases, I've found that there are plenty of other factors that are also coming into play. Nothing has convinced me that the URL text is a secret weapon, and you see plenty of examples of sites that continue to rank well without having keywords in their domain names.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade but rather put expectations in perspective. It probably won't hurt to register some long domains that contain your keywords in them; it even might help a little, but don't expect miracles from it.

For further information, I put the question out to some of the crawler-based services, and here are the responses I got just before the holidays:

"Keywords in the domain name do not help much in ranking. We look at half a dozen factors in ranking. The words on the page, their frequency and position on the page, are still among the most important factors," said Don Dodge, AltaVista's Director of Engineering.

Inktomi said that it tries to list a site first in its results if the domain name matches the query and if the term is unique. For instance, look for Quokka, and it's likely Quokka.com will be first in Inktomi's results, as it is a unique word. But search for "sports," which is more generic, and you'll find that being "sports.com" is not particularly helpful.

"When the search term or the domain name is pretty generic, then the URL name becomes less important and is only a minor factor that influences the ranking of results," said Andrew Littlefield, Inktomi's Director of Search.

As for Go, "At this time we do not appreciably upweight matches on URL paths --- so having a very explicit domain will not help a site much," said Jan Pedersen, Go's Director of Search.

Registrars race to profit from longer domain names
News.com, Dec. 20, 1999

A look at the hype over long domain names, from a marketing perspective.

ICANN List of Accredited and Accreditation-Qualified Registrars

A list of all official registrars that can register domain names, though not all can yet issue the longer ones. And ICANN really deserves a ding for failing to post any information about the longer domain names on its site. This was a huge change, and as the body overseeing the domain name process, it failed and is still failing to keep the Internet community properly informed.


An accredited registrar that can handle long domain name requests -- no particular recommendation, just one that I know of offhand.

Network Solutions

Yes, you can also register long domain names with the granddaddy of registrars -- though unbelievably, it took the company nearly a month to catch up with its competitors in offering this ability.


Quickly discover if a domain name is available, along with whether a trademark for the term has been registered, discover related words, and more. A great tool. It's not yet long domain name capable, however.

Domain Notes

A great resource for all things domain. Helpful links, news and a wizard to find domain names.

Prank or profit? Web name auctioned off for $10 mln
Reuters, Jan. 3, 2000

Year2000.com may have been sold for $10 million -- now that's hype, if it pans out.

A longer and more detailed version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." This is just one of the many benefits that site subscribers receive. Click here to learn more about becoming a site subscriber.