Generic Domain Names in Ads Perform Better Than Non-generic Domain Names

Generic Domain Names in Ads Perform Better Than Non-generic Domain Names

In a search engine pay-per-click advertising campaign, achieving more clicks may simply be a matter of employing a generic domain name. Two studies show that the use of a generic domain name in search engine ads resulted in higher click-through rates (CTRs) compared to ads with a non-generic domain name.

Case Study on DivorceLawyer.com

In a case study by Karan Budhiraja of Root Orange, a firm that leases generic domain names to small businesses, it was found that ads containing a generic domain name correlated to higher CTRs and lower cost-per-clicks (CPC) than their non-generic counterparts.

The research subject, Vladimir & Associates, a law firm specializing in family law, was asked to conduct two consecutive one-month search engine marketing campaigns. In one campaign, the law firm’s domain name, VladimirLaw.com was used in the pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and in the second, the ads featured the generic domain name DivorceLawyer.com.

The results show that ads featuring DivorceLawyer.com outperformed those with the law firm’s name. Compared to the ads with VladimirLaw.com, the ads featuring the domain name DivorceLawyer.com:

  • Achieved a 298 percent higher CTR.
  • Decreased CPC by 21.3 percent.

There were about the same number of viewers each month, and other than the domain names, all other variables – ad headline, copy and landing page content – were kept consistent. Among other things, the study concluded that the generic domain name gave instant recognition of the services offered in the ads. In short, it reached more people who needed a divorce lawyer.

Choice of Generic Domain Name Matters

In a study by Memorable Domains, the UK-based domain name broker researched the benefits of using generic domain names in PPC ads. To conduct its study, Memorable Domains researchers first developed an 11-page content-rich website dedicated to electric bicycles.

Next they chose three domain names to use in ads for comparison: 1) ElectricBicycles.co.uk, 2) YourBikes.co.uk and 3) InAHurry.co.uk. ElectricBicycles.co.uk was considered the “ideal” keyword-matching generic domain name; YourBikes.co.uk contained an alternative generic keyword; and InAHurry.co.uk represented a brandable domain name.

The domains were separated into two test groups based on the search keywords “bicycle” or “bicycles” and “bike” or “bikes.” The ad headlines for each group used the targeted keyword. Within each group, only the URL differed in each ad; headline, copy and landing page were identical.

The “ideal” generic domain name yielded the best performance. After 12 days, the campaign achieved the following results:

  • The CTR of ads with the ElectricBicycles.co.uk domain was 15 percent higher than the YourBikes.co.uk ads and 42 percent higher than the InAHurry.co.uk ads.
  • The ElectricBicycles.co.uk ads produced 45 percent and 105 percent more clicks than the other two ads.

While the alternative generic keyword domain name, YourBikes.co.uk, also outperformed the non-generic URL, it did not generate as many clicks as the “ideal” domain. The study concludes that the choice of generic domain name itself is important. It should reflect the most popular keywords users search for. In fact, businesses might want to employ several generic domain names with different keywords depending on the emphasis of a given marketing campaign.

Generic Domains Match User Needs

Intuitively it makes sense that a user who searches, for example, on the phrase “motorcycle helmets” would be more likely to click on a website called “motorcylclehelments.com” or “motorcylclehelmentsonline.com” than one with a name such as “supersafebikers.com.” The two studies highlighted here support that supposition.

For a user, generic URLs make the choice of which ad to click simple. They relate directly to what users are looking for, and therefore are generally better at attracting visitors than ads featuring non-generic, brandable domain names. Even in the case of an established brand with a high degree of customer trust, a generic domain name could prove useful in a targeted search engine campaign.

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9 Responses to “Generic Domain Names in Ads Perform Better Than Non-generic Domain Names”

  1. […] at DomainSherpa.com posted an article of interest to businesses or individuals looking at securing primary or secondary […]

  2. Clobert Rine says:

    Great studies, but it would be nice if they took it one step further and tracked conversions to sale.

    I’m sure the generics still work a lot better, but just to validate it would be a good idea.

    • Astrid William says:

      Clobert: agreed, just as I wrote to JR…perhaps I can do a follow-up article after I contact the legal firm. Thanks for your comment too.

  3. JR says:

    It’d be difficult but also very informative if one could do a similar experiment with physical ads such as billboards. In the Lakeland-FL there is a billboard that uses the domain name “SinkHole(dot)com”. It is one of the few domain names I have remembered to when I get home and have a chance to type it in.

    I also wonder if this research will show up in eMarketer at some point. And the big question remaining is if the ROI for the lawfirm increased.

    • Astrid William says:

      Hi JR,

      Good points.

      With respect to SinkHole.com, I believe that — to your point — having a descriptive domain name that addresses a potential customer’s problem is much more memorable than something like RobertsLandscaping.com (for example). And it’s much more memorable than a vanity phone number too.

      With respect to your ROI question, the investment is advertising is the same. In other words, the ads cost the same on Google AdWords, for example, whether you’re using a generic keyword domain name or not. However, to your point, the law firm had an expense to acquire DivorceLawyer.com, and measuring the ROI of that expense versus the improved return over a period of a few years would be interesting. I’ll have to look into that further, perhaps for a follow-on article.

  4. Tomas says:

    Very good info. These are conclusions that we probably already had in our minds but just by intuition, its great to see that theres certain evidence supporting it. Specially when some people are claiming that the power of generics will decrease with the current trend of search engine integration within browsers. Im glad that generics outperform non generics :)

    • Astrid William says:

      That’s exactly true, Tomas. While Google may be able to change their algorithm and affect rankings of sites for a specific query, user’s inclinations and habits are not so easily changed. And we should not forget that Google is trying to provide users with what they want…

  5. TJ says:

    I think my portfolio value just went up 100%. LOL

    Great article. Very interesting.

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