Everyone knows that it is advantageous to be ranked high on Google’s organic search results, and that a generic keyword domain name can get you there. Among generic domain names, the crème de la crème is a single-word, industry-defining domain name – such as toothpaste.com. But even with the inherent superiority of such a domain name, its value is undermined if the company that owns it does not develop a useful website on that domain, a website that can reach the top rankings of search engines.
Such is the case with toothpaste.com, owned by the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G). P&G is not capitalizing on the marketing value of its domain name and, as a result, spends money it should not have to buying supplemental pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
By not putting toothpaste.com to full use, P&G wastes more than $500,000 every year.
Generic Domain Names and Trusted Brands Rank Best
When search engines like Google index websites, they take into account many factors. Of all these factors, having an exact-match .com domain name with the search keyword is one of the most powerful ways to rank a website at the top of the results.
Beyond keyword matches, brand is becoming an increasingly significant factor in search engine results. SEOmoz Q&A Manager Lindsay Wassell noted, “Exact-match domains, while still highly effective today are beginning to wane in power. Google is getting better at distinguishing between ‘domain ownership because it is the company name’ and ‘domain ownership because it is a valuable generic term.'” That trend gives an advantage to large brands – such as P&G, Bank of America, and Microsoft – that also own generic keyword domain names.
In one of his regular YouTube webmaster Q&A videos (below), Matt Cutts, the head of the Search Quality group at Google, confirmed that big companies are ranking high for major keywords as a result of the “trust, authority, reputation, PageRank and high quality” that their brand, company and website provides. In other words, customers instinctively trust large companies with known brands over small companies with unfamiliar brands, and that preference is being reflected in search results.
If a well-established company were to combine those two factors – a trusted brand with a fully developed generic-keyword domain name – they could hit the jackpot in search result rankings. With toothpaste.com, P&G has the potential to do just that.
Building a Real Website Will Get a Domain Name Ranked
For a large company to capitalize on both its brand and its generic-keyword domain name, it must fully develop a website for that domain name. As Cutts states in the video, “The Google philosophy on search results, [which] has been the same pretty much forever, is that [when] somebody comes to Google and types in X, we want to return high quality information about X. And sometimes that’s a brand search, sometimes that’s an informational search, sometimes it’s navigational, sometimes it’s transactional.”
Delivering high quality information means that the search results will favor a website with original content that provides specific information on the topical search. Christian Walter, chief technology officer at NowYo.com, points out that Google gives websites with a generic domain name a chance to rank at the top of the organic search results. If a user of Google searches and clicks on a link, the user then takes one of two actions at the resulting website: 1) stays on the site and continues to browse because it provides useful information, or 2) hits the back button, returning to the Google search results to try another link. Google can determine what the user does in either case, and if the latter, then Google stores that information – that the website was not useful to the user for that specific query.
In the case of P&G and toothpaste.com, the algorithm for ranking Google search results can recognize that every link on the toothpaste.com page leads off-site to crest.com or another P&G-owned website. So while Google’s algorithm can determine that the domain name is owned by a trustworthy source, it can also tell that the website (only two pages of which are in Google’s index; image below) is nothing more than a holding page for P&G’s more useful resources like crest.com, scopemouthwash.com and crestplusscope.com. As a result, Google does not rank toothpaste.com in the Top 50 websites for the search query “toothpaste.”
The Unrealized Marketing Value of Toothpaste.com Is More Than $500,000 Per Year
The big deal about ranking well in organic search results of course is the marketing exposure a company gets for very little cost. But just how much is that marketing exposure worth?
The annual equivalent marketing value of ranking at the top of the organic search results can be calculated from the exact-match monthly search volume, average cost per click (CPC) and click-through rate. (Coincidentally, this is how Andrew Rosener, founder and CEO of Media Options, determines the value of a premium generic .com domain name – by calculating the equivalent marketing value of the domain.)
Based on the Google AdWords information below, the equivalent marketing value over a 12-month period of toothpaste.com is $313,513 if focused only on the United States search population, or $523,530 if focused on the worldwide search population.
The Realized Marketing Cost of Toothpaste.com Is More Than $500,000 Per Year
P&G is the world’s biggest advertiser. The company spent more than $9 billion in fiscal year 2011 on advertising through TV, newspaper, radio, Internet and billboard ads. Although P&G does not disclose how the $9 billion breaks out by advertising channel, trade publication Advertising Age reports that the company’s top-spending brands in the United States were Olay, Cover Girl, Gillette, Tide and Crest.
Even without knowing the specifics, it is reasonable to assume that P&G is spending at least $500,000 to market its oral-health products online simply by noting that P&G has purchased AdWords in positions 2, 4 and 5 (crestprohealth.com, 3dwhite.com, crest.com) on the right-hand side of the page for the keyword “toothpaste.”
P&G Is Missing the Boat on the Marketing Opportunity of Domain Names
P&G clearly recognizes the power of marketing (and is not afraid to spend money on it) – the company has built its market capitalization of $170 billion through superior marketing over 174 years in business. And in the purchase of toothpaste.com, the company demonstrated that it understands the value of a generic industry-defining domain name.
However, owning a generic domain name is not enough. Like many companies, P&G has failed to make full use of the power of domain names in advertising and marketing. It is understandable really. The intricacies of using domain names as an advertising channel are unfamiliar to most Madison Avenue-type firms, which are likely to be managing the marketing efforts of large brands. Such agencies generally are valued for their creativity and campaign management, not for negotiating the purchase of domain names and developing search-engine optimized websites.
In addition, many advertising agencies make a flat commission from managing the annual spend of their customers’ marketing budget. That makes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising a favorite recommendation to include in a customer’s marketing plan – the more a customer spends, the more an advertising firm earns.
Building a website for toothpaste.com, on the other hand, is a one-time project, not an ongoing, billable advertising campaign. It is done when the advertising firm finishes what has been approved by the customer. (Although, arguably, the website should be updated yearly as trends in searching and web usage continue to evolve.)
Contrast P&G’s toothpaste.com with Unilever’s peanutbutter.com, the website URL for Skippy peanut butter. Instead of not appearing in the results, peanutbutter.com is ranked No. 3 out of more than 48 million results in Google’s index – a field more competitive than toothpaste. Because it ranks in the Top 3, Unilever does not have to purchase PPC advertising, as is the case with its competitors Smuckers (twice in the below screenshot) and Adam’s. I say, “Yippee for Skippy!”
What P&G Can Do to Own the Toothpaste Category
So what can P&G do now to capitalize on its generic .com domain name? Here is a short list of actions P&G should take:
- Show its advertising firm and/or in-house marketing team this article.
- Notify them that domain names must be part of their strategic marketing plan going forward.
- Identify all generic domain name assets currently owned by P&G that are underutilized, such as toothpaste.com.
- Identify all other generic domain name assets that P&G should own, and complete a return on investment analysis for acquiring such domain names. Acquire domain names, as appropriate.
- Shift marketing resources to developing a definitive website resource on available domain names, using the skills of a search engine optimization professional.
- Reduce online PPC advertising on a weekly basis aligned with the increase in organic search result click-throughs from Google and other search engines.
- Send DomainSherpa.com a thank you note, and provide its shareholders an update on how its leaders are being better stewards of their investment.
Make the Most of a Generic Domain Name
Advertising and marketing plans for domain names should not end with acquiring the single-word, generic, industry-defining domain name. Type-in traffic is not enough to support a proper return on investment, nor should it be enough for a company’s tactical marketing plan.
After acquiring a generic domain name, like toothpaste.com, a company needs to set up the definitive site for that topic. Doing so will not only produce a revenue generation opportunity, but will also reduce a company’s ongoing advertising expense. Large companies in particular can combine the power of their brands with generic domain names for the best rankings on search engine results. For P&G, developing out toothpaste.com and moving to the top of the organic search results could lead to an annual savings of more than half a million dollars.
[Cover image credit: Image: Scott Chan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net, modified by DomainSherpa]
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