The Agent's Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Domain in 2019
Real estate agents and brokers: are you struggling with picking a domain name?
You’re not alone. It’s easy to feel hopeless when there are thousands of other real estate agents in your market who have seemingly taken all of the “good” domain names. Don’t let that discourage you! I’ve found that many of the domains that real estate agents think are good choices really aren't that great.
Let’s delve deep into some strategies and tips that will help you determine the best domain for your real estate business
Exact Match vs Brand
Let’s discuss the two different strategies that real estate agents use to pick their domain.
You’ve probably noticed how many of your competitors try to reappropriate a common search query as their domain. For example, these domains will look something like “atlantagahomesforsale.com”. This is called an exact match strategy and people do this because they believe that it will increase their chances of ranking organically for a popular search query.
In the past, this strategy was far more powerful than it is today. However, experts within the field of search engine optimization have shown that over time Google has been giving less and less weight to an exact match domain. Even in a video made by Google, they seem to imply that building up a unique brand name may be more beneficial in the long run.
Examples of exact match domains include:
Creating a branded domain involves creating a unique and memorable name that isn’t directly related to what people are searching for. In the real estate world, a national example of this would be Zillow.
Without prior experience on their website, you would never be able to guess Zillow is a real estate website. But they have the benefit of a short and unique name that is extremely memorable. Would they have had the same level of success if their website was called “BrowseHousesOnline.com”? I don’t think so.
At the local level, I wouldn’t exactly suggest making up an entirely new word such as "Zillow". Instead, mention or imply your geographic region in your domain name. A locally branded domain would be something like “MemphisRealty.com” or “HoustonElite.com”. There are a lot of possibilities and you can get very creative with your choices!
More examples include:
Both an exact match or branded strategy can work, it really just boils down to your personal preference and goals. If you’re thinking about having your website be a place where people return to visit, then a memorable brand name is probably the way to go. If you’re looking for the absolute best shot at ranking high for a very specific keyword, then the exact match strategy may be the best option.
Avoid Using Your Name or Brokerage
If you’re a solo real estate agent you might be thinking about using your personal name as your domain name. After all, you’re the person that will be showing people homes and is the face of your business. However, I would advise against doing so.
Using your own name simply won’t provide any benefit to you. For example, take a look at the following Google search results:
Both results are exactly the same, except for the domain name. Which result would a homebuyer intuitively gravitate towards?
Even though “Sandstone Realty” doesn’t refer to any specific geographic region, it still signals that the website has something to do with real estate. The name "Thomas Medlin" provides no such signal to the searcher. Unless that person is nationally known, they will simply be seen as a stranger. People naturally trust a domain that can be readily understood.
Allow me to explain the psychological reason behind this phenomenon. Humans have a cognitive bias called processing fluency. If there are words or phrases in your domain that are familiar to someone, they are more likely to develop a positive association with that domain. Basically, our brains like it when something intuitively makes sense and we don’t have to waste processing power trying to understand it.
Following this principle, unfamiliar domains take longer for people to process and understand. Nearly all of the searchers in Google will be unfamiliar with your name, and thus they will be more likely to develop a negative association with your domain as a result. When you are competing against other domains in the organic search results whose purpose is easily understood you'll lose out on clicks.
You may be thinking “but what if my name doesn’t show up in Google when people search it?”. Don’t worry, your name will still show up on searches even if you don’t use it in your domain. Simply build an “About Me” page on your websites and write some content about yourself, and your page will be a top result when your name is Googled.
Another major downside is that your website becomes linked to your own name. Think for a moment about the long term. What if you want to sell your website at some point in the future? What if you wanted to pass the website on to someone else?
A domain name that is directly tied to one person can complicate these actions. The same principle applies to the inclusion of your brokerage in your domain. You may change brokerages and will then be stuck with an inaccurate domain.
Think from the mindset of future-proofing your online presence. Bottom line: pick a domain that will last forever!
Use a .com Domain Extension
As frustrating as it may be, you should go for a .com domain. Even though there are new and relevant extensions like .realtor and .realestate, ordinary people are inclined to trust the .com extension considerably more. As a result, I wouldn’t risk your online credibility with an alternative extension.
Also, think about the practicality of trying to explain your domain to others. Most people would be a little thrown off to hear that your website was “joesmith.realtor”. They’d intuitively want to add another .com to the end of it.
Frankly, your domain would just look weird to people. These NAR domains may be worthwhile once public awareness increases, but I would not recommend their use currently.
Be Cautious of Trademarks
Many real estate agents use the word “realtor” in their domains. “Realtor” is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors. It’s not a generic word, meaning that there are specific rules dictating how it can be used in a domain name. Risk running afoul with those rules and the NAR could initiate legal action against you.
Ensure that you are informed of any possible trademarks in your domain by searching the United States Patent Office.
Make Your Domain Authoritative
Your domain should be as short as possible and aesthetically pleasing. It’s safe to say we’ve all seen the comically long and hard to remember domains like “Atlanta-BuyAndSellRealEstate.com”. These domains do not instill a high degree of confidence in those who view them.
You want to choose a domain that people could reasonably remember and trust. It helps to imagine that people will be linking to your website all across the web. Does your domain look trustworthy when written out? When read aloud does it make sense? Following this principle, hyphens and numbers in your domain name are typically difficult to remember and look spammy.
The domain should appear authoritative and relevant to your line of work. You’re a real estate professional and your domain name will likely be on your business card. What will clients think of your judgment when they see your domain name? You want every aspect of yourself to exude quality and competency.
Protect your Domain
It’s smart to register all of the other widely used and available domain extensions for your selected domain, such as .net and .org. This is because someone could try to hijack your domain’s search results or try to impersonate you. This is a rare occurrence, but the added cost is worth the peace of mind.
Check Social Media Usernames
Consistent branding across the internet matters. You ideally want your social media profiles to match the same name as your domain. If you arrive at two equally attractive domains, I would go with the one that has the same social media usernames available. Use a checker like Knowem to quickly check all available social media profiles.
However, 100% consistent branding is not a must. If you need to slightly alter your social media usernames due to availability issues, that isn’t a dealbreaker. Ensuring that you have a high-quality domain name is far more important than securing social media usernames.
Leverage the Creativity of Others
An unfortunate reality is that a majority of domains you will be interested in are taken. Real estate agents have had websites for decades now, and there’s stiff competition in most cities. I would try to remain steadfast in your commitment and not settle on a domain that you do not truly love. It could very well be around for decades!
If you’re like me you may occasionally struggle in the creativity department. I’ve spent many hours staring at the screen trying to come up the perfect domain. In the end, I had to put away my pride and reach out to others for input. Contacting your friends and family for input can be extremely helpful during the brainstorming process. They aren’t short on opinions or ideas and will provide you with valuable feedback.
There are actually people that you can hire to find available domain name ideas. I have found extremely talented people for as cheap as $15 on Fiverr. Some of these freelancers brainstorm domain names for a living! They can take abstract instructions and deliver catchy and available domains. Reach out to a freelancer if you’re in desperate need!
Lastly, there are some free tools that you can find to generate domain name ideas. I’ve had minimal levels of success with these tools, but they are an option!
Buying Domain Names
Instant Domain Search is by far the best tool I have used to search for domains. It will not only allow you to search for different domains but also provides a generator if you’re stuck. There’s also a section of the tool where you can search domains for sale.
Depending on your budget, it may be worthwhile to purchase a domain from a marketplace. You can search sites like GoDaddy Auctions and Sedo to get an idea about what’s available for the keyword you desire. An advantage of buying an older domain with a reputable history is that you’ll rank on Google quicker, essentially giving yourself a head start. If you are going down this route, I would proceed with caution.
First, it’s easy to overpay for a particular domain. I would use a couple of different domain appraisal tools to ensure that you aren’t overpaying. Next, you need to make sure that the domain has a reputable history. Use the Archive.org tool to view the history of the domain you want to purchase. Was it being used in the past for spammy purposes? If it was, this can significantly hurt your chances at SEO. If you aren’t somewhat tech savvy, I would avoid buying a domain on a marketplace.
I’m a real estate agent as well and I would like to share the story of how I arrived at this very domain name. I hope it provides some inspiration!
I am located in Atlanta, Georgia and initially began searching for domains with either Georgia or Atlanta in them. As you can imagine, these domains are extremely competitive, especially if they are about real estate. I knew I would ultimately end up with a domain that was either too long or not easily understood as a real estate website.
I’ve found that people trust memorable brands more, so I wanted to select a highly brandable domain. I wanted to stand out from the crowd and have a website that people remembered, not a generic string of keywords.
I found the domain OmegaHome.com for sale and I fell in love with it. Omega is the last word in the Greek alphabet meaning "the end". With the real estate connection, I'd like to think it the name means "the end of your home search".
Finding a domain that you really love will probably be difficult, but the rewards of doing so are immense. The best advice I can give is not to rush into a decision and spend a good amount of time thinking about how you want to brand your online presence. There’s a very good chance that you will have to be creative and clever to find a domain that you’re happy about. Feel free to reach out for any advice on prospective domain names, I would love to help out! Good luck!