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Niche Site Duel 2.1.1: Branding, Domain Names and the NSD Leaderboard!

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Niche Site Duel 2.1.1: Branding, Domain Names and the NSD Leaderboard!

By Pat Flynn on

Niche Site Duel 2.0 LogoIn our last Niche Site Duel 2.0 post, I revealed that the niche that I’ll be building a website for is the food truck niche. Specifically, it will be a resource for people who are interested in starting a food truck business and those who already have one.

There’s a nice continuation between the two because when you start a food truck, you’re going to then need to know how to run it, market it, and all that good stuff.

The reaction from you has been very positive, which I’m extremely excited about.

Now that I’ve decided on my niche, it’s time to start talking about domain names and branding, but before I do that, I wanted to address a concern that many of you have brought up to me, both via comments and via email. It’s not about the niche I selected, but rather the Niche Site Duel in general.

Since we’re just starting out, now is a better time than ever to talk about this.

I’ve been hearing from people is that the site that I’m going to build isn’t exactly a niche site – it’s more of an authority site or blog.

To be honest, I don’t really care about the definitions. I’ve selected a niche and I’m building a website for it. Therefore, I’m calling it a niche site, and it’ll be the best one I can create to serve that niche.

A “niche site”, traditionally, is thought of as a smaller site that targets a specific keyword and has enough information on it to be somewhat helpful for people looking up that keyword in Google. Well…I hope to redefine what a niche site really is, because we don’t need any more sites that are just somewhat helpful, we want the best. When we conduct searches in Google, we want the best information – and that’s what Google is finally starting to work towards ranking at the top. Although they are far from perfect at it, that’s the direction they are headed. So, instead of trying to create a minimal site with just enough information to get by and game the algorithm to be found, how about we use the trend to our advantage instead?

Niche site, authority site or blog – if it’s online and serving a specific market, the definition doesn’t matter.

All this to conclude with: this is going to take some work, and I hope you’re up to the challenge.

“Write about what people want. Search engines will eventually catch up.” -Neil Patel

Target Keywords and What’s Up with Exact Match and Partial Match Domains

As a reminder, the keyword I found during keyword research was food trucks for sale, which has a local monthly exact match search volume of 12,100 and a keyword competitiveness score of 30. (click here for the SEO Competition matrix)

I am not, however, building a website that is specifically for food trucks for sale.

Upon further research, which includes actually speaking to food truck owners in person, I discovered that there’s a lot of room for a website beyond just the buying and selling of food trucks. What seems to be missing is a central resource or hub to help food truck owners start and grow their business.

Food trucks for sale could definitely be a part of that resource.

When it comes to branding, it’s smart to take keywords into consideration. In the past, the best practice would be to make sure the keyword is somewhere in the domain name (i.e. smartpassiveincome.com & securityguardtraininghq.com) and if you could get an exact match domain (EMD) – that’s even better. Recently, however, Google has been cracking down on poor quality sites that were previously ranking high just because their domain URL matched a search term 100%.

Even more recently, Google has been cracking down on partial-match domains (PMDs), and when I say recently I mean like 3 days ago. (see June 25th article on Moz.com)

Based on these recent updates, it’s easy to see that poor quality sites are having less and less opportunities for a quick advantage. There are still ways to game the system and get sites that maybe shouldn’t be ranking high to the top of the search engines, but Google’s working on cracking down and are highly focused on rewarding quality websites.

What defines a quality website?

Well, there are a lot of factors involved of course, but to me it’s really easy:

A quality website is one that people would be upset about if it were to disappear. 

Let’s build that.

Brandability and Selecting a Domain Name

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid using EMDs or PMDs when creating your brand or selecting your domain name – it just reinforces the idea that no matter what, you need to build a high quality site with great content and a healthy backlinking profile, or else.

What I like about this is that we can focus less on keyword density and how exact (or close to exact) our domain is to our target keyword, and we can focus more on brandability.

What is brandability when it comes to choosing a name for a business and a domain?

It’s less about what search engines want, and more about what humans want.

Below are seven characteristics of a great brand name. You don’t need to meet all of the criteria, but these are some good rules to try and follow.

1. Easy to Remember

A memorable name goes a long way. It’s not like a phone number that you can just forget about the moment you store it on your phone, so you have to think about how easy or difficult it might be before you make a final decision. The characteristics below will help with that.

2. Not too Long

The longer the name, the harder it is to remember and the more likely someone is to misspell (or mis-type) it too. Keep it as short as possible, which is definitely much more difficult to do nowadays.

3. Easy to Spell

Some words are just not meant for spelling. For example “environment”.  That word took me forever to learn how to spell correctly. Also, you might want to avoid the whole “their/they’re/there” fiasco as well. Here’s a list of the 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English.

4. Descriptive

A great brand name will tell someone what a business is about right in the name, or at least hint at what it’s about so it becomes memorable. For example: Internet Business Mastery – great, descriptive domain name with the keywords in there as well (and again, that’s okay!). Problogger – also a great (and short!) descriptive brand name. Elance is another great brand name. Although it may seem non-descriptive at first glance, it’s short, easy to remember and actually has to do with the fact that you can hire freelancers over the web for projects.

5. No Numbers or Hyphens

Is it two, to, too, or 2? Three or 3? Hyphens – not good either. Again, this isn’t about what the search engines want, it’s about what’s not confusing for people. Imagine you’re on national television talking about your website. If you have to explain how to spell your domain when you mention it – millions of people aren’t going to hear that part. There are exceptions, such as fiverr.com, but generally you’ll want to stay away from something you’d have to explain each time.

6. It Has Rhythm

Rhythm in a domain name means it rolls off the tongue nicely. It’s almost pleasurable to say. This one is a little more difficult to figure out, but you’ll hear it once you land on the right one.

My favorite brand name is Paypal. Two short Pa words that sound great together. It’s awesome.

When you’re exploring a brand with multiple words, if you can’t get two short ones like Paypal, listen to the syllables. A one syllable word (short) followed by multiple syllable words (long) typically sound very good. For example: Smart Passive Income (short long long). Smarter passive income (long long long) just doesn’t sound as good, am I right?

The reverse works well too: long long short. For example: Podcast Answer Man, or ViperChill.

If it sounds good, it’s more likely to be remembered and shared.

7. A .com, if possible. 

There are a number of domain extensions now, and ones other than .com are definitely gaining popularity (i.e. Fizzle.co), but .com still rules the bunch, so if possible, grab a .com domain.

8. Can You Imagine it as THE Ultimate Resource for your Niche?

And the last test: just imagine yourself with your brand and its name a year from now..maybe 5 years from now. Can you imagine people talking about it? Can you visualize people saying the brand name when bringing it up in conversation? Just think about that.

Next Steps

Once you come up with a brand name that seems to work, you’re going to want to conduct some research first before you move on with it.

Does a brand name like it already exist? Conduct a Google Search (use “quotations” around your brand name so you can find exact matches in Google, with spaces between each word and without) to see if another brand exists already.

Is there a trademark that I should worry about? You don’t want to use trademarks that are not your own in your domain name. Trust me – I’ve gone down that path before and the lawyer fees were not worth it. Some brands allow it and will not send you a cease and desist letter, but if it’s their trademark, they can change their mind tomorrow if they wanted to. If you’re in the U.S. you can conduct an online search for trademarks at The United States Patent and Trademark Office.

There are going to be times when you may not be sure when or when not to use a particular brand name. In that case, it’s always best to contact a professional (i.e. your Attorney) who might be able to help you out to get you the right answer. I cannot give you the right answers myself.

The Forums at FreeAdvice.com has actually been a reputable source of good information for legal matters around domain names, but again it’s best to use your own legal counsel.

Is that domain that I want available? 

Most domain name checks are done at the place where you’ll want to get your domain and hosting account. GoDaddy is one, for example, however I recommend going through Bluehost.com to get both a domain and hosting account all in one shot. I still use Bluehost for some of my niche sites, and they are currently running a $3.95/month sale (and your get your first domain for free).

So Pat, What’s Your Brand and Domain Name?!

Well…I found a domain name that’s perfect for the food truck business niche, but upon further research I recently discovered that another site was already using that brand name. Interestingly enough, it’s a website on a freely hosted blogging platform, and because I want to do this right and lead by example, I asked my lawyer, Richard, for some advice before diving into it.

He shared that Trademarks work on a “first in time” basis, which basically means that the person who uses it first “in commerce” owns the mark. A website would count as “in commerce.”

He also followed up saying that it’s not so much that there’s the name in the domain name, but that the website is using that brand name in the logo and as an identifier for the site.

If my site took off, the owner could, if they wanted to, file for a trademark and then sue me – which is a little scary.

On the other hand, he also mentioned that the domain name in question consists of fairly generic words, and even if someone were to trademark the phrase (if they could) it might be hard to uphold in court.

So, all this to say that I’m still exploring the brand and domain name. I’m still in love with the one in question, but I’m open for others as well.

I just wanted to keep you up to date and share why I haven’t selected the domain for the case study yet. It’ll happen very soon.

Furthermore, let me just say that I understand what may happen after I reveal the URL.

I realize that I’m in a unique position as someone building a business and website live in front of a large audience. I realize that because of this, there is a very high possibility that people may link to the site or start to talk about it, which  would give me an unfair advantage over someone who doesn’t have a platform and an audience like I do.

I thought long and hard about the idea of not sharing the domain name with you. I thought about buying two domains – a “faux-website”, one that I would add content to over time and share with you but was actually blocked from the search engines, and then I’d post the exact same content on the real website and then reveal that URL once it started to make some movement – but that got too complicated and I would double my workload which would take away energy and time I would need to make any one site succeed. I thought about never revealing the website ever to you, but if I was in your position I’d hate that, even though I would understand why it would need to happen. Plus, I’ll be using my real name and you’d probably eventually find me anyway I would think.

So, like in Niche Site Duel 1.0, I’m going to reveal my URL again – once I arrive at one. Hehe!

I urge you, if you are following this case study, to please not link directly to my niche site URL for any reason. I will not link directly to it here either.

Asking you to do that will help some, but not 100% I’m sure. That said, I believe my results will be not because of this case study, but because of the work I did to create something hopefully worthwhile for the target niche to start talking about and linking to on their own. I have a lot of ideas up my sleeve, so even if you feel my results in the end aren’t actually true to what would normally happen, focus on the strategies and how they are implemented instead. Focus on the ideology behind the marketing and reaching out process, and then you’ll be able to better understand what works and what doesn’t for your own business. This isn’t about my results, it’s about your journey.

If You’re Ready to Build Your Website

If you’re ready to purchase your domain, here’s a quick video I created below that will help walk you through that process. It’s not very hard at all but if you have any questions, please let me know. I do earn a commission if you go through my affiliate link (at no additional cost to you!) and please let me know if you do so I can thank you personally!

One note: you do have the option to privately register the domain. You’ll see this option as you go through the process. What that means is that the information you use to register the domain with Bluehost (or any other company you use) will be hidden from plain site. Any person in the world can look up who registered a domain, and unless your domain is privately registered, they’ll see your name, address, email and phone number as well.

Bluehost and other companies will offer other add-ons like security features and things like that during the checkout process. For now, that stuff isn’t needed – you can always upgrade later. Plus, WordPress can be secured using various plugins that do what we need to do for now.

A few of you might be wondering if it’s smart to also nab the other domain extensions that are available. So for example, if you pick up the .com, should you get the .net, .co, .biz and others?

The answer is: it’s really up to you. I will personally get the other extensions because this is such a public case study, but for you – you may want to pick them up now, or you may want to pick them up later. You may never want or need to pick them up at all. Again, it’s up to you. If you use Bluehost, you can purchase additional domains for $10.00 per domain though your cPanel Admin section after you’re all setup. You don’t need to purchase separate hosting accounts for each domain.

After You Get Your Domain – Join the Leaderboard!

I’m so excited to announce that the NSD2.0 Leaderboard is now ready for deployment. Like, right now!

Yep! My developer, Bryan (who is amazing!) spent the last 3 weeks completing an all out hub for everything Niche Site Duel, which you can find at NicheSiteDuel.com – remember that.

If you’re participating in NSD2.0, you’re going to visit there quite a bit. It’ll be used to keep track of everyone’s progress, but it’s also a place for discussion since there’s a categorized forum there as well, and most important it’s a place for motivation and accountability. I expect big things from those who put themselves on the leaderboard.

You’ll need to register to join. It’s free! Just go to NicheSiteDuel.com and follow the instructions, and you’re golden.

Mind you, this was all built from scratch, so if there are bugs – don’t trip out. We’ll get it all worked out.

Mastermind Learning Group (MLG) – The Chosen 5

This weekend, I will be emailing each person who applied for the Mastermind Learning Group. In fact, I’ve already replied to over 150 applicants, and I have around 400 left. Only 5 out of 600+ applicant were selected for the MLG, so if you get a polite no from me, please don’t feel bad. A lot went into my decision and I seriously wish I could take more.

If you applied and haven’t heard back from me yet – I’ll get to you very soon!

There will be more case studies down the road though, I promise, and more opportunities to work closely with me again.

Sign up for ONLY72.com for My First Course!

And last, but not least, my first product actually comes out this Monday, July 1st! It’s going to be a part of the next Only72.com sale and will be packaged alongside some other top products for bloggers and business owners. It’s seriously a ton of value at a steeply discounted price, so I encourage you to go to Only72.com and watch the trailer (I’m in it – I’m a partner with Only72) and sign up to get notified on Monday about the sale.

This is something I’m super proud of and know will help a lot of people, and thank you so much for all of the encouragement! Without you, the SPI readers, I’d have nothing.

I appreciate you. :)

Cheers!

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