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Case Study: Choosing A Memorable Domain
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Case Study: Choosing A Memorable Domain


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When we first chose a domain name for this website we screwed up.  Before deciding to use “AdChop.com”, we had unknowingly picked a different domain that sounded nice but was hard to remember.

We began developing the site on that other domain, only to discover that we ourselves were having a hard time remembering the domain when we wanted to tell people or type it into the address bars of our browers.  After a few sleepless night wondering “Was that really the best domain?  Does memorability even matter, or could a hard-to-remember domain doom our business?  Might there have been a better domain?” we decided to do some testing to find out.

domain name options

This case study will take you through the process we went through to finally land on a domain (AdChop.com) that we were confident would be easy for people to remember.  Our confidence in the end was based on hard data rather than on speculation.

Choosing A Domain – The Wrong Way

What we first did when trying to choose a domain was essentially this:

  • Brainstorm to come up with a list of potential domains
  • Narrow down the list based on which domains were actually available
  • Ask a variety of people which of the domains from the list they like best (the most popular choice was “AdRivals.com”)

We also considered factors like how keywords in the domain might affect search engine rankings, potential copyright infringements, etc.  Although there was nothing wrong with any of the steps we followed (many of them are great and are included in the “right way” below), we did leave out one critical step – ensuring that our domain was memorable.

Choosing A Domain – The Right Way

Step 1 – Brainstorm

This is an obvious first step – we created a list of potential domains based on keywords in our industry, and other catchy word combinations that came to mind.  To efficiently find out whether the domains you come up with are available, use AjaxWhoIs.com

Step 2 – Use Software To Expand Your List

There are a variety of domain name generator tools online which can brainstorm more quickly and thoroughly than your own brain can (or maybe I should only speak for myself?).

NameStation LogoThe tool we used to create a list of potential domains was NameStation.com.  Although AdChop wasn’t one of the names suggested by NameStation (we came up with “chop” while scanning a list of 4 letter words), many of the domains we considered were suggested by NameStation – it provided us with some great ideas & saved a lot of time.

Step 3 – Create A Shortlist

From our expanded list, we came up with a shortlist based on the names we liked, which names were actually available, and a few other factors which you can read about in the “12 Rules For Choosing The Right Domain Name” by Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz.

The shortlist contained the names that we’d actually be willing to use if they were memorable enough (plus a couple extras).  We used this list for testing in the next step.

Step 4 – Test For Memorability

After noticing that we ourselves were having a hard time remembering the domain we initially chose (AdRivals.com), we decided to do what any smart marketer does – we did some testing.

NameStation LogoTo test for memorability, we hired 215 people on MTurk.com to read the shortlist of domains we were considering and then tell us which ones they could remember from that list. (If you’re not familiar with MTurk, it is a crowdsourcing website designed to help you outsource simple tasks that need to be done by a large number of people.)

Here’s what our job description on MTurk said:

“This task has 3 short steps. To see the first step, please visit THIS PAGE (you must open that link in a new tab or a new window). From there, just follow the instructions. Step 3 will tell you to come back here and type something into the box below and click “Submit”. After you have finished that, you’re done!”

I encourage you to visit the “this page” link in that job description – it’ll help you understand how the test worked. On the first page, the list of domains appeared in random order to each visitor.

$25.22 later we had our results from the 215 people we hired.  Here’s the list of domains we gave them, and the number of people who remembered each one (the numbers total more than 215 because many people remembered more than one domain):

81 – WhichOneWon.com
63 – AdChop.com
59 – AdBonk.com
52 – AdNuggets.com
50 – VoteForAds.com
43 – ChooseTheBestAd.com
36 – AdFray.com
31 – AdRivals.com
19 – AdPalette.com
16 – TheWinnerIsWhich.com

Interestingly, we also had people who “remembered” 40 different domains that weren’t even on the list we gave them!  Those domains included:

AdChomp.com, AdGamble.com, AdsPalette.com, WhichIsTheWinner.com, AdSense.com, WhoWon.com, WhichOneIsGood.com, Vote4Me.com, Fray.com, AdFriday.com, VoteBestAd.com …And Many More!

To ensure that your memorability testing produces valid results, ensure that:

  • Your list of domains appears in a random order to each person who reads the list (feel free to steal the source code from our MTurk instructions).
  • You distract people with a short task prior to asking them which domains they remember (otherwise people will be more likely to easily remember the last few domains from the list)

At least 30% of the MTurkers that we hired were Americans – there was no significant difference between the results of the Americans VS Non-Americans.  We were initially concerned that language issues might affect the results of testers who speak English as a second language (i.e. they might not know the meaning of the word “Palette” which could make it harder to remember AdPalette.com), but thankfully that didn’t seem to affect results.

Step 5 - Make A Decision!

After doing the testing explained above, making a decision should be easy. It was for us!  We felt confident in our decision to switch from AdRivals to AdChop.

found the right domain

Although WhichOneWon.com won our memorability test, we decided to go with the second domain on the list (AdChop.com) because WhichOneWon.com was very similar to the domain of an existing website, and we didn’t want to annoy the owners of that site.

Acknowledgement:  Liam Martin, co-founder of Staff.com, recommended the “hire workers on MTurk” strategy to us for determining a domain’s memorability. Thanks Liam!

Please leave any thoughts on our strategy in the comments section below!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nigel Kay February 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Hey Justin, Great article. It is interesting to see how you go through this process. I typically buy domain names for Lead generation sites for Local businesses so just go with an exact match .com/.net for their #1 keyword. Haven’t tried the test for memorability using Mechanical Turk yet though. Cheers

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Justin (Admin) February 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Cool, glad you enjoyed it. I’ve bought some exact match domains also for other projects – they seemed to rank reasonably well sometimes, although I’m not sure how much of their ranking ability was due to the domain VS other factors.

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Genevieve June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Hello AdChop!
Firstly, I love your domain name. I cracked up when I read that you couldn’t remember your old one when trying to tell other people. I’m in a similar situation, and while looking up relevant keywords on Google, I miraculously found you! You are a lifesaver! I am doing just as you did and testing my own domain names on MTurk as we speak. I never thought of that before, and want to thank you loads for this awesome technique.
Wishing you the best!

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