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Be Careful With Your Domain Name

October 08 2010

searchPeople tend to obsess over domain names (also called URLs — Uniform Resource Locator).

While it’s nice to have key words in your URL, it is clearly not a requirement in order to get good search engine rankings.

For those non-believers in that statement (and I know you are out there) I point you to the following URLs:

  • (what does “amazon” have to do with books?)
  • (What exactly is a “zillow”??)
  • (Can’t find “trulia” in the dictionary either…)

Those are just three examples of URLs that contain a grand total of zero keywords. There are ten’s of thousands more out there.

I’m not saying it’s bad to have keywords in your URLs, it is just not a requirement for success. Can it help? Sure. My primary blog is I get a lot of links where the anchor text (the text used in the link verbiage) is “PhoenixRealEstateGuy” — hence Google often sees “Phoenix Real Estate” in links pointing to my site.

So if you can get a URL with key words in it, go for it. But if you can’t, there is no need to cry (or blame search result troubles on your URL).

There are however, two fundamental mistakes I see many real estate bloggers making when it comes to selecting URLs.

They put their brokerage name in the URL

A domain like “” or “” not going to hurt you in the search engines. In fact, your broker / franchise will probably like it. So why is this bad?

What if Bob leaves RE/MAX? Or Sally decides Century 21 isn’t the place for her?

Sure, they can change their domain name, but then they are basically starting over building up age, links and authority.

It’s also possible that including trademarked names in a URL may violate that company’s policies. Which leads us to the second mistake many real estate bloggers make in choosing a URL…

Misusing the REALTOR trademark

REALTOR®” is a trademark of the National Association of REALTOR® (NAR). As such, there are strict rules on its usage — including use in domain names. sounds innocent enough doesn’t it?

Maybe so, but it’s a trademark violation. You see, contrary to what you, and the vast majority of the public may think, “REALTOR®” isn’t an occupation. It’s a term that signifies you are a member of the National Association of REALTOR®.

Substitute “Member” for “REALTOR®”. Does “” make sense?

Here’s one for you… did you know it’s an improper use of the trademark to say, “I am a REALTOR®”? It’s true. Just read the NAR’s overview of the use of the term RealtorNAR’s overview of the use of the term Realtor® if you don’t believe me.

You also can’t use modifiers or descriptive words along with the word “REALTOR®” in a URL (or anywhere else for that matter). So “,” “,” “” are all inappropriate.

What can happen if you misuse the term REALTOR® in your domain name?

You can lose that name. Yup, you can get a cease and desist order to stop using the URL as it violates the NAR trademark of the term. Trust me, it happens. A lot. And yes, the NAR may find out you are improperly using the term, but more likely a fellow REALTOR® is going to report you. (See this postthis post by Todd Carpenter, NAR Social Media Manager.)

How can you use the term REALTOR®?

With your name, and ONLY your name. is fine. So is I think (but I’m not a trademark attorney) that is OK too.

Here is the full part of the NAR trademark manual on the use of Realtorthe full part of the NAR trademark manual on the use of Realtor®® on the internet on the internet.

Be careful. The last thing you want to do is pour blood, sweat and tears into a website only to have the name ripped out from underneath you.

Other things to avoid

Hyphens. While adding hyphens to a URL may help you secure a coveted keyword rich domain name, hyphens can be problematic when it comes to communicating your URL. was bought nine years ago. has a lot better chance of being available.

But I wouldn’t buy it—because it is difficult to communicate, and difficult to remember.

Try saying it out loud, like you would if you were telling someone the URL in person or over the phone.

“Hey, check out my blog! Go to Phoenix hyphen real hyphen estate hyphen for hyphen sale dot com”. I’ve also heard a URL like this spoken as, “It’s with hyphens between all the words.”

Both sound ridiculous, and I assure you whoever you are talking to won’t remember it.

Keep URLs short for the same reason. While “” is keyword rich, good luck fitting it on a business card or having anyone remember it.

Ditto for cutesy spelling tricks and substituting numbers for word. “” is a great example. Try the “say it out loud” trick — “My website is homes, the number 4, sale, the number 4, U just the letter U not Y-O-U dot com”.

And stick with the .com version for your domain. That is the extension people remember, and will assume. Buy a .info, .biz, .us or some other extension and you will lose traffic, and potentially clients to whoever has the .com version.

Selecting a domain name isn’t easy. It’s going to feel like “all the good ones are gone”. Get creative (but not too cutesy). Look for smaller geographical locations. Try using a “the” in the URL (ie: is one I bought not too long ago.) Dig deep, you can find something!