What is a Domain Hack?

By Lynox Byaus

A domain hack is when the domain name prefix (the keyword which is left of the dot) combines with the domain name suffix (the extension that is right of the dot) to spell out a word or phrase. Some examples would be pistach.io, billy.club, attention.to, ri.ng, h.ug, etc.

Domain hacks have slowly but surely risen in popularity, primarily because individuals or companies will use them for domain shortening and/or banding opportunities. Another reason an individual or company may obtain the domain hack version of their name, is for brand protection (defensive registration to keep others from registering the name). Many attribute the slow but steady rise in domain name hacks ( or new gtld's and cctld's in general) to the lack of premium .net .org and more specifically .com domain names.

Are domain hacks useful: There are many who are not big fans of domain name hacks. If you were to do a simple google search of domain hacks, in the SERP (search engines result pages) you will find a handful of articles that look down on the idea of using a domain hack. Like previously mentioned, some believe that this domain hack phenomena is nothing more than a function of the limited space with the legacy TLDs e.g. .com, .net, and .org. And there is validity to that notion, that said, it is also due to the emergence and widespread use of the internet which has correlated to heightened domain name awareness. Not to mention the branding opportunities and simply, people just thinking it's cool and like the change from the more conventional extensions. Nonetheless, a domain hack is no different from a non domain hack in regards to how it will perform (depending on what extension you use, more on this below).

What can I use a domain hack for

  • To build your main site

  • Use it for email

  • As a redirect to your main site or social media profiles

  • Domain shortener

  • Landing page

  • Marketing campaign

Who utilizes domain hacks: There are some pretty notable companies out there that make use of domain hacks such as instagr.am, ti.me, redd.it, youtu.be, pep.si, virg.in, bit.ly and more.

Should I purchase a domain hack: If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a new company or an existing brand/company and the name you want or currently have happens to have an ending that matches one of the new gTLDs or one of the ccTLD’s, you may want to consider obtaining that name if it is available. Especially if the name you're considering or the domain name you currently have is not the .com and maybe to a lesser extent the .net or .org. In other words, let's say you want to name your company WineClub and you want the .com and would even settle for the .net but neither are available. As a result, you own end up starting your company using WineClub.co. If available, it would behoove you to register/purchase wine.club.

Where or how do I get a domain hack: You can start by going to a domain name registrar like Uniregistry, Dynadot or Namecheap and search there. These registrars tend to have wide selection of new gTLD’s and cctld’s (which are often used more for domain hacks than legacy TLD's) as well as pretty decent registration fees compared to more prominent registrars like Godaddy, Name.com and Enom. Domain name marketplaces like Sedo, Afternic, Flippa, DomainAgents and Undeveloped are good places to search also. If the name you want is already taken, dont worry, just look up the owners info (if available) and send them an email letting them know you are interested in the name and make them an offer. Another way to search for domain hacks is by using a domain hack checker to see what is available.

Does a domain hack affect SEO: When deciding to use a domain hack, keep in mind that there could be potential SEO issues in regards to ccTLDs vs. gccTLDs, depending on the country you reside, the extension you decide to use and the country or countries you decide to target. Generic TLDs and gccTLDs would be preferable than a ccTLD in regards to SEO and having the option to geo target or having a global audience (if that is your goal).

For more information on how google treats gTLDs and gccTLDs you can click here and here. So, let's say the name of your company is snug. lets also say, you want the domain hack sn.ug and for it to be your primary domain. Problem is, you reside in the United States and the .ug extension is the country code for Uganda. If this is the case, it is safe to assume you want rank well and be relevant for U.S. search on google.

Well, relevancy on google for U.S. search could be an issue. The reason why this could be an issue is because the content you provide on your site would be in English but you have a .ug extension. Google recognizes your .ug as only being significant to Uganda and therefore, will rank your site at or near the bottom for U.S. search. Moreover, google does not allow geo targeting for the .ug TLD. However, there supposedly are ways to get around the non-generic ccTLD conundrum but it would require some SEO maneuvering. Unfortunately this is not a huge area of expertise for me (still learning) and it would be best to consult with SEO experts if you so choose to use a non generic ccTLD.

In the case of new gTLD’s, having a domain hack that is also a common word or phrase with lots of search volume could be beneficial and in some cases may even outperform traditional TLD’s. The reasoning behind this could be due to google considering or interpreting new TLD’s as a keyword. However, google has stated that it does not consider a new top level domain as a keyword, despite some indicators that would suggest otherwise. For example, a week after its launch coffee.club ranked number one for the term coffee club. Entrepreneur Mike Kugler who purchased vacation.rentals to set up an online hospitality and lodging marketplace, stated, google already had indexed the site and was on page one for several long tail keywords. That happened only four weeks after the purchase of the domain and development of the site.

Conclusion: If you decide to use a domain name hack and the hack you want to use involves a ccTLD, make sure you do your due diligence. Especially if it is not a generic ccTLD and you are going to use a ccTLD that is designated to a country you are not a resident of. As previously mentioned, the ccTLD you use can have a negative impact in regards to SEO. Other than that, you should be good to go

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