I was driving with my family to Nationals Park to see the Nats play the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, when I noticed a Windows Catering truck drive by. As it passed, (because I can’t help myself) I noticed the company’s domain name displayed on the side of truck. Again, because I can’t help myself, I asked my wife to slow down so I could take a picture of the truck for this post. I knew that a local business using a name like CATERING.COM would make a dynamite blog post. Alas, the truck pulled off at Navy Yard before I could call up the camera function on my BlackBerry. (I wish I had gotten the photo; if we can get a picture from the catering company, I will update this post later.)
It’s likely that the domain name windows.com was not available when the catering company first looked to “get online,” for obvious reasons (think Microsoft). So Windows Catering had to come up with an alternative domain name.
I wish I knew the story of how they came to acquire this domain name because it’s extremely valuable. I routinely run valuations for my clients and research how much domains are trading for in the domain aftermarket. I think a domain like catering.com could easily fetch between $1 million and $3 million today.
Why? Because catering.com likely garners a fair amount of type-in traffic, but it also has a unique ability to rank well in organic search results. Google and Bing (especially) assign page rank to older domains with keyword-to-domain root parity and sites linking in, so this domain has special attributes that earn it “search love.” This means that with even a modest SEO investment in the website itself, search engines are likely to assign it a high placement in organic search results. This gives the domain/website maximum visibility and increases the opportunity for it to earn organic click-throughs, without the incremental costs associated with paid search. Internet users broadly search the term “catering” over 16,000,000 times per month, and each time, they see catering.com among the top results.
This high rank not only drives traffic to Windows Catering from local D.C. searches, but it also introduces the brand to the wider U.S. search audience by delivering their impression to searchers throughout the country. For another example of how this works, go to google.co.uk and search for “catering.” You will see a UK company that owns a different domain with “search love,” caterer.com – this site’s owner has earned the top position in organic search in the UK because the domain has a Google page rank score of “5.” (In comparison, Guinness.com and Cadbury.com each have a Google page rank of “6,” despite being much better known brands.)
Smartly, Windows Catering also owns WindowsCatering.com, which it redirects to catering.com, for those customers who are familiar with the brand and search for it directly.
I think that this is a great example of the positive effects that a well-chosen domain name can have on a company. Sometimes unbranded domains can enhance a brand strategy, and not just for smaller players like Windows Catering. Just look at what Toys.com and Mortgage.com have done for Toys “R” Us owner Geoffrey, LLC and Citigroup, respectively.
UPDATE: Windows Catering got in touch after reading this post and sent over a picture of the catering truck that a fan had posted on Twitter:
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