Lexicographical analysis of .fr domain names

January 2013

 

A lexicographical analysis of level-2 .fr domain names in the AFNIC database was conducted in December 2012 (representing approximately 2,490,000 domains including IDNs). The results indicate that the average length of registered names is currently 13.1 characters. The average length increases steadily from year to year: it was 11.3 in 2007 and is increasing by 0.3 to 0.4 characters per annum. This is because short names are becoming less available over time, and so holders turn more towards longer domain names. The most common length is 10 characters (representing about 175,000 names), the minimum being 2 characters (all letter/number, number/letter and number/number combinations can be filed as well as 25 IDN names), the maximum being 63 characters (thirty domain names).

 

The longest names are mostly composed of keywords separated by hyphens as part of SEO strategies: the goal is to obtain better positioning on search engines for queries including the keywords forming the domain name. The keywords used generally include the name of the company or a brand, as well as terms related to the market sector, and sometimes geographical indications (commune, department, and region). However, it is worth noting that the relevance of this SEO strategy, sometimes called EMD (Exact Match Domain), has recently decreased due to the changes in Google's algorithm to fight against domain name abuse (sites with commercial links with no real added value for users, using domain names of this type to capture traffic from search engines).

 

Hyphens are also widely used in .fr domain names: more than 38% of the domains contain one or more. Most of them use a single hyphen (almost 27%), the maximum being 17 hyphens. The use of hyphens is also growing steadily over time: the average number of hyphens per domain increased from 0.38 to 0.53 between 2007 and 2012.

 

Numbers are much less present than hyphens in .fr domain names: only 6.7% of them contain one or more. They are sometimes used to represent years: the most used at present are "2011" (about 1500 names) and "2012" (1400 names), followed by the number "2000" (around 850).

 

 

The Afnic database also contains a number of IDN domain names: nearly 32,000 domains containing diacritic characters have been registered since opening of the .fr zone to internationalized domain names (IDNs) in May 2012. The diacritic character most used is undoubtedly the "é" in 74% of the IDNs. It is followed by the characters "è" (11%), "ê" and "ô" (about 4%), followed by "à" (3%). Conversely, certain diacritics are not very commonly used, such as the "õ" (6 domain names apart from Afnic tests) and the "ý" (used in a single domain apart from Afnic tests). IDN domains are slightly shorter than the overall average for the .fr zone (with an average length of 12.8 compared with 13.1).

 

Certain domain names have been registered as multiple IDN variants corresponding to different combinations of diacritic characters (such as "fácebook.fr" and "fàcebook.fr"). These domain names correspond to defensive registration strategies implemented by holders in a variety of market sectors (food, banking, industry, internet, software, media, research, etc.). The record is 1,249 combinations registered for a single domain, followed by names registered with 34 and 27 variants. In all, some thirty domains have at least eight IDN combinations. The number of possible variants is of course related to the presence of characters capable of having a diacritic, and in particular to the presence of vowels that can be written with many different accents.

 

Among the terms used .fr domain names in December 2012, "france" and "paris" and are still in the lead, but are now neck and neck: some 12,300 domains each contain these terms, separated by a difference of only four domains! The term "paris" has risen sharply since the last survey, which was carried out in the summer of 2011 (+43% in 18 months). Other terms present in the top 10 are by descending order: "immobilier" (real estate), "hôtel", "location" (rental), "saint", "restaurant", "service", "web" and "auto". Furthermore, an analysis of the terms most commonly found in recently registered domain names (over the last 18 months) also shows the year "2012" (2,500 new domains) and the word "serrurier" (locksmith) (2,000 new domains), probably related to an SEO operation. Finally, the terms containing the most frequently used diacritics are currently the preposition "à" followed by the names of "crédit", "santé" (health) and "hôtel".

 

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