How to choose a SEO-friendly domain name
When starting a new website, one of the most important decisions you have to make is choosing the right domain name. For many years, SEO strategists have devised many practices to help gain higher rankings on search engines and domain names is a factor that is believed to play a part in the SEO game.
In this article, we will explore how your domain name can impact your SEO efforts and search rankings. We will also take a look at some of the things to consider when selecting a SEO-friendly domain name.
Does a domain name matter for SEO?
Yes it does. If we are looking at just the domain name alone, it is undeniable that you want people to recognize your brand, your business or what your website is all about. A SEO-optimized domain name is one that tells people what the website is about, the products and services it offers, etc. In this case, the domain stands out more in the sea of search result listings and becomes more likely to be clicked.
Just look at any spam website with a domain name like get-rich-fast.info or buy-cheap-rolex.biz. Spammers purchase domain names that contained their targeted keywords because they get results: increased click-through rates and higher rankings on search engines.
So, yes, domain names have an impact on SEO. Having the right domain name can help you target your audience and accelerate your search engine placement. But it’s more than just keywords.
Ways your domain can impact your SEO and search rankings.
There are two ways your domain can impact your SEO and search rankings:
Your domain name should be based on your brand. This is how users will find, remember, share and identify your business online.
Typically, you should choose a domain name at the same time your choose your business name. In other words, if you already have a business name, you should use it as your domain name as well.
The main key to a SEO-friendly domain name is branding. For example, would Apple register a domain name like Best-smart-phone-ever.com? No. Apple has an established brand that doesn’t need further keyword-stuffing in its domain name.
Google likes brands because users like brands. A strong online brand means users are more likely to click on, read, share, and link to a website. The more people will remember your brand, the more they will revisit you, and thus increasing your website’s credibility and trust value – end result: positive branding that will help your website gain higher Google rankings.
Using your brand name as your domain name makes sense if:
- Your brand name is already established and recognized
- You have already started brand promotion and brand awareness
- Your brand is your own name (such as YourName.com)
- Your brand is very unique
- You want your website to rank well in search results for your brand name
Alternatively, you can choose a domain name that contains keywords about your business, products, or services, etc. For example, say you are a photographer specializing in pets photography. You might get better search ranking results with a domain name like petportraitphotography.com.
But do keep in mind that Google doesn’t give as much value to keyword domains as it does with brand domains. We won’t go in depth about keyword domains in this article, but please read Keyword Domains: use them or lose them? for our stance on the yays and nays of keyword domains.
Branding, Keyword or both?
Let’s imaging your name is Bob and you have a guitar repair shop in Chicago. You want to start a website and you are looking for a domain name that would help you reach out to your customers and market your business.
Here are some possible domain name options:
- Branding domains
An example of a branded domain is Bobs.com.
SEO benefits: The domain name alone does not give any specific details about your company, or the products/services you offer. The website can be about anything, giving you a blank slate to build your brand and to set the definition of the domain name and website for search engines.
Downfall: Much of your efforts will need to be focusedon building and promoting your brand. You need to come up with creative ways for people to draw the association between your brand name and your services so that whenever people hear of “Bob’s” they immediately think “guitar repair.”
- Local domains
An example of a local domain is ChicagoBobs.com.
SEO benefits: This type of domain name can help you specifically target customers in Chicago. While your website content would still have to describe the products and services you sell, your domain name gives you a head start by letting customers and search engines know that you are based in Chicago.
Downfall: Say you want to expand your business or want to target search traffic outside your geographical area, it would be a bit more difficult, not simply from a search engine point of view, but also from a branding point of view.
- Service domains
An example of a service domain is BobsGuitarService.com.
SEO benefits: This type of domain name helps you market your products and service. By highlighting the service in the domain name, people can easily tell what your website is going to be about, and the type of service they can expect from you. It also takes away the geographical constricts of a Local Domain – all you needs to do is define your service locations in the content of his website.
Downfall: If you should decide to offer piano tuning or other services late on, it would not be easy for you to rank for those keywords (or any terms outside of the specific service of Guitar Service).
- Local + Service domains
An example of a local + service domain is ChicagoGuitarService.com.
SEO benefits: This type of domain name allows search engines to more precisely define your business and location.
Downfall: These domain name are very often bought out long time ago. You may need to narrow down your location or business definition. Your other option would be to consider the lesser known domain extensions, such as .biz, .online, etc.
Does the domain registration length matter?
While you might think that registering a domain name for the maximum registration length is a strong indication of your intentions to use the domain and website, it actually doesn’t matter SEO-wise.
According to Google’s Matt Cutts,“no search engine has ever confirmed that they use the length of registration as a factor…”
What about domain extensions?
Your domain extension has no effect on your search results ranking. The only exception is country-code top level domains, such as .us, .ca and .uk. These domain extensions will significantly affect your website’s ranking on a geographical search level. For example, if you have a .ca domain extension and your users are searching for your website from a Canadian city, then your website will be given a higher placement.
But while the domain extensions have little to no significance, there is a psychological effect that cannot be ignored. Users are most familiar with the .com, .net and .org domain names. These domain extensions project more trust and credibility than other extensions. Extensions like .biz and .info are unfortunately, often favored by spammers. In order words, choosing the wrong domain extension could associate you with low-ranking websites. People will be more skeptical about clicking on your link. This could negatively impact your SEO.
Other considerations and tips
As we have mentioned before, Google likes what its users like. So, when deciding on a domain name, your first priority should be your customers.
The domain name you choose:
- Should not look like it belongs to a spam website
- Should be recognizable, memorable and easy to read
- Should be relevant and sounds authoritative
- Should help brand your business and give customers an association to who you are
Recognizable, memorable and easy to read
Avoid intentionally misspellings. It may seem creative to use a misspelled word as your brand name. But do keep in mind that not all customers will appreciate your creativity. The last thing you want is leaving your customers confused. Same goes for using numbers and hyphens in your domain name. When a person hears your domain, they might not know whether to spell the number or to use a numeral. Similarly, many users will type the domain without the hyphens and end up on a different website. Best is to avoid using numbers and hyphens in domain names.
If your business name is an acronym, then by all means use it in your domain name. However, if this isn’t the case, then avoid using them. For example, if your business name is Bob’s Guitar Services, don’t abbreviate it to BGS.com when BobsGuitarServices.com is easy to remember.
Choosing a SEO-friendly domain name is much easier than you think, all you need to do is keep it simple and focus on branding. Keep in mind that you cannot depend on your domain name solely to rank in search engines – domain name is just a small building block to a good website.
Finally, when you think you’ve found the perfect domain name for your website, ask yourself whether you would click on the domain name. Just as you wouldn’t click on get-rich-fast.info or buy-cheap-rolex.biz, it is a good enough reason not to use the domain name.