Domain options for great SEO
Domain is an important part of your overall SEO efforts. Good domains tend to get higher rankings in Google and Bing. Here I want to share a few things you want to keep in mind as it relates to having a strong domain for SEO purposes.
Please note that in this article I will not talk about sub-domain or directory structure of your pages. These will be the subjects of future discussions.
Before we go into qualities of a good domain let me lay some ground work for the discussion by talking about the anatomy of a domain name.
Anatomy of a domain name
Domain is composed of a couple of key parts: TLD or Top-Level Domain, domain name. Example of a TLD would be .com, .ca, .co.uk, ru, .com.cy, etc. There a number of TLD types such as country TLDs like .ru for Russia and .ca for Canada. There’s also generic types such as .net, .org and .com. Read more about TLDs on Wikipedia.
Domain name in turn is a single-word or dashed word-group that goes immediately preceding the TLD. For example, my domain name is zagoumenov and EBay’s domain name is ebay. Now that we’ve covered the anatomy issues, let’s talk about some qualities of a good domain name for the purposes of search engine optimization.
What is a domain and why it’s important
Domain name is your unique address that identifies your website on the internet. A good domain should be chosen based on the following qualities:
- Relatively short: choose a domain that’s not super lengthy. For example, zagoumenov is 10 characters and it’s ok. Vovia and Anduro are better because they’re shorter. I don’t think that Google wants the shortest domains to rank higher, so don’t worry if your domain is 10-15 characters long.
- Easy to remember: just as with your SEO content you should create domains that are built for users first, then for search engines. Make sure your domain is easy to remember and to type into the address bar. For example, zagoumenov.com is NOT the best name for a domain, but that’s my last name and I’m kinds stuck with that :). However, inboundinteractive.ca, although a longer one, is better because people can spell it easily.
- Branded domains: a good domain for your primary website should use your company name. According to SEOmoz’s recent study Google started to pay attention to domain / brand matching. in other words, sites with their brand name in domain tent to rank higher than sites with keyword-based domains. For example, if you’re a lawyer providing services in Canada, a good name would be ZhivovLaw.ca.
- Localized domains: pay attention to choosing the right TLD for your business purposes. If your business targets users in Cyprus it’s recommended that you use .com.cy TLD as opposed to a generic one like .com. Or if you’re targeting users in Russia, then you should use .ru TLD. Google and Bing would value your website higher as being more location specific to the customer.
FAQs on SEO-friendly domains
- Dashed vs. not dashed: What’s better sharp-fridges.com or sharpfridges.com? I’d recommend the latter. Less characters and therefore shorter. I’m pretty sure that a search engine can understand that we’re talking about Sharp Fridges. Also, non-dashed domains are simpler to spell out. Instead of telling your customer to visit “Sharp dash fridges dot com” you would just say “sharpfridges doc com”.
- Keywords in the domain: it used to be the case that your domain had to have keywords in there but that’s gradually going out of fashion. Google noticed that this rule is being abused and now places less attention to keywords in your domain. So, you don’t have to insert keywords in your domain for the purposes of SEO and ranking higher. Moreover, generic non-branded domains such as keyword1-keyword2.com are less reliable than brandkeyword.com for people and Google equally.
Transferring your domain names
As a side note, if you decide to transfer your domain to another service provider, I want to share a good guide of domain transfer from GoDaddy. Please note, I’m not affiliated with the company in any way. I just found their manual handy and very easy to follow.
Takeaways from the EMD update by Google
The EMD Update — for “Exact Match Domain” — is a filter Google launched in September 2012 to prevent poor quality sites from ranking well simply because they had words that match search terms in their domain names. Oct 16, 2013. Source.
In a nutshell, keyword-stuffed domains are no longer a good practice to achieve higher rankings in Google. Now Google looks at sites with keyword-based domains and tries to understand if these sites were created for the purposes of gaining rankings. Google looks at the quality of content on those sites. If it’s poor, Google penalizes the site by reducing their rankings or removing them from index altogether.
- Don’t buy domains to increase rankings. And make sure your agency is not involved in such practices. Feel free to forward this post to them and as if they use such practices.
- Focus on content quality. If you have quality content even on the keyword-based site, it’s unlikely that Google will penalize your site. Going forward the quality (along with frequency) of your site’s content will play a huge role in determining your rankings.
- Don’t panic. From experience I know that the first reaction is to freak out and start counting dollars lost as a result of lost rankings, calls to your freelancer screaming at them and telling to stop doing what they’re doing, etc. Remember, than panic doesn’t solve problems.
- If hit, follow these guidelines. If you’re not maintaining your site, then just send this post to your webmaster or freelance SEO or your marketing agency that’s responsible for your site’s marketing.
Good articles on the topic
- Domain name matters: searchers pick brand over quality, study finds
- How to choose domain names for SEO?
- Best practices on domain names for SEO from SEOmoz
- 12 rules for choosing the right domain name from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz
- Discussion of top level domains from Search Engine Journal
As always, feel free to leave your experiences in the comments below. I’m sure my colleagues can add a thing or two and those who want to learn will get their bit of advice here useful.
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