Choosing a domain name is the first you do affecting SEO.
There’s a lot of rumors and outdated strategies out there. So I’m going to cover the most common questions about domain names and SEO. Hopefully it will help you make a decision. Just remember that choosing an SEO-friendly domain name is only 1 part of the SEO equation – it’s often said there’s over 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.
Here’s what you need to know about domain names and SEO…
- Brandable Domain Names Are SEO-Friendly
- What About Keywords?
- Choosing A Domain Extension
- Purchasing Domain Extension Variations
- Avoid Hyphens
- Avoid Buying Domains For Redirect Purposes
- Avoid Trademarked Domains
- Domain Registration Length Doesn’t Matter
1. Branded Domain Names Are SEO-Friendly
Choosing a brandable domain name helps SEO in itself. More people will remember it, they will revisit you, and they’re more likely to trust a domain with positive branding – as oppose to one that is keyword-rich and risks looking spammy.
It’s the positive and creative branding that drives more links, social shares, and all those nice signals search engines want. That’s something a keyword-rich domain name probably won’t yield. So think of something creative. Make it brandable, make it memorable.
What is really more important anyway? Your brand, or a fraction of your SEO?
2. What About Keywords?
People who buy domains with all their keywords in it – we’ve adapted to them and frankly, it looks unprofessional and sketchy. You’re not fooling me chicagopersonalinjurylawyer.com.
But there’s no denying keyword-rich domains still play a part in SEO. Moz’s latest survey on Google’s ranking factors says that “domain level keyword usage” accounts for 6.98% of all ranking factors in Google…
Hold on. Keyword-rich domains account for 6.98% of Google’s ranking factors and you’re telling me to stay away?
Yes. The weight Google gives for keywords in the domain (now 6.98%) has been declining over the years. And it’s expected to decline even more. Bing even labeled it a myth.
Sometimes it makes sense if your business name naturally has keywords. MiamiFishing.com is both brandable and has its keywords. But chicagopersonalinjurylawyer.com? Eh… not so much. There’s a fine line between a keyword-rich domain that still sounds good, and a keyword-stuffed domain that sounds spammy or generic. Make a judgement call.
Here are the different types of keyword-rich domains…
Exact Match Domains – EMDs include all words of the phrase you want to rank for. Has the highest SEO benefits (at least for that 1 phrase) but sacrifices branding.
Partial Match Domains – includes only some words of your main phrase. Still has SEO benefits while often leaving room in the domain for branded word(s).
No Match Domains – does not include keywords. Has less direct SEO benefits from a domain perspective but yields long-term SEO benefits (trust, willingness to link to you, etc).
Tips on choosing keyword-rich domains:
- Usually better for localized websites (eg. MiamiFishing.com)
- If you think it sounds too spammy or generic, it probably is
- The current weight Google gives for keywords in the domain is declining
Regardless of the 6.98%, Google’s Matt Cutts still recommends branding over SEO…
3. Choosing A Domain Extension
.com – the most popular extension and probably the one you should choose if it’s available, unless you’re an organization where it makes sense to use .org.
.net and .org – usually purchased if the .com version is taken (try to get the .com).
Country-specific – domain extensions like .us (United States) or .au (Australia) are used when you’re offering products/services only for that specific country. This can improve SEO for that country but limits you from expanding globally.
4. Purchasing Domain Extension Variations
Domain registrars prompt you to buy these at checkout, they’re useless though. The only benefit is to protect your brand from competitors who would secure an extension and build a website to try and outrank you. This isn’t likely since Google takes measures to prevent sketchy websites from ranking high (duplicate content, no links or social activity, etc).
5. Avoid Hyphens
Any website with a hyphen is not an SEO-friendly domain name. Hyphens are associated with spammy websites and should be avoided. Plus they leave room for typos for when people are linking to your site or sharing it on social media. Just avoid them.
6. Don’t Buy Domains to Redirect Them to Your Main Site
This doesn’t work. If you buy a new domain that has 0 links and you redirect it to your main site, you aren’t passing any link juice or value to your main site. So there’s no point.
Be careful purchasing existing domains and websites if you’re planning on redirecting them to your main site. Realize that the links to that website are for that website, not yours, so expecting those links to work in the same way may not work. As a general rule, I advise to only buy a domain name if you’re actually going to build a unique website on it.
7. Avoid Trademarked Domains
Back in the day I was thinking about using “WordPress” in my domain name until I found out WordPress prohibits this. According to their terms “WordPress” is prohibited while “WP” is free to use. When in doubt, do a little research. It could save you a lot of time.
8. Domain Registration Length Doesn’t Matter
“To the best of my knowledge, no search engine has ever confirmed that they use length of registration as a factor in scoring…” -Matt Cutts, Head of Spam at Google (taken from Moz).
Well I hope this helped! If you have any questions about SEO-friendly domain names or SEO in general, leave me a comment below.
Hey, This is a very valuable and informative article. Thanks for the detailed explanation.
Nice list of requirements. Concerning domain name selection, Exact Match Domain looks like an amateur one. Select a brand name and use it, it will give much more professional image.
Yep that’s pretty much the gist!
Great article. I did know that keywords were at 6.98% and declining within the recent years.
Another reason to go with a KC firm is because that firm will understand the local lingo and
know what kinds of terms people use to refer to products.
Being an authority in your industry will help you rank higher in the SERP.
Local SEO hence gives an advantage to the smaller organizations to
compete with the bigger counterparts, when compared to a local search.