SEO Fundamentals: How to Pick the Right Domain Name
It can be an exciting or frustrating step to choose your domain name. You want to get it right the first time because changing your domain name later has consequences.
So, what do you need to consider when choosing your new domain name?
There’s your brand name, availability, and search engine optimization. Ensure you choose something that helps you build domain authority and generate more organic traffic.
Keep reading to learn:
- How domain names affect search engine optimization (SEO)
- How to use SEO to choose the best domain name for your business
What Domain Names Are
Your domain name refers to your website’s address in the address (URL) bar, before the top-level domain (TLD). For example, Microsoft.com has the domain name “Microsoft” and the top-level domain “.com.”
There are thousands of top-level domains available, but some of the most popular include .com, .net, .gov, and .edu. TLDs are also known as domain extensions.
Combined, your domain name and top-level domain make up your root domain.
Your domain also includes an optional subdomain. The most popular is “www.,” but a subdomain can also indicate a different section of a website like blog.hubspot.com or support.google.com.
Subdomains can always be added later, so you don’t need to worry about them when you choose your main domain name.
Domain Names and SEO
So, does your domain name affect SEO?
Yes, it does.
However, keep in mind that other factors determine your SEO ranking. Your website also needs to load fast, have high-quality content and backlinks, to name a few ranking factors.
A good domain name can help boost your search engine rankings. Alternatively, and maybe more importantly, a poor domain name choice can damage your SEO ranking.
Over time, the domain SEO relationship has changed. In the past, webmasters could keyword-stuff domains and rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERP).
As Google continued to update its search algorithm, it placed more importance on content quality and user experience than keywords.
The domain SEO effect involves more factors than in the past.
SEO Domain Visibility
SEO visibility measures the percentage of organic clicks a website receives for a given keyword. It also measures your performance relative to other websites that compete for the same keyword.
When a given keyword is searched, how much traffic does your website receive?
You can see how your online presence compares to your competitors’. And, if you track your SEO visibility, you can quickly detect SEO problems as they occur.
Keyword Domain Names
Domains fall under one of two categories: keyword and branded.
Keyword domains contain keywords, like buycarinsurance.com. Branded domain names don’t contain any keywords, and they usually use the company name. WordPress.com and Amazon.com are considered branded domains.
When SEO first made headlines, using keyword domains offered a quick and easy way to rank highly on Google search. That is no longer the case.
According to Google’s algorithm, keyword and branded domains are ranked the same way.
It’s a risk to use a keyword-rich domain name since Google flags domains that appear spammy, such as exact match domains.
What Exact Match Domains Are
An exact match domain (EMD) is any domain that matches the target keyword word for word. For example, carinsurance.com is an EMD for the search term “car insurance.”
In contrast, partial keyword domain names only include part of the keyword you want to target. Searchenginewatch.com is a partial match domain for the keyword “search engine optimization.”
Exact match domain names have earned a reputation for spammy practices and poor-quality websites. So, it’s best to avoid them.
In some cases, an exact match domain name might be an SEO-friendly domain name. An example is Hotels.com.
Unfortunately, most of the exact match domain names for short keywords are already taken.
SEO Best Practices for Your Domain Name
You might wonder how to choose a domain name that helps your SEO and avoid domain names that can hurt your ranking.
Here are the best practices to master the domain SEO relationship and find the right domain name for your website.
Keep in mind your search engine ranking also depends on your content quality and web design.
Opt for a Good TLD
Choosing the right top-level domain significantly impacts your SEO score. It influences how people judge your website outside of search results pages too.
Limit yourself to common TLDs that maintain a positive reputation. If you can get a “.com” domain, that’s your best bet.
In some cases, your industry might determine your TLD. For example, .gov and .edu indicate government and educational institutions, respectively.
Other examples include .org for non-profit organizations and .io for technology companies.
Avoid TLDs with reputations for spam websites, such as .rest, .biz, and .tk as they can negatively affect your SEO rank and click-through rate (CTR).
Use a Short Domain Name
Shorter domain names are better for domain SEO. Shorter domain names are often easier to read, understand, and share.
Short domains also project authority and professionality, both good qualities to have for SEO ranking.
Ideally, you want to use three words or less for your domain name. Although most one-word .com domain names are already taken, two-word domain names work well.
Make Your Domain Name Memorable
In addition to finding a short domain name, you want one that’s easy to type, pronounce, and remember.
Avoid hyphens or words that are difficult to spell.
In other words, pick a user-friendly domain name. Memorable domain names help increase organic (SEO) traffic and direct traffic.
Direct traffic refers to people who type your URL directly into the address bar online.
It’s easier for someone to return to your website when you have an easy and memorable domain name.
Use Keywords Wisely in Your Domain
Search engines penalize anything that seems like spam. So, you shouldn’t use a keyword-heavy domain name.
But, that doesn’t mean you can never use keywords in your domain. Instead, we recommend you use broad keywords when they are relevant to create a domain SEO advantage.
Broad keywords can be combined with your brand name to create your domain name. For example, Ashley Homestore uses AshleyFurniture.com as its domain.
When used properly, broad keywords create a better user experience by telling searchers what your business offers.
Final Thoughts: The Domain SEO Effect: What You Need to Know
When you create your website, it can feel like you’re building your business all over again. You need to select a domain name, find hosting services, and design your website.
If you want to generate organic traffic, you need to build your website with SEO ranking factors in mind.
However, with a little research and the right tools, you can get your website right the first time. To learn more about affordable hosting plans, visit iPage today.