How to Choose SEO-Friendly Domain Name
One of the first steps of launching a new website is choosing your domain name.
This is the string of text and characters that users see in their web browser when visiting your website.
The domain name acts as an address for your website, allowing visitors to easily return by entering it into their web browser. Unbeknownst to many webmasters, however, it also influences search rankings. If you want to build a website that search engines love and reward with high rankings, follow these tips to choose an SEO-friendly domain name.
Many webmasters use their primary target keyword as the domain name for their website. Known as an Exact Match Domain (EMD), it was once a powerful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that allowed webmasters to quickly rank otherwise thin, low-quality websites at the top of the search results.
Like other archaic SEO strategies, though, the use of EMDs has since faded. In September 2012, Google rolled out an algorithm update that eliminated the SEO value of EMDs. Neither Google nor Bing will penalize your website strictly for using an EMD, but don’t expect your website to instantly rank on the first page because of an EMD.
Make It Brandable
Rather than using your primary target keyword, choose a domain name that’s brandable. It should be unique and relevant to your website instead of just a slightly altered version of a competitor’s domain name. A brandable domain name helps visitors remember and recognize your website, which may promote higher search rankings. If the website is for your business, consider using your business’s name as the domain name.
With more than 330 million domain names already registered, you may not have the luxury of using your business’s name as the domain name. If your business’s name is a common word or phrase, someone else may have already registered it. If you’re unable to use your business’s name, choose a domain name that reflects what your business sells or offers, all while keeping it unique and brandable.
Use Letters Only
If possible, only use letters in your domain name. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that creates and manages standards for domain name registrations, supports the use of non-case-sensitive letters as well as hyphens and numbers in domain names.
If your preferred domain name is already taken, you may assume that sticking some of hyphens or numbers in it will suffice. The problem with this is that visitors are less likely to remember domain names with numbers or hyphens. By only using letters, you’ll create an easy-to-remember domain name that keeps visitors coming back to your website.
And when search engines discover your website’s strong user engagement signals — a high percentage of returning visitors, long average visit duration, etc. — they may rank it higher in the search results.
Keep It Short
The shorter your domain name, the better. According to one study, the median domain name length of the top 50 websites is just six characters. Websites with shorter domain names are easier to remember than their counterparts with longer domain names. So, what’s the ideal length for a domain name?
Registering a six-character .com in a common word or phrase is probably out of the question.
As long as your domain name is no longer than 15 characters, though, it shouldn’t hinder your website’s SEO strategy.
Choose a Well-Known TLD
There are currently more than 1,000 top-level domains (TLDs). And while they all function the same, search engines favor certain TLDs more than others. If you look at examples of spam websites, for example, you’ll probably discover that many use the .info TLD.
This is because domain registrars typically charge less for .info registrations than other, more well-known TLDs. As a result, spammers can register them in bulk without investing a significant amount of money. Another reason that .info domain names are commonly used for spam is that fewer of them have been registered.
If a spammer can’t register a specific domain name in a .com TLD, he or she may use a .info of the same name.
Websites with a well-known TLDs, such as .com, .net and .org, tend to rank higher in the search results. The .com TLD was originally intended for U.S. websites, but it has since become a globally recognized and used TLD. Visitors are more likely to remember your website’s address if it features the .com extension.
Therefore, you should try to use it for your website’s domain name. If the .com isn’t available, though, .net or .org will suffice.
Register for Five or More Years
There’s no direct evidence showing that domain name registration length — the amount of time for which a domain is registered — affects SEO. Some webmasters, however, believe that registering a domain name for at least five years promotes higher search rankings than shorter registrations. The belief is that most spammers only register their domain names for one year at a time to minimize their risk of financial loss.
If a spammer’s website is penalized by Google, he or she can register a different domain name, also for a single year.
Whether domain name registration length affects SEO is open to debate, but you can err on the side of caution by choosing a five- or 10-year registration period. It costs more than one-year registrations, but it shows Google that you are committed to developing your website.
Double Check the Spelling
Before registering a new domain name, double check the spelling to ensure that it’s correct. There’s nothing worse than spending money on a new domain name, only to discover that you made a typo. An extra letter or a misplaced letter will completely throw off your domain name, making it difficult for visitors to remember.