Choosing a domain name is always tricky…..
Do I optimise for the product / service or do I optimise for the Brand Name?
In the old days, for people looking for me by brand name I’d place an short listing in the phone book, for products and services I’d place a big Ad in the Yellow Pages or similar business directory.
Back then it was simple – two listing, if only it were that simple now……
Keywords in the Domain Name
This has been argued to be the 2nd most important on-page SEO factor affecting Search engine position (SERPs). Deciding whether to have your company name as your domain name may be very simple or one that involves a lot of personal pride.
If the Brand Name is well established then it’s simple. Quite a lot of people will be trying to find your site with your brand name and as a result your brand name is your keyword.
If your Brand is new, then things get tricky. Are you launching the company / brand via a massive advertising campaign encompassing all media? If the answer is ‘No’, then may be domain name that describes your services is a better option. As an example, one of the UK’s biggest home improvement wharehouses has the domain name diy.com.
Should I optimise my domain name?
Using this ranking factor is all down to branding.
- Is your brand well known?
- Would a potential customer be searching for your company name or simply for the products you sell?
The options :
- A well known company such as Pepsi, Sony or Toyota would definitely have a domain name containing their company name. E.g. www.pepsi.com
- A company that does all of its’ business on-line, with no other form of advertising may consider using keywords in domain names instead of a brand name. If someone was searching for a place to stay, then they may use the search phrase ‘bournemouth hotels’. Therefore, having the url www.bournemouth-hotels.com could be an advantage. After all, who can remember all the names of their local hotels? It is important that the domain name reflects the target audience.
A Keyword Rich Domain Name
How to choose a domain name
When a company is well established, there is an advantage in the domain name reflecting the company name. Use dashes to hyphenate the domain name, where the company name contains more than one word. If the domain name is hyphenated e.g. www.first-second.com, the site will rank better for the first word and less for the second and so on. Do not use more than 3 dashes.
Before choosing a domain name for your website it is important to investigate the possible monthly traffic and also to gauge the competition. Where it is possible, analyse existing keyword entry word analytics for the most commonly used search terms people arrive at a site with. This information can be used to choose new domain names.
If your company name is the same as popular phrase, visitor’s maybe expecting to see a ‘Wikipedia’ style definition of that phrase. When they see an on-line store they will instantly leave, giving that site a ‘bounce’. For instance, there maybe a sandwich shop named ‘Bees Wax’ yet honey does not feature on the menu.
Also many words have alternative meanings, for instance ‘turf’ maybe related to ‘turf accountants’, garden centres, or local ‘odd job’ workmen.
Look at all the competing websites. This is where some web skills become an advantage.
For each competing website make a note of:
- Meta description tags
- Meta keywords
- Title tags
Use our SEO domain name keyword tool here:
Once you have generated a list of all the potential keywords that you would like to be found for, feed them into a keyword suggestion tool and keyword traffic estimator.
Choose a Domain Name
Google Traffic Estimator
It may seem that all the popular domain names have been taken, but with the use of hyphenation, it is still possible to come up with optimised keyword domains.
Once you have you domain check to see if it passes the ‘earshot’ test:
If you here a domain name across a room, could you still type in it an hour later? You are looking for a domain name that is instantly understandable and doesn’t require being spelt out slowly character by character. Try to keep the domain name under 15 characters.
Which domain extension is best?
Some domain extensions (Top Level Domain – TLD) are giving a rankings boost if they are government or education related. However, these domains are only issued to institutions.
- .gov sites seem to be the highest status
- .edu sites seem to be given a high status
- .ac.uk sites seem to be given a high status (UK)
- .org sites seem to be given a high status
Domains ending in .com are easy to remember but are favoured by less reputable sites and spammers. Search engines therefore scrutinise and penalise these sites more readily. Hence if you choose .com make sure that the content is clean and un-offensive.
When trying to remember a domain name, if unsure, the first extension chosen will be ‘.com’. It is easier to say and easier to remember. Even if it was clearly state ‘.net’, the brain will store ‘.com’. Several studies have proven that .com domain names get higher traffic than their .net counterparts and are remembered more accurately.
After .com the next will be the most popular national extension, such as ‘.co.uk’
Opinion is divided on many of the very new extensions. For now, the advice is still .com, .net, .biz, .tv, .co.uk.
When starting a new on-line business principles are similar to that opening a shop. Start locally, and build upon success.
Re-using an Existing domain name
The last thing to consider is whether the domain has previously been registered. Previously, registered domains can demand higher premiums plus they may also come with un-wanted baggage. Only re-use a domain when you are 100% sure of its’ history and there has been no down-time. Only buy existing domains with a Google ranking of 5 or above.
Imagine if the previous owner of the domain had left huge debts and thousands of disgruntled customers. It may not only be this url that gets bad traffic, but potentially hundreds of forum sites crammed angry customer’s comments. You could be the victim of mistaken identity. If the url has been banned by search engines for offensive content or illegal activity getting, it re-listed may be virtually impossible and a fruitless time consuming exercise.
Visitors to the site may be expecting certain content. Those visitors’ maybe human or automated spiders. When the expected content is absent, a human will instantly leave, giving the website a ‘bounce’. A spider will penalise the site for missing urls (404 errors), dynamic content and down-time. It will take months, if not years for this to correct itself.
When purchasing an existing domain, try not to instantly change all of the content, this will get the site a ‘dynamic content’ penalty. Keep the theme of the site close to the original.
How do I know if a domain has been previously used?
- Check if a domain is currently registered by using our Domain name checker to do a Whois look-up.
- Type the domain name into the search bar of as many browsers you can find. Check the first 10 pages of all results.
- Using Google, type ‘site:’ directly followed by your domain name.
What is Website Canonicalisation?
If http://domain-name.com gives the same result as http://www.domain-name.com then there is an issue known as canonicalisation. Essentially two web addresses give the same content. For this you will receive a duplicate content penalty. It is important only one url exists. The other should be re-directed (301 redirect) to the chosen target.
Should the www be included in the url?
It is possible to omit the www from urls. However, most visitors will automatically type the ‘www.’ without even thinking. It has become expected and a phrase starting with www will be instantly recognisable as a web address.