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Picking a Website domain name and what it means in terms of SEO

Updated on March 29, 2018

One of the first things you will do when you start your quest online is to get yourself a website. To do this, you will need to buy yourself a domain name, rent a server and upload your site to it, simple. Few people understand the importance of their domain name and the impact that it can have on their success online. This article will take a look at this in more detail!

First and foremost, don't rush in and buy any old name. Your domain name will become one of the things your company is recognizable by. Your prize asset. Remember that when people think of your website, they will think of it by name. It is sensible to have your domain name the same as your site URL, mainly as when people type in to the search engines, they will do it by your name (more than not). Buying a domain name that is different from the name of your website will only confuse matters. So if your site is called 'Healthy-Britain.com' and you buy a domain name called Get-fit.com', you are setting yourself up to lose business to the site Get-Fit.com. Keep your domain name and site name the same (lots of 'sames there'!).

It is important to recognize that your listing will be displayed on a page with many other links. it needs to stand out. It needs to be the link that users want to click on.

I guess the only exception will be if you already have an existing business, it is well established and the domain name you want is taken by someone else. You might look to contact the owner and see if they would consider selling (you can fin them through WHOIS).

Following on from being the link that attracts the customers, it really is important in how domain name looks. Is it catchy or long winded and unappealing? Is it relevant to your product or website or has it nothing to do with it? These things are important. You want your customers to remember your name. Make it easy for them. It is of huge importance to have a name that matches your brand. Aside from the SEO benefit, which i will come to, it is more likely to attract customers looking for your product.

Keep your domain name short and articulate. Long domain names in my view lose credibility as they just look spammy. Some say that long names are easier to remember but personally, names like 'Findthebestonlinepokerroom.com' does not look good and loses every day to a domain like 'Bestpokerrooms.com'. Not to mention that with 67 characters allowed, that doesn't mean you need to use all of them. These long domains usually look like someone in it for a quick buck, and that's usually not to far from the truth. Their trying to cash in by stuffing their domain name with keywords. if your in it for the long haul, steer clear of this practice. Choose something catchy and memorable. If you are stuck, there are plenty of sites that offer tools which offer suggested available domain names based on keywords you input, which leads me nicely on the topic of keywords.

Domain names and their value in SEO

For those that don't know, SEO stands for 'Search Engine Optimisation' and is the process for improving the position that a website or web page appears in the search engine results. There are a few things to understand before we go any further. Every page has a topic, meaning it is about something. In relation to a web page, each web page has particular keywords that the owner is trying to rank for (which identifies what it is about). If i create a page that focuses on the keyword 'Gift Cards', then the ultimate goal is to be the first site listed in the search engines, when a user searches for the keywords 'Gift Cards'. More than likely, when you first create the page and add it to your site, you won't be anywhere near the #1 spot. Applying SEO techniques will help you improve your ranking closer to the #1 spot.

I'll stick with this for a moment longer. Without getting too technical, the search engines use an algorithm. This is basically a program which determines which page is listed #1, #2, #100 and so on. The algorithm has many different factors that it looks for to determine the position of each and every page. More so in Google, one of the key factors is relevancy. So for our page on 'Gift Cards', Google is going to look at whether i) the page is relevant to gift cards, ii) whether the site is relevant to gift cards and iii) whether the sites linking to that site and web page are relevant to gift cards. The domain name is also hugely important here as it adds significant amounts of relevancy to a website and it's related pages.

It is important to point out here that the WWW (World Wide Web) is a massive array of web pages and linkages between these pages. Google used a voting system in which relevancy plays a big part. Every time one web page links to another, it casts a vote. The more votes you have for a page, the more popular it is in the eyes of Google, and so it ranks higher. Let's assume we both had a web page about 'Gift Cards' and we each got 100 websites to link to our web page. Your links were all from relevant sites (sites that show up in the results when you type 'Gift Cards' into the search) and i got 100 links from site that were nothing to do with 'Gift Cards'. Which site would rank higher? There are other factors, however it will be yours, without a question of a doubt.

I hope this emphasizes how important relevancy is. Having your keywords in your domain name or URL is a massive advantage. Having a site called 'Gift-cards.com' will outperform a site called 'Specialday.com' assuming both were trying to rank for the keywords 'Gift Cards' (assuming the same amount of SEO was done on each site). This is an important point.

In terms of SEO, inbound links to your web page are very important. All links on the web have code that includes anchor test (the text the user sees on the web page). The anchor text from each link adds relevancy to the page it points to. To give you an example a standard link is written like this:

<a href="http://www.gift-cards.com">Custom Gift Cards</a>

The bit in bold is the anchor text and when the user clicks it, would be taken to www.gift-cards.com. So the logic is that the more links using the anchor text 'Custom Gift Cards', the higher i will rank for that keyword. Having links that come into your website that have relevant URL's and also relevant pages (similar in topic) is an even bigger advantage. That's why domain name and page URL's are so important to get right.

The point i was leading up to, is that every page on your site that has your keywords in your URL will mean your site will be considered more relevant than if you choose an obscure name that isn't related to the keywords that best describe your business. The more relevant the search engines see your site to a particular keyword, the higher you will rank. So understanding the importance of keywords,the value in undertaking keyword research cannot be understated. It is one of the first things you should be doing. There are a few things to consider:

  • Find keywords that best describe your product (find about 5-10)
  • Look and see what keywords your competitors are using
  • Find out how competitive the keywords are (how easy to rank highly)
  • Research what domain names are available that use your main keywords?

There are loads of keyword suggestion tools online. A good one is http://www.bustaname.com/, which will allow you to search for keywords and domain names that are still available.

To see how competitive keywords are type 'Google Search term tool' into Google and click on the first listing. A very useful Google adwords tool that give you an indication on how many people are searching for your keywords along with how competitive they are (how many web pages are competing).

The domain name i want is taken!

Very often the name you want will be taken. Most domain name registrars will offer alternative similar names. There are many different TLD's (such as .com, .org, .co.uk etc) so make sure you search across the lot. Whilst .com is the most wanted, you will often find the domain name you want in another TLD. Remember if you prefix your domain name with anything such as 'My..' or 'The..', you should make sure your site name has the prefix included, as people will forget to type it in and may land on a competitors site!

The answer is research. Doing this up front and before you start your business will save you the headache, should you find you can't get the domain name you want. Here are some additional considerations when choosing a domain name.

1) Pick a unique domain name - picking a domain name that is similar to your competitors name should be avoided. Firstly it comes across that you are too lazy to find your own name. Secondly when your customer base wants to find you online, you want them to find your site, not your competitors. Make your brand unique!

2) Keep it simple and easy to remember - if you expect your customers to find you by typing in your domain name, make it easy for them. It should be easy to remember and easy to type.

3) .Com is the way forward for real businesses - if you are in it for the quick buck then perhaps this isn't so relevant but if you are wanting to build a brand and are in it for the long haul, stick to a doc com TLD.

4) Do your keyword research - take a note of the top keywords that best describe your business or product. Find keywords that are less competitive as these are easier to rank for (people tend not to click past the first page - if your not there, it does you no good). Once you have your keywords, try to make domain names using the keywords, finding a combination that looks good, has appeal and is easy to remember (catchy).

5) Avoid copyright infringements - check with http://www.copyright.gov/records/cohm.html to ensure that you are not using a name that is protected.

6) Stay clear from cheap tricks - domains that use numbers, dates, hyphens, common spelling mistakes or appended letters (.i.e. poker-x.com) don't look good. There are tons of sites out there with a date appended to their domain name. Good for the year but now look stupid! Take your time and find the right name. There are plenty available.

7) Buy other TLD domains - if you get your .com, think about buying some of the other key domains. For instance, if you are UK based, you should also get the .co.uk extension also. This also stops others using the same name as you.

8) Make it fun - domain names can be fun when we want them to be. A domain name that is fun and creative is likely to get more clicks than one without:)

9) Don't spam your domain name - adding a keyword to your domain name makes sense, provided you come up with something unique and catchy. Stuffing 5 keywords in your domain will not look good and will attract less attention from potential customers. It is also likely it would be memorable, catchy or fun.

On a last note, there is probably one exception to the rule. I have talked a lot about the importance of keywords and using them in your domain name. This is something big brands stay away from (Google, Flickr, Facebook etc). This is generally as they have the financial backing and marketing expertise to get it out there and don't need to rely on the advantage gained. If you have limited resources at hand, there is huge benefit in using keywords in your domain.

If you have any specific questions, please let me know. I hope you come up trumps:)

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