Every website domain plays a role in the website’s overall rankings, whether to be its benefit or detriment. Let’s break down the important features of domains and why they weigh on your SEO rankings. There are three parts to a domain; an optional subdomain, a domain name, and the top-level domain.
Top-level Domain (TLD): This is the suffix or extension that appears after the domain name. Examples of TLDs include .com, .net, and .org. These are only a few of the most widely used TLDs, among over 1000 of such. There are county and region-specific TLDs, which are known as country-code TLDs (ccTLDs). Examples include .uk for the United Kingdom.
Domain Name: Your domain name is your site’s unique identifier. It’s what users will type into the address bar of any web browser to get to your site. It’s the human-readable address of your website. Combine your domain name with the TLD, and you have the root domain. In your website’s hierarchy, the root domain is the highest page, and this is usually the home page. The root domain represents your entire website and not just specific pages on your site. It is, therefore, worth noting that there is no way two sites can share a root domain.
Subdomain: In front of the root domain is the subdomain. Separating the subdomain from the domain name is a period. For a site such as http://www.abcd.com, “www” is the subdomain. Again, you will notice that “service.abcd.com” and “blog.abcd.com” are both subdomains of the root domain, “abcd.com.”
Domain and SEO: Best Practices
Choosing the right domain is one of the most critical decisions you will need to make when you start a website. That your domain has an impact on search engine rankings and overall SEO efforts is all the reason why you should take the time to select an SEO-optimized domain name.
Here is a look at some of the important things you should know including the best practices for SEO-optimized domains
1. Length of Domain
The shorter, the better. Try to keep the length of your domain to 15 characters or less. It’s worth noting that the top-ranking websites have a character count of less than 10 in their domain names.
2. Make It Memorable
Also consider processing fluency, which has everything to do with the ease of pronounceability. Users are more likely to remember what they can pronounce. As much as possible, stay clear of nonstandard characters.
Another excellent way to influence the processing fluency of your domain is to include your brand name in the domain. This makes it all the more recognizable, even among new users.
3. Be Intuitive and Leave No Room for Ambiguity
Pick an intuitive domain name that will leave the users with any doubt about what it is that your business is about and your product offerings. A user who comes across the domain karlsautorepairs.com, for example, will intuitively deduce that it’s an auto repair shop.
Again, be sure that your choice of a domain name cannot be misconstrued to mean anything other what it is you actually intended to mean. For example, therapistlocator.com may jump out as meaning two different things to those who come across it.
4. Keywords in Your Domain
An exact match domain (EMD) matches a keyword, or keyword phrase exactly. Up until 2012, EMD would get higher rankings on SERPs, because, after all, they would match users’ exact queries. In that year, Google made significant changes to its algorithm, which has effectively reduced EMD of low quality from search results.
Today, the negative bias towards EMDs and keyword-rich domains is more real than ever, with both search engines and users. If you must, then include a broad keyword as opposed to a targeted keyword.
5. Carefully Choose Your TLD
You are always better off going with a .com TLD. Other great options you may want to consider if the .com TLD is unavailable include .co and .net. TLDs. Direct traffic with these widely used TLDs is high, as they are considered authoritative.
On the other hand, TLDs such as .biz tend to be associated with spammy websites. And while your website may be above-board on all front, you will certainly pay for it if you choose the TLD. Again, it is not a widely used TLD, and as such, traffic may not be as good. Both these factors will affect your click-through rates (CTRs) and negatively impact your search engine rankings.
6. Avoid Hyphens
Not too long ago, there was a wave of unscrupulous behavior of riding on the traffic of reputable websites by simply hyphenating the domain names of these websites. Search engines soon picked up on this, and necessary changes were made to the algorithm.
This is the reason why hyphens in domains have become associated with spammy websites. Avoid hyphens in your domain to maintain readability and credibility.
7. Avoid Numbers
Is it 2andahalfmen.com, or twoandahalfmen.com? Users will not know whether to spell out the numbers in your domain name or just type the numeral itself. It can all be very confusing and plays into the processing fluency highlighted earlier.
Additionally, numbers just like hyphens, are associated with spammy websites trying to cheat the search engine algorithm. Your site will not have credibility, and your rankings will suffer as a result.
8. Avoid Abbreviations
Unless your business name is an abbreviation, then you should avoid these in your domain name by all means. Abbreviations will only take away from the processing fluency element. The only exception, of course, as already implied, is if your business name itself is an abbreviation.
About Domain Age
Contrary to what you may have heard, it is indeed not true that domain age, or the length of time the domain has been registered, is a search engine ranking factor. That you registered your domain six years ago does not necessarily give you any significant advantage over a competitor’s domain registered six months ago.
According to the experts, what may matter is the first recorded inbound link on your site and the first instance of crawling.
Always stay on top of renewing your domain before it expires. If it’s your main domain and you have every intention of using it for a long time, then you may want to go for a subscription that spans a more prolonged period instead of having to renew it every now and again. Unfortunately, you cannot buy domains permanently so you have to keep them renewed.
When It Is Time to Move Domains
You are not tied to any domain registrar. You may start considering a new registrar if you are unsatisfied with the features you offer with your current registrar or how reliable they are. That or just a matter of preference, you can always move domains at any time.
That said, you should always approach domain migration with tact. The best approach is always to set up the redirects from the old domain to the new one on a page-to-page basis. This is as opposed to setting up the redirect for all pages to go direct to the landing page on the new domain.
As outlined, there are several best practices to consider when choosing a domain for your website. From avoiding hyphens, numbers, special characters and abbreviations to watching how you use keywords in the domain, there are dos and don’ts that you should always keep in mind. Engage an expert webmaster for the best results. Give us a call if you have questions about domain relations with our SEO services. 1-800-724-0252