Does my domain name affect my SEO ranking?
SEO has come a long way since elements like domain name could have a significant impact on rank. While Google’s focus has shifted from mere keywords to a more holistic approach to content relevance and popularity, there are still some SEO considerations to make when choosing your domain.
What is SEO?
The Google search engine aims to provide quality answers to queries raised by searchers. They achieve this by ranking sites in order of relevance to the keywords searched. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is a method used to improve a site’s rank in these search results by demonstrating that the content is relevant, valuable and current. By identifying appropriate keywords, you can increase the visibility of your site on popular search engines and drive organic web traffic as a result.
In the past, keyword-stuffed sites would rank but, since then, the Google algorithm has become much more intelligent and complex. Now, to rank well, not only do the keywords need to appear, your site must appeal to the viewer on a number of levels, including functionality, speed and ease of navigation.
How can the domain I choose impact SEO for my website?
Early on, a business’ domain name held significant weight when it came to search engine results. However, in 2012, Google reviewed their ranking algorithm to reduce the impact. Many people were using their domain as a primary strategy for SEO, yet the content on the ranking sites wasn’t useful to searchers. Now, your domain name can help boost your SEO but not nearly as much as it has previously.
While SEO is a strategy available for almost anyone to copy, your domain name is unique. Your domain name sets you apart from every other site trying to rank for the same keywords. No-one can take your domain name and, in that regard, it’s one of your biggest assets. Your domain name may not contribute much to your overall ranking, but the right domain name can have a significant impact on brand awareness, trust and clickthrough rates.
How can I use my domain name to my advantage?
When it comes to SEO, to get the most out of your domain name you need to ensure that it is in line with both your brand and your product or service offering. This, of course, all leads back to the root ranking purpose, relevance. There are also a number of technical factors for you to consider.
Here are some guidelines to follow to optimise your domain for best engagement:
Don’t choose a long domain name
It’s not rocket science that the longer the domain name, the harder it is to read and, more importantly, remember. Eliminate that concern by limiting your domain name to 15 characters. Any more and the letters begin to jumble!
Opt for simplicity
In line with length, keeping your domain name easy in terms of characters used is also a high priority. Google places a high emphasis on usability and accessibility when it comes to ranking factors. The easier it is for humans, the better it is for search engines. The more hyphens, numbers and symbols you include in your domain name, the harder it becomes for the user to read, remember and type. These characters, especially hyphens, are resonant with spammy behaviour, so it’s best to avoid them altogether and keep it simple by only using letters.
Make it memorable
Again, your domain name should be easy to remember. It seems elementary but the more farfetched your domain name, the less likely your customers are to find you. Not only does this open up the door for word-of-mouth advertising, it actually scientifically makes your customers feel better about your brand. Our brains are programmed to favour fluency, so the easier it is to say, spell and think about, the more positive an association your customer will make with your brand.
Be smart about keywords
Exact-match keywords or keyword-rich domain names can actually hinder your SEO, but partial-match keywords can be effective in your domain name. This should be a secondary consideration to brand. You may be able to include an obvious keyword in your domain name that remains on brand and benefits the user’s understanding of your brand. For example, if your business is called Sleepy Time and you sell pyjamas, an effective domain name might be sleepytimepyjamas.com. An example of a keyword targeted domain name might be best-pyjamas-for-aussie-kids.com. You want to stay away from those as they are often flagged by Google’s algorithm as spam and are widely associated with low-quality content by searchers and search engines alike.
Get yourself a top-level domain (TLD)
Top-level domains, or TLDs, are called ‘top-level’ because they are the most common domain type. TLDs include .com, .net, .org and other popular domain extensions. These domains naturally see more traffic and get better natural exposure on the Google search engine, which should be your goal if you’re employing SEO techniques. In the case that your domain is not available at the top-level, the next best option would be a popular ccTLD. These are often origin specific domain extensions, like .com.au.
If you’re keen to rank well, it’s smart to avoid the less common TLDs, like .biz, .info and .news as they are less common and often coupled with spammy behaviour, which means they will see less traffic than the more popular domain extensions.