SEO and Domain Names
Experience has taught me that the most effective SEO is always carried out during the development phase of a web site. It can be done retrospectively but this is always harder as it can be difficult to implement wholesale changes on an existing site. This is particularly true when changing URLs.
One of the most important issues to nail right at the start is the problem of how to implement domain names and URLs that will help your site in the searches. Changing URLs when a site is live can be tricky because you have to set up 301 redirects to maintain any link juice that may be pointing to the old URLs.
Incidentally, URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. It is a posh term for describing the location of a file on the internet. The URL could point to things like, web pages, CGI programs, Java programs, graphic files, or other resources available on the Internet.
If you follow these simple rules when choosing a new domain name you won’t go far wrong -
Choose several words that best describe your business. Play around with them until you come up with something that makes sense and looks good. For example, if your site sells wrist-watches, you could start with time-pieces, watches, Designer, luxury and so on. Getting a keyword in there won’t do any harm either.
Choose a unique domain
Sounds obvious this one but the chances are that, if you’ve thought of it, then someone may have got there first. Make sure that your domain name can’t be confused with other brands or sites. Don’t be tempted to misspell or modify an existing domain. You may think you are being clever from a branding point of view but It doesn’t work and will come back to haunt you. I’ve seen this happen when a client was getting calls asking for inflatable sumo wrestling suits because their domain name sounded like another well-know online merchant.
Be wary of trademark infringement issues
Do your research and check that your domain name isn’t infringing on a registered trademark. You don’t want a lawsuit six months after your site goes live.
Keep it short
Keeping the domain name short will make make it easier to remember and type as outlined above. It will also leave more characters available for descriptive keywords in the the complete URL.
Always go for the .com version
You should always go for the .com version of the domain. Even of you have a country specific target demographic such as .co.uk or .fr, you should still acquire the .com version and redirect it to your domain using a search engine friendly 301 redirect. This is because the majority of people that use the internet still think that all sites end in .com. I’ve carried out A/B testing on this and the .com site always came out on top because it always gets more direct traffic from users typing in the domain name into the address bar.
Make it easy in the fingers
Like most people, I hate typing in long and complicated domain names into the address bar. If you get it wrong then you get the nasty ‘page not found’ message which does not make a good first impression.
Make it memorable
Sometimes, the best form of advertising is word-of-mouth. That only works if people can remember the name of your site. I can still rememberer the buzz about play.com and CDwow when they launched – two excellent examples.
Make it indicative of content
Examples of this are webuyanycar.com and comparethemarket.com. There is no doubt as to what these sites are about. The exception to this is when you have an already established brand name that needs to be incororated into the domain name. Remember that amazon.com is a household name now but it took some serious branding to get there as well as six years without profit but that’s another story..
Hyphens and numbers
About ten years ago, it was thought that including hyphens in domain names was good for SEO. There is no evidence to suggest that this is true but it doesn’t do any harm either. Search Engines are smart enough to pick out keywords in domains in any case. I use a hyphen on this site because there are millions of SEO websites out there and I wanted my domain to stand out in a list or when it was printed. I wouldn’t use more than one though because it will become tedious to type. The same goes for numbers.
Incorporate a brand
The holy grail with domain names is to try and project a brand which is also a description. These tend to be much more compelling and memorable. Autotrader is a good example of this.