Your domain name is your online calling card so it needs to be relevant to your business and easy for users to remember. Get it right and it will help with your SEO campaign, build brand awareness and boost your offline business.
In an ideal world you would choose a domain name that accurately reflects the nature of your business. It’s no accident that insurance.com ranks so well for the keyword ‘insurance’. On one hand the URL spells out to Google exactly what the site is about, but much more important are the inbound links which the site naturally attracts. You can bet that the majority links are simply are simply the URL, which just ‘happens’ to include the keyword ‘insurance’.
Unfortunately, it’s a far from ideal world and most SEO campaigns are carried out on existing company websites. However, all is not necessarily lost. If you are considering developing satellite sites to complement your main business (say you want to aggressively target a niche market), it’s worth bearing the above in mind.
Where’s the best place to find domain names?
Anyone who’s tried to register a domain name will truly understand frustration. It doesn’t take long before you realise that anything vaguely ‘fitting’ has already been registered and you’re left to the mercy of the domain name touts. However, all is not lost and you can still pick-up a credible URL from one of the auction sites specialising in expiring domains (sedo.com and snapnames.com are both tried and tested).
Another option is to buy and redevelop an existing website with a snappy URL. It’s a strategy that has both advantages and disadvantages. If you get it right you can ‘harness’ the existing trust that the old site has built up in the search engine’s eyes; which could provide a shortcut to good rankings. If you get it wrong you could end up seriously out of pocket with a website that has been penalised before you even begin. The best answer is to seek expert advice.
Exact match domains have traditionally enjoyed quick and easy ranking in the major search engines, but Google has recently clamped down on EMDs. The trick is to find a URL that’s both brandable and can milk Google’s algorithmic weaknesses…and not already registered.
TOP TIP: If you’re planning to launch a new website it makes SEO sense to get online as soon as possible. Even if you haven’t worked-out the finer points of your business venture (and building a website is way down on your to-do list) by putting up a few pages now you’ll begin to earn Google’s trust. Once up and running; submit your mini site to the major search engines and make sure you have some inbound links pointing to the homepage.
Now you can turn your attention back to developing the core business while your site builds up a history. When it comes to creating the ‘proper’ site; Google already knows who you are and trusts you a little. As a result you can expect to climb the search results much faster.
Do I really need to register a dotcom domain name?
Admittedly when it comes to offline marketing it’s hard to beat a .com suffix, but in terms of SEO it’s better to ‘go local’ and use the native suffix. So if your website targets a UK audience choose a .co.uk, if your business is based in South Africa choose .co.za and so on. Search engines are currently working hard on geo-targeting and it looks like a trend that’s set to continue. Only if your website is of genuine global interest, or you are based in the United States, do you need a .com suffix. Whether you want one, is a different question.
And as for all those other domain suffixes? What’s wrong with a .net or .info? Well, to be honest there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. In fact the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are continually releasing new Top Level Domains, and if you’ve got the cash to spare you can now apply for your very own TLD.
How registering your domain can affect SEO performance
You might think that the details you supply when registering your URL have nothing to do with search engine optimisation, but you’d be wrong. Google trusts websites that belong to real companies with real addresses. And if your registration details suggest otherwise it could hinder your SEO campaign.
Back in 2005 Google became a domain registrar, which is all well and good… except they don’t offer a registration service. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes deduce that what Google were really after was ready access to ICANN’s database. In fact, later they admitted as much, saying their main motivation was to “get a better understanding of the domain name system (and) increase the quality of our search results”.
When registering a domain name, keep the following in mind:
- Choose a reputable registration company with a proven track record
- Use your company name and address rather than your own personal details
- Provide full details, after all you’ve got nothing to hide
- Don’t register your site for the minimum two-year period. If you are serious about your business; you’ll be in it for the long haul. At least that’s how Google thinks.