Welcome to Domaining for Beginners, where we’ll focus on the basics of domains and look at everything from how to choose a good domain name to how new top-level domains are affecting the industry.
45% of NamesCon attendees in 2016 and 2017 were first-timers, so we’ve created this “Domains 101” content series to help newcomers make sense of our exciting industry.
Part 3 of Domaining for Beginners will look at the best SEO practices for selecting your domain name.
For Part 2 of Domaining for Beginners, we looked at what makes an effective domain name. Now that you have a better understanding of what makes people click, we'll be exploring the science behind what makes your domain more visible through online searches, and how that can positively (or negatively) affect your business or brand.
First thing’s first: what the heck is SEO?
The S, The E, The O
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and as the name suggests, it has something to do with search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. SEO is the practice of getting increased quality traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
This means that through proper SEO, users should be directed to your site through Google when they search “window installation” if your businesses is all about installing windows. Organic search engine results are any clicks you get that aren’t directed through ads; they are any unpaid traffic that comes through searches.
We, as users, often mindlessly type what we want to know into a search bar, but there is a science behind the list of answers that the search engine generates. Google, for example, uses “crawlers” (which are programs like robots or spiders that are used to scan websites) to gathering information from every website. They then bring the info back to their search engine in order to build an index. This index is what’s used to answer your query thanks to a unique algorithm that tries to match the data with your query.
Search Engine Optimization means that you’re packing your website with proper content that search engine crawlers can pick up and understand. You want relevant information on your page for both crawlers as well as users who end up on your page.
Domain Names and SEO
We covered what makes an effective domain name in our previous instalment of Domaining of Beginners, discussing how your domain should be short and sweet, while also including keywords that relate to your business. For example, if your business is about selling pies, then it could be helpful to include the word “pie” in your domain. Since search engine crawlers are actively seeking out relevant information to match user inquiries, your domain name should be picked up and increase your domain of appearing in the list of search results.
With that said, these types of domain names (that is, keyword-targeted) may now be viewed by some search engines with a negative bias, particularly if they are exact-match domains. Exact-match domains, or EMDs, are domain names that include keyword phrases. Using our pie example, this would look something like “mostdeliciouspies.com.”
Though it may seem like a great strategy since “mostdeliciouspies.com” feature more keywords, which may lead you to think higher SEO, Google has made changes that de-prioritize sites with such keyword-targeted domains. In 2012, search engines noticed that a number of websites were choosing EMDs but those sites lacked quality content and backlinks. So, after an update, EMDs are now considered to be low quality.
A more reliable practice is ensuring that your domain is easy to remember that authentically describes your brand instead. The relevance of your domain isn’t just useful for your audience, but it’s also something search engines use as a ranking factor. Essentially, if your domain is easy to read for humans, then it’s also better for search engines. As well, the uniqueness of your brand name will also help increase the likelihood of your domain being the first hit in any given search.
At the end of the day, as long as the content within your site features keywords that support what your business does, then search engines will learn to associate your brand with those keywords as you grow your brand and you continue to produce quality content. And what if your brand name includes keywords? Don’t worry, that won’t compromise your SEO—as long as you have great content.
If you have a multiple-word business, like “Pie Boss,” for example, be sure to avoid hyphens. People often rely on hyphens to increase readability, but hyphens also correlate with something every domain owner wants to avoid: spam. Google sees a multi-hyphenated domain as spammy, even though you may see it was something that’s a bit easier to read. So, if you can, try your best to steer clear of hyphens, and use only one if you really feel like you must. When using a multiple-word domain, try to keep it within two to three words.
The Reality of Using TLDs
When selecting a domain, do not be afraid to go with a non-traditional TLD, or top-level domain. Previously, it was assumed that because the new TLDs were not very recognizable and therefore not an effective way to drive traffic to your site. Google has since clarified that there is no difference between .com sites and newer TLDs when it comes to SEO.
Though some have reported that new TLDs have actually seen a positive effect on their SEO. Google went on record again to confirm that there is no difference, but also suggested that there is an advantage to having country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), such as .ca. This is because having a ccTLD points to the site’s relevancy within its respective country. Still feeling lost over the new TLDs? We’ll discuss them in detail in a later instalment of Domaining for Beginners.
Due to the ever-changing nature of the Internet, SEO is one of those things that can take some time to master. But, with a few tips on how best to take advantage of search engine optimization, you can drive quality traffic to your domain and make the most out of it.
Now that you know how to create a SEO-friendly domain, stay tuned for our next instalment of Domaining for Beginners, which will look at the new TLDs.