From recent work by SEO and Internet marketing agency Northcutt, we know that a domain name can have a strong influence on where a website will rank in the search engine results pages (SERPS). These are called ranking factors and the Internet is awash with advice on what will or won’t make your website rank higher on search engines. The work by Northcutt tested the evidence and tried to identify which of the 261 ranking factors were real, outright myths and various shades of truth between – see our blog on the Northcutt ranking factors article.
There were 61 ranking factors identified as Concrete i.e. evidence and experience indicates that this definitely influences where a website will rank on SERPS. One of these is having a keyword in the domain name.
A ranking bonus is attributed when a keyword or phrase exists within a domain name. The weight given seems to be less significant than when the domain name exactly matches that of a particular SEO query, but more significant than when a keyword appears later in the URL. Source(s): Patent EP 1661018 A2
Therefore including a keyword in the URL for your website will have a positive effect on your website’s position in SERPS. This isn’t the only consideration as it would lead to an Internet full of domain names with keyword phrasesas domains, or companies not using their brand name. For example UK grocer Tesco use tesco.com, but DIY retailer B&Q use the domain diy.com, probably to eliminate confusion over the company branding as the ampersand ‘&’ character isn’t allowed in domain names. In fact the only allowed characters are letters, numbers and hyphens so brand names such as Nando’s have to become plain old nandos.co.uk on the web.
Choosing a domain name
Choosing the right domain for your business is therefore an important decision that could influence where your business ranks. Here are some useful tips:
- Think about the keywords people might type into search engines to find your products and services. Research the top 5 and mix and match to get some potential ideas.
- Make the domain unique – it’s easy to check what’s already in use and what is active, but make sure that you never choose domains that are simply the plural, hyphenated or misspelled version of an already established domain.
- Make it memorable and easy to type – strange spellings, too long domains and other quirks can cause problems in getting word of mouth traffic and increase the costs of promoting your brand.
- Keep it as short as possible – you want your other pages to rank as well with plain keyword packed text after the forward slash (check the address of this page as an example) and the sooner search engines get to the keyword the better.
- Make sure you meet expectations – people should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content that might be found when they hear about and visit your website.
- Don’t break the law, infringe copyright or intellectual property – check not just domains but company name registrations too.
- Recognise that you’re building a brand not just combining keywords for a domain name – a domain name like mortgagetree.com might be more memorable and be easier to promote than something longer and more literal.
- Avoid hyphens and numbers if you can – think about telling someone your domain name over a bad phone line and you’ll realise that hyphens and numbers are best avoided in the main domain, but ok for inner pages.
- Don’t get too distracted by ‘alternative top level domains (TLDs) or domain name extension e.g. ‘.com’ , ‘.co.uk’ etc – more and more variations such as ‘.biz’, ‘.london’ etc are entering the market but you should try to get hold of the ‘.com’ and country specific version (e.g. ‘.co.uk’ in the UK) of your domain first before getting carried away with the variations available.
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