What’s in a name? Well, when it comes down to the domain name of your website, actually quite a lot. Aside from being the home of your brand, content, conversion funnel, or products, your domain is also an important part of your online visibility.
Over the years, SEO recommendations on domain names have evolved alongside search engine algorithms, which are now far more sophisticated and less reliant on spoon-fed information. In this article, we’ll discuss domain name best practices for SEO to help get your site off on the right foot.
Choosing the best domain name
Thankfully, we’re past the days where site owners and brands would keyword stuff or keyword-match domain names and could rank on that alone. Plumberinlondon.com, howtoboilanegg.co.uk or bestiphoneapp.io simply don’t cut the mustard anymore – in fact, way back in 2012, Google released its EMD (or exact-match domain) update, effectively putting an end to black-hat SEOs buying up EMD’s and using them to rank poor quality, thin websites.
Now, that’s not to say that using keywords within a domain name doesn’t hold weight. It does, you just need the content and user experience to back it up.
What is a top-level domain?
A top-level domain is the part that comes after your website name or brand. So for example, the top-level domain (TLD) of google.com is .com. There are many top-level domains to choose from nowadays, from country-specific (see ccTLDs) to personal (.me), commercial (.com), and TLDs reserved for government sites (.gov).
The TLD you choose will reflect how you want users to find and interpret your business. A serious enterprise won’t want its website sitting on a .biz, it just doesn’t look professional. Web users are savvy to these nuances and trust is a huge factor, not only in ranking but in whether a user will actually click through to your site. Equally, a business that caters to a Chinese audience would not want its site on a .com, where the implication of corporate America would put customers off.
A good start would be to take a look at your competitors – what TLDs are they using? And ask yourself who you’re targeting and how you want users to interpret your brand. If your brand is clever and quirky, perhaps you want to step away from the traditional .coms or .co.uk’s and opt for something different, like ‘unroll.me’ and ‘octopus.energy’ did.
How to find out the value of your domain name
When we talk about domain name value, we could essentially be talking about two different things. First, what monetary value would a domain have if sold, and second, what SEO value does a domain have? Let’s look at monetary value first.
How much is your domain name worth?
There are a number of tools that can be used to ascertain a domain’s monetary value, but essentially the factors that are going to bump up the sale price are as follows:
- How old is the domain?
- Does the domain have a backlink history? Has a website ever been built on that domain?
- Does the domain contain keywords that might be relevant to a business?
- Has the domain ever received a manual penalty/is it still being affected by penalties?
- Are there entities across the web that mention the domain – what’s sentiment?
- Is the domain broad or commercial enough to be sought after in the future? Something like storytime.com or lifesaver.co.uk, for example.
Now, let’s dig into the SEO value of a domain.
How authoritative is your domain?
Domain authority, domain rating, or any other domain related metric you find in the field is calculated based on a set of metrics and factors that differ slightly depending on which SEO tool you use.
Generally, however, domain metrics will include backlink quantity and quality (DoFollow vs. NoFollow), organic traffic, organic keyword rankings, age, HTTPS (security status), the IP of sites linking to you, the topical relevance of backlinks, and the cadence of link acquisition.
SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs all have their own domain metric, so it’s useful to plug your domain into each of them to get an idea of where your site stands. Ratings are usually out of 100, so the higher your website scores, the easier it will be to rank than a domain with a low authority score.
It’s important to note that domain authority IS NOT a ranking factor. It’s simply a metric used by SEO and website managers to help ascertain the strength and authority of a domain. Some of the things DA or any similar metric consider are how many backlinks you have, where they’re from, the authority of the sites linking to you, the IP of sites linking to you, the topical relevance of backlinks, and the cadence of link acquisition.
Backlinks, however, ARE a ranking factor and you should always have quality link acquisition as part of your SEO strategy.
General best practices for domains:
- Keep your domain short, concise, and memorable – easy for users to type out and recall your brand.
- Use a keyword or your brand name, but don’t go down the EMD route.
- Choose a TLD that makes sense for your business, the content that will sit on it, and your target users. ccTLDs should always be considered if targeting specific countries with a website of their own.
- If you can, avoid using numbers and abbreviations, they make domains harder to remember and can be interpreted differently by users.
- Use tools to check the authority and history of any domain you’re planning to buy. Check for backlink quality, website history, penalties, and sentiment.
If you’re thinking of launching a new website or domain and need expert guidance, drop Hallam a message and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can support you.