If you’re planning to build a new website, you’ll need to register a domain name for it. Consisting of a unique string of letters, numbers, and hyphens, it will reflect your website’s location on the internet. Rather than typing your website’s Internet Protocol (IP) address in their web browser, users can enter the domain name to visit your site.
Domains and SEO
How Your Website’s Domain Name Affects Its Search Rankings
In addition to helping users find your website, though, the domain name can affect your site’s search rankings. By understanding the role domain names play in search engine optimization (SEO), you can choose the right one for your website.
Exact Match Domains EMDs
Some webmasters use a domain name consisting exclusively of the primary target keyword for which they want their website to rank. If a webmaster wants to rank for “fuzzy blue widgets,” for instance,” he or she may register and use the domain name fuzzybluewidgets.com.
Known as an exact-match domain (EMD), it’s intended to project a higher level of relevance for a website’s primary target keyword.
If your website uses an EMD, you may assume that search engines will rank it higher for its primary target keyword because it’s included in the domain name. In the past, search engines rewarded websites with EMDs by ranking them higher in the search results.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until webmasters began abusing this tactic by building thin websites with EMDs. To clean up the search results, Google rolled out the EMD update in 2012.
The EMD update specifically targeted these low-quality EMD websites by devaluing their authority and lowering their search rankings.
Brand Names are Better
Rather than an EMD, use a branded domain name for your website. Branded domain names are characterized by the use of a unique brand name rather than an otherwise common keyword. Examples of branded domain names include amazon.com, walmart.com, and ebay.com.
The use of a branded domain name isn’t a direct ranking signal, meaning search engines won’t reward your website with higher rankings simply for using one. Nonetheless, branded domains offer several SEO benefits over their EMD counterparts.
Visitors typically trust websites with a branded domain name more than those with an EMD.
After all, EMDs are associated with spam, whereas branded domain names are associated with legitimate businesses.
With a branded domain name, you’ll earn the trust and confidence of your website’s visitors, resulting in positive user engagement metrics that encourage higher search rankings.
Your website may attract more backlinks if it uses a branded domain name. Upon seeing its branded domain name, visitors will recognize your website as being a legitimate online business. If a visitor operates a website, blog or social media profile, he or she may then link to your site.
A branded domain name allows search engines to track your website’s popularity more effectively. Even if a webmaster doesn’t link to your website, he or she may mention it using plain text.
With a branded domain name, search engines will associate each of these brand mentions with your website. With lots of brand mentions, search engines will perceive your website as being popular.
If your website uses an EMD, on the other hand, any online mentions of it will likely consist of common and generic keywords.
Domain Name Character Length
Don’t make the mistake of using too many characters in your website’s domain name. Generally speaking, the shorter your website’s domain name, the better. A study conducted by Gaebler found that the top 1 million websites, based on Alexa ranking, had an average of just 10 characters in their domain name.
For the top 1,000 websites, domain names were even shorter at just seven characters on average.
Shorter domain names are easier to remember than longer domain names. If your website’s domain name contains 20 or more characters, users may fail to remember it. And if a user forgets your website’s domain name, he or she won’t be able to visit it by typing the address in their web browser.
Combined with fewer backlinks, the lack of returning visitors caused by a long domain name may harm your website’s search rankings.
When registering a domain name, you’ll have to choose an extension. Also known as a top-level domain (TLD), it proceeds your site’s domain name. Your website’s address will consist of a domain name, followed by a dot and then the extension.
There are currently over 1,500 domain extensions, some of which include .com, .net., .org, .info, .co and .us. In 2012, Google published a YouTube video in which search engine specialist Matt Cutts talked about domain extensions and whether they affect search rankings.
According to Cutts, Google’s algorithm doesn’t give preferential treatment to websites based on their domain extension.
With that said, most digital marketing experts agree that a website’s domain extension can indirectly affect its search rankings. The popular .com extension has become synonymous with business websites.
As a result, many internet users expect commercial websites to use it.
If you register your website’s domain name with a lesser-known extension, such as .info or .cc, users may forget the address. And if a user can’t remember your website’s address, he or she won’t be able to return or link to it.
It’s a common misconception that the registration length of a domain name influences the search rankings of the website with which it’s used.
Many webmasters believe search engines will rank their website higher if they register their domain name for a longer period than the standard of just one year.
Depending on which registrar you use, you may save money by registering your website’s domain name for five or more years, but it probably won’t improve your site’s search rankings.
If you’re on a budget, feel free to register your website’s domain name for just one year at a time. The registration length of a website’s domain name is not a ranking signal used by any major search engine.
It affects the likelihood that users will remember your website, which in turn, affects the number of backlinks and the amount of traffic your site generates.
How and Where To Register
GoDaddy has been a long-standing favorite for registering domain names. It is, in fact, where I manage my domain names.
Simply set up an account, browse for the domain name you want, find one that is available, and register. No add-on is needed unless you are going to use them for managed WordPress.