One of the most important factors of SEO is the right domain name. Likewise, you need a domain name that represents and creates your brand. It’s also quite difficult to reconcile branding and SEO in many cases. In this post I’d like to show you how you can come up with a domain name that is both great for ranking in Google and to get a memorable and recognizable brand on the Web.
Usually nowadays everybody already owns a domain. So you have to ask yourself whether you really need a new one.
There are reasons to get a new one, a merger or an expansion might be one. A new trend or a website relaunch are not necessarily reasons to get a new domain name. Always remember that moving your online real estate is a risky endeavor for both SEO and branding.
Before choosing your actual domain name you have to consider at least three major questions about your business.
What is your business model?
Your business model is not only how you earn money but also what you offer and to whom. Are you a small business owner or a startup entrepreneur? Do you sell local services or do you ship worldwide? Do you depend on online lead generation or sales or do you need a website for branding purposes? Is this going to be a major or even most important website or just microsite among many others? How long will it be in use a year, a decade or as long as possible? A decade might sound like much but my first domain has been created exactly ten years ago and it still works for me despite changing business models.
What is your image?
Do people already know you and your company? Do they associate you with a specific product or service? Do they know where you’re business is located? Do people already like and trust you? An image can mean a lot of things or rather connotations. What name do people use when describing you? Do they know your brand name? Do you have a personal brand? Are the people who work for you your loyal brand ambassadors or are they working 8 hrs in an Asian sweatshop? Do you sell status symbols?
What is your market?
What market do you want to serve? Do you want to attract the youth or the senior citizenship? Do you want to reach an US or UK audience? Do you want to expand to France, Germany or even to Asia? Are your customers women or men or both? Are your customers one time buyers or do they return for more ideally? Do these people want to get the cheapest product or service available or do they prefer quality? Maybe your audience even pays you for the good name. Or do you sell at all? Maybe you want to set up a church site or a need a domain name for an NGO?
You see there are lots and lots of questions to ask yourself before deciding on the best possible domain name for both SEO and branding.
Branding doesn’t have to mean a famous logo.
Branding on the Internet can mean that people remember your real name. They may consider you an expert as a person, no matter your actual brand name is. You have to find out who you are as a business person and what your business is all about.
Once you analyzed your own business the actual process of selecting a domain name starts.
Using and choosing keywords that describe your business
To make a domain SEO friendly you need to add keywords to it don’t you? It isn’t that simple though. Too many or the wrong keywords can hurt you more than they help. Also some keywords interfere with branding. Keyphrases in many cases are already too much. In order to achieve the best possible combination of SEO and branding you take just one major keyword that stands for your business in a rather general way. Of course you have to perform a keyword research first to find out.
Many people in the SEO industry for instance choose the term SEO itself.
SEOmoz, SEOBook or SEOptimise are well known brands with matching domain names. Once they start offering more than SEO services this keyword might backfire. Some people may consider SEO specialists not capable of offering good social media services. Thus Sorbet Digital for example has chosen an even “bigger” term, digital as in digital marketing to its brand and domain name.
Avoid keyword stuffing in the domain name itself. seoppcsocialmediaservices.co.uk
Do not name your domain after just one service or product you offer unless it’s a microsite or have substantial resources to build up a few domain names with separate content and markets.
brands and name brands
One of the most renowned UK SEO agencies uses a domain called David Naylor. In the US there is Bruce Clay, likewise a huge personal brand in the SEO industry. So a real name of the founder can serve as the domain name. You don’t have to use keywords at all when your name is already known to stand for excellence ion a particular field. On the other hand they don’t rank for some generic keywords they aim for.
Consider adding your brand to your generic keyword or the other way around.
Depending on your current image or the one you want to achieve add your brand name first or second. Let’s say your name is Naylor and you want to start a new online business. There are a few other Naylors out there already. So people searching just for the name might not find you immediately. NaylorSEO.com would be a good choice in this case. NaylorPlumbing.co.uk or NaylorEngineering.com
Not all names are made to be used in domain names. Too common or strange names are no good because the branding effect is almost zero. Brand names that sound too similar to many others can also rather distract than help identifying your company. My name for instance is Szewczyk and nobody outside of Poland who isn’t a Pole can spell or pronounce it. People on the Web call me Chef to simplify it but I’m not working at a restaurant so I can’t use this short nick name for the domain either.
Many low quality SEO service providers just go after more complex keyphrases to get search traffic from Google. They buy domain names like best-seo-company-india.biz or cheapseoservicesonline.info – This do,main strategy might work in case you buy 500 domain names like these and have 500 drones creating content for them. You don’t want to labeled with modifiers like “best”, “cheap” or even “online”.
These not only sound amateurish, they limit your business model. What if you domain name says “cheap” and want to start selling high end packages? Naming yourself “best” is the worst idea. Only others can judge whether you’re really the best in something. This is just mindless bragging. As the site is already on the Web adding “online” to its web address is nonsense. It just sounds like you haven’t found a domain name because all the good ones were already taken.
The shorter the domain the better. Just consider a domain name like t.co which is the default Twitter URL shortener. I didn’t really have to memorize this one. On the other hand you can’t fit most keywords or brand names into such a short domain name. So even if you could get such a short domain it wouldn’t be ideal in many cases. Of course there are exceptions, SEO.com was a high profile domain sale and still has worked out for the company that now uses it.
For all those not lucky enough to able to pay millions for a rare .com domain a name and keyword combination might be the perfect length. Let’s assume you’re name is Brown: seobrown.com is perfect.
Some things like my name above are hard to spell. SEO itself is for those who don’t know the acronym. So consider to remove difficult to spell abbreviations when you’re audience is not just a bunch of experts. Some words also collide with each other. Consider a name like whoretweetedme.com which is an actual service. This one might even get censored in some cases. Even a combination like jonesseo.com can lead to misspellings.
TLD – .com or .biz?
In the US you should still at least try to get .com domain. In the UK your first choice will co.uk, in France .fr and in Germany .de Do you want to serve several markets then again .com is best but what happens when the .com domain you want is not available? Some Top Level Domains like .info or .biz have a bad rep. Many spam sites have used .biz and .info domains so it’s more difficult to SEO such a domain. Also many people assume that you use the default domain name of your country or .com so .info or .biz domain are quite exotic.
Sometimes an exotic domain can be actually great for SEO though. TLDs like .tv, .to, .me or .is for example can be very easy to memorize. On the other hand a domain .ly can be a bad choice as it stands for Libya: First it was a dictatorship and then a war zone. Unless you are a gangster rapper don’t use .biz as it sound like slang.
hyphens and numbers
When remembering a domain name or telling someone else about it actually saying the domain name will not be enough. You have to say there is a hyphen or minus or have to explain that the number is an actual number and not a word. In some languages, especially English the hyphen is an awkward symbol. Most numbers are as annoying in domain names. Last bit not least many spammers use both hyphens and numbers in their domain names so your site does not look trustworthy. There are notable exceptions here as well, 500px.com is one.
I haven’t covered every aspect of choosing a SEO friendly domain. There are a few articles on SEO and domains from SEO industry icons on the Web already. Some of them are already a bit dated but the advice is still valid. Check them out as well:
- 12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name | SEOmoz
- How to Choose a New Domain – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
- How To Choose Domain Names For SEO | SEO Book.com
- How to Choose a Domain Name | SEO Theory
- How To Choose A Domain Name | Keyword Research Comes First | SEO Innovation
* CC image by Thomas Hawk.