by Travis Pearman, SEO & SEM manager at TCI
Domain names are a valuable part of your business and Web presence. But most of
the time people view domains as a branding tool and overlook the SEO potential
the right domain can deliver.
However, selecting the right domain name should be considered an important part
of your SEO strategy. As such, it’s a decision that should not be made lightly.
Below are 12 questions to ask before purchasing your domain(s).
Does the domain name contain my keywords? Every effort should be made to
associate your domain with your brand. Including keywords leads to better
recognition (and prestige), more links, better rankings and more traffic.
Will it receive type-in traffic? Domain names that are generic or short
in nature sometimes get a very good deal of direct navigation traffic – meaning
the user types the keyword directly in the browser and adds “.com.”
Does it appear trustworthy or link worthy? Trust is usually in the eye of
the beholder, but something to consider. For instance, I may have
credit-cards-low-rates.com and creditcards.com. Which one would you rather visit
or link to, based on the name? Likewise, lowinterestcreditcards.com vs. credit-cards.com.
Opt for credit-cards over the long version and, in the first example, choose
creditcards.com over the longer version. This also directly relates to type-in
traffic. Which one do you think is more likely to get direct navigation?
Is the “.com” available? It is a fact that more people trust, remember,
search, and navigate for “.com,” no matter what you hear to the contrary.
Is the keyword domain available without hyphens or dashes? It is always a
good practice to look for the most basic version of the keyword, for example, creditcards.com. If you had a choice between creditcards.com and credit-cards.com
opt for the version without hyphens. This applies even if your business name
How old is the domain name? The more generic the domain name, chances are
the older it is. And age can benefit you in a number of ways – ranging from
previously developed sites where you can capitalize on pre-existing traffic, to
the pre-existing inbound links. You can check a domain’s age using most whois
services. I recommend DomainTools.com.
Are there any links pointing to the domain already? If the domain you are
considering already has a number of inbound links this can help jump-start your
SEO efforts and immediately bring in traffic.
Is the domain listed in the Internet Archive? The
Internet Archive or WayBack Machine
is a great resource for checking the former iteration of your domain name.
Is the domain listed in DMOZ? The Internet’s granddaddy directory, DMOZ
is an ideal location to get a link to your domain. The weight on this may have diminished over time, but it is still beneficial for you to have your site
listed in the DMOZ.org directory.
Can the user easily spell the domain? A domain name that is difficult to
spell is likely to never be found, or your traffic might end up on someone
else’s website – not only a loss in traffic, but a hazard to your image. Unless
you completely brand a new term, stick with domains that don’t require a
dictionary to spell.
Is the domain name memorable? This not only helps with type-in traffic,
but also helps your listing stand out in the search engine results.
How long is the domain? The shorter the better. However don’t sacrifice a
great name for a shoddy shorter version.
You can determine much of the above information with some basic research
tools and some common sense. To find out more about a domain and its history
check out DomainTools.com. You can also find the links pointing to a domain by
using a simple query in Google and Yahoo. Type in the search as follows substituting “domain” for your URL: link:domain.com.
When other webmasters link to your site the probability of them using the
business name or Web address is pretty high. Domain names that contain your
business’ keywords automatically create inbound links to your site with the
keywords in the anchor text. The domain name also gives the search engines
something to “think” about. If you choose a domain name relevant to your site
and if it contains a keyword, you will be much more likely to rank for the term
in the search engines. Take the following examples into consideration for a
moment. This is a search breakdown for terms on Google and Yahoo. The terms are
broad search, not exact match. Notice the trend among the top ranking domain for
Notice how all the top ranked sites, except for “makeup” on Yahoo, have domain
names that contain the keyword we were searching. This isn’t thecase every time,
but you can see a strong trend indicating the advantages of having keywords in
In the example above, a quick check of the back link anchor text shows a large
number of links pointing to the domain makeup.com with makeup.com as anchor
Even though people linked to them using the business name or domain name, the
domain happens to contain the very keywords they are seeking to rank for. You
can check the back link anchor text for your website with this handy tool
www.webconfs.com/anchortext-analysis.php. Simply type in the URL in question,
and you will have a pretty good view of how people link to your site.
In addition to the above benefits, keyword and exact-match domains tend to
receive Google site links. These are the additional links below a search result,
used to help users navigate to a particular page in a website without the need
to navigate through the home page. Although the exact algorithm is unknown,
there is some consensus on what seems to work for obtaining site links.
Easily crawled website: A well-structured website and navigation with a
sitemap. High click through rates from the search results page: Well-formed
titles and descriptions can complement a solid domain name to produce high CTRs.
Inbound links from relevant sites: Domain names that contain keywords will get
more inbound links with anchor text links that contain those keywords. Relevant
outbound links: Link to someone important in your field.
Natural search traffic: The domain appearing naturally near the top
results will increase the traffic, especially for an exact match domain. Site
links help increase your traffic and further suppress your competition by
pushing them down below the fold on the search results pages. For example, a
search in Google for “credit card” will show. Notice how the result for the
number one spot creditcardguide.com has additional links below it. Also pay
attention to how it forces the rest of the results further down the page. This is just one more way
to get ahead of your competition.
Not only do you want a top result, but you want the site links too. In addition
to suppressing the competition, this can lead to lowered PPC spend on some
keywords. Let us assume you are bidding on “credit card,” you rank for the term
and you have site links. The amount you have to spend to get the same volume is
much less since you have spread yourself thick among the top of the search
engine results page.
Suppose you appear in sponsored search, organic rankings, supplemental rankings
and also site links. This alone could allow you to dominate the entire top
section of the results pages, thereby stomping the competition and vastly
lowering your ad spend for said keyword, while reinforcing your brand and
positioning you as a leader in the mind of the consumer.
Give it Some Thought
Clearly, a good domain name goes well beyond something you think is catchy or
appeals to you. After giving it some thought, answering some important questions
and doing a little research, you can feel confident in choosing and buying the
proper domain. Take all of the factors into consideration so that you give your
company the best chance to succeed, right at the start.
About the Author: Travis Pearman is the resident SEO & SEM manager for TCI, a technology company in west Los Angeles.