Search engine optimization (SEO) seems to be an ever-changing marketing technique. As search engines adjust their algorithms to ensure customers get the best user experience possible, it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to work the system. Today, sites with high-quality content and authority recognition win search results, while spammy, poorly-designed sites suffer severe penalties.
For new businesses considering choosing a domain name, SEO does play a part. However, it’s important to choose a name that will also help establish your brand. Here are a few tips to help you meet your SEO goals while still maintaining your professionalism.
Use Brand Signals
Another way Google maintains the integrity of its search results is through the recognition of brand signals. With brand signals, the more legitimate your company seems, the more authority your website is given and the higher its rank. This includes establishing yourself as a professional company with employees and a widespread online presence, complete with social media profiles and a business license. Setting up a domain name that matches your registered name in other places helps establish your website as a trusted resource.
Stay with .com
If your name is already taken online, it can be tempting to choose an alternate extension, such as .net or .biz. However, 75 percent of all websites in the U.S. have a .com extension, which means your customers will likely assume your site ends that way. Although Google says it treats all extensions equally, for brand signaling purposes, .com could help improve your site’s chances of being seen as belonging to a well-established business.
Keep It Short
In the early days of SEO, some businesses saw a long domain name as an opportunity to work in keywords. Today, short URLs are better, with the top ten websites having approximately six letters preceding .com. The top 100,000 have an average of 9.1 letters. In addition to improving your search rankings, a shorter domain name is also much easier for your customers to remember.
Avoid Being Gimmicky
At one time, tricksters employed shady tactics to boost their rankings. This led to domain registrations like “BestPlumberinAustin.com” and “AuthenticMexicanFoodinBakersfield.com,” creating a spammy experience for anyone looking for those things. Today’s businesses generally choose a domain name that includes some version of their business name with .com attached, realizing that Google’s algorithms may penalize them if they come across as spammy. However, you can incorporate keywords into the subpages on your website, including your blog posts.
As mentioned above, your subpages can do the work for you. The above-mentioned plumber might register ABCPlumbing.com, with subpages being ABCPlumbing.com/Services and ABCPlumbing.com/Blog. On that blog, the plumbing company could create posts that incorporate the desired keywords, such as ABCPlumbing.com/Blog/Plumbing-for-Austin’s-Oldest-Houses. This works in the Austin keyword without coming across as spammy. Some businesses choose to set up subdomains like Blog.ABCPlumbing.com, thinking it will attract more attention. Domain registration sites provide this as part of their services, but experts say subdomains are bad for SEO, since Google may penalize the version of your site that seems less active.
Avoid Multiple Domains
At one time, it made marketing sense to set up domains for various facets of your business. A company may set up separate sites for its different locations, for instance. The problem with this, according to experts, is that it becomes difficult to avoid duplicating content from one site to another. Google itself admits it penalizes duplicate content, instead preferring to prioritize sites that provide original information. As a result, your multiple domains will either cause you to create and maintain completely different sites or you’ll find you aren’t getting the search rankings you need.
Use Hyphens Sparingly
Hyphens can be an alternative if your desired domain name isn’t available. Some experts say even one hyphen can hurt a business’s rankings, but others say it won’t be penalized. Multiple hyphens could negatively impact your business’s SEO, since it can be a sign of a spammy site. Try to keep your hyphenation to one and avoid using an underscore instead of a hyphen.
Your domain name will be a large part of your brand marketing over the course of your business’s lifecycle. By choosing one that is easy for customers to remember, you’ll ensure people can easily find you. However, it’s important to also make sure your domain name isn’t preventing you from ranking high in search results, where you can reach those who are searching for businesses like yours.
About the Author: Dan Steiner is a professional writer, author, and marketing influencer. He is an active mentor in the Austin startup community, and has helped numerous brands grow over the years. Currently, he serves as CEO at Elite Legal Marketing, a law firm marketing agency.