Domain SEO Best Practices
Once you've decided to launch your website, the first thing you'll have to do is choose a domain name. For people that want to drive a lot of traffic and potential customers to the website, choosing a domain name that is SEO friendly is essential.
While Google, Bing, and other search engines don't give bonus points to specific domain names, they do look down on certain domain structures and black/grey hat schemes. Additionally, some users may be discouraged from clicking on your URL in the search result if it looks suspicious.
Therefore, we're giving you a framework you can use to choosing a safe domain that's friendly to both search engines and users.
Choose a Known TLD
You've seen that most websites have various endings, from .net and .com to .org and.edu.
These endings are called Top-level domains (TLDs). While .com domain names make up about 85 percent of all TLDs, there are thousands of other lesser-known TLDs. For example, .arpa, .info, and .loan, are just a few.
Google has stated that it doesn't care if you use a new TLD or not, though Moz founder, Rand Fishkin, warns against this. His reason is that most people only feel comfortable clicking on a .com domain and that by choosing something other than a generic TLD, your click-through rate will probably decrease. If your click-through rate decreases, this will likely cause Google to drop your result in the SERPs.
Use Your Brand Name
Now that you know you should be using a known TLD, you're probably wondering what your secondary domain should be. (The secondary domain is the word you use in your domain. For example, in www.example.com, example is the secondary domain).
While it may be tempting to use a keyword-rich secondary domain, it's actually more beneficial to just your brand name. For example, rather than having the domain www.vacationsinitaly.com, it's better if you use something like expedia.com.
This is because it is easier for people to remember and it helps generate more brand queries. In fact, one study showed that there is a stronger correlation between high rankings and branded queries than high rankings and high domain authority. This is likely because Google looks at brand queries as a positive sign because you clearly have established a trusted audience.
Tying in with using a brand name, always avoid using hyphens in your secondary domain. While some argue that hyphens make your secondary domain more readable, you shouldn't have a domain long enough that it requires a hyphen to make it legible (we'll discuss that below).
The main reason you should avoid hyphens is that they are associated with spam and ultimately cheapen your brand. While Google has never released a statement saying that they penalize hyphenated domains, they did release an EMD update (exact match domain) which penalizes websites for using exact match domains such as:
Additionally, hyphenated domains are much more difficult to spell and create a poor user experience. If the user forgets to add a hyphen altogether, they may end up on your competitor's website!
On the same token, underscores are not allowed in domain names and should never be used.
Choose a Short Domain
In a study by Backlinko that analyzed over 11 million Google, short URLs tended to perform better than longer URLs. The same concept applies to domains.
While Google hasn't said that it ranks shorter domains above longer domains, they did state that they prefer "simple" URLs. In this case, we can assume that they would also prefer that we use simple domains that are under four words.
Your domain name is one of the most important aspects of building a website, so it's essential to get it right. If you already have a domain name and wish to change it, you can always do so, though it's much easier to get it right the first time.
Using these tips, you'll be able to find the perfect domain name that allows your SEO to thrive.