One of the questions our customers often ask us is, “What domain name should I register to feature on Google?” Unfortunately, the answer can be rather complex. For a few years Google’s algorithm assigned good SEO value to a site with a keyword rich domain name. However, as usually happens, people then started abusing the system in order to get good search engine rankings, creating a flourishing underground premium-domain resale market, and causing Google to change their search algorithm again. These days the focus is less on how you use keywords in your domain and more on how user friendly your domain is.
If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to get a domain name that both suits your business and works in your favour with Google:
Avoid hyphens and other word separators
In an attempt to get keyword rich domain names, many spammers started registering domain names with hyphens or other word separators. Because of this, Google and other search engines, even some seasoned web users, will distrust you if your domain is something like “best-online-widget-shop.com”.
Don’t try to force a keyword or keyphrase into your domain by using word separators. It could have a negative effect on your site’s overall SEO performance.
Avoid some uncommon top-level domains
A top-level domain (TLD) is the part at the end of your domain name, like .com, .co.za, .org, etc.
Because of the pace at which new domains are registered, it could get rather difficult to find a domain name that works for you, especially a .com. For this reason (and, obviously, to make more money) the domain registrars have made more TLD’s available. Some of these are .co, .info, .cc, .ws, .name, etc. In fact, there are so many new TLD’s that it’s almost impossible to name them all. If you have a jewellery shop, you can easily register a .jewel domain name.
These uncommon TLD’s aren’t necessarily bad for SEO, but many spammers tend to use domains like them. Because of this, if you use one of these TLD’s you will have to work smarter in order to get Google to trust your site and give it a good ranking.
Make your domain name memorable
Because Google are focused on ease of use for their users a simple, memorable domain name is best. It’s also a good idea to keep the domain name short (less than 15 characters) and easy to spell. If you can manage to work a keyword in there that’s even better, as long as it’s sensible and doesn’t clutter up the domain name.
Don’t be fooled into buying an existing domain for SEO purposes
We get numerous emails, almost on a daily basis, of people offering us domains with existing traffic and good Google PR that we can purchase from them very expensively. They argue that these domains are very valuable for SEO since the sites currently associated with them rank high on Google. However, according to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, search engines devalue links once a domain has expired or changed ownership. So even though such a purchase may look good on paper (or on Google Analytics, as the case may be) you may still have to put in a lot of effort to keep the search engine traffic flowing. Often the same amount of effort can boost your brand new domain to the same performance levels.