On-Site SEO – Part Four: Domain Names – Rankability vs. Branding

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One of the fundamentals of stirring calls to action in traditional marketing campaigns is to have a memorable phone number. Hooked on Phonics (“1-800-ABCDEFG!”) and 1-800-FLOWERS are perfect examples. On the web, the equivalent to a catchy, easy-to-remember phone number is a URL that is both memorable for human web users and relevant for search engine spiders. Read on to learn how to create effective URLs, domains and web addresses.

Domain Registration

Your domain name is extremely important to your overall search engine ranking. There are two main considerations for choosing your domain name: rankability and branding.

Depending on the scope and approach of our business, one or the other may take precedence. Let’s look at both of these facets individually.

High Ranking Domain Names

Search engines take important cues from your URLs when determining the relevance of your website. Because of this, it’s highly advantageous to include a keyword in your domain name as well as throughout your URL structure (more on this in later posts).

This is hardly breaking news – and because of that, most of the high value domain names are already taken. You won’t get cars.com or creditcards.com or even helicopterpilots.com in a million years (unless you have a million dollars).

So, you’ll have to compromise. There are a few graceful ways to do so:

  • Get specific – ITConsultants.com taken? Play to your strengths by going after CertifiedITConsultants.com or EnterpriseITConsultants.com.
  • Add a location – This is helpful for local marketing as well as edging your way into competitive keywords. While you might never get lawyers.com, YourTownLawyers.com might be within reach. It also helps if other local businesses are doing the same with their URLs. For example, many Pittsburgh companies might add “pgh” to their URLs such as thelibrary-pgh.com or parkwayflorist-pgh.com. By following this convention, you can help target your traffic and help deepen the sense of community across local businesses.
  • Hyphenate – This is admittedly not the best way to go – but it works in a pinch. Search engines read hyphens in URLs as spaces, so they’ll see “www.fresh-fish-depot.com” as “fresh fish depot.” However, hyphenated domain names are less attractive and harder to remember.

On that note, there are some methods for getting domain level keywords that you should avoid:

  • Numbers – Nothing kills a brand and credibility like arbitrarily inserted numbers. This is okay for usernames and email addresses, especially when the number has some significance to your identity (i.e. the year you graduated), but it evokes shadiness in URLs

Well-branded Domain Names
In some cases, having a well-branded domain name will trump an SEO friendly domain. There are certain professions – such as doctors and lawyers – that lend themselves better to a business name than a keyword. This usually mimics the way these businesses typically advertise themselves offline. You’re much more likely to see signage for Dr. William Thompson, D.D.S or Steinberg, Bosco and Wilson, Attorneys at Law than something generic, such as Orange County Dentists or Jacksonville Law Firm.
Choosing a well-branded domain name also makes sense if you already have a well-branded business name. For example, if you’re using your website to supplement an aggressive print or television campaign, people are much more likely to type in your business name – TheWaterHeaterDudes.com, for example – when trying to find out more information. Asking them to remember a domain name like HopewellAreaWaterHeaterInstallers.com makes things more difficult and more prone to leaks in word of mouth marketing.
If you don’t already have a business name, take this opportunity to craft a meaningful, memorable and SEO friendly dba name to also use as your domain name. A good formula is to use a generic term – such as your keyword – and add something to differentiate it. Examples:

  • PlasticSurgeonsSource.com
  • Travelocity.com
  • BakeryWizard.com

Other Considerations
This is the main ground to cover when it comes to choosing a domain name. But there are other factors that may help you get the most mileage from your domain name. Keep the following in mind:
Register your domain name for more than a year. Domain age factors into search engine ranking, and there is some indication that registering your domain name for a longer period adds credibility. Plus, you won’t have to worry about anyone buying it out from under your nose down the road.
Advertise your URL offline in a memorable way. On billboards, bumper stickers and other print material, include www. before your URL to signify that it’s a web address. Also, add capitalization to aid retention, (OhiosBestPlumbers.com) since URLs aren’t case sensitive.
Purchase multiple domain names. Register YourDomain.com, YourDomain.net and YourDomain.org to protect your brand and catch mistyped traffic. Pointing these other sites back to your main site is an acceptable practice and you won’t be penalized by search engines.


Conclusion

Choosing your domain name is an opportunity to boost your brand awareness as well as your search engine rankings. Select your domain name carefully to serve your marketing strategy the best. If you garner more word of mouth buzz than search engine traffic, focus on creating a well-branded, memorable domain. If you want to reach out to more first-time customers and gain more leads from search engine users, focus on a keyworded domain name.

This is part four of our on-site SEO series. Read the rest:

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