Domain for SEO

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What is a domain?

The domain of a website is what we refer to as a “web address” in everyday language. It’s a translation of an IP address into words, making it more memorable and user-friendly than a long string of numbers.

Each existing domain can only be assigned to one website and is therefore unique. However, the term domain should not be confused with the term URL, as a domain is only part of an entire URL.

A domain consists of the following components: top-level domain (TLD), domain name and subdomain.

domain components

Figure: components of a domain, Author: Seobility

  • Top-level domain: A TLD is also called domain extension and can be country-specific (ccTLD, eg .us, .de, ...) or generic (gTLD, eg .com, .net, .info, ...). In addition, there have been so-called new TLDs (nTLD, e.g., .boston or .photography) for some time now which allow a more differentiated geographic or thematic classification of your web page.
  • Domain name: This is the unique name of a website, e.g. the company name. It can be chosen at will and represents the unique part of a domain.
  • Subdomain: Subdomains can be used for specific areas of a website that are to be separated from the actual site, such as .mobile or .blog. However, the most common subdomain is www, which stands for world wide web. Despite its omnipresence, you don’t necessarily have to enter it into your browser in order to access a website.

SEO factors to consider when selecting a domain

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Domain extension

You should always use ccTLDs for country-specific content, as these top-level domains signal to Google that a particular page is especially relevant for country-specific search, which in turn leads to better SEO and a higher ranking.

However, apart from country-specific TLDs, domain endings have no direct influence on the SEO and ranking of a website in Google search. This also applies to new regional TLDs such as .boston or .melbourne. However, domain endings can have an impact on user behavior, as endings such as .info, for example, are rather clicked in search results when users are looking for information. Thus, the choice of domain ending can indirectly affect the search engine optimization (SEO) of a website.

However, since a domain can only be occupied by one website, it may happen that your desired name is no longer available for a specific TLD. If this is the case, the domain may be available for purchase. Before that, however, you should check the domain for possible past penalties by Google as well as its age. A domain that has already attracted negative attention from Google several times before buying certainly provides no good starting point for your SEO.

Hyphens and numbers

Hyphens were once used in domains to separate different words. However, Google is now very good at identifying individual words of a domain, so that the use of hyphens in domains is no longer necessary these days. In addition, too many hyphens can quickly look dubious, as they are reminiscent of domains in which many keywords are strung together and separated by hyphens. Basically, you should always own your desired domain with and without hyphens if it consists of several words. Otherwise, there is a risk that one of these versions will be acquired by a competitor or a domain broker. This, in turn, bears the risk that activities on the other version of the domain adversely affect the image of your website.

The use of numbers in domains is especially beneficial as a supplement if the main keyword alone is no longer available as a domain name. In some cases, the use of numbers can also contribute positively to your brand.

Keywords

Basically, you should include the main SEO keyword of your website in your domain, since this can contribute positively to your ranking in search results (for example, www.hotels.com). However, in any case, you should avoid keyword stuffing, e.g. domains like www.cheap-legaladvice-newyork-lawyer.com. Such domains are not only penalized by Google but also look frivolous and may damage your brand. If you already have a strong brand, you can completely forego the use of keywords, because a strong and unique brand already contributes positively to your ranking in search results. For companies that still need to position and establish their brand in the market through SEO, the use of the main keyword in their domain name is without a doubt advisable.

Meaningful name

For those companies that do not yet have a strong brand name, it is also advantageous to choose a meaningful domain name that meets the search intention of users. If your domain name provides information about what users will find on your page and if this meets their expectations, your page is clicked on in search results and your bounce rate is reduced, which has a positive effect on the SEO and ranking of your page.

The disadvantage of such a domain name, however, is that in case of an expansion of your product portfolio, it may no longer be able to cover the full bandwidth of your portfolio. Therefore, you should not choose the name too specifically, if you can’t rule out future expansions in advance.

Short domain name

Another important SEO aspect to consider when choosing a domain is its length. Your domain name should be as short as possible because otherwise, it is not only harder to read, but also reduces retentiveness. An approximate optimal length would be about 8 characters. Of course, this length is not mandatory, because depending on your website, the optimal length for SEO can be quite different. In principle, however, you should always keep in mind that you select your domain name not for search engines like Google and your SEO, but for users. Therefore it should be as short and simple as possible.

Not too many subdomains

Subdomains provide a good way to keep certain content (e.g. a blog) separate from your actual website. However, this technique generates many different websites. If there are too many subdomains, your website runs the risk of being classified as subdomain spamming. Therefore, you should keep the number of subdomains to a minimum for your SEO.

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