How Important Are Domain Names to Google?
The domain name address of a business website is often an element that is rushed when a business starts out and launches their company website. A great "business name" is thought of and then when they go to register the domain name, 9 times out of 10 the great business name is already registered. Often times at this moment a new name is thought up and registered in the hopes that it will somehow be just as relevant as the original, this is nearly never true. What you are left with is a meaningless domain to Google and other search engines, when it is probably one of the most important factors you will need to consider.
Do not rush your domain name. Location is everything.
As an SEO content writer one of my daily duties is on-page optimization. One of the first places I look when starting to optimize a site is, you guessed it, the domain name. This is also one of the first places the guys at Google start with when ranking your site for keywords and search relevancy. One of the inherit problems lies in the fact that once you register a domain, it's not easy to change. That being said, it is safe to say that the domain is one of the most important parts of your website. If you can't find one that is available, go back to brainstorming and don't stop until you get one that makes more sense.
How is my domain name important?
Being one of the first elements that the search engines crawl when visiting and indexing your site, the domain name carries an extremely integral part of your website. Much like the title tag where most of the keywords get the highest relevancy, the domain name gets crawled first and most likely will also be involved in the vast majority of your external and internal linking. Matt Cutts from Google has stated that keywords in the domain will not carry as much weight as was once thought, and those brandable terms may provide a better user experience and be more memorable overall. One of the most important things you can do before even thinking of registering a domain is some keyword research to know exactly which keywords are most popular and relevant to your business.
So how can I get the best possible domain name?
A good domain will be hard to come by, especially in this day and age. While a lot of smaller businesses may like the idea of going with a brandable name with no keywords, I would advise against this as it will take longer to build up brand legitimacy and rankings for terms unrelated to your domain. While you may not get much of a boost from the domain having keywords, in studies done of the subject it has proven to boost rankings. An option that I always recommend is to try and find a freshly dropped domain name that has some age and relevancy to it already; you may even get lucky to find a domain that has a backlink profile already built.
Another misconception people have is that they need to get a .com to be relevant and rank well. This is true to some extent, but if you are from Canada, there is no difference between a .ca and a .com, especially if your visitors are searching for you on Google Canada. In fact in recent tests done by users of webmasterworld they found that .ca's tend to outrank .com's in Canadian search results, leading me to believe that your "country-code top level domain" (ccTLD) may have more relevance than .com's for users search from your home country.
Your visitors are still human, and they matter!
You still must keep in mind that the visitors that are going to be looking for and eventually coming to your website are people just like you and me. So while some keywords and phrases may work well from an objectionable SEO standpoint, they just may not be the best suited for actual users who would want to come back to your site at a later date. One of the best things you can do is to include a keyphrase with a brand word that make the domain clean and clear but also catchy and memorable. If you do end up with a domain name that has no relevancy on your industry as a whole, you can rename your sites pages to keyword injected filenames in order to show the search engines some type of keyphrases on your site. An example could be renaming index2.html to doors_windows.html if you are a doors and windows manufacturer.
Need some more help finding a domain name?
There are some great tools on the web that help with domain name generation and domain name registration. See below for a list of the tools I recommend and use the most for domain name ideas and to help stir up some creativity.
Domain Name Generation & Brainstorming:
- Domize - Instantly search for domains as you type, great tool!
- Impossibility - Add words to a keyword, then search to find what is available, great for brainstorming.
- Instant Domain Search - Name says it all, instantly search for any keyword/phrase.
- Dot-o-Mator - Neat tool to add word lists to your keyword and find availabilities.
- Bust a Name - My favorite tool for domain name generation, will allow you to easily search tons of keyphrases to find the best domain for your business.
Recently Expired Domain Names and Dropped Domains:
- Stuck Domains - free search for millions of expired domains, probably the best for its purpose.
- Just Dropped - allows you to search for recently expired domains, quite useful.
Although most of this article has been focused on the benefits of domains and SEO, there is also something to be said about keeping the domain name consistent with your actual business name. This also ensures consistency and a clear brand message. So when deciding which domain name to choose it's important to weigh the pros and cons from different angles and applications to ensure the best possible outcome.