What’s In A Domain?

A company’s website domain name is a highly discussed issue amongst SEO “experts” and rightfully so. A bad domain, or a commonly misspelled URL, can cost your site traffic, sales and business opportunities. Having a hyphen, an underscore, or a number can confuse some users who are searching for your site and cost you valuable search returns.

Key words are king in SEO and having those key words in your domain make a difference in how your site ranks. Terms such as fishing, bass, lures, tackle, or your town’s name will help you capture more views instantly. Having your business’ name in your URL will help immensely if you are well known locally or nationally. If you are not though, consider adding key words to your URL.

An easy win with SEO is to take a key word or two and add it to your store’s name for your domain. Sites such as billsfishing.com, guntersvilletackle.com, johnsfishinglures.com are all great examples of this. They use a key term – fishing, tackle, and fishing lures – and match it to either the business owner’s name or its location. Just remember to do your research if your name is John, Bill or another common name to ensure that someone else with your same name doesn’t have a similar site. Fortunately, all URLs must remain unique, so even though there may not be another johnsfishing.com, there could be a johndfishing.com.

When adding these key words it is important to consider the length of your domain name, and also whether it is better to hyphenate them, use an underscore or to just run them together. Domains with two to three words in them will gain more traffic than longer domains. The shorter the domain name the less likely users will misspell it or type it incorrectly. If you hyphenate your URL or use underscores, be prepared for less than stellar search results as well. It is well perceived that domains that contain both of these punctuations are lower quality than ones that do not. While this may or may not be the case, they do tend be lower in search engine results.

Your domain should be memorable, something that can easily associate your business with fishing and tackle. It should be unique as well; losing traffic to similar sites because your URLs are very similar to each other is not a smart business practice.

While researching your URL, type in multiple variations of it in your favorite search engine and see what returns you get. The results may surprise you and help you structure your domain name differently. Be advised, it is a common practice of some less credible individuals to watch for search activity on certain names. If they see an increase for these names they can and will buy the domain rights to them, essentially locking you out from having it. A good rule of thumb is to write out as many variations of your domain that you can think of and do a search for them all at once. Once you have run your searches on them and are satisfied that your domain will be truly unique and memorable, buy it the same day. This will keep it in your hands instead of someone else’s.

If you run into a situation where you feel you must have a certain URL and someone else already owns it, but no site is using it, see if you can contact the owner and ask to buy it. Anyone can own a domain name, and some have made a business out of buying and storing creative domain names then reselling them to business owners who want them. The fee for domain names can range from less than a hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on how SEO-friendly and unique the URL is.

Your domain extension – .com, .biz, .net – is a point of SEO discussion as well. It has long been rumored that .coms rank higher than .biz or .net sites. Fortunately, that is a myth even though website owners attempt to perpetuate it every day. Most companies want the .com at the end of their site’s domain name, but that isn’t always possible nor is it needed.

If you have read this and are now deciding that maybe your site’s name needs to be changed, there are a few things to think about. First, realize that it can hurt your current SEO ranking if you are drastic and decide to take down all of your current site’s pages and change them out to have the new domain name in the URL and make the old ones inactive. A better practice would be to install 301-redirects from all of the old pages to the new ones. This will help anyone who may have bookmarked your site easily find the new one. Some companies also buy similar domain names of their own and put these redirects in place to ensure more traffic arrives at their site.

The final piece to the puzzle is to look at your subdomains versus folders/subdirectories on your site. Subdomains are the www part of a site; not all sites need www in them. You could have stores in different towns. Your main domain could be kensfishing.com, but then have a different subdomain for each town, such as townone.kensfishing.com and towntwo.kens.fishing.com so the user is pointed to a local store and sees local inventory or specials. Subdomains can get messy though and confuse many users – think about how often you look at the URL of the pages you visit after you jump off of the main page.

Folders or subdirectories, though, keep the domain name the same, but then include a backslash (/) in the URL to direct the user to certain pages or folders within your site. Going from our last example, if Ken’s fishing used folders instead of subdomains the URLs would look like this: kensfishing.com/townone or kensfishing.com/towntwo. By using folders it is easier for most non-technical people to lay out their site and develop a constant flow. Subdirectories are not a huge hit with SEO, but they are also not a negative. Remember: think like an end user – would you rather type in townone.kensfishing.com or kensfishing.com/townone? Far more users will type in www.kensfishing.com than they will townone.kensfishing.com since most are programmed to believe www precedes every domain name.

What are your thoughts on domain names? Have you visited sites and wondered who thought up this name, or wish they would have an easier domain name to remember? If you are thinking it, so are other customers and site visitors. How long did you think about your domain name before you bought it, or are you still waiting to create your business’ site? Share your thoughts and questions with us all on our Facebook page or in our LinkedIn group. We’ll be happy to shed any light we can on this somewhat daunting issue.