Friday, August 14, 2015

Choosing Your Domain Name

The majority of my work is with local businesses, as opposed to online brands that try to sell nationally or even internationally. If you are running a local business that services a local area in your vicinity, the domain name for your local business is a potential component of your local SEO strategy. Traditionally it has been helpful to include a main keyword and geo target (ex.: Raleigh) in your domain name for improved ranking, but nowadays many people believe this is not necessarily the case anymore, at least for any direct SEO benefit. I can't say for certain, but I am in the latter camp, meaning that I tend to believe more that it doesn't have the same significance that it used to. At the same time, it also isn't going to hurt, so I would still lean toward a domain name including your keyword and target city (geo target), with the caveat that you should also consider whether you have any long term growth plans to expand into other markets, in which case you may not want to include a city as part of your domain name.  Now, this is not a complete guide and there are a lot of nuances that I can't put in a short blog post, but here are a couple of basic points.

If you haven't yet registered your domain name, these tips may help:

1. If possible, pick a domain name that ends in .COM if you can. In the US, this is the most common and easiest for people to remember. If the .COM domain name is not available, your next choices should be .ORG and .NET. These are your best choices if you are a US-based business. However, a whole new set of specialty domain extensions are now being opened up, such as .PLUMBING. It costs a little more, but if you have the option, buy both the .COM and specialty domain if there's a clear match. The reason is that other companies will come along and buy up your name-matched domain and then offer to sell it back to you at a much higher price. You can go crazy buying all possible versions, but for a small local business this doesn't usually make financial sense, especially when you consider that in the future, they're likely to open up even more domain extensions. Most small companies just won't be able to afford to buy all possible permutations. (You can read more about domain names at ICANN.ORG)

2. Don't use hyphens in your domain name. For example, just because you the domain name is already taken, don’t register a hyphenated version like www.doctors-inraleigh or www.doctors-in-raleigh. Hyphenated domains don't have the same appearance of authority. It just LOOKS like you couldn't get the one you wanted, and settled for something not as good. Additionally, when you tell people your domain, you take the chance they'll mess up the hyphens and end up on the wrong website. It's best to just avoid the issue entirely. Instead try adding a prefix or suffix such as or

3. Keep it short. Ideally your domain name should include no more than 3-4 words: 1 word for your industry, 1 geo target, and 2 for your business name. For example, "Tom & Sons Plumbing" might choose or maybe, but that's pushing the limit about as long as I'd go on a domain name.  

4. Don't use other company's trademarks in your domain name unless you have written permission. You could get yourself into legal trouble if you do. Don't assume you have permission because of a business relationship; be sure you have such permission clearly spelled out in proper legal documentation.

5. Don't used what's called an Exact Match Domain (EMD) since it's very easy to accidentally trigger an over-optimization penalty.

Helping clients understand how to choose a good domain name is all part of our process, so contact us if you're ready to get your business going.

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