Five SEO Facts Hidden in Your Domain Name

Krista LaRiviere SEO 14 Comments

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When Google crawls your web site to index and rank your content it has to start somewhere. That somewhere is the front door to your site – your domain name.  It’s time to take inventory of your domain name and make sure the welcome mat is out for those Google robots.

Don’t overlook these five important SEO signals that could make a difference between a Page One and a Page Two ranking.

1. Expiration Date – Do you know when your domain name will expire? If your domain expires two weeks from now and you haven’t renewed it yet Google, might get the sense that you’re not committed to the domain and therefore the web site.

Domain names are relatively inexpensive compared to a decade ago.  A dot com domain costs a couple hundred dollars for a 10-year term. If you want to signal to Google that you’re serious about your business and domain, it is a good idea to register it for a longer period of time.

2. Domain Age – How long has your domain name been in use? Less than a year, five years, or more? This matters to Google. This doesn’t mean an older domain will outrank a newer domain (there are many other variables involved), but an established domain with a solid web presence will likely rank more favorably than a newer domain with a similar presence.

3. Keywords in your Domain – Is your domain name reflective of what you sell (www.shoes.com) or is it more about who you are (www.brownshoecompany.com)? A popular topic in the SEO world is Google’s weight on keyword phrases in a domain name.

The inclusion of keywords in your domain can have some other benefits. One is that it might be easier for a prospect to remember a domain name with common words in it. Also when we take into consideration the importance of backlinking and the corresponding anchor text in backlinking, it’s easy to see how a domain packed with keywords can add a lot of punch.

(See: Understanding Backlinking for SEO: The Do’s and Don’ts)

If changing your domain name for your main corporate web site is unrealistic, consider mapping just your blog site to its own keyword-rich domain and then pointing blog posts back to your site.

4. Top Level Domain – What’s a Top Level Domain or TLD? This is the .com, .edu, .gov, .uk, biz, part of the domain. There are restrictions on TLDs based on your organization type. For example, .edu is reserved for educational organizations, .gov is reserved for governmental organizations, so you would have to prove that your business is registered as one of these before one could be assigned to you.

With country-specific domains (.ca, .fr, .de) you are required to be operating your business in the country in question. Dot com domains are designated for commercial use, so they are basically open to anyone in the world.

All of this becomes important when you are trying to do business in a particular country. If you are selling software in the UK and India then you will want to ensure you have a proper web presence with the proper domains mapped to proper web sites. In other words, when www.google.co.uk comes to your door, it knows you want your content to be indexed and ranked.

5.     301 Redirects – Make sure you have only one active domain for your web site. When Google shows up, what it doesn’t want to see is multiple domains mapped to one web site without the proper 301 redirects. Getting this wrong in Google’s eyes indicates you are producing duplicate content, trying to potentially game their algorithm and you may even be competing against yourself for to rank for key words.  You do want to have both your www.domain.com and domain.com resolve to the same web site so people will find you if they type in the www. or not.

See: Are You Competing Against Yourself in Google?

Domain names are just one of many factors search engines considers when attempting to rank your web presence for organic search. It is worth taking inventory of your domain, so you send the best signals to the search engines and let them know your door is always open.

Comments 14

  1. Nice, concise recap of basic stuff that sometimes gets overlooked.

    #3 could certainly be broadened to "Keywords in URLs". Smart URL names can have a big impact on SEO. Blogs are a great example. Be smart about how you name categories, tags, and post URLs and you increase your likelihood of getting some quick SEO traction.

    Good stuff. Thanks

    Eric

  2. I agree w/ Eric – "Nice, concise recap of basic stuff that sometimes gets overlooked."

    A lot of people new to the SEO game may tend to overlook some of these strategies or take them for granted.

    From our experience, just because someone says they do SEO; that doesn't mean they know it (at all). For instance, a recent client had 5+ domains aliased to the primary domain – so all of the domains pulled up the same content independent of each other, causing a major duplicate content & canonical issue.

    Always check the work of your web developer, webmaster or the clients themselves to ensure the work they're doing isn't hurting your SEO.

  3. Thanks for a great post Krista. I want to share this with clients. The other thing that your software showed me with respect to domain is how many other companies are hosted on the server serving up a website. Sharing a site with a 100,000 other websites that Google may or may not like opened my eyes to how important the domain and hosting is to a good SEO strategy.

    1. Hi Douglas,

      Google is famous for claiming one item as a factor (or not a factor) and then having to backpedal later down the road (look at no-follows and CTR / Social indicators in the recent past). Although Matt Cutts has definitely claimed that Domain expiration is not a factor – he has also been very wishy-washy about the actual answer. He mentioned that Google does not want to give authority to "flash in the pan" sites that disappear after a few months or a year in the same breath as saying it isn't a factor – and at the same time saying that “I don’t think you are going to see yourself drop in the search results if you let yourself get down to less than a year on your expiration date or anything like that”. Our experience is that age of domain and length of registration are definitely factors (large or small) and regardless it's just good practice to register longer for overall authority and for the other search players (Bing, Yahoo, Blekko etc. etc.).

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  5. Thanks for a great post Krista. I want to share this with clients. The other thing that your software showed me with respect to domain is how many other companies are hosted on the server serving up a website.
    A lot of people new to the SEO game may tend to overlook some of these strategies or take them for granted.

  6. great post dear
    I think expiration date is not play important role in SEO but Keywords in your Domain name is a one of the way to bust search engine ranking of website .
    thanks

    1. No, the domain expiration date isn’t a critical factor. What’s important is how long the website’s been around. Younger domains can still rank over older domains if the older domain hasn’t been active or posting good quality content consistently. If, however, both domains are doing the same amount of work, the older domain will almost always outrank the younger one.

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