Out of everything else in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), your domain name ranks the most crucial element in the success of any website.
The domain name you choose can either push you to the first page in the search engine results page (SERP) or be your web site’s pointiest of thorns. When starting a new business or web site, you need to evaluate your goals and use this checklist.
Domain Name Checklist
- The Importance of Self-Hosted Domains – Domains that run separate from another domain bring higher value. A self-hosted domain is one where your domain is not hosted on another site such as Blogger.com or Ning.com. To search engines, there is a huge difference between shannonksteffen.blogspot.com and shannonksteffen.com.
- Always Think in Keywords – If you can fit in your keywords to a domain, then you will want to take advantage of that domain real estate. Unless you already have a successful brand name that is highly recognizable, it will be more difficult to speak to search engines and customers without your keywords in the domain name. For example, I own dogwiregifts.com, which contains my keywords separated by the word “wire” in order to make it unique but contains “dog” and “gifts”, which is what the website is all about. If available, incorporate your keywords into the domain to get more for your money – just remember not to make it too long or it won’t be easily remembered or fit on your business card/social media links.
- Numbers Can Be Tricky – Although numbers can come out at the top of link pages and can decrease the amount of real estate on your business card, they are sometimes confused with the full word. If you tell someone your web site is 2twentytwo, they can think two20two.com, 222.com, twotwenty2.com and so on. Of course, many people have had success with numbers but this is a situation that every website owner needs to go into with their eyes wide open.
- Use Correct Grammar and Spelling – Highly confusing or misspelled words can lead your customers to your competitors website. Domains should be clear of misspelled words and confusing alphabetical syntax to make it easier for your visitors to find you. Unless you have an already well-established brand name or business presence, keep the domains clean and easy to remember.
- Save the Trademark Headache – Businesses can be very touchy about their name or trademark being used on another person’s websites; let along in the domain name. Some companies may ask nicely for you to remove it while others can sue you. An example of a highly used trademark name recently is “Twitter”. Any domain name that contains the company’s trademark is in violation of that trademark and the web site owner must take down the site immediately or face criminal charges. Be careful and stay out of the trademark hot water.
If you already have a domain that doesn’t comply with all these items, no need to fret. There are many successful websites that do not follow all of these guidelines as these items are meant to make the process as easy as possible for web site designers, developers and owners.