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SEO Series: What You Need to Know About SEO Part 3: Domain Names

Published: 06-05-2023
Author: Noelle Castle

The name of your website – your Domain Name – plays an important role in your website’s overall SEO strategy. A well thought out domain name can make it easier to advance other SEO strategies. It also helps visitors find your website. Website traffic significantly impacts SEO, making domain names a contributing factor in SEO success. Your full website address, including your domain name, is commonly referred to as the URL of your website.

anatomy of a domain

A domain name has two parts: the top-level domain (TLD) and the second-level domain (SLD). The TDL is the extension, such as .com, .org, .gov, and the (SLD) is the unique part of the domain name that you have chosen as the name of your website. Most often, the SLD is the name of your business or brand. Putting your subdomain, second-level domain, and top-level domain names together is considered your website address, or URL.

Keywords in Your Domain Name

Keywords, which we covered in Part 2 of this SEO Series, are words related to your product or services that people will use as search terms when searching for a business such as yours. In addition to using keywords in your website content, using keywords for your SLD name is a great idea, if you have the option. Using a website URL that most closely matches the name of your business will help people remember and find your website, demonstrate legitimacy in your business, and reinforces your brand.

Domain Registration

Domain name registration refers to the act of purchasing (registering) a name on the Internet for a certain period of time. As long as you renew your domain registration, it is yours and no one else can use that exact name. Many people opt to purchase only one year at a time. However, from an SEO standpoint, registering your domain name for several years can impact your ranking. It gives your business more legitimacy. It tells the search engines that your website will be sticking around, and that you are confident in your business or service.

Top Level Domains

When you register a website URL, you will select your top-level domain. This extension, .com, .net, .biz, .org, are all examples of common TLD. Now, “vanity” top-level domains are available such as .realtor, .life, .solutions, and a whole host more to choose from that represent industries, hobbies, and other classifications. No top level domains have increased SEO value other than .edu and .gov. These top level domains are only for accredited schools (.edu) and government agencies (.gov) and there is a separate verification process. The .com TLD is by far the most common, and, for many consumers, there is a sense of trust and legitimacy associated with .com’s.

What to Do if Your Domain Name is Already Taken

We get this question a lot. You’ve come up with a great domain name, but it’s taken! UGH!! Now what? Sometimes people are so married to their name, that they disregard some other considerations (that impact SEO). You may have to slightly alter your domain name, or go with something else.

Keep in mind – the goal is to get traffic to your website, so don’t sacrifice that objective just to use the cool domain name you’ve come up with. For example, maybe it could be a great tagline or heading on the home page if it doesn’t work out as your URL. Or you can try some of the alternatives we describe below.

Consider the SEO values domain names provide that are described in this article, and also consider these additional options:

  • Choose a slightly alternative version or an abbreviated version of your desired name.
  • Get creative, maybe use your tagline, slogan, or some other name that is easily associated with your organization.
  • Don’t choose too long of a name. Also, don’t choose anything confusing or unrelated to your business or brand.
  • Someone might be typing in your URL from memory, so don’t choose words that are difficult to spell.
  • Use a different TLD extension. If your business falls into a certain vanity TLD, it can help make your website address more memorable.
  • Keep it succinct, recognizable, and appropriate to your brand.

When it comes right down to it, don’t get overly hung up on your URL exactly matching your business name. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible. You are much better off putting your energy into creating a strong brand image and creating useful and original website content to foster trust and expertise in your online presence.

Make Sure You Don’t LOSE Your Domain Name!

This is another issue we see with clients all the time. They have let their domain name registration expire, and consequently lost their domain name. This can be disastrous when you’ve spent all this time and effort to build up your brand. You will lose all your SEO progress if you have to change URL’s.

Make very sure you do the following to protect your ownership of your domain name:

  • Remember the name of the domain registrar! You may get emails or offers through the postal mail regarding your domain, but you should ignore them if they are not actually from your domain registrar.
  • The best thing to do – sign up for auto renew of your domain names. This ensures your registration is automatically paid annually (or every whatever number of years you sign up for).
  • If you have a credit card expire, remember to go into your registrar to update your new credit card information. In an ideal world, you will get an email warning you that your credit card has expired, but don’t depend on this failsafe, and it can be easy to miss or forget in your inbox.
  • Make sure your email is correct and up to date with your domain registrar. Pertinent to the bullet above, we hear people say all the time, “I didn’t get any notice!” Most often this is because the email they used when they registered the domain is no longer active, so the notification went into the great internet black hole.
  • Keep close track of your URL renewal dates. Put them on your calendar!
  • If your domain expires, you do have a 30-day grace period after the expiration date to reclaim it. After that, you can sometimes get it back IF no one has registered it in the meantime. Contact your domain registrar and see what your options are. You should also know that at a minimum you will pay a penalty fee for letting it lapse, or it could even have been promoted to popular status and now costs upwards of $1,000 to register. If someone has purchased it (there are companies that purposely purchase expired domains for this very reason), you now have to pay whatever they are asking for the URL.
  • Bottom line – don’t let this happen to you!

All of your SEO efforts are essentially tied to your domain, so if you let it expire, you will have to start over, and that is THE WORST!

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Noelle Castle - post author

Noelle Castle

Content Writer
Castle Media Co.

Noelle has been a marketing professional, and a published author and copywriter for over 20 years. Her work has been featured in both print publications and online media, where she has written on a broad range of topics. She owns Castle Media Co., assisting businesses with their marketing and digital media needs, specializing in website development, content marketing, social media, copywriting, and blogging.

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