At its heart, SEO is about one thing: getting the user to your website. The data is unequivocal: sites that rank on the first search results page get more than 80% of the traffic. With so much competition for these few top spots, even the tiniest SEO advantage can be the difference between generating leads and being left out of the game. Is a domain name an underestimated factor when it comes to SEO?
The relationship between your domain and SEO keywords
More than half of all website traffic comes from organic searches. (Let’s focus on Google because it dominates the online search market with 70% of all traffic.) Google ranks entries on the search results page based on relevance. One of the key indicators of relevance is when your keywords match the search terms used by the user. The natural assumption is that, if your domain name is all keywords, it is more likely to be ranked.
However, your domain name is just one of the 200 or so factors the search engine uses to rank websites. In fact, Google’s algorithm is specifically designed to reduce the impact of keyword-stuffed exact-match domains.
And yet, this doesn’t mean that your domain name isn’t powerful. It’s a matter of how it is optimised.
3 Ways your domain name gives your website the lead in the race to the top
As opposed to a string of random numbers and letters, a domain name is an Internet address that is easy for a human to read. SEO gets your website onto the map (SERP), but only if you have an address. But remember, it’s not just about getting onto the map. It’s whether the searchers will turn into traffic.
So, the way your domain is structured influences whether a user will click it.
Note: the users’ fundamental motivator is trust. If your domain name doesn’t look right, you may not get the click.
The top-level domain: is your domain in good company?
One of the trust markers is the Top-Level Domain (TLD). This is the last bit of your domain name, for example .com, .org, .biz, .co.uk. The most TLD is .com – it outperforms all other extensions.
- .com is the most recognised extension. In fact, people are 8 times more likely to assume a URL ends in .com
- .com are over 33% more memorable than URLs with other top-level domains
- Users are more likely to believe that a page is more relevant just because of a .com extension.
There’s another reason to choose a .com: it looks global. So, if you have an eCommerce site that ships to all corners of the world, .com would attract customers from further away. However, if your services are specifically focused to a specific country, a ccTLD extension will tell your target market that you are local.
Note: Because .com is so popular, you may have to choose the runner-up, .co
Why avoid sub-domains
A second structural issue is the sub-domain. Over time a root domain builds domain authority. Also called website authority, it refers to the SEO strength of the website. Websites with higher authority rank higher on the search results page.
When you add subdomains, they are considered separate entities and, instead of benefiting from or adding to your root domain authority, they have to build their own. You’ll be diluting your SEO juice.
So, for stronger SEO and a better chance of ranking, rather choose rootdomain.com/blog over subdomain.rootdomain.com.
Quick note: A URL and a domain name are different things. The domain name is part of a URL. The URL is the complete internet address used to locate a requested page. For example: www.lemonpulse.com is the domain name, whereas www.lemonpulse.com/blog/ is the URL.
Is your domain relevant?
A search engine’s job is to give the user a list of addresses that are relevant to their search. Can your domain name make a difference to who visits your site?But, here’s something interesting: Studies by Microsoft have revealed systematic domain preferences. In other words: domain bias. It turns out that users judge whether a page will be more relevant based on its domain name.
This gives us 3 takeaways. There will be more traffic to the following
- A domain name that suggests an answer to the search term. For example, acme-plumbing.com is unlikely to be the first choice for someone looking for a ‘renovation company in Surrey’ no matter the relevance of the content.
- A recognised brand name will have more credibility than a domain stuffed with keywords. Besides, brand awareness is built on repetition. When your domain name is your brand name, every page URL becomes an opportunity for exposure. In essence, you are “branding” your website.
- An intuitive domain name. Would anyone who doesn’t know you or your brand be able to guess what your website is about if they come across your domain name? A cookery website having a domain name such as theperfectcook.com is more intuitive than onthepalate.com. That said, creative agencies are likely to get away with a creative name because it is expected of them.
The SEO power of your domain name
The short story is that your domain name is important for SEO, but perhaps not in the mechanical sense. Yes, your website needs to be found, but your domain name must also encourage clickthrough. So, just as much as the structure is important, so too is how much it reflects your actual brand.