Select the Best Domain Name for SEO Purposes
When choosing a domain name for your Web site, you need to decide how you want people to find you on the Web. The decision you make can affect your search engine ranking.
You have basically two ways to approach choosing a domain name — by brand or by keywords (search terms that people might enter to find what your site offers).
If you have a unique brand name and want people to be able to find your Web site by searching for your brand, you should secure your brand as your domain. Having a brand for your domain name makes sense if any of the following is true:
Your brand is already established and recognized (Nike, Xerox, and so on).
You have advertised or plan to advertise to promote your brand.
Your brand is your own name (such as bruceclay.com) or very unique.
You want your site to rank well in search results for your brand name.
As an alternative, you could choose a domain name containing keywords that identify what your business does. For instance, if your business is called Marty’s Auto but your Web site is focused on your classic car customization business, you might get a lot more mileage out of classiccarcustomization.com as a domain name than out of martysauto.com. Search engines can parse the domain name to recognize the distinct words classic car customization, and your keyword-laden domain name would make your site more relevant to searches for those terms. Also, the business name Marty’s Auto doesn’t identify what services you really offer — it could be auto sales, auto repair, or other. Unless you plan to heavily advertise and build Marty’s Auto into a brand, you’d be better off choosing a keyword-centered domain name.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when trying to come up with a good domain name:
Length: Shorter is better than longer in a domain name. There are three reasons why: The URL string for your files can be shorter, and people tend to avoid clicking long URL links on search results pages; a short URL is easier to remember than a long one; and there are fewer opportunities for typos when someone enters your URL in a browser window or sets it up as a link.
Multiple words: Search engines have no trouble parsing words that are concatenated (run together without spaces). Most Web site domains for businesses with multiple-word brand names run the words together, such as bankofamerica.com, bestwestern.com, and so on. Concatenating domain names is the best practice. However, sometimes, you may need to separate words visually to make them easier for users to understand. When you must separate words, use a hyphen. The search engines interpret hyphens as word spaces; underscores (_) don’t work well because they count as alphanumeric characters. Imagine you own a tailoring business called the Mens Exchange and that you're interested in branding exactly that name. But wait a second: The domain mensexchange.com could be parsed two ways. To make sure the site name isn’t misunderstood, a hyphen is needed; mens-exchange.com prevents any misunderstandings.
You should use no more than one hyphen (or two at the most) in a domain name — more than that can make your site look suspicious to the search engines, like spam (deliberately using deceptive methods to gain ranking for irrelevant keywords). Although none of the engines ban you for having a multi-hyphenated domain name, they may still think that your domain buy-cheap-pills-and-try-free-poker-here.com looks a little suspicious. What's more, your visitors do too.
Articles: Part-of-speech articles like a, an, and the may help you create a unique domain if they make sense with your name. For instance, Hershey’s has a Web site at hersheys.com that’s consumer-targeted and all about chocolate. But for their investors, they have a separate domain at thehersheycompany.com that’s full of company-related news and information. In most cases, you're not going to need the article, so don't even worry about it.