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Search Engine Optimization
Why Domain Names Matter

By Donovan Baldwin

Whether it is intended to be the online presence for a brick-and-mortar business, a self-sustaining Internet business, or for your own personal use, before there can be any website at all, there must be a name for that website.  In fact, one of the most important steps of a search engine optimization plan is picking this name.

It is not just a name for your business, it is the first identity of your business online, and it is the domain name.

So, just what the heck IS a domain name?

Glad you asked.

To put it simply, the domain name is that thing, that stream of words or letters, that people give you when you ask for their website., for example, is a domain name.  (That's a plug, by the way.  They really treated me well when I bought my new Toyota Prius from them in the Spring of 2006, so I thought I would pay them back a little.  By the way, if you don't believe me, look for an article I wrote titled "If Michael Is Selling, I'm Buying".)

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Here's a few things for you to consider in choosing a domain name for your website:

1.  It should be a short and simple word or phrase.  If your website is going to be for your business, a short domain name has some very real advantages.  Whether you intend eventually to print it on business cards or display it on a billboard, making the domain too long or too complicated may make it too hard for potential customers to catch in one reading, or to recall later, if they did not have a chance to write it down.  An exception to this might be if you can get a phrase which will be remembered into the domain name (Example: ...which leads us to point number two.

2.  The domain name should be easy to remember.  Remember, your customer won't always have a pen with them, or maybe they won't even think about your domain name or website until sometime later.  A short, simple, and easy to remember URL can be important, but you normally shouldn't just opt for something like I am about to tell you why.

3.  The name you choose should relate to your business or organization.  If you sell bicycle parts, for example, try to put "bicycle parts" in the domain name.  This is important not only for the eyes of human Internet surfers, but for search engines as well.  They use various factors to rank the pages they visit, and ofen the relevance of the words used in the domain to the search term(s) can increase the rank of the page...which brings up another point.

4.  The domain name should incorporate important keywords.  Although we are not going to get into Meta tags in this article, keywords are important.  Even though hardly any search engines will bother to look at the "keyword" Meta tag any more, they are still vigorously searching the content of your site for keywords distributed within the text of the body, "alt" tags on graphic images, and "title" tags on anchor text and other links.  Taking number 3 and number 4 together, the best of both worlds would be to have a business name that IS a keyword or phrase relevant to the business and use THAT as the domain name. 

NOTE:  If your keyword is not in your business name, unless your business has an easily recognized name, like Ford, for example, you are probably best advised to skip the company name and go for a keyword...especially if you are hoping to get a large amount of website traffic through search engine submissions and search engine optimization as opposed to standard advertising media.

5.  Be careful about being cute.  Some people have successfully tried to make their domain name memorable by using puns, jokes, wordplay, or number combinations.  However, be careful if you choose this Internet marketing technique.  A few years ago I needed a domain name for a weight loss product.  I went through a long list of "short" and "easy to remember" names, but they all were taken!  I then came up with the domain name  It made perfect sense to me!  One day, I went to have a magnetic sign made for my car, and the lady read it back to me this way..."No die t 4 me?" and shook her head with a confused look on her face!  I also got this response on the phone sometimes.  Fortunately, the site worked fine and got a lot of traffic and made me a lot of money, but now I sometimes wonder if I lost any traffic because of my domain name.

6.  Should the domain name have a dash or not?.  I have read a lot of discussions about whether to put a hyphen (dash) in the domain name.  I can't honestly answer based on my own experiences, as I use both and haven't noticed a difference, but the consensus seems to be from my research that it is easier for a search engine to categorize and rank a site that has a hyphen than one where the words are run together.  Example:  chickensoup vs. chicken-soup.  As time goes by and more and more Internet marketers use domain names with hyphens, I am sure that search engines will make it easier to index these sites and give them higher listing positions, all else being equal.

There is one danger you should be aware of if you DO choose to use the hyphen.  You must make sure that it is clearly shown in any printed advertising or other representations.  If giving the domain name verbally, go to great lengths to make sure that your listener understands the hyphens MUST be inserted.  Many people are still not that internet savvy and will hear "bobs dash bicycles" and still type in "bobsbicycles".

7.  Think about all those letters at the end of the domain name.  Ever wonder what's best?  Should you get a .com or .net?  Will it be okay to get a .biz or .ws domain name

What the heck do those things mean anyways and does it matter?  Well, in today's world, most people entering the internet world are already familiar with .com and .net.  After that, they still tend to get confused.  I will not discuss country specific "top level domains" at the moment, as this article is primarily directed at those either doing business in the U.S. or those doing business worldwide with a generic type product where a country-specific domain name would not matter materially. 

In most cases, choosing a .tv extension, .ws domain name, or .org will not matter one way or another.  However, departing from the familiar may create a subtle uncertainty in the minds of humans viewing the URL of the website.  However, I don't feel that this is significant, and being able to select a domain name which includes important keywords by using a less familiar extension (i. e. .ws or .tv) is going to aid in your search engine optimization efforts.

By the way, .tv is the top level domain for the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu and .ws is the top level domain for Samoa.  Both are used extensively by Internet marketers AND by other types of businesses who aspire an Internet presence. 

Just to continue this discussion on extensions for a moment.  When passing someone your domain name whether verbally or in writing, just as with dashes, make sure they see or hear, and MAKE NOTE OF the extension.  To use my earlier example, simply saying, "My website is bobsbicycles", will probably cause people just to type in the .com on the end as that is what they are most accustomed to hearing.

8.  Think about branding with a domain name.  In some cases, a domain name may be associated with an easily recognized, or branded, product.  Wal-Mart and Ford, for example, do not have to worry THAT much about such niceties as keyword density or "easy to remember" names as many people will either search on their names, or simply type in or  However, if you are working with a product or company which has or is in the process of creating a strong brand identity itself, some of the information given above about selecting domain names might not be relevant as you might be able to key on their identity.

I have assumed that if you are reading this little article, you are probably planning to do some SEO (search engine optimization) yourself, and one of the best places to start this Internet marketing technique is with the domain name.

Most of them, yours truly included, acquired the Internet marketing tools currently in their toolkit at great personal cost...both in time and money.  However, if you know how to go about it, you can access a course which teaches genuinely successful Internet marketing techniques at a cost far less than the thousands of dollars many of us have spent!  In fact, as I write this, the foremost company in this field is providing a trial of their highly acclaimed Internet marketing training online for only $2.95!

There is much to learn when it comes to the role of domain names in a search engine optimization strategy.  Strategy and technique can be confusing, of course, but there is also training available at reasonable costs.  Nobody entering the field today needs to suffer for lack of understanding when it comes to Internet marketing techniques.

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Page Updated 8:02 AM Wednesday 9/26/2012