Picking an SEO Friendly Domain Name

How Do I Choose An SEO-Friendly Domain Name?

  • Incorporate keywords into your domain name.
    • Include city-level, service, or product-specific keywords.
  • Make your domain memorable.
    • Imagine if you invested in a radio advertisement. Would listeners remember your domain if mentioned over the air? Always strive to have a memorable domain.
  • Keep your domain name 20 characters or less.
    • Most experts agree that your domain name should be no more than 15-20 characters [source]

There are pros and cons to choosing an SEO-friendly domain name. Continue reading to see examples of businesses succeeding with SEO-friendly domains while learning about the potential risks.

Examples of SEO-Friendly Names

Pittsburgh SEO Magician

  • The domain name is pittsburghseomagician.com
  • There are 21 characters, a bit more than recommended
  • The domain name is extremely memorable
  • Both the primary city keyword and the service keyword are incorporated into the domain

Cleveland Plumbing Supply

  • The domain name is clevelandplumbing.com
  • There are 23 characters, more than recommended
  • The domain name is somewhat memorable
    • Continue reading to find out what’s problematic about this domain
  • The primary city and service keywords are incorporated into the domain.

Does The Domain Name Carry Weight In Google’s Rankings?

  • Yes, domain names are still important for SEO.
    • The two prior examples validate that keywords in the domain name can help your business rank organically.
  • There continues to be less emphasis on keyword-heavy domain names.
    • Google has confirmed this publicly (more on this below)
  • To succeed with SEO, you can’t just purchase a keyword-heavy domain. More authority is needed.

Related Blog: How to Change your Domain Name without Losing SEO Power

The Early Days of SEO

In the early days of the internet in the 90s, domain names were all the rage. There was less competition on search engines, and Google put a lot of ranking emphasis on the domain name.

It’s no coincidence that more than 350 million domains are registered worldwide, equating to one domain name for every 22 people on Earth! [source]. Individuals and businesses have been snagging up domain names like beachfront properties. One of the reasons is the misconception that keyword-heavy domain names do great things for SEO. Before 2010, this was the case. Google’s algorithm is moving away from prioritizing keyword-heavy domains.

Google’s Stance on Domain Names

Back in 2011, Matt Cutts, a former software engineer on Google’s Search Quality group, had the following to say about domain names:

“We’ve been thinking about adjusting the mix a little bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm so that given two different domains it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain with a bunch of keywords in it.”

In 2023, Google Search Advocate John Mueller suggested the following:

  • Keyword-rich domain names may be detrimental to a website’s long-term success.
  • Keyword-rich domain names can be associated with spam, make it harder to change business focus or expand offerings, and lack a brand name.

You could see the writing on the wall back in 2011 that Google was going away from giving so much priority to the domain name. Google has now gone as far as stating that it’s spammy to purchase keyword-heavy domains.

More Strategy Involved Than Just Picking Keyword-Heavy Domain Name

If you pick a domain name and there’s no authority associated with the domain, you aren’t going to rank well on Google. You would have gotten away with a keyword-heavy, low-authority site in the 1990s but not anymore. Your authority score is predicated based on the number of backlinks pointing to your site. Google ranks authoritative sites, although having keywords in your domain can give you a slight competitive advantage.

Authority of Pittsburgh SEO Magician

  • Pittsburgh SEO Magician has an authority score of 14, which is respectable for a local business.
  • 3.6k backlinks are pointing to their site
  • There are 160 referring domains pointing to their site

Authority of Cleveland Plumbing Supply

  • Cleveland Plumbing Supply has an authority score of 24, above average for a local business.
  • 728.1k backlinks are pointing to their site
  • There are 313 referring domains pointing to their site

Downside Of Picking Keyword-Heavy Domain

  • Google stated they can start viewing your website as spammy, which can harm your long-term success.
  • It makes your branding less memorable.
    • I showed you that Cleveland Plumbing Supply ranks #1 on Google for “Cleveland Plumbing Company.”
    • Other businesses want to replicate their success. Because of this, there are the following brands on the first page of Google. Good luck standing out versus the competition with similar brand names!
      • Cleveland Plumbing Supply
      • Cleveland Plumbing Inc.
      • Cleveland TN Plumbing
  • Picking an SEO-friendly domain name doesn’t get you ranking well on Google. It may serve as a tie-breaker for now, but other tactics are needed to catapult in the search engines.

In Closing

  • A keyword-heavy, SEO-friendly domain name can serve as a tiebreaker if you have a similar authority score to a competitor.
  • SEO has evolved over the years. More than an SEO-friendly domain name is needed to rank well on Google.
  • Google has stated they are devaluing keyword-heavy domains as a ranking factor.
  • If you are to proceed with a keyword-heavy domain name, ensure there aren’t competitors with similar names. This makes it hard to differentiate yourself.
  • Pick a brand name and a domain name you love. Don’t do it strictly for SEO. If you find a brand name that incorporates specific keywords, it’s a win-win.

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