Choosing a Good Domain Name for SEO

Coming up with a business name is an important decision. It will be the identity of your brand for years to come.

According to Olive & Company, a good brand name should be distinctive, authentic, memorable, enduring and defensible.

A branding firm will likely overlook SEO benefits when recommending a business name. They’ll think of creativity and memorability and fail to see the importance of including prominent keywords in your domain name.

Your business can accomplish the best of both worlds. You can choose an SEO friendly domain name that can establish a brand identity for your business.

After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of the following:

  • The debate on branding versus SEO when establishing your business name
  • Exact Match domain names and possible issues with this approach
  • Success stories when picking the right domain names
  • How to choose a good domain name for SEO that also establishes a brand identity
  • How you can limit growth of a company when picking SEO friendly domain names

The Debate

There’s an ongoing debate regarding whether or not positive branding will help your website gain higher Google rankings. There are some that believe that Google likes brands because users like brands, so selecting a brand name that’s distinctive is the best route.

There are plenty of business owners and SEO’s that see their competitors rank on the top of Google with a keyword friendly website.

When it comes to choosing a business name, should you select a name that’s best for branding? Or should you should an SEO friendly domain name? I asked SEO’s on Twitter this very question.

60% of respondent said yes, they would choose a domain name that includes a keyword that would be beneficial for SEO while 40% said they wouldn’t.

I want to make one thing abundantly clear.

  • You can rank well on Google without having an important keyword in your business name or domain name
  • You can also improve your chances of ranking well on Google by strategically selecting a business name that’s keyword friendly

There’s no right or wrong answer. Just like the Twitter poll, there would be some people to tell you to focus more on branding while others would have you concentrate on SEO.

MISCONCEPTIONS

An EMD (exact match domain name) means picking a domain with the exact keywords you want to rank for. For example, choosing a domain such as “NYCPersonalInjuryLawyer.com” because of the great keywords in the title. There’s a belief that selecting a domain name and/or business name with keywords like this will instantly help with SEO. Spoiler: It won’t, at least not until you establish legitimacy to the domain. People will be less likely to trust a company with such a keyword heavy name. You need that legitimacy and trust behind the brand before you can reap the SEO benefits.

MY EXPERIENCE
As an agency owner that’s helped hundreds of clients rank on the first page of Google and that’s been involved in the SEO strategy decision of domain name selection and website launches, I wanted to share my experience on choosing good domain names for SEO.

MISCONCEPTION ABOUT KEYWORD HEAVY DOMAIN NAMES
In October 2008 Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said: “Brands are the solution, not the problem…brands are how you sort out the cesspool” (source).

Your website (like your business) needs to establish legitimacy in order to rank well. If other sites aren’t talking about your business (and linking to your site), legitimacy isn’t being established. Google values the legitimacy of a brand.

There’s a misconception that selecting a business name that’s keyword heavy for your industry or market will result in instant SEO benefits.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are benefits of including keywords in your domain name (which I’ll get into later in this article). If you are going to take the route of including keywords in your domain name, you can’t expect instant results. You have to build your brand and work on the On-Site, Off-site, Technical and Local SEO.

EXAMPLE OF WHERE IT WORKS
In the Columbus, Ohio market, Columbus Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery dominates the first page of Google for the coveted keyword, “Columbus Plastic Surgeons.”

They strategically selected a domain name (columbusplasticsurgery.com) that includes a primary keyword (Plastic Surgery) along with the city they are located in (Columbus).

They’ve been established in the Columbus market for over 15-years and have more plastic surgeons than any practice in town. They also have hundreds of other websites and publications linking back to their site.

You can see how they’ve reaped the benefits. They are ranking prominently in the map section and also #1 organically for the keyword, “Columbus Plastic Surgeons.”

Note: It’s hard to argue the success this plastic surgeon has had on Google. The domain name is a big reason for their success. That being said, this is very close to an exact match domain name. You’ll see in my examples below how you can have the best of both worlds, a solid domain while also establishing a brand.

LACK OF TRUST?
If you have a domain name like, “NYCPersonalInjuryLawyer.com” there can be a lack of trust. Rob Powell wrote a great blog post talking about picking good domain names. Within the article he stated, “Because EMDs (exact match domain names) have come to be correlated with spammy websites, someone who sees your EMD domain name in the search results is less likely to regard your website as trustworthy.

There was an even an algorithm update in 2012 called the Exact Match Domain Update. The intent behind this update was not to target exact match domain names exclusively, but to target sites with the following combination of spammy tactics: exact match domains that were also poor quality sites with thin content.

EXAMPLES
Below are some examples of solid domain names. We took into consideration whether or not they were ranking on the first page of Google along with the naked eye test, which was simply, “does it seem like a legitimate business?”

  • Donaldson Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics Solutions
    • This domain name (donaldsonplasticsurgery.com) includes the doctors last name which establishes legitimacy while also including the core keyword they want to rank for, which is “Plastic Surgery.” They rank #2 in Columbus for “Columbus Plastic Surgeons.”
  • Goodman’s Landscaping
    • Includes the last name of the business owner and also includes the word “Landscaping,” their primary keyword. The name of the business and the domain name also match exactly, which is a plus. They rank #1 in the Phoenix market for “Phoenix Landscaping Company.”
  • Platinum Party Bus
    • The primary keyword for this business is “Party Bus,” which is included in the domain name. They have also established a brand by selecting Platinum to be a part of their branding so people will remember them as Platinum Party Bus. They rank #1 in the Cleveland marketing for “Cleveland Party Bus.”
  • Grove City Summit
    • This is an apartment community located in a suburb of Columbus. They strategically selected a domain name that includes the suburb where they are located. Their domain name and business name match exactly, which is a plus. They also created unique branding with “Summit” at the end of the name rather than picking a name like “Grove City Apartments.”
      • It should be noted that if this apartment wanted to pull from other suburbs, they’d have a more difficult time based on the decision to pick a domain name that marries them to one specific suburb.   

IN CLOSING
When there is a keyword included in your domain name, our agency has seen a higher likelihood to rank on Google. If you can strategically work in your core service or the market where you’re located, this can be helpful. That being said, if you serve multiple markets or have multiple core services, this makes it tricky so you have to be strategic when making this decision.

When you can pick a name that establishes an identify for your business and includes an important keyword, you have the best of both worlds. Don’t forget, the domain is just one piece of the SEO puzzle.