Choosing a Domain Name for SEO – 11 Facts You Need To Know

Choosing a domain name for SEO – it’s a momentous decision that could have far reaching consequences for the success of your online business.

There are so many things to consider!

choosing a domain name for seo

Here are the 10 most important factors you need to take into account when choosing a domain name for SEO.

Choosing a domain name for SEO

1. Use Branding in Your Domain Name

Google uses ‘brand signals’ to distinguish high quality websites from low quality websites.

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).

So don’t be afraid to use your brand name in your domain name.

Brand creates distinction and in the over-crowded world of cyber space, that’s exactly what you need – a way to stand out. A way to be memorable.

exact match domains

An exact match domain targets your keyword exactly

2. Avoid Exact Match Domains (EMDs)

An ‘Exact Match Domain’ is one that matches exactly a keyword phrase, with no hyphens. Examples are:

  • Webhosting.com
  • Rentalcar.com
  • Officesupplies.com
  • Clothes.com

What’s the problem with EMDs when choosing a domain name for SEO?

EMDs have become associated with spammy websites trying to game the search engine algorithms by exactly matching the searcher’s query with keywords contained in the domain name.

To see an example of this, go to Google and type in ‘watch movies online’.

choosing a domain name for sea

You’d expect to see Netflix, Hulu, Stan, HBO, or Foxtel in the top positions, right?

But instead the top positions are taken by shady websites that use deceptive marketing and are likely to install malware on your computer.

How do they manage to beat the giants and grab first place? By using EMDs.

Here’s another example. Go to Google and type in “credit cards”.

In first place you’d expect to see Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, right?

Go past the Ads and the #1 position is taken by an Exact Match Domain: creditcards.com

You might be thinking that’s great, EMD’s work – they get higher positions in the search engine results.

They used to.

But in 2012, Google announced an algorithm change meant to reduce the amount of low quality exact match domains in search results (Source).

And it’s not just Google you need to worry about. Searchers don't like EMDs either - they don't trust them.

Because EMDs 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.

That means lower CTR (Click Through Rate) and that in turn means lower ranking in the search results.

Watch This Video on 'Domain Name SEO' by Neil Patel (2 mins, 02 secs)

3. Avoid Hyphenated Keywords in Your Domain Name

Stay clear of domain names that consist of multiple keywords separated by hyphens, such as email-marketing-services.com

One of the reasons hyphenated domain names look spammy is that this is how spammers 'knock off' well known websites. The original domain name is already taken so they register a hyphenated version, such as 'master-card', 'coca-cola', or 'micro-soft'.

4. Go for .com as Your TLD

‘Top Level Domain’ (TLD) refers to the extension that follows your domain name.

Nine times out of 10 you’re better off going with .com because it’s the most widely recognized and trusted TLD.

Some TLD’s in particular, such as .biz, .us, .info, and .ws, tend to be associated with spam and should be avoided.

5. Consider 'Processing Fluency'

You might think that pronounceability is not important in a domain name, since people don’t often find websites through word of mouth.

But there’s a thing called ‘processing fluency' and it means that we’re more likely to remember words that we can pronounce easily in our own minds.

So choose a domain name that’s pronounceable.

6. Keep It Short

Try to keep your domain name to about 15 characters in length or less. With URLs, shorter is always better.

Fun fact: the top 100,000 websites have, on average, 9 characters or less in their domain names (Source).

avoid hypens in domain names

7. Avoid Hyphens in Your Domain Name

When choosing a domain name for SEO avoid hyphens. Like EMDs, they’ve become associated with spammy websites.

How did this come about?

In the late 1990’s and the 2000’s unscrupulous marketers would try to hitch a free ride on the traffic of a reputable website. They would do this by hyphenating a well known domain name. For example:

  • face-book.com
  • master-card.com
  • micro-soft.com

And that's why hyphens in a domain name reduce your credibility.

8. Avoid Numbers in Your Domain Name

Numbers are not a good idea in a domain, for two reasons.

Firstly, when someone hears your website mentioned, they won’t know whether to spell the number of use a numeral.

Is it this:

  • Threemenandababy.com

Or this:

  • 3menandababy.com

Secondly, numbers (like hyphens) are associated with spammy websites that use numbers to standout. For example:

  • 123easycredit.com

9. Is Your Domain Name Intuitive?

Choose a domain name that won’t leave people wondering what it is you do. In other words, your domain name should be highly intuitive.

An example is webjet.com – I can instantly guess that it’s a business that sells airline tickets online.

10. Avoid Ambiguity in Your Domain Name

Make sure your domain name has only one meaning (the one you intended).

Here are some examples of real domain names that have more than one meaning:

  • therapistfinder.com
  • molestationnursery.com
  • speedofart.com
  • gotahoe.com
  • itscrap.com
  • oldmanshaven.com

11. Subfolders Vs.  Subdomains

Content located in a subdomain is tracked differently by Google to content located in a subfolder. In other words, Google records the metrics for content in a subdomain separately from the content in the main domain. 

By contrast, Google treats content in a subfolder as part of the same set of metrics as the main domain.

For this reason, if you're going to separate your blog from your main website, it's best to do it using a subfolder, rather than a subdomain.

For example, use:

www.yourdomain.com/blog and not blog.yourdomain.com

Conclusion

Choosing a good domain name is not easy. It requires some careful thought.

Keep these 10 tips in mind and you'll come up with a great domain name:

  1. Use your brand name in your domain name
  2. Avoid Exact Match Domains (EMDs)
  3. Avoid domain names that consist of multiple keywords separated by hyphens
  4. Unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise, stick with .com as the TLD
  5. Choose a domain name that’s pronounceable
  6. Keep your domain name to about 15 characters in length or less
  7. Avoid domain names containing hyphens
  8. Avoid domain names containing numbers
  9. Choose a domain name that describes your business or what you do
  10. Avoid domain names with double entendres

This post was most recently updated on July 10th, 2020

Rob Powell
Follow Me

38 thoughts on “Choosing a Domain Name for SEO – 11 Facts You Need To Know”

  1. Great post, very useful information to choose a domain.
    But can you clarify me… mine is good or bad
    Domain name: http://www.salesiaplots.com
    Website Name: Salesia Realtors
    my targeted keywords are
    1. plots for sale in hyderabad
    2. plots for sale in rampally
    3. plots for sale in adibatla
    etc.
    Thanks

  2. Hi Venkanna, thanks for your comment. It’s a good domain name because it contains your brand (Salesia) and it contains a keyword (plots) that your target audience would probably use when looking for your product. It’s also nice and short, which is good. The only thing I would add: if possible I would get an SSL certificate so that your domain starts with the ‘https://’ protocol. That is now a ranking factor on Google. So your site will rank higher with an SSL certificate. I hope this helps. All the best, Rob.

  3. On LinkedIn, there are 30,451 companies that show up when you search the word Apple. In such a situation, how do any of these companies strategize their SEO?

    What do you think about our domain name digitalyx.us? (I read your view on .us TLD) Our target market is the USA.

    Thanks

  4. Hi Jaya,

    Thanks for your question. SEO is by nature competitive and there are only so many positions in the search results. In a situation where 1000 companies offer the exact same services to the exact same target market, only about 10 of those companies are going to be able to get on Page #1 for their keyword.

    However, in reality there are usually slight differences in what companies offer, differences in their focus, and differences in the kind of audience they are targeting. These differences mean that they can differentiate themselves from other companies by targeting slightly different keywords.

    In the example you gave, geographical location could be an important factor. A company located in India, that offers services connected with ‘Apple’, would be able to rank on Page #1 for a search query that included the word ‘India’ or the name of an Indian city. In that sense, they wouldn’t be competing directly (in an SEO sense) with a similar company that was based in Los Angeles, California.

    With regard to your 2nd question, the .com TLD is the most recognized and trusted TLD but if a website is catering to a United States market, then .us would make sense. Nevertheless, the .us TLD does seem to be associated with spam. Every two weeks I disavow backlinks from websites that are clearly not legitimate websites and they nearly all have the .us TLD. I’m not sure why that it is.

    I hope this answers your questions.

    Best regards,
    Rob

  5. I plan to create another website blog and the brand name is more than 15 character. Its like a 25 character long, but that is the brand. Is it okay?

  6. Hi Arturo,

    Thanks for your question.

    If it’s 25 characters, I’m guessing the brand name comprises more than one word?

    Can you take a single word or element from the brand name and make that the domain name?

    Rob.

  7. Thanks Rob, awesome tips!
    We are changing the name of our small, local clinic. We were thinking of having the city name in our brand name and root domain, for example abcclinicsydney.com.au

    Would this be a good idea for SEO?

  8. Hi Bek,

    Thanks for your question. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have your location in the domain name. But keywords in the domain name are no longer a big factor in SEO. From the point of view of optimizing for local SEO, adding your website to Google Places will have far more impact than including the location in the domain name. Here’s a quote from someone who answered a similar question on Quora:

    The single most important thing for local SEO? The thing you should do right now, straight away, and which will have an immediate impact? Go to Google My Business and just tell Google who you are, what you do, where you are, when you’re open, etc. Add yourself to Google Maps. NOTHING makes as much difference as doing this.

    Quick anecdote. I was helping a friend who is a wedding photographer. He had a website which had been live for ages, was pretty good, but he didn’t show up on page 1 of Google when searched for in his area. I added him to Google Places (it was a while ago), and INSTANTLY he appeared on page 1.

    I hope this helps,
    Rob.

  9. This is an awesome and very helpful article. My brand name has been used as a domain name by someone but they aren’t actively using it but has kept up on the registration. So, I have to add something that would make the domain longer. My brand name is exactly 15 letters long. What should I do? I tried to purchase the domain from the person but Godaddy.com is asking for a brokerage fee to negotiate the purchase, and that is not even a guaruntee that the person will sell or sell for a reasonable amount. Im a small business, so I cant afford that. Please help any advice is beyond appreciated.

  10. Hi Stacie,

    That’s certainly frustrating. But there are various ways to deal with it.

    Here are 4 good options:

    1) Add a verb to your brand name. The bookmarking site ‘Pocket’ couldn’t get pocket so they registered http://www.getpocket.com
    2) Extend your brand. The Tesla car company found that ‘tesla’ was already taken. So they registered http://www.teslamotor.com
    3) Use a country code TLD. If you were in Australia, for example, you could take the .com.au version. Or if in the UK, you could take the .co.uk version
    4) Add your country to the domain. The Nissan car company found that ‘nissan’ was already taken. So they registered http://www.nissanusa.com

    This is a great article, with more suggestions: https://neilpatel.com/blog/domain-name-unavailable/

    You could also try typing your brand name into these domain name generators – they may come up with some ideas you hadn’t thought of:

    https://www.namemesh.com/
    https://www.nameboy.com/
    https://domainwheel.com/

    Hope this helps.

    Rob.

  11. Really helpful article. I tried my best to follow all the guidelines, however I am not sure if i met all of them. I am planning a website name for my lifestyle blog that highlights people of two different cultures showing their perspective of their lifestyle. But I am not sure if its going to have an issue with EMD or is the name not clear enough to help people understand what my website is about.
    Name: Fallingintosync.com

  12. Hi Asad,

    Thanks for your question.

    I don’t think you would have an issue with exact match domains, as this only applies to highly commercial keywords like insurance, credit, plumbing, dentist etc.

    As to the second part of your question, I wouldn’t have been able to guess from the domain name that the website was about different cultures and their perspectives on lifestyle.

    The way to approach this is to take words like ‘sync’, ‘perspective’, ‘lifestyle’, ‘adapt’, ‘change’, ‘merge’, ‘view’, ‘adjust’ and then try combining them with the word ‘culture’.

    There are various online tools to help you do this:

    https://www.namemesh.com/
    https://www.nameboy.com/
    https://domainwheel.com/

    Domainwheel is particularly good.

    Here are some ideas that I came up with:

    culturemeld.org
    newculture.org
    mergedculture.org
    cultureadapt.org
    cultureblend.org
    culturemerge.org
    culturesync.org
    syncedcultures.org
    cultureadjust.org
    interculture.org
    culturemorph.org
    culturechange.org
    cultureshock.org
    culturalharmony.org
    culturesync.org
    theculturesync.org

    However, I may not have understood exactly the concept behind your website.

    Anyway, I hope this helps 🙂

    Best, Rob

  13. Good day Rob, thanks for your concise article – I would like to pick your brain further about #6 if you don’t mind (length of a domain). We are about to set up an affiliate blog for environmental products, and as we know that the choice of a digital name should resonate with the zeitgeist and with emotions (for marketing purposes), translate across cultures for longevity and have an authenticity that will gain people’s trust. We started thinking about the viral success of a website with a longer domain name like “https://www.thisiswhyimbroke.com/, where the domain is in fact a sentence, a mantra, and will actually be easier to communicate in normal human conversation. For us this could be something like “www.thisishowyougettogreen”. What is your take on this?

  14. Hi Ilse,

    Thanks for your question. I think that would be fine. The example you gave (thisiswhyimbroke) works well. As well as being humorous, it’s highly memorable. Another example of a domain name that is a statement: http://mywifequitherjob.com/. Again it’s humorous and memorable. Another one is http://www.momthisishowtwitterworks.com/.

    So I would go for it.

    One suggestion: I would try and make the domain name something is part of everyday speech (e.g. thisiswhyimbroke, mywifequitherjob).

    So I think it’s fine – I can’t see any problems with it.

    All the best!
    Rob.

  15. Dear Rob,
    Greetings!

    I need domain name to rent out my office premises in delhi (India). Pls advice a good domain name for self SEO. We dont have any brand or name. Thanks SAM

  16. I have two domains which are ease2web.com and delhiwebsitedesigning.in so my question is that which one is better for SEO purpose and can i go with the .in extension domains. I am from Delhi, India. Any answer is appreciated.

  17. Hi Atul,

    The second one is better, for a couple of reasons:

    1) best to avoid numbers in domain names as it tends to look a bit spammy 2) the first domain doesn’t indicate what the website is about whereas the second one does.

    The country TLD (.in) is fine. In fact, it’s better than having a .com because your clients are going to want to know that you are based in India. Your domain identifies your business as based in Delhi, so the country TLD (.in) is a good choice.

    Hope this helps,
    Rob.

  18. Hi…
    First of all, you have a given a good knowledge of choosing a domain name for SEO.
    but I have little doubt here which is-
    1. I want to start a blog on “Mechanical Engineering” which covers a good number of the keyword in these fields. And this keyword volume is too high approximately 200K+/month. Will this rank in the first?
    2. Should I choose a long word domain name like mechanicalengineering.com or mechanicalengineeringinformation.com or engineeringmechanical.com Please suggest some idea about this?
    3. Little tough question but I know you will suggest me somehow
    How to select the domain name and beat the first page already rank users?

    Thanks

  19. Hi Amrit,

    Thanks for your question.

    This is a great question! There are actually two issues involved here: (1) the name of your domain, and (2) the niche that you want to target.

    With regard to issue (1), how you name your domain isn’t nearly as important as people think. For example, I write about SEO but my domain name has nothing to do with SEO. Or take the name ‘Google’: when someone sees that word for the first time, they wouldn’t think “that must be a search engine”. Or, take the brand name ‘Nike’: if you saw that word for the first time, you wouldn’t think it has anything to do with sports shoes. The point here is that what you get known for is what you *do* on your website. The name itself is not that important. Back in the early days of the Internet, when search engine algorithms were in their infancy, it was important to have your keyword in your domain name. But that’s no longer the case. In fact, EMDs (Exact Match Domains) are now regarded by search engines as a bit spammy.

    Issue (2) is about the niche that you want to target. This is much important than issue (1). A website gains ‘topical authority’ in the search engines by becoming an authority on a particular topic. But if your focus is very broad, it’s very hard to ever become an authority on that topic, simply because you are “spread too thin”. Here’s an example: if I wanted to become an authority on ’email marketing’ it would take me years of hard work. And I might not even be able to do it. Why? Because the competition is too stiff and the subject is too broad. But if instead I focused on ’email marketing for real estate agents’ I could become an authority in that niche quite quickly.

    One aspect of choosing a niche has to do with topical authority and demonstrating your expertise to the search engines. But another aspect is the human dimension. The more narrow your focus, the quicker you will build a following of loyal readers. Let’s say I’m a real estate agent looking for email marketing tips and I come across a website that deals with ’email marketing’. I won’t immediately identify with that site because the focus is very broad. But what if I come across a website the deals with ’email marketing for real estate agents’? Bingo! I bookmark that site and I immediately feel a connection with it because I know it’s talking to me.

    So to answer you question: the name of your domain doesn’t matter too much but the focus of your niche is very important. ‘Mechanical Engineering’ is almost certainly too broad. It will take you ages to get a foothold in that niche. You need to narrow down the niche. One way to do that is to think of a very specific audience. Your niche could then be ‘mechanical engineering and the automobile industry’ or ‘mechanical engineering and hydroelectrics’ or ‘mechanical engineering and nuclear power’ or ‘mechanical engineering for high school students’ or ‘mechanical engineering and the industrial revolution’. The key here is to try and think who your audience is or who you want your audience to be.

    In a nutshell: the more narrow your focus, the quicker you will build an audience and the faster you will establish topical authority in the search engines.

    I hope this helps 🙂
    Rob.

  20. Hey Rob, what do you think about this domain name choice — nootropicsheal.com — and the brand of the company will be called “Healing Nootropics” — selling supplements that help heal the brain and boost cognitive performance.

    Would this be a good choice? I noticed that nootropicsheal.com is 14 characters, vs healingnootropics.com is 18 characters, I assume 14 is better?

    Let me know what you think – thanks!

  21. Hi Kevin,

    Either one is a good. Purely in terms of the way it sounds, nootropicshealing.com rolls off the tongue a bit better than the two options you mentioned, IMO. I wouldn’t worry about the difference between 14 characters and 18. My domain is 16 characters. And if you drop the ‘www’ (as I’ve done), that frees up some more space.

    Hope this answers your question.

    Regards,
    Rob.

  22. Thanks so much… this was a great read. I was in the process of upgrading my new blog from a .wordpress account to its own domain and this really helped me decide which way to go!

    Katie
    womenwithkidsblog.com

  23. You’re welcome, Katie – I’m glad the article was helpful. Definitely a good decision to move to self-hosted WP. All the best – Rob.

  24. Hi Rob,

    Really helpful article. I am thinking of registering a domain ‘kitchengardenchef.com’ as well as .co.uk.
    My online business offers nutritionally balanced ready meals containing at least 2 of your 5 day and inspired by family favourites that I used to cook with my grandma using produce from her kitchen garden.

    Our meals will be aimed at a 65+ audience and available to purchase online only. They can also be kept in your kitchen cupboard (rather than frozen/ fresh) – that’s why I need to highlight some fresh aspect in the title!

    Any feedback on the title would be amazing 😉

    Thank you

  25. Apologies, I meant cook not chef i.e Kitchengardencook.com the kitchengardencook.co.uk

  26. It’s a good domain name – it describes very well what the website is about. Go for it! – Rob.

  27. They’re both good, though I prefer kitchengardenchef.com It’s one letter shorter and a bit more classy – Rob.

  28. I want to ask 3 questions
    1. What is benifits of long tail keywords?
    2. Why you used to put long tail keywords in our title of blig post?
    3. Should we choose domain name long tail or short tail?

  29. Thanks for your question.

    There are two main benefits of longtail keywords: (1) the competition is low, which means you have a chance of ranking for them on Google, and (2) people who type longtail keywords into a search engine are closer to the end of the buyer journey (aka sales funnel) which means they are much more more likely to become customers than people who type in ‘head’ keywords or even ‘middle’ keywords.

    The reason you should put your keyword in the title of your blog post is that it helps the search engines to understand what your article is about and what topics you want it to rank for in the search results.

    With regard to domain name, it’s no longer that important to have your keyword in your domain name. Search engines can work out what your website is about through analyzing the content on your site. However, having your keyword in your domain may help your human visitors understand what your website is about. As to longtail vs short tail, the shorter your domain name the better, so I would use a head or middle keyword in your domain.

    Hope this helps,

    Rob

  30. hi rob…. and great article on domain names….. my partner started a small business and like most, want to money fast on the web. her business is a massage therapist service and i have gone through the thesaurus trying to rename the domain to get good ranking and then i came across your article and searched the web site for suggestions and still it made it hard to come up with anything. my partners domain name sarmassagetherapy.com.au and the and that’s her business name as well.

    just curious for any ideas that we can change it too to increase the domain score on it?

    cheers

  31. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your question.

    That looks like a good domain name for SEO. It has only 17 characters and it contains two keywords. And it’s clear to humans what the website is about. I’d be happy with that domain name if it was mine.

    All the best,
    Rob.

  32. This was perhaps the most informative and well-written guide for me. I have been looking for an article that will help me in securing a good domain name for my business. Thank you for sharing.

  33. Hi Rob,
    Very informative article. I am planning to set up a web site for my business and trying to come up with a domain name that would also help with SEO. The business is for repairing drywall and we are basically a franchisee of a nationally operated franchisor (although brand name equity is pretty low, not like McDonald’s, for example). Let’s assume the brand name is Brand Name (two words) and my location is City Name (two words). I was wondering if I should include all of the following in my domain name:
    1. Brand name (as you suggested),
    2. City name (to make it geographically tailored, since my business is for a certain location only and because I read adding location is generally a good idea for small businesses),
    3. Keyword (‘drywall’ in this case)

    So with that the domain name would look like BrandNameCityNameDrywall.com. I was thinking this might be a good idea, but it comes to a total of 26 characters (excluding the .com). Would you recommend this? Or is there anything else that you think might yield better results?

    Thank you.

  34. Hi Lee,

    That’s a good question. When you’re planning anything around SEO its always a good idea to put yourself in the shoes of someone doing a search on Google. Imagine a typical person looking for drywall products in your area – what would they type into Google? As this is a physical business that offers products and services in a physical location, I’m assuming that the searcher’s query will include the name of the town or city where your business is located. If the brand name is not well known (as you indicated) then I doubt that your typical customer would include the brand name in their search term. So I would say the two key elements you need in your domain name are 1) the location and 2) the word ‘drywall’.

    That being said, you may want to build up brand recognition in your local area for that brand of drywall, so that would be a valid reason for including the brand name in the domain. Another issue is whether the franchisor would allow you to include their brand name in your domain name?

    Let’s say you decide you do need/want the brand name in the domain name, the next issue is the ordering of the elements in the domain name. You have them ordered like this:

    BrandNameCityNameDrywall.com

    But it may sound more natural ordered like this:

    CityNameBrandNameDrywall.com

    As in, for example:

    sandiegogyprockdrywall.com

    (I’ve used gyprock because that’s the biggest brand of drywall here in Australia. They’ve managed to make their brand name virtually synonymous with ‘drywall’ – they have a very clever tagline: “Gyprock – everything else is just plasterboard”).

    As for 26 characters, that is a bit long. I recommend a maximum of about 15 characters. That would be another reason for dropping the brand name from the domain name. Especially if your potential customers aren’t likely to be doing searches on that brand name.

    In that case, you would go for sandiegodrywall.com (for example).

    I hope this helps,

    Rob

Comments are closed.

108 Shares
Share7
Tweet
Pin101