Choosing a domain name makes up for one of the fundamental elements into a good SEO strategy. Unfortunately, most webmasters tend to ignore this fact. Having a good domain name plays an integral part to your website’s SEO strategy and should be chosen based on your overall SEO goals.
So how does one go about choosing a domain name?
The first criteria is to understand what you intend to achieve from your domain name. In order to answer this question, one must first learn/know about the types of domain names that can be used. By types of domain names, we don’t mean the TLD extentions (although this does play a role) but the name itself.
Primarily, there are two types of domain names.
Brandable domain name. This is one which is generic and doesn’t typically reflect the niche you are targeting. Brandable domain names give a professional outlook to your websites, however a lot depends on how you intend to use it.
Exact Match domain name. These are ‘excact matches’ for a search term in Google. Of late, more and more SEO savvy webmasters seek out Exact match domain names, also known as EMD’s in SEO jargon. EMD’s or Exact match domain names serve the purpose to fast track your SEO, so to speak.
Brandable v/s Exact Match Domain names
To illustrate the differences, lets take a look at a live example. In our exercise, we shall focus on ‘cash back forex‘
Searching in Google for the term ‘cash back forex’ shows us that the first site in the search listings points to www.cashbackforex.com. This is nothing but an EMD, Exact Match domains. Google tends to give priority to EMD’s as the search term is part of the domain and therefore ranks such EMD’s higher.
For the same search term, in result #8, you will find globegain.com In contract to the EMD that ranked #1, globegain.com is a domain that is more inclined on the brandable aspect of it.
As obvious, choosing an EMD helps to rank your website higher but the downside being that it is highy micro-niche.
If you wish to choose an EMD, then ensure that the search term gets enough volume so as to make a profit from the domain name and ultimately your website. Bear in mind that an exact match domain serves the purpose to rank your website higher for a particular search term. This means that it would take double the efforts to rank for other search terms.
Age of the domains
It is a known fact that the age of a domain does influence your site’s rankings on Google. The more aged a domain is, the higher the trust rankings which eventually reflects on your search rankings.
Quite often, webmasters tend to register a new domain. The reasons may vary however, instead of blindly registering a new domain, doing a bit of research to find a possible alternative domains that are already aged will definitely help.
The problem with new domains from an SEO perspective is that it takes atleast a month to have your websites to start bringing traffic from the targeted search terms. Of course, there are lots of automation tools available today, but they are more suited for aged domains. In Google’s eyes if you try to automate/fast track the SEO process for a new domain might flag suspicion and could on the contrary hurt your site rather than do any good.
An aged domain is one that is ideally from 2 years old or more. Another advantage of using aged domains is that there could be a good chance that the domain already has a good Page Rank and in some cases good MozRank therefore giving you the extra advantage over your competitors.
It is possible that an Exact Match domain can outbeat an aged brandable domain. However, as stated earlier, the EMD wins only in case of a few handful of search terms relative to the EMD.
TLD’s – Top Level Domains
As competition in an industry grows, in the same proportion the basic principles of SEO are often ignored in a hurry to grab just about anything that’s available. But let’s remind ourselves again about the influence of TLD’s in domain names.
From an affiliate website’s perspective, the TLD’s of importance are .com and .net. Of late, other TLD’s that can be used to rank a website include .ws, .info, .biz and for geographic targeting a country level domain extension is ideal.
Tools to help you with Domain Research
Google Adwords Keywords tool is a good place to start researching into EMD’s. Be sure that your search term’s [exact match] generates good enough a monthly volume 2k or more in order to make any substantial gains from your EMD’s
The domain name tool from Traffic Travis is good to do a deeper research with additional data such as the CPC for the search term (which indirectly reflects on how valuable the EMD could be) as well as generating a list of domain names that are available. You can download the Trial Version here.
To buy aged domains, GoDaddy’s auctions are ideal as well as Digitalpoint forum. However bear in mind that most of the aged domains that have any PR are in most of the cases used to divert their link juice to another domain. Buying such domains means taking a risk of losing the PR, unless you engage in an aggressive link building exercise.
To check on the authority of the domain, use Opensiteexplorer from SEOMoz which gives a good indication on the domain’s authority.
Namecheap is a reputable iCANN accredited domain name registrar that offers good value on domain name registrations/transfers. For web hosting, you can check out Hostwinds, which offers hosting from as low as $3.99 month.