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How to Choose a Domain Name with SEO in Mind. Part 2. Domain Extension

| Posted in category Google Search Engine Optimization Website Usability

Three weeks ago we published a post where we looked

How to Choose a Domain Name with SEO in Mind. Part 1: Brand vs Keywords.

We were aiming for a happy SEO medium between brandable and keyword-rich domains.

Now it's time to take a closer look beyond the "dot" part of your domain – i.e. choose a domain extension.

In part 1 we gave reasons why choosing brands or a mix of a keyword and a brand for domain names is a forward-looking approach.

Those who decided on the brand name will soon find another proof they made the right choice. They will discover that their catchy brand dot com domain is unclaimed and available for sale.

On the contrary, keyword-rich com-s will apparently be taken.

Why everybody wants com-s?

From the theoretical SEO point of view, any domain - be it .info, .biz or .com.au - can be driven to Google.com's top. It depends on the keywords you target, your writing, link building, internet marketing and social media skills.

Still, it is com domains that are any website owner's most precious treat.

Why?

Because they are believed to convey a certain credibility level by default – people tend to trust com-s more than any other TLDs.

So, your com is taken.

What are the possible ways out then?

You can either

  • attempt to buy the domain from the current owner,
  • consider TDLs other than com,
  • stick to com and brainstorm other naming option: hyphenate the initial name, add a prefix or a suffix or think of a totally different name.

Buying from the current owner

Always consider this option: contact website owners yourself, or use a domain buy service as a mediator. There's a chance you'll never hear back from the domain owner, or you could get the desired domain for a real bargain – you never know.

TLDs other than .com

Let's have a look at the list of the top 500 sites in the United States - we'll find only a couple of non-com-s:

wikipedia.org

wordpress.org

mozilla.org

battle.net

slideshare.net

This no sweat research confirms a popular webmasters' belief: if you can't find a com, look for an .org or a .net – they come next in the trust list.

ccTLDs: when they make sense?

Country code top level domains (ccTLDs) are domains reserved for a country. Rules vary from one region to another, but, in general, to get a local domain, you'll need to prove you reside in a specific geographical location.

Without any doubt, ccTLDs are perfect for local results. According to Danny Sullivan, search engines do use country-specific domain names, when these can be trusted, as a signal for making content tailed to a particular country.

Occasionally, we would see some of the local domains – especially co.uk-s – beat com-s even in international search results, for example bbc.co.uk.

Okay, should you opt for ccTLDs if you can't get a com and you're aiming to rank in Google.com? The answer is yes, if:

  • you're from an English-speaking country
  • if there's potential for your website to take advantage of local traffic
  • if you're sure there's no way to get a net or an org to substitute com.

What about info-s?

SEO practitioners are not unanimous about info-s. Some say they can be ranked equally well – people just tend to see less of them in the results and they conclude they rank worse, but they forget there are fewer info-s registered. Others argue that even properly optimized info-s take three times as long as top level domains to drive to page one.

Buying info domains is tempting because they are considerably cheaper compared to com-s, and there are more options matching the aspired name available.

Still, they are often perceived as spam. So if you're serious enough about the website you're about to launch, info is not your best choice.

Hyphens

So, you can't find a com for the domain name you want, and you don't want extensions other than com. One of the options is to hyphenate the name.

For example, you can't find iruletheinternet.com, so you look into i-rule-the-internet.com.

Similar to the info debate, there's little unity about whether to hyphenate or not.

Domain hyphenating critics contend that:

  • Google shows a bit of a bias towards domain names with hyphens (no evidence from Google officials though).
  • Hyphenated domains are likely to hurt direct traffic – when people forget to type a hyphen – e.g. they want to type in your-domain.com, forget a hyphen and get to yourdomain.com.
  • There's a point where hyphenated domains cross a threshold to keyword stuffing, i.e. they're associated with low quality websites.
  • They are harder on brand recognition and offline publicity.

On the plus side:

  • Hyphenated domains, if long, are easier to read.
  • You find more options available during the registration phase.

Prefixes and Suffixes

Adding prefixes and suffixes is another option if you want to stick to the initially-chosen domain name (be it brand or keyphase).

Prefixes and suffixes can be meaningless, e.g. brandx.com or 123keyword.com.

They can also communicate some extra message:

  • News-related terms (news, diary, today)
  • How-to-related terms (guide, basics, tips)
  • Product-related terms (review, store, discount).

You don't have to invent those yourself - prefix and suffix suggestions are provided by domain name search tools.

Your own tips on domain naming

So here are the things that we think should be considered when naming a domain. As an internet marketer, what do you look into when naming domains? Share your ideas in comments, and happy domain naming!

 



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