Domain names are one of the primary things that tell Google about your site. Most website owners know of the testing times when they had to think about their website name. With millions of websites only and plenty of domain registrars, you will possibly find your domain name being taken. Popular domain names can set you back by thousands of dollars. Some businesses spend up thousands of dollars to get that right domain name – all in the name of brand visibility and SEO juice.
The Domain Name
Most of us have asked about how much importance do we need to give to the keyword when choosing our domain. Buying domain names that go with the targeted keywords has been a distinct advantage. You have been told that Google prefers websites with a longer web hosting plan. In other words, if you have your domain and hosting registered for more than one year, Google will look more favorably at you.
Yet, that’s not only what matters. Google might love you more if you have a longer hosting plan but there are tons of other factors as well. A website such as forbes.com will not be affected by whether it chooses a one year hosting plan or a five year one.
Google’s Changing – And How It’s Looking at Your Domain Name’s Changing too
Before, we had webmasters purchasing the domain names according to the keyword phrase. So, if you wanted to have a news website up about solar energy developments, you could try out a website domain called www.solarenergynews.com. The name itself was a ranking factor and the process known as Exact Match Domain (EMD). Now, doing so is not as useful and relevant as before.
There are a number of data and statistics to support this presumption. A High Position’s study stated that the rankings of EMD sites went down from 13.4 to 26.6. Data by SEOmoz paints a similar picture as well. EMD correlation with rankings dropped from 0.34 in 2010 to 0.18 in 2012. MOZCast reports that only 2.5-3% of domains that appear in the top ten results over thousands of different search results have EMDs.
The trend is likely to continue. You shouldn’t consider your domain name alone as a factor for your website’s success in that niche. There are a number of other factors to look at.
The Search Volume
Know the search volume for the keyword that you are trying to make your domain name. Keywords with better search volume will lead to more visitors coming in. Make sure that your target audience is associated with the keyword.
What’s the brandability of the domain? Think from the eyes of the customer. Does the domain name offer the right amount of brandability? The domain name needs to tell the user something about the website but that’s not all there’s to it. Building a brandable domain starts right from trying to pick the .com extension, which is often the best choice unless your business needs are specific. Today, around 75% businesses have a .com extension.
Similarly, your brand needs to be memorable. If people do not remember your brand name, they can’t remember you. It’s important to communicate your message through your domain name itself. Don’t forget that your domain name helps people form the first opinion about your site 0 it’s important for it to sound authoritative. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a short domain name – statistics point out that the top 100,000 websites today have nine or less characters in their domain names. A good way is to come up with new words or just search the thesaurus to find something that can relate to what you do (think Amazon.com).
It’s all about relevance now. Google considers a variety of signals and takes into account different keywords when ranking a site. You need to have your website content revolving around your domain name as well for the domain name to get any extra benefits in Google rankings. If you can build in relevancy and authority, Google will rank your site high. Check out metacritic.com for instance.
They offer different services, from show review ratings to movie reviews. Today, they can come up on the top of your search results, much like ImDB or Wikipedia does, even if there are other sites that have more content that’s more relevant to what you are looking for. The domain names aren’t going to match with everything they offer, right? The reason that they ranking high is that Google looks for relevance and authority, two niche areas where these sites score. The same goes with say cnet.com. The name by itself says nothing, but Google up a review and you will find that they come on the top of many search results.
So, what does Google really look for apart from the domain names?
Nobody knows the Google search algorithm except a few at Google. But experience and correlation data suggests that Google’s obviously looking at a lot more now. From looking at connections between terms, phrases and concepts to semantically looking at the content, along with taking into account scores of other factors like brand visibility and customer base, Google’s continuously improving its algorithm. As Matt Cutt, one of Google’ software engineer said, “It’s kind of interesting how a lot of people just assume Google’s thinking about nothing but the money, as far as our search quality. And truthfully, we’re just thinking about, how do we make our search results better? And that’s served us pretty well for a long time, and I expect us to keep doing that for a long time to come.”
The introduction of contextual searches and Google accumulating user data to know more about what a user might need, is also giving birth to search results that are customized according to the person’s locations.
Interestingly, that does make us ask a question. ICAN, in a recent press release, said that companies can have their own brand addresses for $185,000. So, you could have ‘.facebook’ instead of ‘facebook.com’. ICAN will first evaluate the application before deciding to grant the license.
However, how will Google rank the sites if companies like Facebook really decide to use this feature and apply for it? Also, wont smaller companies be left out as they might not be able to afford the $185,000 cost but might have a brand name as well among their audience?
It’s to be seen how Google does address these problems but for now, having a domain name by itself wont fetch you top Google Search Results. Instead, you need to focus on a number of other factors, including keyword relevance and how your website is connected to different keywords. Don’t cherry pick topics that can convert you all the time; look at the total picture as well.
You may not be able to create content all the time, like many big brands do. However, it seems Google does want us to emulate what some of these big brands have been doing. Keep your content updated. You can have a look at the different things you need to do to have a site that’s fresh and Google-friendly here.