Background to Domains
The addresses of the internet are represented as domains. Think of websites as “homes” and the domain name as the numerical address you see outside these homes. The primary parts of domains include:
The “https://” in the very beginning of each website is called the protocol. Though technically part of the webpage’s URL, it is not part of the domain name. Next, the “www” is known as the subdomain. The actual name of the website after the “www” and before the “.com” is the domain name. And the rest “.com” or “.org” that follows is the top-level domain.
The domain name and the top-level domain together reveals the Root Domain. Let’s now break each of these items down in further detail.
Top-level domains (TLDs)
As mentioned above, the top-level domain is simply the suffix of the domain name. There are over 1000 TLDs to select from, the most common ones being:
Literally any word can be turned into a top-level domain (i.e., “.book”, “.clothing”, etc.), and there are even TLDs that can be associated with particular countries and regions (i.e., .pl for Poland, .uk for the United Kingdom) – since these are specified by country, they are called verbatim: country code top-level domains (ccTLDs).
The Domain name
After TLDs, we have domain names. Domain names are purchased directly from a registrar and signify exactly where a website is located. Your domain name is important for search engine optimization (SEO) since search engines – like Google – do ultimately utilize particular keywords inside a domain name when compiling their search rankings. Yet, you do want to take care to not “word-stuff” your domain name (i.e., “find-the-best-motels-in-New-York-City.com”) as search engine algorithms are specifically equipped to flag this very attribute.
Root domains were originally created to refer to domain-name servers (i.e., DNS) however it currently denotes the juxtaposition of your distinctive domain name for your website as well as the TLD – which ultimately comprises of the actual address of your website. Hence, your website root domain can also be referred to as your “homepage.” While other webpages on your site will be slightly different to the homepage address, the identical root domain should be within the page URL. This way all your pages are now part of your exclusive website.
Let us take a look at some examples, including:
Root domains represent entire websites, hence, it’s far more efficient to count linked root domains rather than linking URLs (direct pages) in order to assess the magnitude of your site’s inward bound profile link (as a rule of thumb – it is better to have additional linked domain roots than less).
At the tertiary level of the domain name hierarchy are subdomains. Subdomains are more encompassing than top-level domains and are added directly as the prefix of the root domain, after which there is a period that comes between the subdomain and the domain name.
Take for instance: blogspot.chicken.com and german.chicken.com. Both examples reveal subdomains of the root domain chicken.com. You can create these subdomains for free.
Most frequently used subdomains include:
- http://www.austerity.com (subdomain = “www”)
- http://austerity.com (no subdomain present)
There are also a number of subdomains that have canonicalization errors which are quite common.
How to Maximize Domain Name SEO
Obviously, you want to fully maximize the searchability of your website. And how do we do that? Let’s find out!
Ideally, domain names should be as short as possible, memorable, and easily pronounceable as well as ease of typeability. This is a general rule of thumb for general positive network effects but also for “processing fluency” – i.e., if it’s easy to say it can be networked around more easily: think Snap, Twitter, TikTok, etc. Therefore, it is best avoid hard to pronounce domain names, those that harbor unique spelling, as well as those with more than 15 characters.
In short – the easier it is for humans to read your domain name, the more accessible it will be via the search engine algorithms.
- “http://mydomain.com/puppiesadorablyconfusedbyrainbow” – will have people jumping in anticpation in order to access the link.
- “http://mydomain.com/puppiesconfused” – people will not be as enthused, but they will know what they are getting into.
- “http://mydomain.com/Nfoe392489023fsndflds” – people will be afraid to click this link as it looks like a virus or scam.
2. The Broader the Keywords the better
The key here – pardon the pun – is to utilize keywords in the domain name, while at the same time retaining its processing fluency as we mentioned above. However, you want to avoid “keyword-rich” domain names such as the-best-motorcycles-in-lousiana.com, as we mentioned earlier. Though search engines in the past used to favor keyword-rich names, they now have a negative bias as they almost signal sub-par web content.
Furthermore, Google’s search engine algorithm has been specifically geared to red flag these types of keyword heavy domain sites, precisely because of their low-quality content. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain proper keyword vigilance so that you don’t over do it as in the example above, which can ultimately lead to negative search ranking results – something you obviously want to avoid!
3. Do Not Use Hyphens When Possible
Hyphens are typically associated with spam, so it is best to avoid usage. If you must, one hyphen is generally OK in order to separate two words for better readability.
4. Grab “.com” TLDs
When you register your domain, you will be given options to purchase additional top-level domains. Ideally, to maximize search engine traffic to your site, you want to purchase a “.com.” version. If that is not available,“.net”, “.co”, or a common ccTLD are recommended as viable alternatives.
Another point worth remembering is to avoid TLDs that use “.biz”, “.info” “.name” since these words indicate spammy, low-quality web content, and will be consequentially penalized in search engine rankings.
5. Use subfolders and subdirectories
Rather than use subdomains, Google has specifically stated that is more optimal to position quality content like specific blog sites within subfolders instead.
The lone exception to this rule is language-specific sites.
6. Don’t worry about domain age
How old a domain is, and that this affects SEO, is blatant fake news. So, don’t worry about how long your domain has been registered for, as confirmed by a Google employee.
Though, keep in mind that particular things like your site’s initial crawling or link does hold some significance – yet domain age if anything holds little to no weight in SEO rankings.
7. Moving your domain
If you need to move domains, keeping track of redirects for each individual page is crucial, so that your old domain sub-folders correspond to your new domain folders. You should also avoid redirected your entire old domain inventory (sub-folders and all) to the home page of your new domain.