Whether you’re starting a new website, or you’re thinking of moving your existing website, or you just got an email from an auction site that the perfect domain is available for only $10,000 … you might be wondering whether buying that fancy new domain is worth the investment, and how it’ll impact your SEO.
After all, your domain means a lot: it’s the address for your business, and you want it to be something recognizable, memorable and easy to type — something that if you share it at a networking event, on a phone call or podcast interview, people would be able to remember and track down later.
And aside from that direct traffic, you also want your website to show up in search results … so how can you set yourself up for success with your domain?
How much does your domain matter to Google?
There are a few things that Google cares about regarding your domain, specifically: how long it’s existed and how many other websites are linking to it.
These are two of the key factors in Domain Authority, which is basically like Google’s way of gauging your reputation. If you have great content, relevant links from other thought leaders in your industry, and you’ve been around for a while, that matters waaaay more to Google than the words in your domain. (After all, anybody can buy a great domain, but building a great reputation takes time & effort.)
That being said, there are some things to consider when it comes to choose a domain:
3 SEO considerations when choosing your domain
Should I choose a .com or .co or .net for my SEO?
The letters that come after the dot (com, co, edu, org, net, gov) are called either your domain extension or your Top Level Domain (TLD). For most of us, the TLD of your domain only matters a little bit. Google gives more weight to certain TLDs — .gov, .edu, .mil have more authority out of the box than “open TLDs” (meaning the options that anybody can buy) — but on the whole, the choice of TLD isn’t going to make or break your SEO.
There’s minimal evidence than a .com may outrank a .co or .io or .so, but the real reason that you may want to lean into a more traditional dot-com domain is for user experience. How many times have you heard somebody explain that their site is .net but your fingers still type .com? Even though Google sees them mostly the same, your users might have an easier time with .com.
What about a country-specific TLD if I want to be found in local search?
If you’re running a local business and/or want to be found only by people in your country, and you have no plans to extend outside of that space on this domain, then by all means, grab the geographic TLD (like .co.uk for the United Kingdom or .ca for Canada or .in for India).
If you have more than one brand, you can also mix-and-match TLDs to target the right audience. My friend Avery Swartz started the Toronto-based in-person marketing training company Camp Tech and grabbed the domain camptech.ca but her personal brand for her speaking engagements and book sales live at averyswartz.com, since that can reach an international audience.
Should I include a keyword in my domain?
It used to be that Google would also give you some unofficial bonus points for having a keyword in your domain, but that’s less important now than it used to be (in 2012 Google launched an “Exact Match Domain” filter to prevent this) … so if you’re on the fence between using yourname.com or something convoluted like interior-designer-dallas-fort-worth.com, stick with your name. In the long run, the actual words in your domain matter less to your domain authority than its history & backlinks.
Extra domains don’t help with your SEO
Could I buy extra domains and point them to my site?
I mean, you can, if it makes your life easier. But it won’t help your SEO it all.
As far as Google is concerned, every website has ONE domain, and no more. Any additional domains or sub-domains basically count as brand new websites.
So bad news for all you folks who have “blog.yourwebsite.com” —> you’ve basically created a second website and are now competing against yourself in Google.
(So for all you Shopify folks who are building your blogs on a WordPress subdomain? Just move it over to Shopify, simplify your life!)
So how can you make good use of multiple URLs? Vanity domains
If you have a domain you truly love — it’s easy to share & spell & remember — use it as a vanity domain. (Yes, just like a vanity license plate for your car. I’m looking at you, ANUSTART.)
You can buy whatever domains you like, and then set them up as 301 redirects to any page you want on your primary website. So when I’m promoting SEOctober, I can tell people to visit SEOctober.com, which then automatically forwards them to loveatfirstsearch.com/seoctober. That way Google still knows that SEOctober belongs to me and it’s much easier to remember than the full link.
And in Google Analytics, this redirect just counts like direct traffic into your site. Much easier to track, set-up and manage than having multiple landing pages & websites. (Fun fact: This can also work as a great prank, when you buy your friend’s name as a domain and re-direct it to something ridiculous … like those two weeks when ErikaTebbens.com redirected to the 1996 Republican Dole-Kemp campaign website … I have no idea who would do such a weird thing …)