Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the domains/URLs Category

5 Rules for Choosing a Domain Name

We’ve had some fun in the past, pointing out “unfortunate” domain name choicesa couple of times. Clearly, having a good domain name is important for your business. For awhile it was the rage to create many web sites, with each domain name using a different keyword phrase for your business. Having  keywords in your domain name are substantially less helpful now.

How do you select a good domain name? Well, I have a modest list of rules that should guide you through the process.

  1. Make it easy to remember.
    You want people to return to your web site, right? They’re not going to search for you every timne; they’ll just type it in. So keep it easy to remember.
  2. Make it hard to misspell.
    There are web sites out there with common misspellings of domain names, lurking either to download malware onto a user’s computer or to entice the user to click on a Google AdSense ad. (www.bink.com is an example of a common misspelling used that way.)
  3. Choose a .com name for your business.
    If the domain name you want is already taken, it may be tempting to register the same domain name but with a .info or .biz extension instead. Most people, though will type in .com at the end out of sheer habit. That’s bad enough if the .com version is an unrelated website, but if the .com version points to a competitor, you’re sending customers to them.
  4. Avoid hyphens.
    People never quite remember whether to use the hyphen or not … or just where in your domain name the hyphen belongs.
  5. Finally, shorter is better than longer.
    You always want it to be as easy as possible for people to do business with you. Don’t make them type in a long, complicated domain name. First of all, that’s likely to cause you to violate rules 1 & 2, but also, you don’t want to make it more difficult than it has to be to enter your address in a browser’s address bar.

That Pesky “www” in Web Addresses

You may realize that if you enter a URL like rankmagic.com into your browser you get to the same page as when you enter www.rankmagic.com. It doesn’t seem to matter which way you do it. But for the search engines, it can make a difference.

WWW in URLBackground

The WWW refers to the World Wide Web, which many people consider to be synonymous with the Internet. Technically, it’s not. The WWW runs on the internet like email, but is not the Internet itself. The “www” part of an Internet address isn’t usually required, though, so you normally can use it or not when typing a URL into the address bar of your browser.

Search Engine Implications

Search engines see addresses with and without the “www” as separate addresses. Why should that matter? Because link popularity is an essential factor in good ranking and use of the “www” can affect your link popularity. Here’s how:

Suppose you have 100 links pointing to http://example.com and another hundred links pointing to http://www.example.com. Search engines will see that each URL has 100 inbound links, and that’s all you’ll get credit for. However, if they all pointed to http://www.example.com you’d get credit for all 200 links.

It can actually be worse than that, as it’s possible to have four different URLS for your home page like this:

  1. example.com
  2. www.example.com
  3. example.com/index.html
  4. www.example.com/index.html

This problem of multiple addresses for the same web page is called canonicalization. We have a full discussion of it on our web site.

What To Do?

You can’t control how other people link to your site and whether they use the “www” in the address or not. But you can set up a permanent redirect so that any time they don’t use the “www”, the link gets directed to the “www” version of your web address. We have instructions on how to fix your home page canonical issues on our web site.

Aside from redirecting external links to the “www” version of your address, you should also make sure your internal links pointing to your home page do the same. It’s very common for home page links from other pages on your site to include the actual page, as in www.example.com/l (there are several possible alternatives to index.html that your site may use). You should make sure that  your own links to your home page don’t include that “index.html” part, and just point to www.example.com.

Read more about that pesky “www” and canonicalization here.

Domain Name Registration

Your domain registration expiration date may affect your search engine rankings.Your domain name registration tells the search engines something you may not realize.

Search engines are looking for reliable websites. They don’t want to give prominent listings to websites that may be “flash in the pan” websites that exist for a few months or a year and then go away. If you register your domain name for at least two or three years (you can go up to ten years at a time), the search engines may conclude that you are in business for the long haul and consider you eligible for higher rankings. It’s also a good idea to renew your domain name registration before you get too close to the expiration date. We suggest renewing before your expiration date is a year away.

Google has mentioned this in a patent application, but we don’t know how much weight it carries. Whether other search engines look at this is only conjecture. Matt Cutts, “the Google Guy”, has downplayed the importance in a brief video. We agree that this is probably of relatively little importance (certainly it’s less important than on-page content and incoming links) but it’s a relatively cheap and easy thing to address. At the very worst, it can’t hurt.

Multiple One-Page Web Sites

One-page cookie-cutter web sites are a bad idea.We get asked about this on a regular basis: Shouldn’t I get multiple domain names for the different parts of my business and create a bunch of one-page web sites with discrete content, all linking to the main web site? Surprisingly to most people who ask this, it’s a very bad idea.

You can do it, but don’t expect to get improved rankings or traffic from this approach. Creating multiple cookie-cutter web sites is a trick the search engines have been wise to for years. Those little, single-purpose web sites will seldom if ever develop the link popularity necessary for them to be truly competitive for high rankings in the search engines. The only benefit is if for some reason you think people are typing those domains into their browser address bar.

It’s almost always better to have all that unique content in separate pages on your main website and skip the little “doorway” web sites. (Similar doorway pages got the German-language web site for BMW totally banned from Google for more than six months a couple of years ago.)

This is a black hat SEO trick that’s not going to get you better SERP visibility.

Best Practices During a Website Redesign

Jill WhalenPerforming a complete website redesign is a lot of work, and if your website currently has good rankings, you need to do everything possible to preserve that visibility in the search engines.

Jill Whalen , CEO and founder of High Rankings, a search marketing firm outside of Boston, and co-founder of SEMNE, a New England search marketing networking organization, has been performing SEO since 1995. Jill is the host of the High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, and she wrote a comprehensive article on this subject for Search Engine Land recently. She covers these main scenarios

  • Changing URLs, web site navigation structure, or site architecture
  • Adding flash to your web site
  • Adding or changing content and HTML tags

Check out her article for specifics on how to manage each of these scenarios.