Domain Do’s and Don’ts
When it comes to your online presence and SEO, your domain name is one of the most important factors to consider. Your domain should reflect your brand, help you rank in SEO searches, and be easy to type and remember.
Your domain has an impact on your click-through rate from both online and offline advertising, and it can affect referral links and direct traffic as well.
This guide will cover how to choose a domain name, the benefits and drawbacks of changing your existing domain name, and the difference between subdomains and subdirectories.
Set your business up for success with a domain name that will go the distance.
Let’s say you just opened your escape room business and you’ve chosen a domain name like newportescaperoom.com. That domain name will suit your business just fine right now.
But what happens if you expand your business to include a bowling alley, axe throwing lanes, and smash rooms? You might find that your business could outgrow its domain name. And, as you’ll read later, changing your domain name years down the road is a big hassle.
As you follow the domain naming tips below, be sure to also consider whether your domain name will serve you well in the long run.
Add a specific location.
Having your location in your domain can help you satisfy search intent. While exact match domains are no longer a best practice (more on that in the don’ts section), adding a specific location to your domain can help search engines and searchers understand exactly what your company does. For example, beertours.com can be a bit too broad, but denverbeertours.com gives a clear idea of what your company offers – and where it’s located.
Ensure it’s brandable and intuitive.
We tend to trust a domain name more when it sounds like the name of a brand. This means avoiding awkward elements such as dashes and numbers. Denverbeertours.com sounds like the name of a brand, while denver-beer282.com sounds generic, spammy, and is difficult to remember.
Pro tip: Think about if you did a TV or radio ad for your brand or had an ad on the side of a bus or even on a flier. Would audiences be able to easily remember your domain name and associate it with your brand?
Another benefit of a domain like denverbeertours.com is that the reader instantly knows what your company offers without having to do any guesswork. In a nutshell, make sure your domain is easy to remember and clearly communicates what you do.
Keep it short and easy to pronounce.
Our brains can process some types of information more easily than others. This is referred to as processing fluency, and it can affect the type of associations people have with your business, both positive and negative. To help audiences easily process and remember your domain name, it’s important that it’s short and easy to pronounce in your country/region/language. Otherwise, when it’s time to type in your URL, they won’t remember it easily and could end up finding another company in the search engine. Another benefit of a short domain name is that it won’t get cut off in search results or when your site is shared on social media platforms.
Use .com if possible.
A top-level domain (TLD) is what follows the base of the domain, such as .com, .net, .org. While there are plenty of TLDs out there today, .com continues to reign supreme as the most recognizable, trustworthy, and easy to remember.
If you have the chance to acquire the .com domain for your company, it’s best to do so and use that as your website domain. It will ultimately help people remember your domain and find you easily online. If the domain you want is unavailable in .com, your next best bet is .net, .co, or a country code TLD (such as .it if you’re based in Italy).
Pro tip: If available, purchase all of the most common TLDs for your domain. This prevents competitors from purchasing the same domain as you with a different TLD. Domain renewals are annual and generally fairly inexpensive, so it’s worth the investment to guard your brand.
Opt for subdirectories instead of subdomains.
Subdirectories or subfolders are part of the domain hierarchy and are used to nest parts of your site like your blog. Google has said it treats subdomains and subdirectories similarly, but SEOs have found that it often takes longer to get a subdomain to rank. We recommend using a subdirectory for pages like your blog. For example, rather than blog.denverbeertours.com, we recommend denverbeertours.com/blog.
Some of the benefits of a subdirectory include:
- It benefits from your main domain’s authority, giving you a better chance at ranking.
- Gaining links for your blog’s subdirectory can in turn help drive traffic to your main site, helping it rank for a wider variety of keywords.
Don’t choose a keyword-based domain.
As we mentioned earlier, exact match domains (domains that match a specific query, such as “watch free movies online”) are no longer valued the same way they used to be. According to Google’s John Mueller, “there’s no secret (or public) SEO bonus for having your keywords in the domain name.”
Stuffing too many keywords in your domain can seem spammy, so it’s best to only use keywords when they directly apply to the name of your business or your location. Otherwise, avoid them. Users probably won’t trust a domain like affordabletoursofdenver.com as much as they would denverwalkingtours.com.
Don’t worry if your exact domain isn’t available.
With so many websites out there, it’s completely possible that the domain you wanted isn’t available. Don’t stress. You can append to it or modify as needed — just make sure it continues to be short, memorable, pronounceable, and aligned with your brand. For example, if denverbeertours.com was already taken, you could go with denverbrewerytours.com or beertoursdenver.com.
Don’t use multiple domains for one site (unless it’s necessary).
As a general rule, you don’t want to use more than one domain for your website because it splits your domain authority, one of the most important ranking factors. Using multiple domains can also confuse search engines as well as users who are trying to book a tour with you.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if your company has been offering snorkeling tours for years, and now you’ve added a new subdivision of your company that is focused on cooking classes, it makes more sense to create a new website for this new part of your company. This keeps each website and its keywords focused, making it easy for users and search engines to understand what your company does.
Don’t use domain masking.
Domain masking involves making a different name appear in the browser’s URL field rather than your website’s actual domain name. One of the reasons website owners use domain masking is when their website is hosted for free (usually through a blog like WordPress) and they want to mask it with a different domain to cover up the hosting extension, for example, adventuretours.com vs. adventuretours.wordpress.com.
Domain masking negatively affects SEO because it causes the search engine to detect two different domains with duplicate content. This results in only one domain being indexed, and there’s no way to guarantee that it will be the one you prefer. Another reason to avoid domain masking is that no matter what page a user visits on your site, the same domain name will appear, potentially causing confusion over the site’s navigation. Also, your visitors won’t be able to bookmark certain pages, creating usability issues.
The best solution is full web hosting through a proper web hosting account and setting your domain’s nameservers to point to that location. Contact FareHarbor Support or your hosting service or web developer for more information.
Don’t change your domain without doing research first.
It takes time to build domain authority, which is why you don’t want to rush to change your domain name without understanding your current domain authority first. You can determine domain authority using a tool like the Moz Link Explorer to check all the pages on your site that get traffic, like the homepage, all tours page, activity pages, and blog.
If the authority is below 10, then it probably won’t hurt your SEO to change the domain name for one that is more descriptive of your business. If the domain authority if above 10, then it will take some time to regain that authority with a new domain, so only change it if it’s overall a beneficial change for your business.
You want to have a good reason to change your domain name first. For example, if your current domain doesn’t reflect what your company does or your location, it’s a good idea to change it to a more brandable, memorable, specific domain. For example, if your current domain is beerwithunclebob.com, that doesn’t intuitively tell people what your business does or where it is, so you would benefit from changing it to something more specific and clear like denverbeertours.com.
It’s not worth hurting your domain authority from a minor change, like going from beerwithunclebob.com to unclebobsbeers.com. As we said, it takes a long time (months at least) to create domain authority, so a change will hurt your organic traffic during that period of time.
Remember, if you’re changing your domain name, you will need to redirect all your current pages to your new domain.
A domain name can seem simple, but there is a lot of thought that goes into making sure it’s working for your company. If you’re just getting started with your website, use these tips to perfect your domain name, then head over to our website guides to make the most of your new site.
If your website has been around for a while, consider your domain authority before you make any moves to change your existing domain. If you’re not sure whether you should change your domain or need help, reach out to the FareHarbor Support team. For more SEO tips, discover our other SEO guides!