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Is the Domain Name An Important Ranking Factor for Search Engine Optimization?

The world of search engine optimization with regard to what works and what doesn’t to get page one rankings in the search engines is constantly changing. What worked a few years ago is not what works today. The goal of the search engines is to quickly and accurately provide the information the searcher wants based on their keyword search. This will never change.

What changes is how the search engines determine their rankings to make sure they give the correct response. If people don’t get the answers they are looking for, they will look on another search engine!

But whether the search engines favor visitor time on the site, or keyword density, or the length of the content, or whether there are videos, or how many links are pointing to the page, or even social signals such as number of likes, shares, and tweets, these are all things the site owner can tweak and change in hopes of improving their search engine rankings.

What they can’t change is the domain name. So a big question is this: Is your domain name important when it comes to search engine optimization? Can it help, or hurt, your rankings in the search engines? What is a domain name? A domain name is simply domainname.com. The .com is what is considered a top-level domain (or TLD). In the beginning, there were only a few of these in existence.

Top-level domains include:

  • .com which was initially for companies in the United States
  • .edu for educational establishments such as colleges and universities
  • .gov which was for websites run by the government

Things are a lot different now with regard to the type of domain you can get. There are many more generic TLD’s, such as .website, .online, .blog, etc. While things may change in the future, the search engines still seem to favor your traditional top level domains such as .com and .org. A big reason may be that, for the most part, these sites are of much higher quality than someone who puts up a .website site.

Country Specific TLD’s

There are also extensions for specific countries, such as .ca for Canada, or .nl for the Netherlands.

Domain Age

While this used to be an important factor, it doesn’t seem as relevant today. In a tweet back in April of 2017, a Google employee was asked this question his response was that the age of the domain didn’t matter for search engine rankings (https://twitter.com/JohnMu/status/852131131889790976)

Keyword Domains

These are also known as EMD or Exact Match Domain. They used to be very popular and very powerful. Many online businesses were based on buying these types of domains, such as www.productname.com in order to rank for a specific product, and then the domain owner would use an affiliate link to buy that product someplace like Amazon or eBay. Eventually, Google had what is now called the EMD Update, where domains were no longer ranking well for a keyword phrase just because the domain name was an exact match. This doesn’t mean an exact match domain is a bad idea, it just means the rest of the website needs to be high quality and then the domain name might help improve the site rankings. Most exact match domain names are thin affiliate sites that don’t have high quality content or a lot of links pointing to them.

Should you have more than one domain name for the same website?

Whether it’s for branding purposes or online ranking, it’s unlikely that having a bunch of domain names that redirect to the main domain will do anything at all to help boost your search engine rankings.

What about domain authority?

First, what is domain authority? Domain authority is simply a score that will give you an idea on how well your website will fare in ranking in the search engines. Your domain authority score includes around forty different factors, such as link counts, quality of links, MozTrust scores and more (Source: https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain-authority).

What about branding?

While this might not directly influence search engine rankings, it can be powerful. People are a lot more likely to remember Amazon.com or Google.com. If you can brand your business with an easy to remember domain, it can be powerful in terms of overall traffic, which can impact links pointing to your site, which can indirectly influence your search rankings over time.

The best thing that can be done for a domain name is to get an easy to remember, top level domain name and then work on creating a high quality, content rich web site.