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SEO 101 – Part 5: Everything You Need to Know Domain Names

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L’Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Domain Names

Domain Names

Its easy to think that all the good domain names are taken. Sure, the easy and obvious ones have been snatched up years ago, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t any good .com domain names left that are perfect for your business or blog.

The starting point, however, is to realize that you do need own your own domain name. Most businesses have figured this out already but a lot of bloggers haven’t. That’s because it takes a bit of work and some small fees. First you have to purchase the domain, then host it, pay the monthly hosting fees, install the blog, etc., etc. Not quite as easy as signing up for a blog service and pounding out your first blog post all in ten minutes.

If your blog is nothing more than a personal diary then the free blogging services may be all you need. But if you’re looking to build an audience, sell a few products, or make a name for yourself, getting your own domain name is the way to go.

Whether you’re a business, a blogger, or something in between, selecting your domain name can be a trying process. Those of you who have searched for the “perfect” domain name know what I mean. You go through dozens, if not hundreds of different options looking for just the right one. When looking for domain names for your business or blog, here are a few guidelines:

Keep it short

Short domains are the hardest to find. Unless you’re willing to shell out big bucks, give up on the dream of getting your business’ initials (i.e. ppm.com, emp.com, etc.). But that’s not to say you can’t find just the right short domain name for you. You don’t need something as short as three letters, but I wouldn’t go much longer than three words. Your own mileage may vary but keep in mind, the longer the domain name is the more difficult it will be to remember when being passed along via word of mouth or in casual conversation.

Make it memorable

You want your domain name to be somethign that can be remembered easily. Word of mouth and your 30-second elevator pitch rely on it. When looking to get a short domain name many people try to cut corners with abbreviations or clever spellings. The problem with that is clever spellings have to be explained when passing the site on verbally.

Imagine if you were reading SrchEngineGide.com right now instead of SearchEngineGuide.com. Or maybe you shop at TheShooShop.com instead of TheShoeShop.com. Or perhaps you are browsing How2LoseW8.com. Now imagine telling someone about it. Each would require a little extra effort that most people won’t take.
And even when it is, its easily forgotten or the hearer is confused. Not a great way to grow your business or blog.

There are some instances where clever can be memorable and easy. Flickr.com is a good example. Notice though the simplicity of this, but if they had called it FotoFlickr.com it would have been a different matter entirely.

Use keywords if possible

Without going too long and still keeping your domain name memorable, try to find one that uses your primary keywords. Years ago the site BatteryStuff.com was called 4Unique.com. They still have the old redirect in place. Which would you say is the better URL?

It’s not always easy to find domains with your primary keywords still available, but keep looking. Just avoid the temptation to load up your your domain with all kinds of keywords. BatteryStuff.com could have just as easily been MotorcycleBatteriesChargers.com Not quite the same impact. Do you sacrifice keywords for simplicity? In most cases yes.

Alternate Domains

Alternate DomainsOnce you’ve found the perfect domain you want to make sure you buy up many of the alternative domains that go along with it. These can be the .net, .org, or .biz versions. It can also include misspellings, common typos and even yoursitesucks.com just in case. It’s also valuable to purchase domain names named after your products or other brand names.

All of these combination can add up to a dozen or more alternate domains. You have them, now what do you do with them?

301 Redirects

301 RedirectsThere are two things you don’t do with your alternate domain names: 1) let them sit with a “not found” error, and 2) park them on your main domain. You can get some benefit from these domain names, but only if you leverage them properly.

You also might be tempted to build mini-sites on each of these domain names. Don’t do that either. The solution is much simpler than that. Simply redirect these domains to your main domain.

Take note that there is only one proper redirect to put in place, that is the 301 Permanent Redirect. Don’t settle for anything less, because anything else can potentially reduce the impact your site will have in the search engines.

You’ll want to talk to your web host about how to implement the 301 redirect. They may have an easy solution. Short of that, here’s quick tutorial:

  1. Purchase a separate (cheap) web hosting account for one of your alternate domains
  2. Set up a 301 redirect from the alternate domain to your main domain
  3. Park the rest of your alternative domains on the hosted/redirected alternate domain

That’s pretty much it. You can read a more detailed 301 Redirect tutorial here.

Missed a part of this series?
Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes
Part 5: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms
Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking
Part 16: Everything You Need To Know About Linking

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