Domain names and search engines
We are often asked how a domain name or extension can help make a site easier to find with a search engine. Making a site easier to find is known in the internet industry as search engine optimization (SEO). This blog outlines the main things to consider when looking for a domain name that will help make your website easy to find.
SEO is the key to website success
SEO is all the activities intended to ensure that a web page appears high up in the non-sponsored search results. It is therefore distinct from 'search engine advertising' (SEA), i.e. paying to be listed in the results given by a search engine. SEO is attractive because, unlike SEA, it is free. A site that is first in the hit list for a given search term easily attracts twice as much traffic as even the site in second place.
Content vital, domain name helpful
Search engines look first at the relevance of the site content. No matter how good its domain name may be, a site is very unlikely to appear high in the rankings unless its content is directly relevant to the search. However, if several sites have very similar content, their domain names can help decide the order in which they are listed. Both the name and the extension then play a role.
Names with keywords perform well
A name's value is substantially increased if it includes a relevant keyword. For example, gift.nl is a good name to have if you want to be found by people who type 'gift' into their search engines. That is because search engines attach a lot of importance to exact matches. So gift.nl will appear higher in the results when a user searches for 'gift' or 'gifts' than when a user searches for 'present', even though the user is likely to be looking for the same thing in each case.
A .nl domain name helps in the Netherlands
Country-code extensions such as .nl are important for SEO mainly in the context of 'geotargeting'. Search algorithms use the extension as an indicator of geographical relevance. So a site with a country's national extension is assumed to be more relevant to a user in the same part of the world. Generally speaking, therefore, a domain name ending with '.nl' will appear higher in the results obtained by a Dutch user than in the results given to someone in Belgium searching for the same thing.
Buying a domain name? Check the authority!
Sometimes there is no domain name available to register that includes the keyword you are interested in. However, you may find that an existing domain name with that keyword is available for purchase. What is a reasonable price to pay for an existing domain name? That depends on the commercia
l potential of the name when used for your intended purpose. So, when considering whether to buy, it is a good idea to research the domain name's 'authority'. One of the best tools for doing that is Mozbar.
Don't forget address bar users!
Finally, a word of advice: when choosing a domain name, remember that many visitors who initially find you by using a search engine get back to your site afterwards by typing its domain name into the address bar. So, if you are registering gift.nl, you might want to take gifts.nl as well (assuming it's available, of course). Because, although a search engine will put gift.nl high in the results when a Dutch user searches for 'gifts', a returning visitor who types 'gifts.nl' into the address bar will end up on a different site.