While Shakespearean roses may smell as sweet, your name, or more specifically your domain name, may be affecting your business. While it may seem innocuous, your domain name affects your online marketing success in almost every area, from search engine optimization (SEO) to social media marketing (SMM). With the ever-changing digital landscape, domain names with elements that were once thought as valuable may not be so today.
During the onset of digital marketing and SEO, keywords were one of the biggest contributing factors to how websites were found online. The closer and more exact a keyword match, the higher you ranked. Many organizations were forgoing their brand identity to have domains that were exact matches to their relevant keywords.
However as search engine algorithms update and change, many are lowering how much impact keywords have on rankings, placing more weight on other factors such as usability and content. While there are still some lingering positives to having keyword-based domains, they can also lead to closer scrutiny and are more likely to be seen as spam.
It was also during those early days of internet marketing that led to the prevalence of hyphens in domain names. To compete with fictional company RochesterScreenPrinting.com, a new company might use Rochester-Screen-Printing.com to show up in the search results. Today however, hyphens should be avoided. Although you may be tempted to put in a hyphen to get the domain name you want, the risks outweigh any of the benefits.
From a human perspective, hyphens are hard to communicate and hard to remember. When marketing by word of mouth, which of our fictitious screen-printing websites are easier to say and remember? Even if you still choose to hyphenate, chances are people will forget the hyphens altogether and potentially go to a competitor’s website instead.
When it comes to your domain name, here are a few guidelines to consider:
- Keep it simple. The simpler (and shorter) the domain, the easier it is for people to remember. Avoid words that are often misspelled. Domain names of one or two words and less than 15 characters are ideal. Length can also play a role in character-restrictive social media, such as Twitter.
- Choose brand over keywords. Your domain is the focus of your online brand. It shows up on every piece of advertising you do, every shared social media link and every employee email signature. Having a strong brand is exponentially more valuable to your business than the decreasing value of keywords in a domain name.
- Be authoritative and unique. If you have to tell someone you are great, chances are you are not. Avoid domains like bestdoctor.com or greatcompany.com. Instead, choose a name that is unique to your organization or make something new that describes you. Try creating a new word or variation of a word like Lyft, or try a portmanteau such as Pinterest.