How to Start a Website: Choosing a Domain Name
The latest Matt Cutts video reminds us all that SEO starts before you even build a website. It starts when you first think that you need a website. There are two important questions you should answer before you start thinking of design and writing content:
- What are you building a site for? Will you sell your products or services through it? Will it give information about your business and products?
- Who is the audience you target? Are your prospects local? Are they ready to buy online? Do they need a community?
Now when you know who will visit your site and know what they will visit it for, you can think of your future domain. Choosing the right domain name is critically important. Not only does Google currently give some preference (although less since its recent Exact Match Domain (EMD) update) to keyword-rich domains (domains that include top keywords), so do people when they’re choosing which link in the search results to click. Unfortunately, most keyword-rich domains are no longer available so you will have to do your best. Our best advice is get a .com and not another domain extension, pick something that has one hyphen or less, includes at least one of your keywords and makes sense to someone searching for your services. It will be great if your domain name will be easy to remember. (Note: avoid accidentally inappropriate domain names!)
If you target a local audience, we recommend purchasing a country-specific domain. The major search engines check top-level domain (TLD) names to determine where a website is located. If your site has a country code top-level domain name, that is, a domain name that ends in a country code like “.ca” for Canada, “.uk” for the United Kingdom, “.fr” for France, etc. – then your site will be included in country-specific search results. In most cases, the local TLD will outrank a .com name when it comes to local search results.
If you decide to buy a domain that was previously in use, follow the recommendations Matt Cutts gives in the video to avoid buying a domain name previously ruined by spammers.
- Do a “site:yourdomain.com” search. If there are no results from that domain, it is a bad sign. The domain may have been penalized by Google for spammy techniques.
- Search for the domain name to check whether it is mentioned in any discussions that may be bad for the site’s reputation.
- Use archive.org to see what content was previously published on the domain you are going to purchase.
- If you are purchasing a site from a current owner, ask to see the site’s traffic analytics and Google Webmaster tools so that you can identify any unusual trends.
Choosing the best domain name is the first step and your first investment in your site’s future success. When buying a domain name, you will be starting an interesting and exciting SEO journey that WebCEO can guide you through.