How Your Domain Name Will Impact SEO & Social Media Marketing

When starting a new website, one of the first and most important decisions you have to make is choosing a domain name. That choice will impact the website’s success in nearly every area, included search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM). Let’s examine how a domain name impacts SEO and SMM and then analyze the factors that make a good domain name.

Should I Choose A Keyword Domain?

For years SEOs and Search marketers have often purchased domains that contained their targeted keywords in order to increase CTRs and to help gain higher rankings on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. Let’s examine this strategy to determine if it is still effective.

Many SEO strategists would purchase exact match domains (EMDs), which are domains that exactly match the keyword phrase they are targeting. For example, if they want to rank for “buy green widgets” the person might purchase EMDs offered two advantages.

  1. The presence of the keyword phrase in the domain was itself a ranking factor.
  2. The presence of the keyword phrase in the domain encouraged other webmasters to include
  3. The keyword phrase in the anchor text when linking to the site.

However, in light of recent Google updates (especially the “EMD update”), EMDs are no longer as helpful as they once were.

  • High Position’s study indicated that the “average EMD ranking went from #13.4 down to #26.6,” and the “average top 10 EMD went from #3.2 down to #11.9.”
  • SEOmoz data shows that EMD correlation with ranking has dropped from 0.34 in 2010 to 0.18 in 2012.

In light of the trend since 2010, many SEOs feel that EMDs and other keyword domains may become even less beneficial in the future. This does not mean that you should necessarily avoid or abandon keyword domains, but it does mean that keywords shouldn’t be the primary factor you consider when choosing a domain.

Keyword Domains For Increased CTR

In some cases, owning a premium keyword domain can increase click-through rates on ads and SERP listings:

  • A study published by Memorable Domains found that “ads featuring a generic domain name with an exact match to the product ( performed significantly better than identical ads featuring an alternative generic ( or non-generic ( domain.” It is worth noting that looks very generic, and doesn’t appear to be relevant to the query. Sorry does this support the EMD or premium domain?
  • A study titled “How generic domain names impact SEM campaigns” shows that ads with the display URL achieved a 298% higher CTR than ads with the display URL However, this study was only based on 34 clicks, which is not enough data to accurately measure the performance difference.Sorry does this support premium domain or EMD?
  • Does the CTR advantage make buying a premium keyword domain a smart choice?

Consider these factors:

  • What is the search volume? Use Google’s keyword tool to find the exact match search volume for the keyword phrase the domain matches.
  • What is the cost? Most premium keyword domains are already registered and are difficult to obtain (read very expensive).
  • Is it a .com? For example, a domain will be far less valuable than a domain.

What Is More Important Than Keywords? Choosing A Brandable Domain

Having a domain name that matches your target keyword(s) does offer some benefits, but there is a bigger factor you should consider: the brandability of the domain.

Your brand is important, and your domain name is the foundation upon which your online brand will be built. Your domain name is how users will find, remember, share and identify your company online. In both social media and search engines, the domain name is the primary way by which users can identify to “whom” the link will lead.

facebook How Your Domain Name Will Impact SEO & Social Media Marketing

While some marketers think that SEO is only about keywords and links, the reality is that Google likes brands. Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said that “brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool. Brand affinity is clearly hard wired. It is so fundamental to human existence that it’s not going away.” The first step to building a brand is choosing a brandable domain.

7 Tips for Choosing A Brandable Domain

What is a brandable domain name? Start with these 7 factors to consider when choosing a brandable domain name.

Pick a .com extension. In most cases, .com is the best choice. This is because .com is the standard, the norm. Most users assume that a company’s website will end with .com; after all, 75% of all websites have a .com extension.

Be memorable. Users must be able to easily remember your domain name/brand. As Ashley Friedlein, CEO and Co-founder of Econsultancy, said, “Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization.” You can only have a lasting influence on how people perceive you if they actually remember you.

Be relevant. Words have implicit meanings and connotations; do a little research to ensure that your domain name communicates your desired message. Here is a quick and easy way to test a domain name: go to Amazon Mechanical Turk and run a survey with at least 100 people. Just provide your domain name (nothing else) and ask users to guess the purpose of the company. The responses you receive should provide valuable insight into any implicit meanings your domain may connote.

Easy to spell. Your domain name must be easy to spell. Avoid commonly misspelled words, intentional misspellings and hyphens. If you purchase a domain name with numerals (eg, also purchase the domain name with the number spelled out (eg Popular bookmarking site Delicious actually had to change its domain name because so many users had difficulties remembering how to spell it.

Sound authoritative. Your domain name should sound like a trustworthy authority. As this research brief puts it, users “demonstrate a clear preference now for credibility and trustworthiness in a domain name.” Remember Margaret Thatcher’s advice: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Avoid choosing a domain such as

Shorter is better. Keep your domain name short; 1 or 2 words is best. The top 100,000 websites, on average, have 9 characters in their domain names.

Be unique. One of your marketing goals should be to build a distinct brand that stands out from your competitors. Start by choosing a unique and distinctive domain name. Names like sound generic and unremarkable compared to names such as, and which sound unique.

How To Find A Great Domain Name

Choosing a domain name can be hard. In many cases the most obvious brandable domain names are already registered and would be expensive to purchase. Set up a brainstorm session with your team to develop a few ideas. If it helps, use these three formulas to brainstorm possible domain names.

  1. Use existing words. and are good examples of domain names that were created using existing words. Use a thesaurus to find words that may not readily come to mind.
  2. Create new words. Many famous websites are based on new words (or words that were so obscure that few people knew them). Examples include, or
  3. Create portmanteaus. A portmanteau is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes and their definitions to create one new word, like Groupon or Pinterest.
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Spencer Yao

Spencer Yao is the owner of Small Business Domain, a online resource that provides advice reviews, comparisons, and coupons for domains, web hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers, and ecommerce platforms. He has over 12 years industry experience in the small business, domains, and hosting industry.

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13 thoughts on “How Your Domain Name Will Impact SEO & Social Media Marketing

  1. This is especially good advice for local businesses (and the SEOs who service them). While a local business won’t often need all the bells and whistles that go along with an enterprise SEO campaign, it still needs to understand how generic names could impact branding and type in traffic.

  2. I don’t believe a .com domain is wise if you’re outside the US (let’s say a pizza delivery in Italy). You DO know there is more than the US? :-)

  3. Spencer,

    Great tips shared in this post for both brandable and exact match domains. Exact match may have taken a slight hit, but I find them to be very helpful in terms of local SEO. I’ve found most of the EMD’s I own to still rank in the top 5 across Google, but that is due to each EMD website having its very own unique, high-quality and engaging content. In addition, I believe one can brand EMDs with the marketing effort and approach. Again, great insight with this article.

  4. Great post! Choosing an EMD is fine when a business is providing or focusing specifically on a single service in the niche. It helps them rank well and get the maximum search visibility for the keyword for local searches especially. “.com” domains are important (TLD’s does matter), “.info” domains for the main site look bit spammy.

  5. Thanks for sharing this post, I think a domain extension should be always according to geography. For example, If you have a website from Australia than its extension should be It’ll be more beneficial than .com.

    1. Country-code top-level domains are great, but people don’t always remember to use them. I have the domain, and would get email intended for because people would leave off the .uk .

  6. Great article. I’m relaunching a website for a client who doesn’t want to rename their small company, yet it’s not a very descriptive name. Should I stay away from using the company name in the domain name in favor of a more descriptive one?

  7. Never a truer article written!
    The domain name is very much our first port of call when looking at SEO and SEM. I always advise trying to get the organisations’ actual service in the domain and possibly the location then let original content etc flow from there.
    It certainly worked for me!

    About to Tweet this article as everyone in business should see it!

  8. I agree with what you’re saying, Spencer. Though EMDs may have a more instant affect (or used to at least), what many of the proponents for this style of domain tend to overlook is longevity. Sure says where the company and located and what the company does, but what if the company wants to start selling pencils? Worse yet, what if the company wants to expand outside of the original location? These types of names limit future growth. Brandable names, on the other hand, generally take more time for user to become familiar with. However, since most brandable names only convey a specific feeling or idea, they allow a company much more room to grow and expand with the customer base. Think about Google and the sheer variety of products and services they offer. Now imagine if Google had selected “Stanford University Internet Search Tool” for their name…

  9. What I am confused about is that EMDs or generic match domains with a history of performance – say >8 years – are now being penalised because of what used to be a significant ranking factor that worked for them is now no longer being applied. I understand Google’s motives for young domains as it can be a spammy technique, but I don’t see why the older, proven domains have to be punished by having this removed.

  10. I have to say that I do not agree with this article. If the keyword domain is followed by a silo of matching content which is usually the case and you take into account voice search, I believe matched keyword domains are more important now than ever before. If Google voice search and Apple SIRI are anything to do with search which is the case, then long tail keywords are going to be a major ranking factor and keyword matched domains with relevant matching content will win. Voice search will change everything, we ask for things different than we search, we may search for Chinese in New York, but we would say find me a Chinese near me or in New York. Match voice search to domain names and the whole internet is about to change. Ask Hummingbird