Search Engine Ranking and Domain Names

I see many questions in forums and social networks about the effect a domain name has on the search engine ranking of a website. The most common questions I have seen relate to:

  • Using hyphens between words of a domain name
  • Including primary keywords in a domain name
  • The TLD of a domain name(i.e. – .com, .net, .us, etc.)

Based on feedback from the experts, and reference materials from Google, we will summarize the answers to these issues.

Hyphenation in a Domain Name

Most experts were pretty sure that hyphen between words of a domain name had no effect on the search engine ranking of a website. Search Engines like Google can recognize keyword patterns in a domain name without the need to break the domain name apart. Hyphens were helpful for people though. Some tend to hyphenate words when searching for a specific domain, but the numbers are very low.

Primary Keywords in a Domain Name

Most experts agree that having one or more primary keywords in a domain name was an important factor to good search engine ranking. But the benefit was only realized when primary keywords were also used well in the title, headings and content of a web page.

TLD of a Domain Name

The TLD, or Top Level Domain such as “.com” or “.net” seems to have little or no effect on search engine placement according to Google experts. However, if a business was local the TLD had some effect. For instance, using “.ca” or “.us” to indicate the country demographic for the website, might increase search engine placement for that site in local results.

Google tends to determine a web users location whenever their Search Engine is used. Google blogs indicated that results that were local to the users location were considered more relevant in some cases. But again, much of this depends on primary keyword usage in other key areas of a web page.

Of course we will never know for sure how the search engines make all of their calculations. But these guidelines will help in choosing a domain name that adds value to your websites search engine ranking.

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