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How to Choose the Best Domains for Search Engine Visibility

Mark Jackson
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Selecting a domain is perhaps the most important component of launching a new business and Web site. Even for established companies, buying additional domains could have great rewards from a SEO (define) perspective.

Gone are the days when you'll want to buy, and use, domains such as www.keywordA-keywordB-keywordC.com. This looks spammy, and it is spammy. Search engines dislike those domains every bit as much as users do.

Search engines are always on the lookout for things that are difficult to manipulate. Since the search engines know how easy it is to buy keyword-stuffed domains, they stopped weighting these hyphenated domains. Search engines still look at the intangibles that are more difficult to manipulate.

Age of Domain

Domain age isn't discussed nearly often enough on industry Web sites and blogs. Of all the criteria for Web site ranking, this factor may be one of the most important.

Think about it. How do you fake the age of the domain? You either purchased it in 1998, or you didn't.

The search engines figure that if the domain has existed for that long, and a Web site has existed at that address for that long, there's a very good chance that the site is legitimate and that it's going to be around for the long haul. So many SEOs who practice the art of "black hat" SEO will purchase multiple domains and care less if they get banned. They will just move their efforts to one of their other domains.

There are many advantages in buying domains with some age, as well. With proper 301 redirects, you can pass along any backlink history to your existing domain.

You'll want to make sure the domain had an existing Web site with quality backlinks, of course. The cost of buying this domain may save you a lot of time and expense of trying to build out backlinks for your existing Web site.

History of Domain

Buying an existing domain can be a challenging task, better left to a professional who can do some research behind the domain to make sure it hasn't had a history of issues with the search engines.

Perhaps a domain has hit the auction block, because it's been banned and the black hat SEO is looking to dump it onto someone else that has no clue that this has occurred. They may be selling the domain purely because it is "aged."

Keywords in Domain

Yes. Having keywords in your domain is important.

In the past nine months or so, Google has placed more value on having keywords in the domain. Now, don't get too excited about this and change your entire Web marketing strategy. Your old and "authoritative" domain absolutely is more important than merely getting a domain that has some keywords. You don't want to buy a domain stuffed with keywords and separated by a hyphen.

Case in Point

We have a client, Palm Harbor Homes, that once had duplicate copies of their site at www.palmharbor.com and www.palmharborhomes.com. The standard argument may be if the domain has the keywords in the URL, then use that domain (www.palmharborhomes.com). We had to look at other factors (such as which domain has the better history, the better backlinks, etc.) to determine that we needed to 301 redirect www.palmharborhomes.com to www.palmharbor.com.

If you're starting a new business, launching a new Web site, or acquiring domains, it certainly doesn't hurt to try and find one that happens to have your keywords within the domain, itself.

How Many Domains Do You Own?

Many companies own several domains. They often don't even know they have duplicate copies of their Web site. Or, perhaps they have very old Web sites, that aren't even managed and are just "sitting there" doing practically nothing. There's a lot of value in creating a domain redirect strategy and ensuring that these domains are doing something.

Here's an example. Let's say a company had a Web site created for a particular vertical of your business. Over time, the company decided to absorb this content into its main Web site, but left the other Web site up.

Unless this Web site is ranking and helping you grow your business, you may want to consider redirecting (301 redirect) to the new section/URL of the main Web site that speaks to this vertical. All backlink value of the legacy URL will be passed along to the new URL within the main Web site. That will create some great deep linking to an important section of the site. Since this new section will exist on a URL that appears new the search engines, you'll have created "instant authority" to this page that didn't exist before.


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