How do Domain Names Impact SEO?

Avatar for Wouter Maatman

Domain names once had a huge impact on organic visibility. An exact-match domain name could get a website ranked first on Google within a couple of weeks. This is not the case anymore, but do domain names still have an effect on SEO?

Which effects to take into account?

The domain name itself is not a ranking factor. Google confirmed there is no ranking bonus for keywords in a domain name. Google removed the benefit of exact-match keywords in a domain name already in 2011. But the algorithm change was gradual, and many search engine optimizers did not act upon this. A keyword-focused domain name could earn backlinks with those words in the anchor text. But the role of keywords in anchor text is slowly losing its ranking signals.

Also, domain age, domain authority, domain registration length, or registering a domain name for years in advance does not affect Google ranking. Top-level domains, for example, .com are not a ranking factor. Google treats all non-local domain names equally. However, local domains like .ca, .ru, or .au remain a strong ranking factor for local search results. For example, a searcher in Canada is more likely to encounter a .ca domain in the results.

Domain Names Remain Important

As domain names do not directly impact organic search rankings, it is essential to choose a memorable name. An easy-to-remember domain improves branding and name recognition, which can result in more clicks and better on-page engagement. Both are direct ranking factors.

However, the branding benefits are becoming less important with an ever-growing list of available top-level domains. Nonetheless, companies should keep an eye on potential imposters. Brand-name searches are popular and worth optimizing.

To conclude, choose a domain name not for SEO but for your online visitors. Select a name that shoppers will remember and associate with your company.

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