How to Choose a Domain Name for SEO Purposes

Once upon a time, including keywords in a domain name was deemed a surefire strategy for boosting search engine rankings. It was a "quick win" in the race for online visibility. 

Fast forward a decade, however, and the SEO landscape looks vastly different. With search engine algorithms becoming increasingly sophisticated, the relevance of keywords in domain names has been called into question.

Today, businesses navigating the domain selection process are faced with a multitude of considerations beyond keyword inclusion. In this article, we’ll explore the shifting SEO landscape, and provide actionable insights on how to choose a domain name that not only captures your brand identity but also align with contemporary SEO best practices

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name serves as the online address for a website, acting as the identifier that users type into their browsers to access a specific web page. It plays a crucial role in establishing the online presence and brand identity of a business or individual. 

Historically, including keywords in a domain name was believed to boost search engine rankings by signalling relevance to specific search queries. However, search engine algorithms have evolved significantly, rendering keyword inclusion in domain names less influential for SEO.

Today, search engines like Google prioritise various other factors over keyword-rich domain names when determining website rankings. Factors such as high-quality content, user experience, mobile-friendliness, site speed, backlinks, and domain authority hold far more weight in SEO considerations. 

Therefore, rather than fixating on incorporating keywords into domain names, website owners should focus on creating memorable, brandable, and relevant domain names that reflect their identity and niche. By prioritising these factors, website owners can ensure their domain names contribute positively to their overall SEO strategy, enhancing their online visibility and attracting organic traffic.

Considerations for a Brand New Domain

Embarking on the journey of selecting a brand new domain name is an exhilarating yet critical endeavour for any business or individual looking to establish an online presence. HEre are some key considerations to bear in mind when choosing a domain name from scratch. 

Is Your Brand Memorable and Easy to Spell?

It's vital to ensure your brand is memorable and easy to spell because it directly impacts user engagement and brand recognition. A memorable brand name sticks in the minds of consumers, making it easier for them to recall and share with others. When a brand name is easy to spell, it minimises the risk of misspellings or confusion, leading to smoother online searches and increased website traffic. 

Moreover, a memorable brand name fosters trust and loyalty among consumers, as they're more likely to remember and return to a website they can easily recall. In today's competitive online landscape, where countless options vie for consumers' attention, a memorable brand name sets you apart, helping you stand out amidst the digital noise and leaving a lasting impression on your target audience.

Availability of a Top-Level Domain 

A top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of a domain name, such as ".com," ".net," or ".org." It plays a crucial role in defining the identity and purpose of a website. The availability of a relevant TLD is essential because it impacts how easily users can find and trust your website. 

Choosing a TLD that resonates with your target market, such as "" for South Africa or ".com" for global appeal, enhances your website's relevance and credibility within that specific geographic or industry segment. For instance, a South African business targeting local customers would benefit from using the "" TLD, as it signals to users that the website caters specifically to their region. 

Some of the industries in South Africa that could benefit from a TLD include:

  • Legal
  • Online Shopping
  • Construction

By securing a TLD aligned with your target audience, you not only improve your website's visibility in relevant search results but also establish trust and authenticity, ultimately driving higher engagement and conversions.

Caution with Newer TLDs

While newer top-level domains (TLDs) like ".agency" or ".shop" may seem appealing for their specificity, caution is warranted due to potential implications for trust and credibility. 

Users are accustomed to traditional TLDs like ".com," ".org," and ".net," associating them with established and reputable websites. When encountering unfamiliar TLDs, users may perceive them as less trustworthy or legitimate, potentially leading to hesitation or scepticism when engaging with the website. 

Moreover, newer TLDs lack the established authority and recognition of traditional options, which can hinder search engine visibility and ranking. By opting for a newer TLD, businesses risk undermining their online credibility and may face challenges in attracting and retaining users. 

Therefore, it's advisable to prioritise established TLDs that instil confidence and familiarity among users, ensuring a positive perception of your website and bolstering its online reputation.

Avoid Spammy TLD’s 

It's prudent to avoid top-level domains (TLDs) known for hosting spammy websites, such as ".xyz," ".live," ".click," and ".net," due to their association with low-quality or malicious content. 

Search engines and internet users alike often perceive these TLDs as breeding grounds for spam, phishing schemes, and other nefarious activities. Consequently, websites utilising such TLDs may suffer from diminished trust and credibility, leading to reduced traffic and engagement. 

For example, if a legitimate business opts for a ".xyz" domain, users may hesitate to interact with the website due to its association with numerous spammy or low-quality sites that have used the same TLD. By steering clear of TLDs with a reputation for spam, businesses can safeguard their online reputation, enhance user trust, and improve their chances of success in the competitive online landscape.

Factors to Consider Before Buying an Owned Domain Name

Before purchasing an owned domain name, several key considerations warrant thorough examination to ensure a wise investment aligned with your business goals.

  • Pricing: determining the price is a pivotal factor influencing domain acquisition. Various elements, including domain length, relevance, TLD popularity, and market demand, impact prices. It's essential to determine a reasonable budget by researching comparable domain sales and assessing the perceived value of the domain to your business. Balancing cost-effectiveness with the domain's potential benefits is crucial to avoid overspending.
  • Assessing previous use and content: this is imperative to avoid inheriting liabilities or tarnished reputations associated with the domain's history. Examining archived versions of the website can reveal past content, potential legal issues, or instances of spam. By understanding the domain's previous use, you can make informed decisions about its suitability for your business and mitigate risks associated with negative associations.
  • Spam score evaluation: this involves assessing the domain's reputation and potential impact on SEO. Spam scores quantify the likelihood of a domain engaging in spammy activities, such as link schemes or malware distribution. High spam scores can harm your website's search engine rankings and reputation. Utilising tools like Moz's Spam Score or Google's Search Console can help evaluate the domain's trustworthiness and mitigate the risk of negative SEO consequences.

Ranking Signals for Domains: Myths and Facts

When it comes to domains, there are numerous misconceptions regarding what qualifies as ranking signals. In this section we will address what is myth and what is fact.  

  • Domain age: contrary to popular belief, domain age itself is not a direct ranking signal. While older domains may have accrued more backlinks and established authority over time, search engines like Google prioritise factors such as content relevance, quality, and user experience over domain age alone. Therefore, while an older domain may possess inherent advantages, its age alone does not directly impact its search engine rankings.
  • Domain authority: domain authority, a metric developed by Moz, measures a website's overall authority and credibility based on factors like backlinks, domain age, and content quality. However, domain authority itself is not a direct ranking signal used by search engines like Google. Instead, it serves as a useful indicator of a website's potential to rank well in search results based on its perceived authority within its niche or industry.
  • Domain history: we touched on this earlier and yes, domain history, including factors such as past content, backlink profiles, and any penalties or spam activities, can indeed influence a website's ranking. Search engines consider a domain's historical record when evaluating its trustworthiness and relevance to search queries. Therefore, a clean domain history devoid of spammy practices or penalties can positively impact a website's SEO performance.
  • Domain name: while domain names containing relevant keywords were once considered advantageous for SEO, their direct influence on rankings has diminished significantly. Search engines now prioritise factors such as content relevance, user experience, and backlink profiles over keyword-centric domain names. Therefore, while a descriptive domain name may enhance user understanding and brand recall, its impact on search engine rankings is minimal compared to other SEO factors.

If you are still unsure about whether or not you are making the right choice with your domain name, you can consider consulting with an agency that specialises in SEO

These agencies have the expertise to analyse market trends, and assess domain options to ensure alignment with your brand and SEO goals. 

Additionally, they can offer guidance on optimising website content and structure to enhance search engine visibility and drive organic traffic. By leveraging the expertise of an SEO agency, businesses can navigate the complexities of domain selection and develop a robust SEO strategy tailored to their needs.