Domain Names & Search Engines

When choosing a domain name, many things need to be considered. What should the domain extension be? Should the domain name be hyphenated? Is a short domain name better than a long domain name that may better represent the associated business name?

To make this confusing situation more complex, some search engine optimization companies recommend you purchase a domain name that contains your target keywords. The SEO company’s advice is twofold: first, search engines read the keywords in your domain name, and factor them in when ranking your website; second, if another website links to yours using your domain name as the link, the keywords in the domain name will be counted as link text.

There is certainly some truth to both of these notions, but you must weigh up the benefits against the possible disadvantages of the resulting domain name.

Search engines do not place a great amount of emphasis upon the keywords in your domain name. A search engine realises the number of companies who try to register a domain name such as in order to achieve high search engine rankings! Also, unless hyphens are placed between the keywords, only the first one will actually count. For example, if the above domain name were, only the word “web” would actually be counted as a keyword. Overall, the effect of keywords in the domain name is miniscule.

On the other hand, keywords in link text as a result of a website linking the domain name itself can be beneficial. Search engines use keywords located in and around a link on another website to your website. For example, linking to the hyphenated domain names page like this will tell the search engines that page is all about domain names of the hyphenated variety. Therefore, if a website uses the domain name in place of the anchor text, the keywords in that domain name will be seen as keywords. This only works if the domain name contains hyphens separating keywords, otherwise only the first word of the domain name is counted.

When choosing a domain name with search engines in mind, do not choose a hyphenated domain name purely for the sake of search engine optimization. It does pay to have the first word of your domain name one of your primary keywords, and this is often possible without destroying other important factors of domain name selection.