Getting started

How to choose a domain name? I. Consider your search engine ranking

In the first edition of our Domain User Guide we talked about how a domain is a way to be found online. In the second edition, we focused on how to go beyond that and use your domain to think about who you’d like to be found by. With this background, it’s time to start thinking about how to choose a good domain.

A basic component of this decision is how to align your domain with all the factors that improve your site’s ranking in search engines.

For a long time, search engines preferred domain names that exactly matched search terms. This was era of the “EMD” (Exact Match Domain), and domains like or flourished, and the low-quality sites inevitably hosted at these types of domains along with them.

But times have changed. Now, search engines give preference to memorable and meaningful domains, that often refer to a specific sector, and are linked to high-quality, easy-to-navigate sites that are regularly updated. There’s no shortcut.

But here are a few tips on how to pick your domain:

  1. Pick a domain that’s short and memorable: johnson-apartments.tld rather than johnson-housing-rentals.tld
  2. Try to include a keyword that refers to your business sector or community, using terms that the public uses, and avoid jargon: johnson-apartments.tld instead of johnson-real-estate-broker.tld
  3. Consider a new gTLD: you may be able to incorporate a keyword into your domain, for example: (n.b. search engines are indifferent to the TLD you use but will consider it as signifiant just as the words before the dot)

And above all, don’t forget that an attractive domain name can bring more visits to your site from search engines. Remember your domain should be interesting to people – your target audience – at least as much as it is interesting to the search engine bots. Your audience is not machines!

And while optimizing for search engines is definitely one consideration when choosing your domain name, it is certainly not the only. We’ll cover some other considerations when choosing a domain name soon, but first, next time we’ll be looking at how to manage your domain.