Does Domain Name Affect Google Ranking?
When you are about to start a website one of the first decisions you need to take is what kind of domain name you will purchase. One of your main questions should be how the domain name affects your presence on google and other search engines.
Does Domain Name Affect Google Ranking? In short, domain name affects your google ranking but it isn’t the crucial factor. In the past having an exact match keyword domain was very important but then a lot of low-quality sites started to use this kind of domain to rank higher and google algorithm was updated to decrease the importance of domain names in rankings.
Let’s discuss how the domain name actually affects search engine rankings (on google, bing, etc). I share with you 7 ways that a domain name affects SEO (search engine optimization):
What SEO means?
SEO describes the techniques we use for optimizing our site to get better rankings in Google and other search engines. The techniques can be related to the site design, type of content we create, the keywords we use or even in our case the domain name we choose to use.
1.) Keywords included in the domain
In the past, a lot of spammers purchased exact-match keyword domains so they can have an advantage in Google rankings and get more clicks from internet users. That way they had more chances to have an income from affiliate links or ads even with bad quality content or website design.
Google collected feedback over the years and reduced the importance of exact-match keyword domains (meaning domains that contain popular words like insurance, real estate etc). Despite the fact that keywords in a domain are still a factor for Google rankings, it is just one of the 200+ of them and if you overdo it with specific keywords there is a risk of getting penalized.
Don’t get obsessed with finding domains with specific keywords but pay more attention to the quality of your site and the content you produce.
2.) Domain Age
Domain age is an additional factor for google search engine rankings. Google seems to be really careful with the domains that are only some months old. If all other factors are equal when we compare 2 websites the one with the older domain has more chances to have a better ranking.
Keep in mind that the differences are smaller when we compare 3-years old domain vs 4-years old domain, in that case, it doesn’t make a lot of difference in Google eyes. As I said, the domain age is mostly a disadvantage for the brand new websites.
3.) Domain Registration Length
Domains that are registered for only 1 year have fewer chances to rank compared with the domain names with more years of registration. Someone that registers a domain name for a very short period might use it for inappropriate reasons or for a quick profit by using unethical methods to get traffic.
4.) Domain History
The domains have a history like people and many times they change owners. If a previous owner used the domain in a bad way that can affect domain reputation on search engines. In the same way, if the domain was getting a lot of traffic and the owner built a good website then the history of it is a good advantage for the new owner.
You can use this site https://archive.org/ to see if a domain was used previously and what kind of websites were built with the domain.
5.) Domain extension
The domain name extension is really important for Google rankings, especially if you target a specific language or country. For example, a website that uses .fr (domain extension for France) will have bigger chances to rank for French people compared with other extensions.
On the other hand, if your target audience is global and you don’t want to be limited to one area or language is always better to use the .com extension. The really big companies sometimes use .com but they redirect to more local extensions based on the IP of the user.
6.) Incoming links to the domain
Like we already mentioned earlier domain name history is important. Incoming links from other reputable sites affect the google rankings. If other good sites point to your domain name this an online vote that adds reputation and better chances to rank well on google.
The bad thing here is that a lot of people tried (and they still do) to game Google and they buy links from other sites, own many sites and point to the domain name they want to boost and other shady techniques. Fake links to your domain can be a serious reason for Google to ban you so be careful of this kind of technique.
7.) Getting more links from internet users
When you use a domain name that seems relevant to what a person searches on the web then there are more chances to get more clicks. If more people click and visit your website then this is a strong sign for google to update your ranking for a specific keyword.
This is of course only helpful if you are already on the first page of results on google. In that case, people can see your domain name and decide that will click on it since it seems to be very relevant to the answer/product/services they seek.
Does changing domain name affect SEO?
When you change a domain name at least temporary there is a chance that the traffic from google will be affected. It’s very important to redirect every URL from the previous domain to the correct page in the new domain. That way every user that visits your previous domain will be redirected to the new one and you will not lose traffic. So it is very crucial to make all the redirects correctly.
The next step is to inform google that you changed domain and submit your sitemap to Google search console. You want to inform google as quickly as possible for the existence of your new domain so they can index your new site content.
Even if you do everything perfect the first weeks you will notice a small drop in traffic that eventually will return to the normal numbers you used to have.
Although a domain name is a small factor for the search engine rankings your main focus should be your site’s content and the user experience. Google values those 2 things a lot and there are even real people that check thousands of sites manually for their quality. So in the long term, a site with bad quality content and bad user experience can’t really trick Google for better rankings.