Domain Names and SEO: Are They Still Relevant in 2022?

Until recently, there was evidence that a domain name had a major impact on its SEO or search engine optimization ranking. But, as it turns out, this view is largely outdated.

At the same time, it would be wrong to ignore some key factors regarding domain names and SEO. Suffice it to say; that a domain name is a new choice for startups and IT companies. And yet, the influence of the domain name itself is often greatly exaggerated. So, let’s study some latest findings.

Does the Use of Keywords in Domain Names Matter?

About 10 years ago, one of the main factors for search results was the competent use of keywords. If a domain name contained such words, the chances of attracting visitors, all other things being equal, were higher. Domains whose names exactly matched the keyword had a major advantage. These are so-called exact match domains (EMDs). For example, in 2003, hotels.com was sold for $11 million.

Now there are relatively few thematic sites with such popularity on the web. It is difficult to compete in this market since the free choice of an ai domain name is limited, yet there are companies that can assist with this process. Some domains’ popularity is due to the fact that they occupy a niche with an exact match in name and their branch of activity.

One of the best examples of this kind is the forex.com domain. Its name is of great value in itself; to the extent that it doesn’t even matter which company owns this domain. The main factor is that the term forex is strongly associated with the interbank foreign exchange market. Since this market is important in the world of finance, the value of the forex.com domain will only grow.

At the moment, the owner of forex.com is forex dealer StoneX. It isn’t a very famous company outside professional forex traders. On the other hand, the very fact that they own the forex.com domain is the best advertisement for this dealer. But this is the ideal case. What if any company registers its original domain? Several problems could arise here.

Search queries can change over time, and registering a new domain over and over again is very difficult. For example, suppose a computer service center has a level two domain called “bestitservice.” This name consists of three parts: best, IT and service. Although popular now, the combination of these words, after some time, can become less popular in search queries.

Are There Any More Problems?

In addition, the scope of the company’s activities can expand, so using keywords in the domain name will not be as successful as before. So perhaps it would be more reliable to use the company name. But there are also other problems.

  • Every year, the free choice of domain names becomes more limited. Some speculators take advantage of this, specifically registering domains to sell later. In the future, these domains may be of great value for rapidly developing companies.
  • If a domain name is easy to remember, a lot of users immediately enter the site address without using a search engine. A popular brand’s name always precedes any branch of a business. For example, facebook.com or microsoft.com.
  • There is a high risk that a page with some popular keywords in its domain name may fall into the spam category.

New Facts About Searching Engines

Another popular misconception is that dot com domains rank higher. It was so in the past. Now it practically doesn’t play a role, at least in the global search. However, country-specific domains, such as .de (Germany), will be found faster than others if the keywords are searched for in the German segment of the Internet.

In general, there are no “privileged” level 1 domains. Yet some risky domain name extensions usually don’t pass spam filters: .biz, .rest, .red. One of the reasons for this is the high prevalence of free hosting platforms associated with such domains. The probability that free hosting will be in the spam list is close to 100 percent. As a rule, content with a compromised reputation and outright spam is concentrated on exotic domains.

Leading search engines such as Google are constantly doing serious research to improve their algorithms. In 2011, Google eliminated the advantage of keywords in domain names. Since this process wasn’t fast, users did not feel this change immediately. In recent years, algorithms containing complex heuristic approaches have appeared. With their help, the search engine analyzes the information value of a page.

User’s Interests Are Priority

New algorithms consider both the use of keywords and direct links to anchors and the time visitors spend on the page. It is noticed that the same keywords show different performance levels on different sites. This means that the site’s popularity depends not so much on the saturation of its keywords but the informativeness and quality of the material.

Therefore, the main feature of the current development of search algorithms is a quantitative assessment of this quality. Perhaps the best score of the particular site is the average time a typical user spends reading its content. If it makes them stay on the site for a long time and return to it repeatedly, the site gains a high score. No matter how successful the domain name is, it will not work on its own.

OK, But What Do You Recommend Then?

One of the newer approaches is to combine the ratings of all resources registered to the same owner. However, the domain names of these resources may be different. This factor works only as long as at least one of these domains has not been sold to another owner.

From the moment of sale, the search ranking of these domains can fall sharply. This is why changing the owner of a domain is bad practice. In fact, even the most promoted site can quickly lose its value.

According to SEO expert John Mueller of Google, users prefer easy-to-remember domains. It doesn’t matter if its name matches a keyword or brand name if that name is challenging to remember. Therefore, Mueller advises choosing a domain name for people, not for SEO, and allows for growth.

From this point of view, a recognizable and popular domain will rise in the ranking continuously, even if its name seems to ignore some SEO rules. That is why using hyphens, underscores and numbers in the domain name is a bad practice. These symbols make the domain difficult to remember and prevent it from gaining a high ranking.

Using domains that do not have a semantic connection with the subject of the resource is also ineffective. However, following this recommendation is becoming increasingly difficult. On the other hand, the majority of SEO experts seem to ignore paid website promotion completely.

Not all companies have the financial capacity for advertising promotion, but the explosive growth of some financial schemes speaks for itself. This is the case when a company creates not only an exact match domain but also shells out a tidy sum for a link on the first page of search results.

A Powerful Tool for SEO Analysis

Speaking about SEO and the promotion of specific resources, one cannot fail to mention the tools for solving practical problems. Although there are various SEO tools available, many analysts recommend using ahrefs.com. This powerful service allows you to collect statistics on search results, traffic and other indicators of a site.

It also helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the site, including those related to the domain name. Despite the value of such information, it’s sometimes difficult to use it in practice. For instance, some sites have existed for many years, with plenty of visitors and regular subscribers. Perhaps their domain names are not successful from a modern standpoint, but it’s hardly possible to solve this problem.

Registering a new domain and transferring a large amount of data will require a lot of time and resources as the owner will, essentially, have to start all over again. In addition, the rating of the updated site after the domain change will be so low that it may never be possible to reach previous positions. The problem here is not so much the domain name but a combination of factors.

The main ones are the vast number of accumulated links, direct transitions from other sites and user habits. It is believed that the age of the domain on its own is over, but it affects other factors. Together, they determine the reputation of the site. Gaining a good reputation takes a lot of time, and one can lose it overnight.

Conclusion

It is safe to say that the time when the domain name was crucial is over. Of course, the advantage still lies with short and convenient names, but this factor is no longer the only one. What is much more important is the informational value of the resource and its practical benefits for the visitor.

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