Mastering Your Domain (Name)

Selecting the right domain name for your website is as important to your SEO strategy as dynamic, keyword-rich content and strategic linking. Your ideal domain name should be, at once, unique, catchy, relevant and concise to gain and keep the attention of the customers you're trying to direct to your site.

Admittedly, with hundreds of millions of domain names already snatched up, your naming options are more limited than they were in, say, 1996. But even with fewer choices, you can still optimize your website by following these SEO-friendly domain naming conventions:

• Keep it short and simple. When it comes to domain names, brevity is the best policy. Especially when the website is spread through word of mouth, short domains are simply easier to remember and type into a browser. For the best results, limit your domain names to no more than three words. Similarly, opt for words that are short and relatively easy to spell. For instance, SherriPies.com works much better than SherriFantasticGooeyHomemadePies.com.

• Avoid unclear abbreviations. The tenets of coming up with a clever vanity plate do not apply here. Do not include any abbreviations in your domain that would not be immediately obvious to most of your target customers. For example, pass up Cpcks.com for the website name of your cupcake bakery. Although it is good to be succinct, your domain name should be as straightforward as possible and should communicate what your business is about without explanation.

• Choose a relevant name. Perhaps this should go without saying, but your domain name should be relevant to your business and the products and services you offer. For instance, if you specialize in lawn care, purchasing a domain name like ClownFeverDream.com, although memorable, will not help you get the attention of people actively seeking landscaping services.

• Think locally. If you're looking to build a local audience, consider adding your city, state or neighborhood to your domain name. For instance, if you're a real estate agent in Bedford, Texas, try BedfordRealEstate.com.

• Include keywords. When brainstorming domain names, make sure to consider your primary keywords to help capture an audience actively seeking your product. But avoid stuffing your domain with multiple keywords. Again, simplicity is key to choosing a domain name. For example, if you're trying to market a cooking supply store in Olympia, Wash., opt for the simple OlympiaKitchenSupplies.com instead of the keyword-loaded monstrosity KitchenCookingFoodBakewareOlympia.com.

The Art of Redirection

Once you've chosen your site name, consider buying available domain names similar to yours and redirecting them to your main site. For instance, if your site is a .com, think about purchasing your same domain name in .biz, .net and .us. Also, think about any likely spelling errors of your domain name and snatch those up, too. This way, you would retain traffic that you would have missed from typos and other errors.

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