Does It Matter What Domain To Use For My Small Business Website?

Travis Van SlootenSmall Business Websites & Blogs

domains for small businessesConventional wisdom is that no matter what domain you register, it should be a .com. And while I agree with that advice, it’s not always necessary. A few years back, many Internet Marketers were warning that .infos, .nets and just about any top level domain other than .com’s were domains to shy away from because Google didn’t like them.

It’s true .info’s were greatly abused and as a result many of them were penalized by Google. However, the penalty wasn’t so much the domain itself but rather the spammy content and spammy practices the website owners of these domains were involved with. Because the .infos were spammed to death, a lot of them got nailed by Google so many believed that .infos were worthless.

I personally don’t like registering any domains other than .com and I always advise my clients to stick with .com but that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to. If you find a domain that is available that you absolutely love and want to build your online presence around, go for it. Just remember, you’re going to have this domain for the life of your business so make sure you really like it.

What About Exact Match Domains (EMDs) – Are Those O.K.?

An exact match domain is a domain that contains a specific keyword phrase. If you’re a plumber in Minneapolis an exact match domain would be something like MinneapolisPlumbers.com or PlumbersMinneapolis.com.

Up until recently, Google generally gave ranking preference to EMDs for the keyword phrase in the EMD. In my domain examples above, they would generally rank better for the keyword, “minneapolis plumbers” than another domain that didn’t have that keyword in it (i.e. BobsPlumbing.com). For this reason, SEO professionals, myself included, recommended EMDs whenever possible as our clients would have a huge advantage right out of the gate. This was great advice until Google rolled out their EMD algo update.

I won’t go into all the nuances of the update as the guys over at SEOmoz have already blogged about their initial analysis of the update. The bottom line of the update is that it appears EMDs will no longer have an inherit advantage over non EMDs for the keyword phrase. This is a good thing because it never made sense that a domain with a keyword phrase would have an advantage.

Because of the EMD algo update, some Internet Marketers are wondering if EMDs should be avoided now. The topic came up in Linda Buquet’s forum. In my opinion, the EMD algo update was specifically meant to weed out thin and crappy sites on EMDs. It had nothing to do with Google penalizing EMDs themselves.

I highly doubt Google cares what your domain is. All Google cares about is quality content and a quality user experience. If you’re producing high quality content and you’re marketing your website in an honest and ethical manner, it doesn’t matter what domain you have! You can have a .info, a .net or an EMD on an .info…oh shutter the thought. Your domain isn’t going to hurt you as far as ranking in Google goes.

So What Domain Should I Use For My Small Business?

Because .com was the first top level domain (TLD) and is the most widely known, I only register .com’s myself and I advise my clients to do the same. But if you find a domain on another TLD that you really like, go for it.

As for EMD vs. non-EMD, that is your call. Do you want people to know your business online as “MinneapolisPlumber.com” or “BobsPlumbingCompany.com”? In many cases, an EMD makes total sense. In some cases, however, it might not make sense or you may think it sounds goofy. You might also want to build a brand online in which case a EMD wouldn’t make sense.

Regardless of what domain you decide on, treat it like naming your child. It’s pretty much forever – at least for the life of your business. Make sure you like the domain first and foremost.

Here are the general guidelines I follow when registering domains. You won’t always be able to follow every one of these so just try to follow as many as you can.

  1. Choose .com first
  2. Avoid hyphens in the name (i.e. bobs-plumbing-company.com)
  3. AvoidReallyLongDomainsLikeThis.com
  4. Avoid numbers (A1Company.com…or is it Aonecompany.com)
  5. Avoid letters that can be hard to understand on their own (my own domain is tvsinternetmarketing.com – when I tell people my web address they always ask if that’s tBs or tVs. It drives me crazy)
  6. Does it pass the radio test? Pretend you are one of those cool radio voice over guys and you say, “To learn more about my business visit www.this domain.com.” Does the domain roll off the tongue with ease? Will listeners be able to clearly understand what the domain is? Will they be able to remember it easily?

For me personally, #1 and #6 are the most important to me. And if you think about it, #6 will take care of #2, #3, #4, and #5.