Does my domain name affect my SEO ranking?
Short answer: yes.
But let's find out why.
There's a lot of confusion for business owners when it comes to choosing a domain name for their business. They are aware of all the wonderful benefits of SEO, but are worried if they pick the wrong domain name there's no going back.
There are two parts to every domain name
There are two choices every business owner has to make when selecting their domain name, they are:
Top-level domain (TLD) - is the 2nd part that follows the website's name. The most common TLDs today are .com, .co.uk. com.au, .net and org.
Your TLD helps search engines learn about your site and audience by geo-location. For example, a .com.au lets Google know your business operates in Australia.
Second-level domain (SLD) - this is the actual name of your website. For example, “Google” in google.com or “Yahoo” in yahoo.com.
Your chosen SLD does impact your business's SEO efforts to some extent, but not as much as you might think (see more below).
How to choose the right TLD
To choose the right TLD you first need to understand how search engines work.
Their goal is to show the most relevant search results to the searcher. For example, if you’re located in Sydney and you search for real estate agents, you probably don't want listings of businesses in Brisbane or Melbourne, only Sydney - and ideally close to where you were when you made the search.
By choosing a TLD of com.au, search engines are able to identify that your business is focused on the Australian market. Combining this with other on-site SEO services such as Google Plus, correctly optimising your pages and keywords, you'll be able to accurately place your listings in front of the right audience, and even target certain areas such as Bondi or Kings Cross in Sydney.
If your customer demographic is worldwide then choosing a .com TLD over a com.au is preferred.
How to pick your SLD
One myth I want to debunk right away is that you don't need to insert keywords into your domain name. Search engines are fully aware of business owners stuffing keywords into their domain in an attempt to manipulate search results, and have adjusted their algorithms to give these tactics less impact.
Instead, focus on choosing your SLD to brand your business for marketing purposes. Yelp, Wikipedia, TripAdvisor are not keywords for their niche but they rank on the first page of Google for thousands of terms. Why? Because they are using other SEO services such as Google Plus, link building and keyword research to better position their pages within search engines. Ultimately, out of the 200 SEO factors that determine where a website sits on Google, a website's SLD carries very little weight.
From an overall marketing point of view, you're better off choosing a SLD that reflects your business than industry-related keywords.
For best practice purposes I always suggest buying both the .com.au and .com TLDs for your business in case you plan to expand your business globally in the future. You can also point both of them to your single existing website so you get the best of both worlds.
When buying domains with Netregistry, you'll always have the option to add other TLDs to your cart to ensure someone else doesn't take them later.