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How To Choose A Domain Name

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How To Choose A Domain Name

When it comes to building your website, choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you will make because it affects how the site is marketed and influences how site visitors feel about your brand.

Here are 11 tips to help make the right domain name decision.

1. Businesses Don’t Own Domain Names

No business “owns” a domain name.

Ownership is not possible with a domain name. Domain names are registered, and this registration entitles the registrant to use the domain.

So, it’s critical to never allow a domain name registration to lapse.

Failure to renew a domain puts it in danger of someone else registering it after it “drops” (when the registration expires).

Here are four tips to help keep a domain name securely registered:

  • Make sure your credit card information at the domain registrar is up to date.
  • Turning on automatic renewal is a good step for preventing the loss of a domain – but don’t count on it actually working. There are many anecdotes of people losing their domain after the automatic renewal failed to kick in.
  • Domain name registrars generally email alerts prior to when a domain is about to expire. Check every year (or quarterly) to make sure your domain registration email address is correct.
  • It’s not overly cautious to manually renew the domain registration before the auto-renewal date.

2. Should A Domain Name Match Your Business Name?

A domain name should generally match the name of the business.

But sometimes, creating a new web presence is an opportunity to reconsider the business name for something that’s more web-friendly, or that better reflects changing trends.

One of my past clients was a digital camera site that had to pivot quickly after the iPhone was introduced because fewer people were buying digital cameras. They changed the domain name to a more general scope, and they began reviewing a wide range of products.

Changing trends could be one reason the domain name doesn’t necessarily have to match the business name.

Sometimes, it might be best to brand the online business with something more attractive or snappy and keep the business name in the background.

That said, always register a domain name that matches the brick-and-mortar business, even if the online site uses another name. The business name can be redirected to the website name, or it could be kept in the background – whatever the business situation calls for.

3. Should You Use Choose A Domain Name With Keywords In It?

Domain names that use exact match keywords can tend to convert at a higher rate.

I imagine that when a searcher reviews the search results pages (SERPs) and sees the domain name with the keywords in it that she may think, “Aha, this site has what I want!” Click! Click! Click!

Keywords in the domain name communicate quickly that the site has what the visitor is looking for.

Someone looking for a taco restaurant will probably be more likely to choose “Hank’s Tacos” than “Jose’s Cantina.”

The keywords in the domain infer that the site not only has what they want, but actually specializes in it.

Keywords in the domain name don’t have a ranking bonus.

The true value of keywords in a domain name is attracting visitors with a greater intention of buying something or finding interest in the topic.

But keywords in a domain name are not the only way, or even the best choice, for a domain name.

For example, one of the most popular fishing websites on the East Coast of the United States is called OnTheWater.com.

Sometimes it’s better to choose a domain name that conveys the meaning of the topic.

4. Domain Names That Convey Meaning

Sometimes it makes sense to register a domain that conveys a meaning.

SearchEngineJournal.com is a great domain because the words “Search Engine” tells you it’s a website about search engines. The word “Journal” conveys that it’s a news site.

When choosing a meaningful domain name, it may be useful to think about the qualities you want your site to be associated with.

Returning to the example of On The Water, that domain name takes an angler to their happy place, which is located on the water.

Consider writing down the words that convey a special feeling or promise that you want the visitor to understand without thinking about it. For example:

  • Friendly.
  • Cheapest.
  • Fast.
  • Zippy.
  • Experts.
  • Nerds.
  • Friends.
  • Family.
  • Trustworthy.
  • Healing.

Or you might want visitors to associate your site with a place, for example:

  • Office.
  • Showroom.
  • Store.
  • Palace.
  • Oasis.
  • Online.
  • Zoo.
  • Hangout.
  • Zone.
  • Cafe.

Review synonyms for the quality you want a site visitor to associate with your site and play around with the words to find the right match.

5. Keep The Domain As Short As Possible

A domain name should be so short that it’s easy to type into a browser bar, but it should be long enough to communicate your intended message to your audience.

Some may find that domain names consisting of two to three words are optimal, while others may prefer a one-word domain. There is no hard rule about how short the domain should be.

What’s more important is to avoid using an overly long domain name that might be difficult to remember.

The rule of thumb for how short or long the domain name should be is to consider how the domain name may influence the potential site visitor.

6. Don’t Use Hyphens In Domain Names

Is it OK to use hyphens in a domain name today? Absolutely not.

Avoid using hyphens in a domain name.

Keywords in domains are not so important for ranking as to resort to cramming keywords into the domain name with hyphens.

It makes the site look sketchy and spammy.

Also, there is no ranking benefit from using keywords in the domain name.

7. Consider Registering Domain Name Variants

People mangle words in all kinds of wild ways.

I remember a theatrical venue that had a cabaret seating section, and I was told that half the people calling for tickets were asking for “Cabernet Seating.”

So, this may be arguable, but based on my experience, I believe it’s important to register reasonable domain name variants.

If your domain name is “WidgetExpert,” then you might want to consider registering “WidgetExperts,” as people tend to add an “s” to the end of a singular domain name.

People may remember your domain name incorrectly in many ways, so try to anticipate that and register the domain name variants – then redirect them to the correct domain.

Singular and plural variants are common mistakes, but actual spelling mistakes might be something else to consider. Redirect all of them to the actual domain, and you might even pick up some links from sites that linked using the wrong version.

One last benefit is that this is also a proactive defensive measure that will block future competitors from registering a variant of your domain name.

8. Defensive Domain Registration

Defensive domain registration refers to registering domains that a competitor might register in the future.

It is prudent to register the singular and plural versions of a domain name and also the .net, .org, .biz, .info, and .us versions.

If your site visitors are international and/or speak English, it may be useful to register the .ca, and .co.uk versions of the domain name as well.

One can choose not to register those domains. But in the event of a competitor registering one of those variants, the publisher will have to go through the headache of hiring an attorney to send a cease and desist request to someone (possibly in a developing country) with the hope that the competitor will be afraid enough to turn it over.

Good luck with that.

I don’t like headaches.

Registering those extra versions is not only defensive, but those extra domains could come in handy for other purposes later on.

For example, at one time, I temporarily redirected a website to the .net version while the .com was under repair.

9. What If The Dot-Com Domain Is Already Registered?

Dot-com is quite likely the most desired top-level domain (TLD) because it’s what most people tend to look for.

It’s problematic if another business already uses the desired .com domain. It might not be worth registering a .net or .org or some other top-level domain because of the risk of getting sued or confusing potential site visitors.

If someone is simply hanging on to the domain and not doing anything with it, it’s possibly okay.

But site visitors really like to see that dot-com in the URL.

An increasingly popular choice is to look into country code top-level domains (ccTLDs).

10. Country Code And General Top-Level Domain Names

Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are domains that are specific to a country.

Choosing a ccTLD is popular right now, such as the .io or .me ccTLDs.

There are also new general top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .agency.

Country code domains are generally best if they match the country of the potential site visitor. Domains in the .ca and the .uk registry are ccTLDs.

Site visitors tend to prefer ccTLDs that are specific to their country.

So, if your clients are in Australia, using the .au version of the domain might make sense.

Traditionally, ccTLD domains tend to convert at a higher rate within their respective countries because that’s what the citizens of those countries trust.

Note: Registering certain top-level domains may require citizenship. For example, .us domains require U.S. citizenship/residency.

11. Has The Domain Been Previously Registered?

Some domains have been previously registered.

This may or may not be an issue.

Since the old days of SEO and until now, there has been an issue with penalties sticking to a domain name.

What happens is that, sometime in the past, a spammer used a domain and burned it (penalized by Google and unable to rank), causing the spammer to let the domain registration lapse so that the domain becomes available again.

Then, when the next business registers that domain, it finds it impossible to rank it for anything meaningful. The site might pop into the bottom of the top 10 once a month for a few days, but then it drops back to the second or third page of the search results – or worse, nowhere.

Before registering a domain, it’s wise to visit Archive.org, where entering the domain name will show whether it has ever been registered.

If the domain has been registered, Archive.org (also known as The Wayback Machine or the Internet Archive) will show an interactive timeline that can be clicked to view previous versions of the websites associated with that domain.

As I understand it, Google does not provide a way to remove a legacy penalty from a domain that received a penalty years earlier.

The Google Search Console (GSC) will not report that there is a manual action. So there is no way to submit a reconsideration request for a penalty that the Google Search Console does not acknowledge.

The first time I heard of this happening was to a newbie SEO professional around 2005 who couldn’t figure out why his SEO site didn’t rank.

The folks over on WebmasterWorld figured it out for him, and one of the forum members contacted Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, on behalf of the SEO newbie.

Cutts confirmed that there was a penalty from a previous registration.

Unknown to the SEO professional, the site had been used to spam on behalf of adult affiliate sites.

Cutts said he would take care of it, and the penalty was subsequently lifted.

Recently in 2019, a person popped up on one of Google’s Webmaster Hangout Videos with curiously similar symptoms.

The site had indeed been used in a spammy way years earlier.

The publisher submitted the URL directly to Google’s John Mueller.

I watched the domain to see if it was able to rank for its own domain name, and about a month and a half elapsed before it finally did.

Aside from Cutts way in the distant past confirming that a legacy penalty had affected a site’s ability to rank, there’s been no official comment from Google about what causes that.

Choosing The Best Domain Name

There are many considerations for choosing the best domain name, and I recommend considering all of the above tips when selecting yours.

The process of choosing a domain name can seem hard.

A trick to making the process easier is to simply ask what a site visitor might prefer, as that approach can be extremely helpful in choosing the best domain name.

Good luck!

More resources:


Featured image: Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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Google To Upgrade All Retailers To New Merchant Center By September

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Google To Upgrade All Retailers To New Merchant Center By September

Google has announced plans to transition all retailers to its updated Merchant Center platform by September.

This move will affect e-commerce businesses globally and comes ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The Merchant Center is a tool for online retailers to manage how their products appear across Google’s shopping services.

Key Changes & Features

The new Merchant Center includes several significant updates.

Product Studio

An AI-powered tool for content creation. Google reports that 80% of current users view it as improving efficiency.

This feature allows retailers to generate tailored product assets, animate still images, and modify existing product images to match brand aesthetics.

It also simplifies tasks like background removal and image resolution enhancement.

Centralized Analytics

A new tab consolidating various business insights, including pricing data and competitive analysis tools.

Retailers can access pricing recommendations, competitive visibility reports, and retail-specific search trends, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and capitalize on popular product categories.

Redesigned Navigation

Google claims the new interface is more intuitive and cites increased setup success rates for new merchants.

The platform now offers simplified website verification processes and can pre-populate product information during setup.

Initial User Response

According to Google, early adopters have shown increased engagement with the platform.

The company reports a 25% increase in omnichannel merchants adding product offers in the new system. However, these figures have yet to be independently verified.

Jeff Harrell, Google’s Senior Director of Merchant Shopping, states in an announcement:

“We’ve seen a significant increase in retention and engagement among existing online merchants who have moved to the new Merchant Center.”

Potential Challenges and Support

While Google emphasizes the upgrade’s benefits, some retailers, particularly those comfortable with the current version, may face challenges adapting to the new system.

The upgrade’s mandatory nature could raise concerns among users who prefer the existing interface or have integrated workflows based on the current system.

To address these concerns, Google has stated that it will provide resources and support to help with the transition. This includes tutorial videos, detailed documentation, and access to customer support teams for troubleshooting.

Industry Context

This update comes as e-commerce platforms evolve, with major players like Amazon and Shopify enhancing their seller tools. Google’s move is part of broader efforts to maintain competitiveness in the e-commerce services sector.

The upgrade could impact consumers by improving product listings and providing more accurate information across Google’s shopping services.

For the e-commerce industry as a whole, it signals a continued push towards AI-driven tools and data-centric decision-making.

Transition Timeline

Google states that retailers will be automatically upgraded by September if they still need to transition.

The company advises users to familiarize themselves with the new features before the busy holiday shopping period.


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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Meta AI Introduces AI-Generated Photos to All Platforms

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Meta AI Adds AI-Generated Images to Social and Messaging Platforms and Expands Availability to More Languages and Countries

Meta just released multiple updates to Meta AI which brings advanced image generation and editing capabilities directly to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp feeds, plus availability in more countries and languages.

New Meta AI Creative Tools

Meta AI is bringing AI generated and AI Edited photography that can be generated at the moment a user is making a post or sending a message with a new tool called Imagine Me.

Imagine Me is a prompt that can be used to transform an uploaded image that can be shared. This new feature is first rolling out as a beta in the United States.

Meta explains:

“Imagine yourself creates images based on a photo of you and a prompt like ‘Imagine me surfing’ or ‘Imagine me on a beach vacation’ using our new state-of-the-art personalization model. Simply type “Imagine me” in your Meta AI chat to get started, and then you can add a prompt like “Imagine me as royalty” or “Imagine me in a surrealist painting.” From there, you can share the images with friends and family, giving you the perfect response or funny sidebar to entertain your group chat.”

New Editing Features

Meta products like Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram now have advanced editing capabilities that allow users to add or remove objects from images, to change them in virtually any manner, such as their example of turning a cat in an image into a dog. A new Edit With AI button is forthcoming in a month that will unlock even more AI editing power.

Adding AI generated images to Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp within feed, posts, stories, comments and messages is rolling out this week in English and coming later to other languages.

Screenshot of a Facebook user adding an AI generated image into their post

Meta AI In More Countries And Languages

Meta AI is now available in seven additional countries, bringing the total countries to to 22. It is also available in seven more languages.

List of Seven Additional Countries:

  1. Argentina
  2. Cameroon
  3. Chile
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador
  6. Mexico
  7. Peru

Meta AI is now also available in the following seven additional languages:

  1. French
  2. German
  3. Hindi
  4. Hindi-Romanized Script
  5. Italian
  6. Portuguese
  7. Spanish

Advanced Math And Coding

Meta AI is making their most advanced model, Llama 405B, available for users to take advantage of its advanced reasoning abilities that can answer complex answers and excells at math and coding.

Meta AI writes:

“You can get help on your math homework with step-by-step explanations and feedback, write code faster with debugging support and optimization suggestions, and master complex technical and scientific concepts with expert instruction.”

Read the official announcement:

Meta AI Is Now Multilingual, More Creative and Smarter

Featured Image by Shutterstock/QubixStudio

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System Builders – How AI Changes The Work Of SEO

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Kevin Indig's Growth Memo for SEJ

AI is terraforming tech. The content and SEO ecosystem is undergoing a massive structural change.

Human-written content gains value faster for LLM training than for end consumers as the pure profit licensing deals between LLM developers and publishers show.

Publishers struggle to survive from digital subscriptions but get millions that go straight to their bottom line for providing training data.

Content platforms, social networks, SaaS companies and consumer apps coat their products with AI. A few examples:

  • Spotify DJ (AI-generated playlist).
  • AI Overview (AI answers in Google Search).
  • Instagram AI personas (celebrity AI chatbots).
  • Ebay’s magical listing (turn a photo into a listing).
  • Redfin Redesign (try interior designs on real house pictures).
Image Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality of machine-generated content (MGC) challenges human-generated content (HGC). I ran an experiment with my Twitter and LinkedIn followers: I asked them to choose which of two articles was written by a human and which by a machine – and they had to explain their answer.

Only a handful of people figured out that AI wrote both pieces. I intentionally framed the question in a leading way to see if people would challenge the setting or believe that one piece was written by a human if told so.

  • Not an isolated experiment: A survey of 1,900 Americans found that 63.5% of people can’t distinguish between AI content and human content.1
  • People seek help: Google search demand for [ai checker] has reached 100,000 in May 2024 (Glimpse).
  • Dark side: scammers use MGC to make money, as 77% of AI scam victims lost money.2
Search demand for AI checkerImage Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality level of LLMs pushes SEO work towards automating workflows and learning with AI, while writers will take content from good to great instead of zero to one.

Boost your skills with Growth Memo’s weekly expert insights. Subscribe for free!

How AI Changes The Work Of SEOImage Credit: Lyna ™

System Builders

Clients, podcasters and panel hosts often ask me what skills SEOs need to build for the AI future. For a long time, my answer was to learn, stay open-minded and gain as much practical experience with AI as possible.

Now, my answer is SEOs should learn how to build AI agents and workflows that automate tasks. AI changes the way search works but also the way SEOs work.

AI + No-code Allows SEOs To Automate Workflows

A few examples:

1/ Cannibalization

  • Old world: SEOs download search console data and create pivot tables to spot keyword cannibalization.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI workflow that sends alters, identifies true keyword cannibalization, makes content suggestions to fix the problem, and monitors the improvement.

2/ Site Crawling

  • Old world: SEOs crawl websites to find inefficiencies in internal linking, status code errors, duplicate content, etc.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI agent that regularly crawls the site and automatically suggests new internal links that are shipped after human approval, fixes broken canonical tags and excludes soft 404 errors in the robots.txt.

3/ Content Creation

  • Old world: SEOs do keyword research and write content briefs. Writers create the content.
  • New world: SEOs automate keyword research with AI and create hundreds of relevant articles as a foundation for writers to build on.

All of this is already possible today with AI workflow tools like AirOps or Apify, which chain agents and LLMs together to scrape, analyze, transform data or create content.

Moving forward, we’ll spend much more time building automated systems instead of wasting time on point analyses and catalogs of recommendations. The SEO work will be defining logic, setting rules, prompting and coding.

building automated systems Building workflows with AirOps (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

You Can Learn (Almost) Anything With AI

I never made the time to really learn Python or R, but with the help of Chat GPT and Gemini in Colab, I can write any script with natural language prompts.

When the script doesn’t work, I can paste a screenshot into Chat GPT and describe the issue to get a solution. AI helps with Regex, Google Sheets/Excel, R, Python, etc. Nothing is off-limits.

Being able to write scripts can solve problems like data analysis, a/b testing and using APIs. As an SEO, I’m no longer dependent on engineers, data scientists or writers to perform certain tasks. I can act faster and on my own account.

I’m not the only one to figure this out. People are learning to code, write and many other skills with AI. We can learn to build AI workflows by asking AI to teach us.

Search demand for coding with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for write with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for learn with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig

When you can learn almost anything, the only limit is time.

The Work Of Writers Changes

Against common belief, writers won’t be crossed out of this equation but will play the critical role of editing, directing and curating.

In any automated process, humans QA the output. Think of car assembling lines. Even though AI content leaps in quality, spot checks reduce the risk of errors. Caught issues, such as wrong facts, weird phrasing or off-brand wording, will be critical feedback to fine-tune models to improve their output.

Instead of leg work like writing drafts, writers will bring AI content from good to great. In the concept of information gain, writers will spend most of their time making a piece outstanding.

The rising quality work spans from blog content to programmatic content, where writers will add curated content when searches have a desire for human experience, such as in travel.

A mini guide to Los AngelesTripadvisor’s attraction pages feature human-curated sections. (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

Unfair Advantage

As often with new technology, a few first-mover people and companies get exponential value until the rest catch up. My worry is that a few fast-moving companies will grab massive land with AI.

And yet, this jump in progress will allow newcomers to challenge incumbents and get a fair chance to compete on the field.

AI might be a bigger game changer for SEOs than for Google. The raw power of AI might help us overcome challenges from AI Overviews and machine learning-driven algorithm updates.

But the biggest win might be that SEOs can finally make something instead of delivering recommendations. The whole value contribution of SEOs changes because my output can drive results faster.

Survey: ChatGPT and AI Content – Can people tell the difference?

Artificial Intelligence Voice Scams on the Rise with 1 in 4 Adults Impacted


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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