Domain Naming Tips for Businesses

We know that domain names play a big role in search engine rankings. Having a unified domain name to contain all website addresses of related businesses is a wise move because of certain advantages:

Domain Age
The level of trust in a domain name naturally increases as it ages. As the domain continues to exist and websites related to it develops content, the number of sites that link to it increases with time.

Brand Building
The more prominent our domain becomes more prominent, the stronger its brand name becomes.

Better User Experience
When someone finds it difficult to remember a portion of the name of a website, going to that single domain and searching for that information within the domain name becomes an easier task.

Domain Name

Among business that easily benefit this approach are the following:

Hotels
Hotels industry is probably the best example I can give, given the nature of the business where new hotels often get established at new locations and the way search engine users perform their searches.

Peninsula Hotels is one good example. This luxury hotel can be found in less than ten locations such as Hong Kong and Beijing. The way it structures its domain name is that the location comes first as a sub domain then “peninsula.com”. hongkong.peninsula.com continues to promote the Peninsula brand while maintaining a short URL that can easily be remembered.

Using custom domain names isn’t always bad at all. For example, regalhongkong.com and regalkowloon.com are both domains of Regal Hotels’ two hotel locations. A closer examination shows that these domains are redirected their respective addresses within regalhotel.com domain. A 301 redirection should serve this purpose well.

Movies
We have seen domains that use the same format as “[Insert Movie Title]-themovie.com“. I don’t think this is a good idea especially if the website is independent from its parent movie outfit. Others such as The Simpsons and Transformers and more recently Kung Fu Panda also use this format.

The main disadvantage of using this format in my opinion is that once a new domain has been registered, the website has to build link popularity from scratch. I know that most probably, movie critics websites, fans and related sites will link to it so link popularity will not be an issue. But looking further to just benefiting the movie itself, using a “parent” domain to promote the movie will also work in favor of that “parent” domain.

A good example to this is how Sony Pictures does the job. “Hancock” starring Will Smith has a URL of http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/hancock/. While it is also not doing the job very well by creating www.hancock-movie.com that seems to compete with the first one, at least in the future, www.hancock-movie.com can easily redirect to www.sonypictures.com/movies/hancock.

This approach is also extended to TV shows where Internet addresses Seinfeld and 2 1/2 Men sit comfortably from a domain names that are very popular (link and branding).

If the above guidelines are followed, it doesn’t mean that the job is done. URL structure must also be user-friendly. URLs that aren’t user-friendly are also likely to be unfriendly to search engines and Web 2.0 applications. For example, if our URLs have apostrophes (‘), they couldn’t be submitted properly to StumbleUpon thereby losing a valuable opportunity to be visible to a big audience.

URL Types That Must Be Avoided:
1. Changing URLs After Publishing Pages. Sometimes this happens when we think that the URLs of pages we published aren’t too search engine friendly. If somebody submitted it already to Digg using the original URL, the link becomes broken and your pages couldn’t be accessed anymore.

2. Special Characters. Not just the apostrophe but also extra characters such as “%” could be confusing to human users and search engines.

3. Very Long URLs. Sometimes when someone copies the link that is very long, there is a possibility that the copied URL isn’t exactly the same as the original one.

4. URL Canonicalization. This means that there a page can be represented by multiple URLs such as website.com, www.website.com, website.com/index.html, etc. Select one and redirect all the rest.

5. Using default Joomla and Mambo CMS formats. URLs that only have one filename plus a series of parameters such as /page.php?page_id=12&categ_id=35&article_id=6213. This could cause spider traps.

URL Creation Guidelines:
1. Shorter is Better. It becomes easier to copy and remember though they might not be keyword-rich. Strike a balance between the two.

2. Clean Structure. Clean means free from extra characters, long list of parameters and absence of session values.

3. One URL Per Page Rule. If we have a page about a movie genre with listing of films, such as “movies/comedy/” it is a better bet for keywords such as “comedy movies” than pages of individual comedy films such as “movies/shallow-hal/” (ideally targeted for “shallow hal movie”) or “/movies/hitch/” (ideally targeted for “hitch movie)”.

4. No Need For Extra Folders. Blog URLs sometimes use the format “/month/date/blog-title“. They’re not very important and instead they deepen our folder structure without bringing significant benefits.

5. Think About URLs Before Publishing Them. Ideally, these URLs should not be changed once they are set. If it’s unavoidable to do so, ensure to do a 301 redirect from old URL to the new one.