Is your business URL-savvy?

News that the holiday.com domain may sell for £21 million clearly shows how important it is to consider your business’s URL when attracting customers. Other crucial factors include deciding how to structure your website, with the domain name, suffix and URL structure all vitally important.

Choosing a domain name

Jonathan Allen, search and social marketing specialist and co-founder of digital marketing agency L&T (Longneck and Thunderfoot), says that choosing your domain name and URL structure are extremely important considerations, but these two decisions affect your business in different ways.

“When choosing your domain name, you need to think more about accessibility than simply an SEO benefit,” says Allen. “Firstly, choosing a good generic domain like holiday.com is important if you want to generate type-in traffic – namely from people guessing the relevant domain and typing it directly into the browser bar.

“There is a surprising amount of type-in traffic that does not go through search engines, and proof of that is in the monetisation provided by domain parking companies. If it didn’t generate money, we wouldn’t see so many people doing it!”

However, exact-match domains are not as powerful in terms of SEO as they used to be, Allen explains. Unless you buy “a long parked exact-match domain” – one that was registered a while ago and had some optimisation before being acquired, or had a history of an old site on it – you’re unlikely to see a page-rank surge straight away.

Before you consider just using your company name as the domain, which has little value apart from branding, consider choosing something memorable, easy to read and easy to type. The shorter it is, the more likely it is you’ll be able to generate some branding benefit on social media.

“Recently, there’s been a trend towards domain names that almost say something, like get[productname].com or some similar two-word phrase. I would say these are good domains to choose as they are more memorable to previous visitors than every possible permutation of a company name.

“Nonetheless, I would still recommend buying the permutations of your company name as well and pointing them at the core domain as you do want to capture any type-in traffic you might get and, perhaps more importantly, defend against people cloning your site or other nefarious activities.”

Domain name suffixes

In recent years, domain name endings, or suffixes, have risen in popularity as the internet becomes saturated with .com, .co.uk and other country-based suffixes. Many of these suffixes are designed to have a specific purpose, so .org identifies a site as a governmental organisation and .edu an educational establishment.

Recently, cities have been rolling out their own domain suffixes too, designed to advise the visitor that the company is a local one. The suffix .london was introduced at the beginning of September and UK capital-based companies are snapping their localised online presence up at an alarming rate. However, using a non-location-based suffix may not have the visibility you’re looking for.

“On search engines, suffixes are more or less rendered the same. This means that you are generally better off going for a .com or, if you want to rank higher in local results, a local suffix. Nonetheless, new trendy domains like .ly, .co and .io do tend to rank well as they have become internet culture indicators. There’s an unwritten assumption that a .ly or .co are businesses that are social tools while a .io domain has recently become associated with big data and APIs.”

Does URL structure matter?

URL structure (namely, the folder structure of files that sits beyond the trailing slash of your domain name) is an important consideration not only for SEO, but also for usability and web analytics. It’s something that should be thought about during the preliminary stage of your website build.

The BBC captures a lot of type-in traffic by using obvious section URLs, such as /news/ or /sport/, but by retaining the section folder in the URL for stories (e.g. /news/story-URL) they are easily able to compare the performance of content by section, and also even by article type – a crucial ingredient in the analytics process.

You may also choose to include the date in your URL as Google’s indexing system focuses heavily on recent, quality content.

What’s the perfect recipe for URL success?

If you’re seeking an effective, searchable URL and want to glean as much SEO benefit from it as possible, you need to carefully consider how you want people to arrive at your website and whether you want to rank in search engines.

Making a URL simple and ensuring you monitor the way Google indexes sites based on URL structure and reliability of information can have positive effects on how well your site performs.