Should my domain name include my location? This is a question raised by some of our B2B clients when they are considering updating/rebranding their domain names. Here is a quick rundown of things to consider.
To Change or Not to Change
Before deciding whether to put your location into your domain name, think very carefully about changing your domain at all.
If you’ve had your domain for a long time (e.g., 5-10 years), this is very favorable for SEO (search engine optimization), because Google puts great trust in well established domains.
If you have an old domain with a strong link profile (i.e., lots of links coming into your domain from authoritative sites), changing it can reduce your rankings. Even if 301 redirects are used from the old domain to the new, Google will discount part of the link value, unless you go to each site linking to yours and get them to update the link to your new domain. Here’s a helpful 6-minute video from Google’s Matt Cutts that goes into detail on this and related domain change issues.
On the other hand, if you have an old domain with a weak link profile — not uncommon for B2Bs — a change in domain will not hurt too much from an SEO standpoint.
Location versus Branding in Domains
If you’re ready to move forward with a domain change, the next step is to evaluate tradeoffs between geo-targeting and branding. In many B2B niches, a domain that expresses a strong brand has much greater market value than one that attempts to exploit a location for SEO purposes. For example, put yourself in the shoes of a CFO for a major corporation. Which accounting firm would you be more likely to be interested in:
If brands are important in your niche, it’s crucial for your domain to emphasize your brand. On the other hand, if your new business development is heavily reliant on organic search traffic, then SEO, and perhaps local targeting, takes on much greater importance. Trying to get the best of both worlds, a strong brand and geography, seldom works, in that extremely long domain names are undesirable. (You’ll see links at the end of this post to articles that cover this and other domain naming best practices.)
Best Case: When Branding and SEO Meet
Local search optimization and branding sometimes go hand-in-hand. For instance, a local accounting firm will have trouble competing against national firms for the top spots in organic search — and yet, the local firm’s best potential client is a local business. So, a domain like www.JonesAccounting.com is weaker in terms of SEO and branding than www.JonesAccountingMemphis.com.
If location is a big persuader in your niche, then adding a location to your domain is almost always a promising strategy. (By the way — the overall value of domain names in SEO has dropped over the years. This is another reason why branding trumps SEO as a strategic consideration in most cases.)
Don’t Let Location Be a New Business Roadblock
Even if location is a big persuader, remember I said “almost always.” There are cases when adding a location to a domain can be limiting. For example, we work with several clients who do a lot of business in a particular geography, but have enough business in other markets that they would not want to turn away remote prospects by “over-branding” their domain.
In addition, think long term. Is it possible your local business might become regional in the next five years? Might your regional business become national or international at some point? Many businesses have suffered multiple domain change headaches because their domains weren’t scalable.
Helpful Domain Naming Links
- 12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name
- How to Select a Great Domain Name for Your Company
- How to Choose a Search Friendly Domain Name
OVER TO YOU
Do you have domain pain? How are you trying to address it?