A domain is a unique, unique name that provides access to websites on the Internet. She meets everyone who visits a website. In addition to this feature for identifying websites, the domain also has a small, but possibly relevant, meaning in search engine optimization.
Why do domains exist?
Web servers on the Internet can always be reached via their IP address. For example, the IP address of wikipedia.de is 184.108.40.206. For machines, it makes no difference whether a website is accessed by calling up the IP address or via the domain. People, on the other hand, find it difficult to remember longer sequences of numbers. This is why the domain exists: It translates an incomprehensible column of numbers into a term that we can remember. So 220.127.116.11 becomes: wikipedia.de.
According to beautyphoon, domains thus simplify dealing with web servers and thus dealing with the freely accessible Internet in general.
Therefore, people who want to host a website are always asked for the desired domain from the hosting provider. With some types of domains that are in high demand, it can be difficult to get a free domain. Running a website without a domain is practically inconceivable.
Technical procedure for the domain call
As soon as a URL is entered and a website is to be called – let’s stay with the example of wikipedia.de – this request is forwarded to the name server. These web servers only exist to resolve the domain embedded in the URL in order to find out the IP address. Immediately after entering wikipedia.de, the name server responsible for this website is asked. The IP address of this domain is output as a response, which the browser then calls up.
As a rule, users are not aware of this IP assignment. The IP addresses of web servers can be found out quickly with a few commands. However, since they are of no importance to the average user, these user groups usually only come into contact with the domains, but not the IP addresses. There are also websites that allow domain names to be broken down into IP addresses with a single click of the mouse.
Structure of a domain
Domains are divided into several levels, which are structured from back to front within the URL. To illustrate this, we simply take this URL: https://www.example.com.
- The last section is the top-level domain (TLD). In this case it is: .de. This abbreviation is sometimes also referred to as the country code, which is, however, somewhat imprecise, as TLDs without a country reference are also possible (.com,.info,.org and so on).
- The second level domain (SLD) follows immediately and in our case is exampledomain. Website operators can freely select the SLD from their hoster (provided it does not yet exist). At the same time, the SLD offers the greatest potential for making a website linger in the mind of the visitor. Cumbersome SLDs don’t just get stuck in your head.
- In our case, the third-level domain is www. It identifies the address as a web page that can be reached and participates in the free Internet.
Since domains generally follow this rather strict hierarchy, this has a direct impact on SEO. Website operators do not have too much leeway to individualize their website and thus make it interesting for visitors.
The relevance of domains in SEO
Google (and other search engine operators) deliberately do not publish every single factor that is relevant to the search engine’s algorithm. Therefore, it is not 100% known how and in what way domains affect search engine optimization. Nevertheless, we discuss some important points that are likely to be true in the following sections.
Keyword domains: important or not?
Domains that already contained important keywords were once considered more valuable than domains without a keyword. The reasoning behind this seems logical: If the user recognizes what is hidden on the page from the URL (e.g. www.neue-autoreifen.de), this should be a positive feature. However, for a good decade, Google has been proceeding in such a way that on pages of this type the relevance of the content is weighted much more heavily than the name of the domain. Together with the other factors – there are around 200 in number – the result is that keyword domains are not particularly important. Budding website operators should therefore not put keywords in the URL at all costs.
Appearance of the brand in the domain
Representing brands and products in the domain has some positive effects. Users know what to expect and which company they will be in contact with for the next few minutes. This ensures lower bounce rates (since there is already a leap of faith) and probably a longer dwell time. Terms that users can easily remember also strengthen the recognition value. Domains of this kind also contribute to the corporate identity.
But: That does not mean that brands and product names in the domain are also relevant for the search engine algorithm. In the broader context of SEO, however, it can’t hurt to build URLs this way.
A good example of an online shop that sells shoes might be www.schuhe-firmenname.de. When entering the website, users would already recognize that it is a shoe retailer and what the name of this company is. In addition, the shorter the URL, the better. This is also related to the human weakness that it is more difficult to keep longer sequences of letters in mind. The shorter and more concise the URL, the better it is for the visitor and therefore also for the operator.
Meaning of top-level domains
The top-level domain is the end of the URL, for example.de,.com or .org. Here, Google divides the effectiveness of TLDs into two areas:
- A generic ending like.shop,.tourist or.express does not have a positive effect on search engine optimization. This means that it doesn’t matter whether an online shop is called auto-schmidt.express or auto-schmidt.shop, for example. An ending like.com, i.e. an ending without reference to Germany, would not change anything in the Google rating.
- The situation is different for country and region-specific domains..de, for example, is weighted more heavily for searchers in Germany than.fr, the country code for France. This is justified by the fact that German sites are more relevant for searchers from Germany. Even more specific domains (perhaps.nrw or.frankfurt), however, no longer lead to success. Google evaluates these pages as well as.com domains.
If website operators use the national country code, they have in principle already done everything that is possible from an SEO point of view. Optimizations through city-specific TLDs no longer lead to the desired success.
Transparency and age
The identification of the website owner is firmly anchored in the algorithm. This has the following effects: If the owner of a domain has operated other websites in the past that had a very dubious reputation or that may have attracted attention with unsightly practices – such as spam – this will also affect the current website. Anyone who enjoys a good reputation as a website operator should also make this publicly available. Whois queries to identify the owner of a domain should therefore not be blocked – unless privacy is more important than search engine rank.
The age of the domain still has a small share in the ranking. A website that has been established for maybe 15 years and stands for generally good quality is automatically rated slightly better. Google’s confidence that good content will continue to be disseminated via this website in the future is increasing. This is reflected directly in the rating.
But: One should not overestimate this factor. “Fresh” websites – if the content is of high quality – also have the best chances of establishing themselves with the desired keywords. Old age can even be a hindrance if there has been periods of bad content on the domain in the past.
Conclusion: less important than you might think
The domain’s share in search engine optimization is rather low. We would therefore advise you to keep people (and not machines) in mind when choosing the domain. Memorable, concise URLs ensure returning users – regardless of whether they have been optimized down to the smallest detail. Website operators should consider the TLD optimization alone. A.de website in Germany has clear advantages over.co.uk or other endings.