You might think your domain name doesn’t have any effect on search engine optimization or conversions. Well…in most circumstances it has a more subtle effect, but in some situations, the effect can be quite dramatic. In this post we first outline some domain name basics and best practices and then we delve into two situations we encountered where messing with the domain name had a huge effect: changing the domain name and changing the domain extension. We start by explaining what a domain name is.
What is a Domain Name?
You are right now reading this post on “stikkymedia.com”. That is a domain name, and it points to a specific address on the internet. A domain name is made up of two parts: the name part, or second level domain (SLD) and the extension or top level domain (TLD. In Stikky Media’s domain, “stikkymedia” is the SLD and .com is the TLD.
The SLD part can have an impact on your branding and visibility. An SLD that is branded, relevant to your business and short are best.
The most common TLD is .com, which stands for commercial. Nearly half of all TLD are .com, but in recent years the number of extensions has exploded. For the longest time alternative TLDs such as .biz or .info were perceived as spam and some still are.
We do think that things are changing. Alternative TLD, called generic TLD (gTLD) are becoming much more common — some are even trending, .tech or .io, for example. Choosing a gTLD that is relevant to your business could offer some benefits; it might make your domain name more memorable and industry-specific and can reinforce or complement your branding.
There are also country specific extensions called ccTLD which are great for local SEO, generating trust and confidence in the brand, but can have a negative impact if you want to expand your reach.
Two mini case studies
How Changing Your Domain Name Impacts SEO
A domain name can hold a lot of authority — especially older names associated with well-respected companies. The trust and respect people have for a company, over time, becomes associated with the domain name. Google’s ranking of the site belonging to the respected domain name reflects that as well and will rank it higher.
So when AAGrapevine — Alcoholic Anonymous’s international journal — moved its store to an unrelated domain after a rebuild in 2018, traffic and sales plummeted almost 60%. This demonstrates the power and authority in a domain name. The effects of changing it can be dramatic.
Stikky Media was hired to migrate the store back to a subdomain of AAGrapevine, so it was once again closely associated with the main authority-holding brand and domain. As a result, after 3 months, users were up 20%, pageviews were up 133% and goal completions were up 24%.
The lesson? Think carefully about changing your domain name. If it is necessary for your business goals, it can be done, but only with strategic preparation.
Read more on the work Stikky Media did for AA Grapevine.
Changing Your TLD
Let’s say you start a small, local business. You don’t envision growing beyond your town. Expanding country-wide is a far-off goal. So you buy a country specific TLD. Here in Canada the ccTLD is .ca., in America it’s .us. Geo targeting in this way takes advantage of the trust people have for things they know; things close to home. People generally have more confidence in home-grown products and services. As well, Google will rank you higher in your own country, so it’s very advantageous for local marketing to use a ccTLD.
But growth happens. You are now bursting to sell beyond your borders. In this case, the country specific TLD is a hindrance. You will find it harder to rank outside the boundary of your ccTLD.
This is exactly what happened to one of Stikky Media’s clients, Health Connection. Health Connection was formerly selling their premium health supplements solely to the Canadian market and their TLD of .ca was sufficient. But their business goals expanded with their business and in 2019 they came to Stikky Media to get help increasing their revenue by expanding into the American market.
As well as implementing a brand refresh and SEO measures, we moved Health Connection onto a .com TLD. They still own .ca, but this domain redirects to .com. Since making this move they have seen huge growth in traffic and sales. The e-commerce conversion rate is up 36%, revenue up 69% and transactions up 62%. It is safe to say that a good portion of these remarkable numbers are due to simply opening up visibility to the American market with excellent products and a beautiful website.
Lesson learned? A TLD can be used strategically to further your business goals. It is also a good idea, when you are buying your domain name, to buy as many extensions as your can, certainly a .com and the country specific TLD for your company’s home, as well. Then you will be covered if your business goals change.
Read more on the work Stikky Media did for Health Connection. We recently helped them earn a record-breaking month of e-commerce revenue this spring and anticipate this trend will continue upward.
To Sum Up
So you can see from the examples above that a domain name can have an important effect on SEO or conversions, depending on your business goals. Of course, the domain name is only one component and often search engine or conversion optimization requires a holistic approach. This was certainly true for Health Connection’s situation, where Stikky Media implemented a multi-pronged strategy to increase their conversion rate. The domain name is, however, an important consideration in a well thought out strategy.
Are you considering a website refresh? Need additional guidance around choosing a TLD and the implications for SEO and conversions? Learn more about our web design and development services. If you have questions, we’re happy to assist.