First Steps to a Successful SEO Plan – Purchasing a Domain Name
I’ve decided to start a series on First Steps to a Successful SEO Plan for SEO DIYers. This series is based on my On-Page SEO checklist so if you have the checklist then you will see the direction this series of blog posts will take. You can download this SEO checklist for free by going over to my home page.
As with any well-executed plan you have to…well….plan. The early strategies of SEO include trying to determine what keywords are relevant to your website and business.
Finding the best keywords are important early on because you will use this to determine what domain to purchase for your website. I always recommend a business chooses one of two methods for deciding on a domain to use.
You can choose to go the branding route (the name of the business or your name) or you can choose to use a domain that reflects relevant keywords. I chose to go with branding over relevant keywords however I purchased some relevant keyword domain names along the way.
Don’t be fooled by so called SEO Experts that tell you not to focus on keywords. While the method of focusing on keywords has changed over the last few years you still need to know how potential clients will find your business. We’ll get into all the details you have to use to find your relevant keywords in a later blog post but for now, let’s discuss how to determine the best keywords for your business website.
How Do You Determine Relevant Keywords?
There are numerous tools available on the internet to do keyword research. We’re going to start with the Google Keyword Planner. To use the Google Keyword Planner you will need to create an AdWords account but don’t worry, you don’t actually have to run any ads.
For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to use a baker that specializes in cupcakes and has a food truck. There are a few ways to research relevant keywords.
- Start with a keyword in mind. If you have an idea of how people are searching for your type of business use this to see what Google comes up with. In the case of a bakery, I would also set the location to your local geography, unless you also deliver to other places. You can also conduct a survey using Google Surveys or Survey Monkey. Market Research is always a good idea when determining things like how will people find your product or service.
As you can see from my results for keyword “cupcakes” in Connecticut there are 2400 searches for “cupcakes” per month in Connecticut. This is based on a 12-month average. You will also note that Google gives you other related keyword terms and their search volume.
Now using “cupcakes” for your keyword is going to be very challenging so you will have to research competitors to see what you will be up against. It’s best to try to find something a little more specific like “Gourmet Cupcakes in CT”.
Using the keyword planner you will see that this only yields 10 searches per month in Connecticut. Let’s remove the “in CT”. Google says there are 40 searches per month for “Gourmet Cupcakes” within Connecticut.
At this point, you still have a lot more research to do but I want to point out that a quick domain search on GoDaddy reveals that gourmetcupcakes.com is not available but gourmetcupcakes.net is. You’re might think that you would rather have the .com or that you can’t compete with the .com but a little more research reveals that gourmetcupcakes.com is not being used. That means there is no competition when it comes to using “Gourmet Cupcakes” as a Top Level Domain (TLD).
Back to our research
Alright, so we have determined that the keyword “Cupcakes” is a good option as far as search volume but likely has a lot of competition. We have also determined that “Gourmet Cupcakes” has far less search volume and less competition.
- What’s the Trend? Now go to Google.com/Trends and plug in the keywords we already researched in the Google Keyword Planner.
We’ll start with “cupcakes”. Change the geography to the United States and try different time frames. Using 5 years reveals the number of searches for cupcakes has steadily declined over the last 5 years.
Scrolling down further will show you how the searches break down by the state. You will notice that Connecticut is number 9.
Scroll down even more and you will see related searches. This is where you may find a keyword that works better than just cupcakes. “Cupcakes Near Me” is listed as a breakout. Clicking on this query reveals that this keyword phrase has rapidly grown over the last few months.
“Cupcakes Near Me” doesn’t really make a great business name but it is an option. The .com was already purchased but is not in use. Cupcakesnearme.net is a premium domain and GoDaddy is listing it at $19,500 so this is probably not an option for most. Cupcakesnear.me is available and at normal domain prices (as of this writing).
“Gourmet Cupcakes” has no search volume shown on Google Trends so this will likely not be an option. Let’s continue to focus on “cupcakes”.
- There is Competition. Using the Google Keyword Planner we can also check to see what your competition is using for keywords on their site. Additionally, you can use Ahrefs, Spyfu or SEMRush to check on your competition. You can learn where they rank for specific keywords, backlinks and more. Each of these tools allows you to use them on a limited basis or try it out before you commit so figure out which is the best for your needs.
One of the features of all these tools is the ability to “spy” on competition or similar sites to see what they are using for keywords, the value of those keywords and search frequency.
Using Spyfu (free option) I put in the Sugar Bakery’s website. I can now see that they are not doing and advertising on Google 5 of their top keywords. Of the 5 keywords only one relates to cupcakes and that’s flower cupcake. I can now see what the suggested bid price for this keyword, their ranking for it and the search volume for it. This information helps me to determine if this is a good domain name option.
There are two other things to check regarding whether or not Flower Cupcake is a good option beyond the information above. First is it available, and second is it relevant to what your cupcake shop is about.
A quick search reveals the .net is available. Even though the .com is not available it is not being used therefore your SEO will be a little easier.
- Purchase Your Domain. Enough hemming and hawing. You’ve done the research. It’s time to make a purchase. I referenced GoDaddy a few times but there are other reputable domain sellers. Google, Network Solutions, and Register to name a few. You don’t have to necessarily buy from GoDaddy.
It’s really a combination of determining the best keyword for your business site and what works best with your branding plans. This post should not be used in any part to make a branding decision. It should be used to ensure you are purchasing a domain that is going to work best for your business.
When you purchase your domain you should also purchase for multiple years. It’s a small factor but Google does look at the length of registration and tends to favor registrations of one year a lot less than multiple years. You can usually get a discount for purchasing for multiple years as well.
One thing I should mention here that has nothing to do with SEO. Do not allow a web designer, SEO or anyone else to purchase a domain or hosting under an account that is not yours. I have seen all too often a business lose their web site and domain because they let the person building the site purchase everything under their own account. If you let someone else buy the domain and hosting on an account that is not yours, you risk losing all of it.
Based solely on this research I would have gone with cupcakesnear.me. You may decide to use more of a branded name and that is fine. I will say this much if you purchase a branded name like I did you should rank number one on Google for that name. If you search Scott Gombar on any of the major search engines you see that my site is number one and that other properties that I control are on the first page of Google. This is good SEO.
I should also mention using Google Alerts will allow you to continue to monitor your selected keyword(s) for ideas and opportunities. This is also part of brand monitoring for some companies.
Make sure you come back for the next step in my 10 part series First Steps to a Successful SEO Plan. Sign up for the newsletter to stay in touch.