Domain names play a crucial role in determining the success of a website. The domain name is often the first interaction a user has with a brand online, and it can significantly influence whether or not a user clicks through to visit the website. Studies have shown that domain names impact click-through rates in search engine results pages. The domain name sends signals to users about the website’s trustworthiness, relevance, and professionalism. An effective domain name can boost clicks and conversions, while a poor domain name can deter users.
This article will examine how various elements of domain names influence click-through rates. It will look at the impacts of domain name length, brandability, keywords, extensions, and age on CTRs. It will also discuss best practices for optimizing domain names and evaluating domains during the website planning process. Understanding these dynamics is key for digital marketers looking to maximize the traffic driven through their domain names.
Domain Name Length
One of the first considerations with domain names is length. Generally speaking, shorter domain names tend to perform better than longer ones. This is because they are easier to remember, easier to type, and take up less space in ads or organic listings. According to Moz’s ranking factors survey, 65% of digital marketers say shorter domain names positively influence rankings.
Studies have found direct correlations between domain name length and click-through rates. One study by online ad platform ActiveNetwork looked at click-through rates for 7.5 million domain names across four major ad networks. It found that 5-7 letter domains had click-through rates 58% higher than domains with 12 or more characters. Another study by keyword research tool Ahrefs analyzed organic search data and found 3-word domains had click-through rates nearly 3 times higher than 6-7 word domains.
The takeaway is that marketers should aim for shorter, more concise domain names when possible. Brand names with just one or two words work best. Avoid overstuffing domains with multiple keywords or phrases. While longer domains will still get clicks, keeping domain names short and memorable will improve click-through rates.
The brandability or brand strength of the domain name also impacts click-through rates. Domain names that reinforce the brand or align with the company identity make stronger impressions on users. Visitors will be more likely to remember these domains and associate them with quality websites.
For example, apple.com is a highly brandable domain that aligns perfectly with the Apple brand. This simple, recognizable domain drives higher click-through rates compared to a longer, generic domain like bestelectronicsllc.com. Even when users don’t know the specific website, brandable domains signal authority and legitimacy.
Strong brand names that work in the domain name should be prioritized. Made up words, prefixes and suffixes, and unique yet short spellings also contribute to brandability in domains. These types of domains perform better than over-optimized, keyword-heavy domains. While keywords still matter, establishing a brandable domain will pay off in higher CTRs long-term.
While brandability is ideal, most businesses cannot get a domain name that exactly matches their company or product name. In these cases, working relevant keywords into the domain name can maximize click-through rates. Domains that contain keywords highly relevant to the website’s content theme tend to see higher click-through rates.
For example, a website about juicing and juicers is better served with a domain like juicemakerhub.com compared to genericdomainsite.com. When users search around that topic and see domains with relevant keywords, they recognize those sites are more likely to have the answers they need. Sites with unrelated domains require more inferences or research to assess if they actually match the topic.
Care should be taken to avoid over-optimizing with keywords though. Domains stuffed with multiple keywords come across as spammy. Ideally keywords should flow naturally in short domains of 2-3 words. Research tools like Google Keyword Planner can help identify high-traffic keywords to consider working into a domain name. Just be sure not to sacrifice brandability by over-indexing on keywords alone.
The domain extension – .com, .net, .org, .biz, etc. – also factors into click-through rates. Statistical studies have found subtle but significant differences in CTR performance across top-level domains. In general, .com domains see the highest click-through rates.
A 2020 study of domains on the first Google search results page found .com domains had an average CTR of 14.3%, compared to 13.2% for .net and 12.1% for .org. This is likely because .com is the default association most users have for websites. Sites with .com domains appear more established, while alternate extensions like .info or .site are associated with less professional or lower-budget websites.
With the expansion of domain extensions in recent years, there are now many more options like .blog, .guru, .club, etc. However, .com remains the clear leader for click-through rates, so marketers should try to secure the .com version of their desired domain where possible. Other extensions may work, but .com still has an edge.
How long a domain has been registered also contributes to click-through rates. Older, more established domains tend to outperform newer domains. This is because users associate website age with authority and trust.
Analysis by Moz found domains registered more than 2 years ago have nearly 150% more search traffic than domains registered less than 2 years ago. Another study found domains older than 10 years have click-through rates nearly 4 times higher than domains younger than 10 years.
This aligns with broader search engine ranking factors – website age is seen as a signal of reputation. Older domains have had more time to build citations, backlinks, content, and other trust markers that search engines reward. While marketers shouldn’t artificially age new domains, it is worth keeping domain age in mind when evaluating new domains. Allowing enough time for a domain to age can contribute to higher organic CTRs over time.
Best Practices for Domain Names
Based on the above research, below are some best practices for selecting and optimizing domain names:
- Favor short, concise domains – Single words and 2-3 word domains see higher CTRs. Avoid overstuffed, lengthy domains with multiple keywords.
- Make domains brandable – Create domains that reinforce brand identity and align with company/product names when possible. Unique made up words and spellings can also boost brandability.
- Work in relevant keywords – Domains with keywords matching the site’s core topic and offerings convert better. Just don’t overdo it on keywords.
- Secure .com version of domains – .com domains consistently see higher click-through rates, so this extension should be prioritized if available.
- Allow new domains to age – Older domains with more history perform better. Marketers should be patient and let new domains age rather than constantly changing domains.
- Check click-through data – Use analytics to evaluate domain performance over time. Review competitors’ domains for benchmarks as well.
- Be consistent – Avoid changing domains unnecessarily once established. Consistency reinforces reputation and helps accumulate trust markers like backlinks.
Evaluating domains based on these CTR factors will enable marketers to make data-driven decisions. But it’s also important to revisit and confirm domains are still optimizing click-through rates once launched. Use analytics to monitor traffic and fine-tune domains over time as needed.
Evaluating Domain Names
When researching and comparing domain name options during the website planning process, there are several steps marketers can take to choose the optimal domain:
- Brainstorm keywords – Use planning tools to build a list of relevant keywords for the website based on topics, products, services, etc.
- Check availability – Plug keywords into a domain registrar to identify available .com domain options.
- Compare brandability – Evaluate which domains align closest with the brand name or identity. Made up words can also work.
- Assess keyword optimization – See which domains incorporate keywords naturally without over-optimizing.
- Search for competitors – Search for competitors’ domains to compare against for ideas.
- Evaluate age – See how long domains have been registered for based on public WHOIS records.
- Search rankings – Search domains in Google to see if they have any history of rankings.
- Check traffic stats – Use tools like SEMrush to see if domains have traffic histories.
- Get objective feedback – Ask others for input on which domains they find memorable and descriptive.
Following this process will help marketers make data-backed decisions in choosing domains primed for higher click-through rates. Don’t fall in the trap of over-optimizing domains with excessive keywords. The ideal domain balances brandability, brevity, and keyword relevance.
Domain names play a profound yet often underestimated role in driving website click-through rates. Factors like length, brandability, keywords, age, and extension all influence how likely users are to click on a domain in search results or advertisements. Marketers who optimize their domain names for click-throughs are rewarded with higher qualified traffic volumes.
Understanding the dynamics around domain name optimization enables more strategic planning when launching new websites or products. It pays to research multiple domain options and intentionally select the one positioned to convert the most clicks. Over time, domains with strong click-through rates accumulate authority, trust, and traffic velocity. By making CTR optimization central to the domain selection process, marketers give their websites the best chance for search visibility and user growth.