Domain names (URLs) are inexpensive. You can expect to pay less than $10 per year for one. That makes it relatively easy to own several. For starters, you should own the URL that contains your name as a way to protect your online reputation. However, your personal name probably isn't suitable as your business domain. The URL is important to search engines ranking your website high in the results. For that reason, you want to put serious thought into what you have for your business URL.
One advantage in the real estate industry is that it tends to be a location-specific business. You can use this to your advantage when selecting your business domain name. If your business model is selling rent to own homes, your domain name might include renttoowndenver.com. Your website will appear high in the search results when interested people type in rent to own in Denver.
Many people use their business name as their domain name. This is great for returning customers that are already familiar with your business but it's not useful for attracting new customers. To attract new customers, you want to use a more descriptive domain name. Instead of Williamsinvestments.com, incorporate a description of what your business does. Denvercommericialleasing.com gets the point across to search engines and people that it's a site offering commercial real estate leases in Denver.
Another way to go about this is using the words people type into search engines when they are looking for the services you offer. There is a free online tool called "Google Keyword Planner" that you can use to find related searches and how many people are using similar but different search phrases. For instance, the phrase "rent to own a home" has over 200,000 monthly searches but the shorter phrase "rent to own" has over 600,000 searches.
Shorter is better for domain names in general. Shorter is easier to remember by existing clients. An exception is if you're city has a long name. Also, the easier it is to spell, the easier it will be for people to find you. And don't get tricky with the spelling. It's "renttoown.com." Not "rent2own.com." Few people will remember that you intentionally misspelled it and those that don’t know it will search using the traditional spelling.
Dot com is much better than the other available extensions. People intimately familiar with the internet know that .net, .org, .biz, and other extensions are just as legitimate as .com. However, many people closely associate the internet with .com. If you use something else, your marketing efforts will likely drive traffic to a competitor's site that is using the dot com version of the URL.
Make it short and easy to spell. This is about making it easy for people to remember it and type into a browser. This is about returning customers. Many people type the URL directly into the browser address window to skip the search engine step. Don't make your domain name extra-long by adding adjectives such as "best" or "top-rated.” Save that for other marketing efforts.
Stay away from hyphenated domain names. People forget to put in the hyphens. If your competitor is using denvercommericialleasing.com and you use denver-commercial-leasing.com, you can be sure your marketing efforts are sending customers straight to the competition when they fail to put the hyphens in.
Another great reason to use your business name in the URL is you can put a magnetic sign on your car with your URL that tells readers in an instant both how to find you on the internet and what you're business is about. People easily remember well thought out URLs.
Following these simple rules is only the start to making your real estate website search easy and user-friendly. If you don't think you are receiving all of the internet traffic you should be, you may want to embark on a short research project about making your entire website both user and search engine friendly. A few simple changes can make a big difference in where your domain name shows up in search engine results.
Please comment with your tips for improving search engine results.
Also, our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions, inquiries, or article ideas to [email protected].