A domain name is included in your URL and it is the name by which Internet users locate your website. For example, the address in the bar at the top of this page starts with badpennyfactory.com — and that is our domain name. The domain name, purchased from a domain registrar, is an important part of your online branding. It may reflect the name of your company, the products or services you sell, or even your location. When someone looks at your domain name, they should be able to tell who you are, what it is you do or what you have to offer.

Before you can do anything with your website, you will need to have a URL associated with it. No one can reach your website without one! Fortunately, domain names are usually very inexpensive, costing only a few dollars a year.

If you are thinking about buying a domain name for your new business or website, you will be faced with some options: Do you choose a long domain or a short one? How will your domain impact a website’s SEO, or search engine optimization? Below we break down a few of these questions so you can shop in confidence and rid yourself of buyer’s remorse.

Web Asset Breakdowns

The domain vs website question is common in SEO, as is URL vs domain name. They’re defined by the following:

  • Domain: The name you register for your online address
  • Website: The pages that visitors see when they enter your domain
  • URL: The address visitors type or click to access your domain and view your site

With those definitions in mind, we can move on to the question of domain name length.

Long Domain Name Benefits

When you’re planning to buy a domain name, you may wonder if the one you purchase should be long or short. There are different advantages to each. We’ll start with long domain names.

Long domain names don’t really prohibit any kind of online sharing as they might have once done: since many popular services (think bitly) now shorten URLs, they don’t take up room in Twitter, or lengthen your share links on Facebook, so there’s no need to worry about your domain being too long. However, best practices state that you should keep your domain name to less than four words. Longer domain names also have a better chance at being unique, especially if they combine words in a different way, so you may have better luck getting your URL of choice registered somewhere.

Are long URLs better than short ones? If you can’t really sum up what your company does in just one word, or if your brand name is a little vague, you may want to purchase a longer URL to better explain your purpose. Let’s say you sell cosmetics products online, and the name of your business is “Pat Tracy.” To make your purpose and store identity a little clearer, you may choose something like pattracycosmetics.com instead of something shorter.

Short Domain Name Benefits

Shorter domain names, usually two words or less or a brand name, also have some very specific advantages. Short domain names are easier to read, since they’re so concise, and they’re also easier to remember. Also, since they take up less room, they are easier to include on any printed material, like business cards or brochures.

Short domains have a better chance at being “catchy,” and are more likely to “stick” in someone’s head. For example, if you choose the simple domain like “ptcosmetics” for your cosmetics store, it’s easier to recall when a previous visitor wants to come back. That ability to stay with someone after they’ve visited your site is a huge leg up for short domain names, particularly when you want to build a relationship with your visitors.

The only disadvantage to a short URL is that they are more likely to be taken already and registered to another user, especially if your brand name isn’t 100% unique or contains a common word or phrase. This may require you to make some creative domain names, or it could even mean that you have to pay a little more for a domain name with a different extension.

What are the SEO benefits of domain names and URLs?

Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines prefer simple, easy-to-understand domains and URLs that deliver what they promise. URLs that are filled with item numbers, special codes, or jargon may actually hurt the ranking for a specific page. This is because a simple URL — like /face/blush/red.html — is far easier for a user to read and understand than a complex one — like /face/ID8247494839/R-34893849/landing-page.html. You know what you’re getting out of that first link.

URLs that are clear and easy to understand at a glance are more likely to be clicked than complicated ones. Additionally, a URL and domain name with clear keywords in it that is provided as a link on a homepage can provide a little bit of a boost, SEO-wise, because it has anchor text in it.

Essentially, the biggest SEO benefits you will get out of a shorter, clearer URLs and domains are from the increased click rate and reduced bounce rate. User experience definitely matters and it impacts SEO in a bigger way than you might expect.

Which is better? Long or short domain names?

Generally speaking, the shorter and more concise your domain name is, the better. A shorter domain name is easier to remember, fits easily on printed material, and is more likely to “stick” in someone’s head so it can be recalled. Also, if you have a creative brand name, a short URL consisting just of your company will be easier to find if someone types it directly into their browser’s address bar. For the most part, a short domain is better.

The long domains vs short argument still exists, however, because there are benefits to all lengths and types of URLs. Not every business will find that a very short URL is viable for them, especially if it doesn’t accurately sum up what they do or what they can offer to customers. Plus, by this point in the Internet’s life, it can be really hard to find a short domain name that isn’t already taken. So in some cases, you may have no choice but to invest in a longer URL.

If you’re interested in learning how Bad Penny Factory can help you choose the best domain for your website and optimize it for Search, schedule a free, quick chat with us to explore program options.