Did you know that your domain can affect your performance on Google?
Although it has been weighed less than it has been in the past, parts of your domain name could contribute to landing new clients on Google.
In this post, I'll explain things to consider when picking a domain name for SEO.
Picking a protocol
You've probably noticed sites use a few different protocols:
They might look basically the same, but only the first and third protocols (the ones with https://) are considered secure. That means if you use "http://," (no "s") your site could be considered a security risk. Web browsers will then alert potential clients that your website is unsafe. I don't know about you, but when my browser warns me that something seems fishy, I click the back button immediately.
This is problematic on its own, but potential clients immediately leaving your site tanks your user engagement signals—and THAT is a ranking factor.
If you have http://, you can easily upgrade to https:// by turning on your SSL certificate. This will look different depending on your website or hosting platform, but don't hesitate to reach out to your customer support team.
Keywords in the domain name
Keywords in your domain name are a ranking factor.
It's not weighed as heavily as it used to be, but keywords in your domain name can establish relevancy.
-- "Having a keyword in your domain name doesn't give you the SEO boost that it used to. But it still acts as a relevancy signal." Brian Dean, Backlinko
In my experience in the therapy space, keywords in the domain name are huge. Google still struggles with differentiating between "counseling," "therapy," "therapist," "counselor," and "psychotherapist," so my clients rank much easier for keywords that match their domain name. For example, a therapy practice name "Kind Counseling" will more easily rank for keywords with "counseling" in the name, like "grief counseling."
For this reason, when I work with my clients, I insist on them choosing a domain name with "counseling," "therapy," "therapist," "counselor," or "psychotherapist" in it.
That being said, avoid matching keywords exactly (e.g., "californiaanxietytherapy.com"). Although it could help you rank well, Google often sees domains that are exactly a keyword (also known as exact match domains, or EMDs) as spammy. In fact, Google released an update in 2012 that penalized websites for using exact match domains.
Your location is technically a keyword.
If you have ambitions of a multi-location group practice across your state, including your city's name in your domain isn't the best idea. But if you want to dominate Google Maps, including your location is a great idea.
And remember: your domain carries authority. You don't want to create a new domain for each location, or else you're starting from scratch authority-wise.
Top-level domains (TLDs) are the endings of domains, such as:
And much, much more. In fact, there are over 1,000 TLDs to choose from!
Within these top-level domains, there are a few different types. I'll explain generic top-level domains (gTLDs).
These TLDs use keywords—for example, atlantic.boats or farmers.market.
According to Google, "keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search." I'm reluctant to trust Google's word, and I haven't experimented with it myself. However, I think a gTLD could also establish relevancy, which signals to Google that you're in the therapy space. P.S. I checked, and .therapy isn't an option 😩.
Although they allegedly don't affect rankings, avoid spammy TLDs, like .biz or .info. Your website may not be spammy, but a lot of other spammy websites do use those TLDs. If it doesn't alert Google, it could alert potential clients.
Although we might think that hyphens help pronunciation (e.g. "holistic-therapy.com"), they don't help people find your website.
Remember that you will likely be sharing your domain verbally. Telling people to visit "healing dash therapy dot com" will likely get lost in communication. Most people don't assume hyphens are in a domain name, so potential clients might end up on the wrong site.
For this reason, I recommend purchasing domains that are easy to say (e.g. I have one "marketyourpractice.today") that you use on business cards, mention on podcasts, and share with loved ones to easily spread the word. You can then forward these domains to your actual website.
Additionally, consider purchasing similar sounding domains, misspellings, or alternate TLDs if they're cheap. This will help catch all traffic.
Easy to remember, easy to type, and easy to say
"Because of search engine's growing reliance on accessibility and usability as a ranking factor, the easier a domain (or URL) is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines." -- Moz
Like I mentioned, usability is a ranking factor.
If your domain is easy to remember, type, and say, you're on the right track.
Remember that your domain should be your business name. That means that your business name should be easy to remember, type, and say too. If you need tips on choosing a business name, you can read my post on therapy practice names.
Did this help?
I hope this post helps you pick a domain name for your therapy practice. I know that it's a big decision, and when it comes to SEO, it's an important one!