Design & Dev Tools

Google’s Advice on Domain Names

Google’s “Search Off the Record” is a monthly podcast for behind-the-scenes looks at the company and its inner search workings. In last month’s episode, Google veterans John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Martin Splitt addressed domain names and their impact on organic search rankings.

Here are a few takeaways.

Screenshot of "Search Off the Record" web page.

Google’s “Search Off the Record” is a monthly podcast.

No Rankings Impact

The Google team emphasized domain names are a business decision with no direct impact on organic search rankings. Choosing a domain name is the first and most important step in starting a site because it reflects a brand’s identity.

Moreover, Google says it ignores keywords in a domain. But I’ve seen many weak websites that rank well seemingly because they have keywords in the domain. I suspect this is because people often link to websites using the domain name as an anchor text. The keywords appear in the link text of external backlinks, and Google still seems to use keywords in anchor texts as a strong ranking signal.

Nonetheless, brand-focused domain names are best in my experience, for these reasons:

  • Consumers remember brand names, which improves direct traffic, cross-channel engagement, and more. Thus a recognizable domain reduces reliance on organic search.
  • In time, brand names become entities, elevating trust from Google.
  • Domain names appear at the top of organic search listings. Click-throughs will increase as a brand name becomes recognizable.

In short, brand-focused domain names are long-term investments. A keyword-rich domain means prioritizing organic search over other channels and, potentially, long-term growth.

Beware ‘Coming Soon’ Pages

Google’s John Mueller advises against letting Google access your “Coming soon” page because once Google crawls an empty page, it may not crawl it in the foreseeable future, if ever.

“Coming soon” pages are useful for marketing to generate buzz and raise interest among prospects. But block those pages from Google via a Robots.txt file.

‘WWW’ Prefix

Including the “World Wide Web” prefix in a domain in another longstanding SEO debate. Google doesn’t care if the prefix is there, provided the use is consistent. Pick a version and then redirect the other to it.

And be sure to claim both URLs in Search Console. Better yet, add a DNS record to that domain at your registrar for both versions (“www” and not) and both protocols (“https” and “http”).

Use Structured Data

This was not discussed in the episode, but it’s included in Google’s documentation and relevant to choosing domain names. Google shows site names in search results. When it doesn’t know the site’s name, Google will show the domain.

To help Google know your site name, use the “WebSite” schema structured data type that includes your site’s home page and name. Here’s example code from Google.

<title>Example: A Site about Examples</title>
<script type="application/ld+json">
"@context" : "",
"@type" : "WebSite",
"name" : "Example Company",
"alternateName" : "EC",
"url" : "",
"potentialAction": {
"@type": "SearchAction",
"target": {
"@type": "EntryPoint",
"urlTemplate": "{search_term_string}"
"query-input": "required name=search_term_string"

Google’s documentation lists other preferred tactics for brand names:

  • Use a concise, easy-to-read name for your site — e.g., “Google” instead of “Google, Inc.” — to ensure it is not truncated on some devices.
  • Use that concise name across the web, such as on social media, profile pages, and directories.
  • Use one name across your entire site.
Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty
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