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I have to choose a domain name for my website among several possible options, and specifically I'm undecided between two of them, which can be identified as belonging to 2 different categories (let's call them A and B):

  • A includes short names (composed by 6 letters); they all are neologisms, in any case they can be pronounced easily and they sound good.

  • B includes longer names (7 letters or more); the advantage is that they correspond to words or compositions of words which do exist in the dictionary (so they can easily grasped maybe...).

Given that my aim is to reach more people as possible and having a good ranking, my question is:

Which is the best choice, between choosing a shorter name, easily pronounceable but unknown, or a more "familiar" one, although it's longer? (1)

(1) (I mean, for instance, with regard to Google ranking is it remarkable that a name is included in a dictionary?)

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You have two opportunities and risks with either. Without knowing specifically what you have in mind, it is difficult to tell you which is better. The answer is dependent upon the terms used or the resulting domain name when whole terms are not used and the performance of the site once created.

I can at least tell you this.

Search engines use ontologies which are databases for a variety of functions such as understanding terms, sentence structures, translation, relating facts, etc. The most basic of these are dictionaries and thesauruses. These have existed since the early to mid 1970s and possibly even earlier. Often within search engines, these ontologies are very extensive and some updated automatically using AI machine learning, and corroboration to understand new terms and their usage.

One of the three original highest value semantic clues that Google recognized was the URL/URI. The full URL/URI is broken into 4 parts; the domain name, the path, the file name, and parameters ranking in importance from left to right. This means that one of the most important semantic clues for what a site is about is the domain name.

Semantics is, at the very least, linguistic analysis to understand the written word. Semantics does recognize full terms using an ontology, however, cannot understand anything that is not in an ontology. This allows search engines to understand a domain name made of full terms rather easily and apply a score to the limited semantic analysis that a domain name can provide. What is important to know is that elements of a webpage including the URL/URI are given a score boost according to value and importance. In this, we already know that the domain name is the most important semantic clue for what a site is about and therefore the domain name is weighted more heavily than almost any other element. This changes only slightly when applying semantic analysis to the title tag on a page by page basis.

For any domain name that is not comprised of terms, the only way that the domain name can gain value is to become a recognized brand. Without getting into the details of branding which is a large enough topic in of itself, branding a domain name is difficult and requires significant signals to begin to move the needle toward inclusion as a recognized brand. Brands are stored into an ontology which once entered, can contain the same value as any term within an ontology.

Of the two scenarios, the fastest and simplest way to have value in a domain name is to use whole terms that exist within an ontology and easily recognized. The caveat I would add is that these terms must effectively signal the topic of the website using semantics in a way that is congruent.

  • thanks. So...I'm comparing a 6-letters and very cool name which doesn't mean nothing and a 15-letters composition of two words (no dashes nor conjonctions, just two words put side by side like "exampletext.com"), the former of which signals the topic of my website: it is worthwile to use this last one, is it right? – franz1 Feb 22 '16 at 22:17
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    @robertalrp Whole terms mean something and will help to rank for searches on those topics. Otherwise, with the other, you will have to wait years to hopefully build a brand which may not happen enough to influence search. Use the whole terms. Effective branding is very slow and not guaranteed. As well, whole terms are far more memorable. Top of mind presence is a significant marketing strategy that people seem to forget about. – closetnoc Feb 22 '16 at 22:25
  • ok... And what about choosing between a two-whole-terms domain whose terms are both semantically congruent and a two-whole-terms domain where only the first term focuses on the topic but is pnonetically more pleasant? – franz1 Feb 22 '16 at 23:19
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    As long as the ontology recognizes the term as being on-topic, that is fine. If it makes sense to you as a reader, then it should also make sense to a search engine. The various ontologies are extremely detailed. As long as you do not go too crazy(!) you should be fine. Cheers!! – closetnoc Feb 23 '16 at 1:49
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When it comes to ranking it's best to focus on the most prefered keyword, other important thing is to keep it simple, in a perfect universe you would use 2 words for your domain, possibly include separator and avoid and in the and so on, if it isn't essential because since domain names are displayed in lowercase it would be sort of confussion for your visitor to see for example hardwareandsoftware.com instead of hardwarensoft.com where let's say hardware is your most prefered keyword. To be honest unsless you don't go for one of those importantlifethings-qwerty.com domains google wouldn't mind it at all, it just needs to make sence, follow the advice of the answer above and you should get to the spot.

P.S. - This is my personal experience and also my user experience.

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