When you pick a domain name for your author or book website, does it matter what you call it? The simple answer is: Yes, it does. Here are five reasons why.
1. Google gives more props to .com branded sites for businesses and exact match brand names
You can’t just go with any . suffix because suffixes, while some may be cheaper than others, do have a meaning in search terms on Google etc. with .com being the overriding brand site taken into consideration by Google.
.com, .net, .org and other website suffixes such as .co.uk are known as “top-level domains” (TLDs). Top-level domains are governed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). These TLDs have been assigned as such:
- .com: Commercial (for-profit) websites (country-specific are co.uk or co.fr fo example.)
- .net: Network-related domains
- .org: Non-profit organizations
- .edu: Educational institutions
- .gov: US government entities/.gov.uk, gov.nz are country-specific
- .mil: US military use
So given that you are a for-profit company (unless you are giving your books away for charity) you should only choose a .com domain name, for instance our website is www.selfpublishingreview.com. If we were www.selfpublishingreview.org, this would suggest we are a not-for-profit organization, such as a charity, and that isn’t really what we would want to present to our members. A lot of “indie” companies have sneakily used .org to look more cottage-led, I guess, but here’s what SEO expert Nate Babbel has to say about .org’s on his blog seo.com:
The .org extension is a very good choice for charity or non-profit sites, this is its most common use. That being said there are successful for-profit sites that use the .org extension. If used correctly the .org can give you a bump in social credence or validation, as internet users could see a .org as a more benevolent site. But you will need to brand the .org with your site name, since as mentioned earlier, .com is the first extension users will assume for any company’s website. As far as google and keyword rankings go, .org’s will do well, though for most profit targeted categories they won’t have as much sway as a matching.com.
Therefore, buying the .org or .net version of your name if the .com is taken may not help your brand as an author at all. If joebloggs.com is a plumber, and you register joebloggs.org/.net because it’s the only one available (or it’s cheaper), you may not get very far if joebloggs.com is a wildly popular celebrity plumber and nothing to do with books. Worse still, what if Joe Bloggs has a book out about his wildly interesting plumbing lifestyle? Suddenly, a web search for “Joe Bloggs Book” will push your results way, way down and off the the first page of Google results – and worse still, Amazon results.
Best to use www.authorjoebloggs.com or throw in an initial “joecbloggs.com.” than lose your.com status. If you saw “joebloggs.org” and “joebloggs.com” which one would you click on?
2. Your website should be a “talking URL” – Google and Bing reward “exact match” URLs
It matters what your website is called because you need people to be able to tell each other the URL. If someone is in a bar telling someone else about the awesome book they are reading, and you have cool content on your website: a subscribe bar or a free download, the easiest URL to remember is going to be the book title or the author name. Don’t call your romance site www.rosesandkisses.com when your book is called “Millionaire Honeymoon by Jane Doe.” Call your website www.janedoe.com or www.millionairehoneymoon.com. Therefore, the point being, don’t scrimp on your website. Don’t have a free site called “janedoe.wordpress.com. or janedoe.wix.com.” Pretend you are drunk in a bar with blaring music, telling someone the name of the website because the book you’re reading is awesome. Does it work? Don’t let it be something your potential reader will wait for on a “text you tomorrow.” Make sure they are looking at the website there and then! Get a paid site for a few dollars a year and learn how to maintain it. It pays you back to have a branded website.
Rand Fishkin, search expert at Moz says in his report on URLs and search engines that,
Exact match domains appear to continue their powerful level of influence in both search engines
- If you’re aiming for exact match, a .com extension is the way to go. Others aren’t nearly as well correlated.
- Bing does seem to appreciate non-dot-com exact matches more than Google, though not tremendously (especially in the case of .org)
3. Your URL needs to be a nice length to become useable – and used
This is a two-pronged fork. Firstly, the human factor. If someone blogs about your book, or shares a link, make sure it’s easy to share and will fit on any link page easily. If a link is massively long, such as “www.janedoesbooksiteforromancebooks.com” it may look and feel untidy on a page where all the other links are “www.johnsmith.com”. Links = search juice and help your visibility on Google pages, so you need these link shares as much as possible to raise your popularity online.
You will also find it easier for sidebar ads and Google ads if your URL fits nicely in the square given. You have 1024 characters for your destination URL on Google Ads, so that means you can send clients to a page far into your site. But for selling a book? I’d go www.janedoe.com/books. It’s just easier to get your head round when looking at a page. Plus, what if you need to run an ad for a competition called the “woollybullybangerboo championships” and your homepage is “www.janedoesbooksiteforromancebooks.com” you’re looking at a Google Ad with a URL that reads, “www.janedoesbooksiteforromancebooks.com/woollybullybangerboo championshipscompetition.” You can of course always use TinyURL to make a unique short URL for the ad, but this takes me onto my next prong.
There is a definite, proven search engine results page (SERPS) advantage to using a straight-to-the-point URL in Google and Bing.
The cool study by Rand Fishkin over at Moz.com I mention above also found,
The data for URL length shows that longer URLs are negatively correlated with ranking well. This isn’t particularly shocking, and it probably is wise to limit the length of our URLs if we want to perform well in the engines.
4. You get a business email with a proper author name on it
The best places for buying website names and hosting are the favorites Bluehost and Godaddy, who both have plugins for WordPress so you can run your site as a hosted WordPress site. If you are not very web-savvy, both companies will set you up over the phone and tell you what to do in the simplest terms. When you set this up, you will also get your own email, for example, “firstname.lastname@example.org” so you can look professional instead of using a Gmail account, or worse, an Outlook or clara.net email as your author email, which remain buggy and full of spam. Both hosting companies provide solid spam assassin style utilities to keep your business email spam-free meaning you can keep the address clear for book queries. And remember to check out these cool coupon codes GoDaddy tends to share everywhere in order to get a massive discount on your purchases.
5. Your branding as an author will have governance
If you end up writing ten books and becoming a successful author, it will be really annoying to tell people, “Oh, I used to have a site called “adventuretimeinfantasyheaven.wordpress.com” but now that’s moved to “www.johnsmith.com.”" Plus, in your naivety, you had no idea how unprofessional and “vanity-published” this bad but handsomely poetic name would look down the line. The trouble with the Internet is that pages linger. Gone are the days of “today’s news, tomorrow’s fish and chip paper” as we say in the UK. Best to get it right first time so that old results don’t pop up showing you up. If this has already happened to you, register your old website on Google Webmaster Tools and use the “Removals” tool to get rid of old pages, and then start building up your new and wonderful URL with plenty of links and shares so that your branding as an author becomes the first port of call for readers looking you up. It’s all about being a rock star author these days, so get on the bandwagon and start treating your career as a writer as a brand.
So when you choose your website’s URL, it’s as important as choosing a baby name. You have to call the website out loud in public places, write it on all official paperwork and tell all your friends what it’s called. Your website has to grow with that name, and make friends and become popular and successful. So treat this process seriously, don’t scrimp the few dollars it takes to get a properly branded .com website.