This is a continuation of a series of website marketing checklists. Check out all Web Marketing Checklists in this series.

What this is about: This checklist covers various aspects of the domain and site URL structure, how they should be used and how to ensure proper site and browser functionality.

Why this is important: The domain name is part of the identity of your business. The URL chosen can have a significant impact on brand identity and in a lesser extent, keyword ranking performance. However, how your site domain name and page URLs function can have significant impact on the crawlability of the site as well as overall visitor and traffic performance.


What to look for:

  • Short and memorable: Keep primary domain name short and, if possible, something easy to remember.
  • Uses Keywords: Use targeted keywords in your business name, and therefore domain name.
  • Used in email addresses: Don't use free email accounts for business, rather use your business domain name for all business communications.
  • Uses Favicon: Make sure your favicon shows in the address bar (create one if you must.)
  • redirect to www. version: Set a canonical URL and be sure the other version 301 redirects. redirects to or vice versa
  • Alternate Domain redirects: Make sure all alternate domain names 301 redirect to the primary domain to prevent potential duplicate site issues. redirects to
  • Home page redirects to root: Your Home Page should be accessible from the domain root only, not the page file name. redirects to
  • No underscores in filenames: Don't use underscores in filenames, go with hyphens instead.
    No: /battery_chargers.html
    Yes: /battery-chargers.html
  • Keywords in directory names: Use keywords in directory names wherever applicable.
    No: /category2568/product8954.html
    Yes: /battery-chargers/samlex-24v.html
  • Multiple pages per directory: Don't create directories for a single page but organize directories so multiple pages fit in a single directory.
    No: honda-chargers/honda-chargers.html, yamaha-chargers/yamaha-chargers.html
    Yes: chargers/honda.html, chargers/yamaha.html
  • Registered for 5+ years: Keep your domain name registered for 5-10 years at a time, rather than renewing year to year.
  • Multiple versions: Purchase multiple versions of your domain name, including .com, .org, .net, .biz, hyphenations between words, common misspellings. Also purchase alternate domain names such as product names, brand names and any other keywords that might be typed in randomly.


Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


This is a great checklist! I'm curious what you think about hyphenated domain names, i.e. if is taken. It's getting harder to find sensible domain names that aren't already taken.

@ SEO Diva I'm not a fan of hyphenated domains unless you already own the non-hyphenated version. The reason for this is because it requires a whole lot of extra effort to "brand" that hyphen into someones mind. If you tell the m the domain name verbally there is a good chance they'll forget to add the hyphen by the time they get to a computer. Now you've just driven them to a competitor!

Matt Cutts has said for some time, hyphens and under-scores are treated the same way by Google.

I have a how-to on setting up a site so it redirects correctly (i.e. home page redirects and non-www to www). For apache servers only since it uses the htaccess file.


@ Markus but there is still the usability issue of it. Lots of reasons not to use underscores beyond search engines.

@ Doug Good tutorial. Here are a couple more:

Wow. What a great post and a great checklist. I save it for future reference. Thanks for a great informative post :)

Anyone who needs a keyword stuffed URL (domain name) to rank well is not really much of an SEO...

Brand trumps search engine rankings everyday that ends in Y and twice on Tuesdays!

htaccess should be modified to resolve to the absolute URL (http://www.) never the relatives.

Underscores rank at # 1 for highly competitive terms as well as hyphens....

Good advice on domain registration length...serves me well and always lets me beat competitors too cheap to extend.

Clean coding. Validated if possible.

Sites on their own servers located in the proper country will help as well.

@ clint I'm not sure this article is necessarily geared toward SEOs but rather to business owners. Even still businesses get bad advice or partial information and believe something is true when it's not. Underscores are more of a usability issue than SEO. The world doesn't revolve around SEO. :) You've made some other really good points, though I'm not sure what you mean by "never the relatives" in regard to the .htaccess file.

@Stoney says use hyphens not underscores
@markus says that Matt Cutts says hyphens andunderscores are trated the same by Google
@clint says URLs with underscores rank # 1 in Google

What matters to those wondering whether or not to use a hyphen or an underscore is.... what difference does it make? Answer that, please.

What Matt Cutts says is not always true. Go ahead and do searches with hyphens and underscores and see for yourself what someof the differences are.

The fact that URLs with underscores hold the #1 position is irrelevant... unless you can show that the underscore had anything to do with the ranking (or the lack of a hyhen, or whatever).

I say use hyphens as a word separator. As an experienced SEO I have plenty of good reasons for saying that. You, however, can do whatever you want.

Google has only recently gotten around to treating hyphens and underscores the same and last I heard Cutts said they were very close to being treated the same. But Google isn't the only engine to worry about.

The single best reason not to use underscores is for the usability reasons. Hyphens are easier to type in and to see in underlined links than underscores. It's simply a matter of making things easier for your visitors. Sure, if the link is clickable who cares, right? and that's fair enough, but good URLs should still be easier to type in.

Ultimately, it probably isn't worth this much of a debate.

Thanks for the article!, So the number of years a domain name is register affects how Google and other see your website?

@ directory - it certainly can come into play when Google is determining whether your site is spam or comparing relative value. If you renew it year to year it shows you don't have much confidence in your longevity.

Clean URL's, free from session ID's, department ID's etc

Ah... one important point to remember. When buying up all those domains, 301 them to your marketed domain name. and to

Hi, your last point purchase multiple that for branding reasons or is there an SEO reason for that (I can't see how there would be).
Also, what about country domains for international companies? If they have .com, do they need .de,, .fr etc?

@ smonnes - purchasing additional domains is smart mostly for reputation management, but it can also be done for branding reasons. There really are no SEO reasons for doing so.

If you are building sites targeting a specific region then it's best to get a domain with the proper domain extension.

We are redesigning our website and have been advised to change our URL to one that includes significant keywords and is also hyphenated--(premise being it will increase traffic from search engines), and to redirect our existing domain name to the new one. What's your opinion?

If your site has been around a while and has some history behind it then I'd recommend against changing the URL for the sake of getting keywords into it. On the other hand, if the URL needs to change then no better time then go find a good URL that reflects what you do better.

I'd avoid URLs with hyphens as those are not user friendly at all.


Is this a good idea to redirect (301 redirection) all multiple versions of my domain name, .org, .net, .biz etc to the main domain .com ?


@ Sumanta - I would, yes.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist for Domain Names and URLs