You may have heard that custom domains are an important part of attracting customers and enhancing your search engine optimization (SEO). But what is domain mapping, and what impact does it have on your brand and agent website? Let’s start with the basics:
What is a Custom Domain?
A custom domain is the name you see in the search bar when viewing a website. There are two parts to a custom domain you will have to consider when deciding what to name your website.
A Top-Level Domain (TLD) is the extension after your chosen name. The most common and well-ranked ones are .com, .org, and .net. There are many other choices available, including area-specific ones like .us (United States) and .tx, but these are usually restricted to the use of government and state entities.
A Second-Level Domain (SLD) is the name you’ll pick to brand yourself and your website with. It may be as simple as your name, a reflection of your geographic location, or a moniker relating to your profession. As you’ll probably find, there are many domain names already being used; this means you may have to get creative when selecting an SLD.
Mapping Vs. Forwarding
Mapping a custom domain involves editing the domain name system (DNS) settings to convert domain names into numeric IP addresses. This allows users who type a domain name into a URL box to be sent to the correct IP address (your website) through web servers.
Forwarding and masking differs from domain mapping in that the underlying website name can differ from what a user enters in a URL box. Someone trying to reach example.com would be forwarded to example2.com instead. This is a good option to redirect traffic from an old domain to a new one, but you should consult with your domain provider to make sure the forwarding server your domain is hosted on is up to the task before making any changes to your DNS settings.
Masking covers the underlying name of the webpage, including individual pages. Instead of seeing example.com/testimonials-by-customers, you would only see example2.com. This reduces keywords on your website and can hurt overall SEO because Google and other search engines cannot pull specific keywords from individual page URLs. All your hard work producing quality content could be squandered if the information cannot be pulled in web search results!
What Domain Names are Allowed by TREC?
As of May 15, 2018, TREC will not allow certain terms to be used in advertisements and marketing materials that may mislead consumers to believe a sales agent is working independently of, or is in charge of operating a brokerage. Team names cannot contain terms that imply that the team is offering brokerage services independent of the broker and must end with the terms ‘team’ or ‘group’. They cannot use the words (including, but not limited to):
Titles that cannot be used in email addresses and domain names (including, but not limited to):
TREC recommends to, “reference subsection (d) before placing an ad or ordering new signage to ensure your advertisements do not resemble any of the examples of misleading advertisement given in the rule.”
Does a Custom Domain Ensure Success?
Just like business cards, email signatures, and signage, branding matters in SEO and web marketing. A custom domain is often easier to remember, refer, and lends credibility to your business. In fact, relevance and branding are some of the ways Google ranks webpages. But don’t rely too heavily on your domain name to get a good SEO ranking--Google continues to develop its algorithms to weed out unhelpful websites that use keyword stuffing in their domains to get high search rankings. Websites with valuable, unique content will ultimately yield the best results for SEO in the long run, and keep frequent visitors attracted to your website.
Tip: Remember to carefully compare your marketing materials against TREC’s new advertisement rules to make sure they are compliant. If you have branding materials, including a domain name, that will no longer be compliant as of May 15th, be sure to transition them now to ensure you are protected from fines.
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