Quick summary: A best practice for your domain name includes a descriptive title that helps people understand what your website is about, rather than an acronym.
Do this: financialaid.ucsc.edu
Don’t do this: fa.ucsc.edu
You want an easy way for your website visitors to find your website, or you have branded a website with a URL that uses an acronym and are concerned about how changing it might affect your search engine optimization.
One of the top considerations with your website should be: How are people going to find the website, so they can use the information on it?
There is a lot of information on the internet, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the top way that people tend to sort through that information is to use a search engine.
When people use search engines, they tend to use language that they already know, or what some might call “natural language.” For example, one might search “how to fix a bicycle.” In that phrase “fix” and “bicycle” are important parts of that search, or what we might call keywords.
- Keywords are important to the findability of your website.
User needs vs business needs
In most cases, your website should help you communicate information with your intended audience, rather than leading a description of the business and services you provide. In other words, your website should be about your user’s needs, and then try to seek balance with your business needs.
An acronym of your business or brand name is a way to shorten what is often a more complex name, which can be very confusing for people who have no familiarity with your business acronym. This should be considered a risk, because it lowers the possibility that people will click through when seeing your business/brand in a search engine, and that means less people might visit your website. (Remember the point is to get people to use the information on your website.)
Similarly, using an acronym as your domain name should be considered a risk.
Wix suggests when choosing a domain name, you should:
- Include keywords
- Keep it short
- Make it easy to type
- Avoid numbers and dashes
- Stay on brand
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines also recommend we design our web experiences using clear words.
- “Remove or explain uncommon acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon.”
Acronyms can be problematic when it comes to language translations and when it comes to creating inclusive experiences. Medium.com notes:
- Acronyms make life harder for new people and slow them down.
- They can make people who don’t know them feel excluded.
- They’re an easy, but unhelpful way to name things.
- They increase cognitive load, which can lead to mistakes and misinterpretation.
Given this information, we at UCSC should look for ways that can best communicate our messaging in inclusive, accessible, and usable ways.
In choosing a domain name consider the following:
- Choose a domain that clearly describes what the website is about.
- If you are worried about losing optimization for search engines by changing a longstanding domain name, consider the potential optimization you might gain with a keyword driven, or easier to use domain name.
- You might have new visitors to your website that don’t already understand your acronyms, and may be confused or not included.
- Before creating a new acronym, think about an alternative — how you might describe the concept in the shortest way possible.
- Do this: music.ucsc.edu
- Don’t do this: mus-art.ucsc.edu
- Do this: genomics.ucsc.edu
- Don’t do this: gi.ucsc.edu
- Do this: history.ucsc.edu, or historydepartment.ucsc.edu
- Don’t do this: histdept.ucsc.edu
- Do this: recycling.ucsc.edu
- Don’t do this: bananaslugsdepartmentofrecycling.ucsc.edu