Keywords In Domain Names – Does It Help the Search Engine Ranking?

Published on April 7th, 2013 by | Category: Search Engine Optimization

I talked about the importance of choosing a proper domain name in the success of your online business here, and explained that it is a good idea to have the related keyword/phrase in the domain name if possible. However, I still need to explain if having the keywords in domain name helps the site have a higher ranking or not. Does it have any positive impact on the search engine ranking of the site? Do the search engines care about the keywords in the domain names?

These the frequently asked questions around this subject. What is the answer?

Among all the search engines we know, Google is known as the most professional, and the pioneer of web crawling and search result providing. People prefer to use Google more and more in comparison to the other search engines like Bing (the Microsoft search engine), Yahoo or Ask. The reason is that you find more relevant search results with Google. This is a good reason for the ordinary internet users to use Google more than the other search engines. For someone like me who is a professional internet user, Google is the best, not only because of the relevant search results, but also because it is much more easier to understand the Google algorithm. Google has a relatively good communication with the internet users and webmasters and they clarify their activities, algorithm and the changes they make from time to time. Whereas it is almost impossible to understand what the other search engines do.

Therefore, I am going to answer the above question, mainly based on the Google algorithm. However, as the other search engines usually try to follow Google footsteps, if we optimize our sites based on the Google algorithm, we usually receive traffic from the other search engines too.

Does Google care about the keywords in the domain names?

It all depends on the case, and it is different from case to case and site to site. Let me give you an example. If designed properly and with having reasonable number of organic back links, OnlineMarketing.com is the most eligible site to be ranked as the first site with online marketing as the search term. It is almost the same with OnlineMarketing.net and OnlineMarketing.org, however in this competition OnlineMarketing.com will be ahead of the other two domains.

Now the question is, if we create a website with a domain name that doesn’t carry the online marketing key phrase (for example GaryErickson.com) and optimize it for this key phrase properly, and provide useful content, reasonable number of organic back links, and in general everything that the content and link popularity of this site need to make it rank for online marketing on Google first page, will it go ahead of OnlineMarketing.com or still OnlineMarketing.com is more eligible to be the first one?

With the same content and link popularity strength, OnlineMarketing.com will be ahead of GaryErickson.com just because it has the main key phrase in its domain name, and so it is a more relevant website to online marketing from the Google’s point of view.

What if OnlineMarketing.com had a lower content and link popularity strength in comparison to GaryErickson.com? Would having the online marketing key phrase in the domain name still help it to be ranked higher than GaryErickson.com?

Having the pure online marketing key phrase without anything extra is a big credit. Even if OnlineMarketing.com had a weaker content and link popularity, it still would be ahead of GaryErickson.com, unless GaryErickson.com was really really stronger and more popular than OnlineMarketing.com.

In order to be ranked higher than OnlineMarketing.comGaryErickson.com has to be much much stronger both in content and link popularity. But how much stronger?

That is a question which is really hard to answer, because it depends on so many factors in Google algorithm. It is highly dependent on the competition that online marketing as the key phrase has. When the keyword/phrase is too competitive, it will be much harder for the related websites to compete with each other, and a website that wants to be ranked higher, specially from a website that the keyword/phrase can be found in its domain name, it has to be much much stronger.

What Does Google Recommend?

Google says that you can definitely succeed even without having any keyword in your domain name. They recommend that you choose the domain names that are brandable. Some good examples of highly brandable domains are: google.com; reddit.com; digg.com; godaddy.com

Brandable domains can easily be remembered by people, and so there is a high chance that they become popular. From Google point of view, in order to succeed, you do not have to have the related keyword in your domain name, and a website that has no keyword in its domain name can also be successful. Google says this to help people understand that it is the website content that comes first, and having the keyword in the domain name doesn’t help definitely, while the website content quality is poor, or while it is not designed and promoted properly, or while it is promoted through unethical and spammy ways. However, it doesn’t mean that having the keyword in the domain name doesn’t help. Indeed, experience shows that having the proper keyword in the domain name, the way that I have explained it in this article, is very helpful for the website search engine ranking.

It is good to know what Google recommends. Listen to Matt Cutts, the Google Guy, about having keywords in domain name:

Now, there is another important question that really has to be answered, otherwise you will be misled and you will make mistakes in registering or buying the domain names. We learned that having the keyword/phrase in the domain is helpful, and it is a big credit for the websites ranking. However, nowadays it is really hard to find any available domain to register with most of the keywords/phrases, specially the popular ones. Therefore, if you still want to register a domain name and have the  keyword/phrase in it, you have to add hyphens, numbers or extra words to it, until you finally find a free domain name for registration. Now, the important question is, if you add some hyphens, numbers, or extra words to the domain name, will it affect the power of the keyword/phrase you inserted in the domain name?

The answer is yes.

For example OnlineMarketing1.com, or Online-Marketing.com, are much weaker than OnlineMarketing.com.

If you add an extra word, it will dilute the power of the main keyword/phrase. However, if you do it in a way that it creates a new key phrase driven from the main one, it will have a good and reasonable strength for that key phrase. For example, let’s say I want to register the OnlineMarketing.com but I see that it is already registered by someone else, and so I decide to try adding some words to the beginning or end of the domain, and find an available domain. I try OnlineMarketingStrategies.com and it works and I register it. Now the question is how strong this domain is, compared to OnlineMarketing.com?

The answer is that OnlineMarketing.com still has the highest power for Online Marketing as the key phrase and OnlineMarketingStrategies.com can not compete with OnlineMarketing.com to get ranked higher when Online Marketing is the search term. However, OnlineMarketingStrategies.com has its own power for Online Marketing Strategies key phrase which is a less competitive key phrase compared to Online Marketing.

The conclusion is that…

  • having the keyword/phrase in the domain is important and effective in search engine ranking.
  • hyphens, numbers and extra words affect the power of the keyword/phrase you have in the domain name. Therefore, you should avoid having hyphens and numbers in your domain name, and if you want to add an extra word to the main keyword/phrase, you have to do it carefully and smartly to not only save the power of the main keyword/phrase as much as possible, but also focus the domain name on one of the strong derivatives of the main keyword/phrase.

OK! I think it is now clear that how important it is to have the keywords/phrases in your domain name, and how you should choose a domain name based on what you learned from this article. You are now able to guess the power of different domains in comparison to each other, and this is a big help in choosing a proper and strong domain name which is very important in the success of your online business.

Post your comments and questions here and ask for the others ideas and advice if you want to register a domain name.

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