Is it worth the effort of getting domain names with keywords? Let's look at what Google employees have to say about the selection of domains.
Selecting a domain name to launch your new business can make or break your potential. That being the case, there are certainly a few facts to uncover before deciding what to pick
Today's big question answers what influence domain names hold over ranking success.
The big question is: if you're thinking of investing in a domain name with keywords, will you get the ranking results you're hoping for?
You'll need to decide whether your domain name should be a keyword domain or if you should choose a keyword domain name with an added word or even just go with a brand as your domain name.
We can debate this topic until the cows come home. What is the best approach to take? Learning about what you're likely to get from each style can aid you in making an informed decision.
Let's jump in and explore more about each choice.
A keyword domain is defined when there are keywords in the domain name, such as 'LeicesterLawyers.com. Using a domain name of this nature can give the perception of authority and experience.
Some companies go all out and purchase domain names for this purpose and then redirect them to their website. For example, Burgers.com goes to the American burger chain CarlsJr.com. This makes it easier for web users to navigate to Carls Jr.
However, there is a disadvantage in that most generic keyword domains are registered and have substantial price tags if you want to buy them.
Years back, there was a time when people typed keywords for a service or a product into the search bar. This practice was referred to as direct navigation.
For those who had ownership of the domains, it results in excellent ad income. The owners put ads on those domains.
The search engines ranked those domain names well until the Google algorithm changed in 2011.
So let's get deeper into the topic. To recap - the question we're looking for answers to is – is there a ranking power for keyword domains. According to Google employee John Mueller, this is not the case.
So how about Word + Keyword Domain?
A way to secure a keyword domain is to buy one that has the keyword with another word added to it. For example, CheapCopywriting.com or VacuumReviews.com, or even FastBurgers.com has an extra word that describes what you're going to get.
There are some benefits of using this approach.
The advantages of using Word + keyword Domain
The keyword immediately gives away what the site is offering, and the word gives extra information concerning user intent. For example, if you're searching for a review of freezers – you could try FreezerReviews.com
The negatives of using Word + keyword Domain
The downside of this approach is that it locks the website into a particular niche, limiting its ability to expand. For example, if you had a domain name such as MichellesMoneySaving.com, it would be hard to move on to other topics beyond saving money.
Many sites used keywords in the domain and ranked very well.
Domains that use a brand name - Branded Domain
In a branded domain, it's not so likely to use keywords. For example, Sports Direct, Amazon or Deliveroo are all branded domains. However, there are advantages to using a branded domain in that it's not a word that will limit what is on the site.
Sites with branded domains don't have a lot of trouble ranking either.
Google Employee Provides 4 Points on Keyword Domains
Google recently hosted a website hangout where an employee answered questions about how to rank well. Some of these questions pertained to the ranking power of keyword domain names.
Here's what was said:
- Keyword domains don't rank faster
- Keyword domains don't rank better
- Keyword domains lost their power years ago.
- Keyword domains are now ranking the same as branded domains.
Let's look at these points in more detail.
Keyword Domains Don't Have A Time Advantage
Many people believe you get a faster ranking when using a keyword domain. However, as you can see, Google employees state that is not true.
Though, there is also the opinion that keywords in links used with anchor text will help with ranking. We cannot comment on this as it wasn't addressed in the Q&A session with John Mueller.
But here's what John Mueller did confirm:
"…it takes time like any other new website… Obviously, there are lots of websites out there that do rank for the keywords in their domain name. But they worked on this maybe for years and years…"
2. Keywords In Domains Don't Rank Better
Nevertheless, do note that John Mueller was keen to point out that using keyword domains will not give you an advantage for ranking over branded domains.
"…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn't mean it'll automatically rank for those keywords."
Ranking is a complicated matter and takes into account a lot of different factors. For example, the content, whether the page meets user intent, plus the links. All of that most likely has more influence over keywords in the domain.
Although John Mueller, the Google employee, has not specifically said that keywords in the domain do not work as a ranking signal, he has stated that there is no significant benefit from any keywords in the domain name, which is vital to know.
3. Keyword Domains Lost Influence Years Ago
Take note that John Mueller said that keyword domains lost any power they had years ago.
Here is what John Mueller stated:
"…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn't mean that it'll automatically rank for those keywords. And that's something that's been the case for a really, really long time."
This may indicate that this change happened in the 2011 algorithm update.
In late 2011, Google updated its algorithm to add a classifier to remove parked domains from the search results.
A quote from Google's algorithm update announcement:
"This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads. In most cases, we prefer not to show them."
Despite that change being made, the belief that keyword domains were better than brand domains has continued to have a place.
Perhaps there is a minimal signal, but we don't have any evidence to support that idea. Its also been a long time since search engines stated that keywords in domains helped in any way.
Now keywords in headings are beginning to decrease their power – such as the H1 and H2 tags.
You're not getting total weight to title tags.
4. Keyword Domains Ranked The Same As Branded Domains
There was more mention by John Mueller on keywords in a domain name having any ranking benefit.
John Mueller's statement on keywords in domains:
"… it's kind of normal that they would rank for those keywords and that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking."
He clearly states that it's not keywords in domain names that sway these sites' rankings.
Research a Domain Name Before Using It
Before investing in any domain name, you must do your homework to see if it has a history of use. In some cases, a domain that was used for nefarious purposes, such as those used by Spam, can be stuck in the Google Algorithm and will go through a cycle of being banned and released, banned and released. This can lead to the domain not being able to rise to the front page of Google search results but always being stuck on the 2nd page.
SEO Advantage Of Keyword Domains
Although there may be some benefits of having a keyword in a domain name, the ranking will not be one. According to Mueller,
"…that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking."
Stand Out With Your Domain
Picking a domain name that gives you the 'wow' factor and stands out from the crowd can be a good move. This might be through a keyword or with a brand name.
Former Googler Matt Cutts recommended in a webmaster help video in 2011 that choosing a domain name that stands out can be a good idea in certain situations.
Matt Cutts advised:
"For example, if you have 15 sites about Android and they all have Android, Android, Android, Android, it's going to be a little hard to remember to rise above the noise, to rise above the din.
Whereas, if you have something a little more brandable, people will remember that. They're going to be able to come back to it. Even sites like TechCrunch, nothing in there says tech news."
Takeaway On Domain Names
As you can see for yourself, there are different pros and cons if you go with any of the domain names we've listed here.
When selecting the best one for you, you may want to look to the future and consider whether you may want to grow and expand into other topics. If this is the case, the brand name will most likely be a better choice.
However, you could always start with a domain name that is narrow and then go on to change it in the future. However, this has downsides, such as changing the name could deter people from linking to your site. The fans may not like the change of name, such as the case with ConvertKit. They changed to Seva, which wasn't a good move as people became confused.
So overall, we recommend you consider your most pressing goals and what impression you wish to make to site visitors. Consider what story that domain name will communicate to visitors and how well it fits with plans for the business.
In summary, there is no benefit to choosing keyword-based domains, so you can let go of that theory and select whatever you like.
If you need help with your SEO strategy or content, reach out to Paul Gordon.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.