Is there ranking power in keyword domains?

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Domain names containing keywords are considered valuable for a variety of reasons, including a long-held idea that they could be directly or indirectly useful for ranking purposes.

Choosing a domain name is an important step in launching a website, so it is important to make the right choice.

Choosing a domain name generally falls into three categories:

  1. Keyword domain.
  2. Keyword + keyword domain.
  3. Brand domain.

One may wonder which approach is the best. What is not debatable is that it is useful to learn about the subject before making a decision.

Keyword domains

A keyword domain is a domain name containing keywords. An example might be Widgets.com.

Using a domain name with the keywords it contains can give the impression of authority.

Some companies own generic domain names and redirect them to their websites, for whatever reason.

For example, Coffee.com redirects to Peet’s Coffee, an artisanal coffee roasting company. This makes it easy for people to navigate to Peet’s.

But, the downside of generic keyword domains is that “all the good ones” are already registered and prohibitively expensive to snatch a domainer.

There is also internet history related to generic keyword domains.

There was a time when people typed keywords for a product or service they wanted directly into the browser or search engine. This practice was called direct navigation.

Direct navigation generated significant ad revenue for those who owned and “parked” these domains.

Domain parking consisted of configuring it so that domain names would show ads and only ads.

The lucrative business of parked domains was aided by the search engines of the day ranking these parked domain names in search results.

So if someone typed a query of a word like [burgers]then Google might rank Burgers.com.

Then, in 2011, Google reduced the search visibility of parked domains from search results.

So, is there any ranking power for keyword domains? Not anymore, but Google’s John Mueller has something to say about that, more on that below.

Word + keyword domain

This is why the popular choice is to add a word to the domain name that helps describe what a site visitor can expect on the site.

This results in domains like Cheap[name of product/service].com, [name of product/service]Avis.com, Fast[name of product/service]etc

A word plus a keyword for a domain name is not a bad way to go.

Reverse of the word + keyword domain

The keyword instantly marks the topic of the site and the word tells the site visitor what to expect in terms of user intent.

Looking for an opinion? Try [name of product/service]Reviews.com.

Disadvantages of Word + Keyword domain

The downside of this approach is that it locks the website into providing a specific niche and can limit its ability to grow.

So if you start like [JoesCameraReviews]it will be difficult to get this site to review (or sell) other products.

There are many sites with keywords in the field that rank very well.

Brand domain

A branded domain is a domain name that does not necessarily contain any keywords.

Amazon, Zappos, and Etsy are examples of brand domains.

The great thing about a branded domain is that the brand name doesn’t necessarily limit what the site can be.

Many sites with branded domains have very little trouble ranking in search results.

Google offers four insights into keyword domains

By answering a question in a recent Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller of Google offered four insights into the ranking power of keyword domain names.

Four overviews of keyword domains and ranking:

  1. Keyword domains do not rank faster.
  2. Keyword domains are not automatically ranked higher.
  3. Keyword domains lost a strong influence on rankings years ago.
  4. Keyword domains have the same ranking as brand domains.

1. Keyword domains have no time advantage

It is believed that keyword domains are able to rank better faster than brand domains. But according to Google’s John Mueller, that’s not the case.

There is a perceived benefit to getting keywords into links via anchor text. It’s something we’ve been talking about for years. An argument can be made for and against.

Unfortunately, John Mueller’s statement did not address this perceived benefit.

Here is what John Mueller confirmed:

“…it takes time like any other new website… Obviously there are many websites out there that rank for their domain name keywords. But they worked on that maybe- be for years and years…”

2. Keywords in domains don’t rank better

John Mueller was pretty firm in saying that keyword domains don’t rank better than brand domains.

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean it will automatically rank for those keywords.”

There are so many things that go into ranking like content, user intent for that content as well as links. All of this probably takes significant priority over something like keywords in the domain.

Although John Mueller did not specifically say that the keywords in the domain name are not a ranking signal, he did assert that there was no significant benefit to having the keywords in the name. of domain. And this is an important idea.

3. Keyword domains lost their influence years ago

John Mueller claimed that keyword domains lost their influence years ago.

Here is what John Mueller said:

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean it will automatically rank for those keywords. And this is something that has been the case for a very, very long time.

This may be a reference to an algorithm update from 2011 (official Google announcement here).

In late 2011, Google updated its algorithm to add a classifier to remove parked domains from search results.

A quote from Google’s algorithm update announcement:

“This is a new algorithm to automatically detect parked domains. Parked domains are reserved sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled with only advertisements.

In most cases, we prefer not to show them.

Nevertheless, the idea that keyword domains were better than branded domains continued in the search industry, even though Google no longer gave a boost to parked keyword domains.

An argument can be made that there is a minimal signal. But there is no support for this theory.

It’s been a long time since any search engine published research that included keywords in areas like any type of signal.

We live in a time where keywords in headers (H1, H2) have diminished ranking weight.

Current algorithms no longer give additional weight to title tags. We know this, and it calls into question the idea that Google continues to give a direct ranking bonus to a keyword in a domain name.

4. Keyword domains are ranked the same as brand domains

This is another statement that contradicts the idea that keywords in a domain name have a ranking advantage.

John Mueller points out that a domain’s keywords are unrelated to their current ranking:

Statement from John Mueller on keywords in domains:

“…it’s kind of normal for them to rank for these keywords and have them in their domain name somehow unrelated to their current rankings.”

Mueller clearly notes that having the keywords in the domain name is not related to their ranking.

Research a domain name before using it

It’s always a good idea to research a domain name to see if it’s ever been registered and how it’s been used.

There are rare cases where a domain that has been used for spamming can get stuck in a Google algorithm loop, causing it to be banned for a month, released for a few days and then banned again, preventing the site from rank higher than the second page of search results.

For more information on the Legacy Domain Penalty, read Google Algorithm Bug Puts Sites In Weird Limbo State.

SEO Advantage of Keyword Domains

There are many advantages to having a keyword in a domain name. But an SEO advantage is not necessarily one of the advantages, as Mueller points out.

“…that they have them in their domain name is somehow irrelevant to their current rankings.”

Stand out with your domain

It can be a good idea to choose an area that stands out. It can be with 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 some situations.

Matt Cutts advised:

“For example, if you have 15 sites on Android and they all have Android, Android, Android, Android, it’s going to be a little difficult to remember, to rise above the noise, to rise above the above the din.

Whereas if you have something a little more branded, people will remember it. They will be able to come back. Even sites like TechCrunch, nothing in there says tech news.

Takeaway on Domain Names

There are pros and cons to different types of domain names to use for a website.

If the business wants to leave room to grow and encompass a broader topic, a domain name less committed to a topic or even a brand name is appropriate.

Of course, one can start with a restricted theme domain name and change it in the future. But this can cause other sites to change their minds about linking to the site and fans of the site to lose interest.

So, the best advice may be for the business to think about what it wants to accomplish now, what impression it wants to make on site visitors, what story the domain name tells the visitor, and also how important the domain name is fits into the future. of the company.

On the issue of ranking, clearly there is no direct keyword-based ranking benefit for a domain name, which makes the selection a bit easier.

Watch John Mueller discuss domain names at minute 21:50:

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Featured Image: Master1305/Shutterstock

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