Domain Names and SEO

For years, people have talked about how valuable keywords are in domain names. I’ve heard people claim that a domain name will automatically put you on top of the search results for the word in your domain, and others claim it makes no difference. The truth lies somewhere between, but definitely leaning toward the “yes it matters” side of the argument.

I’m not saying a domain name is all you need. Far from it. Unless your first name is Wiki and last name Pedia, there’s nothing you can do to guarantee a first place ranking, that’s just the way it is. Occasionally, I’ll see simple one page sites, or even parked domains showing up in the search results, apparently due to nothing more than the domain name. You don’t see that often these days, but I still see it occasionally–in MSN more than anywhere else. Most often, a page with nothing but ads will not show up in the search results, regardless of how generic or keyword-targeted the domain name. To show up in the search listings, you’ve got to have a real site, with unique content, and plenty of links to your site.

Also, gone are the days where you can buy whatever-keywords-you-want- to-show-up-for.com and shoot to the top of Google search. Those domains were hot for a while, and I still see new site owners fall into the hyphen trap. Don’t do it! Yeah, it’s hard to find a good, non-hyphenated .com domain name that’s not registered, but use your brain people and get creative, or better yet, buy a domain that someone else has already registered. You can buy a very nice domain on the after market at an affordable price. Just get it out of your head that your domain should cost $8. Unless you’re very lucky, or you want some lame, web 2.0 name that nobody can spell, take out your wallet and spend a few bucks on a real domain name. I’m not saying you have to buy a domain with your keywords in it. You can be very successful in the search engines without it, but there are certainly advantages to owning a great domain name with your keywords. Typically, the shorter and more targeted the name, the better. You might be ok with two or three words, but if you get much longer than that, you’ll start to confuse people. Keep it simple!

Here’s my take on why keyword domains perform so well:

  1. The search engines give added weight to your site for your keywords if they’re in your name. They do. You’ll see this across the board to varying degrees at each search engine. MSN seems to reward keyword domains a lot more than anyone else, but they seem to have a positive impact in Yahoo and Google as well.
  2. Your incoming links tend to include your site/domain name. If your domain is iamageek.com, you’ll get a lot of links with keywords like “I Am A Geek“. On the other hand, if your domain is software.com, you’ll get links with the word “Software“, not all of your links, of course, but a lot of the links to your homepage will use your primary keywords. This is a clear advantage because you can get a link from highly regarded directories (dmoz), news stories, industry sites, etc. including your keywords (which also happen to be your site and/or company name). Meanwhile your competitors are stuck with the link text “ACME Inc” which does nothing to help their search rankings other than for their own name.
  3. Your site will be more linkable. Nobody is going to link the-longest-freakin- domain-ever-registered-in-the-world.com. Besides the fact that they won’t have the endurance to type that whole thing, it just doesn’t lend itself to credibility. Before I even see the site at that domain, I have a negative impression of the site. Why would I want to add a link to such a non-credible site? Exactly, I wouldn’t. If you wouldn’t link to your own domain name, don’t expect anyone else to. Link bait on a crappy domain will not take off nearly as well as the same content on a good domain. In most cases the links won’t happen automatically, you still have to do the work, but it makes the job of getting links SO MUCH EASIER if you have a reputable domain name.
  4. A good, short domain name looks more reputable. It looks like a legitimate business. This ties in with the linkability factor. If you back up your great domain name with a world-class site design (or even a decent one), and awesome, unique content, you’ll have a powerful one-two punch that will be able to get respect on the web. A good, generic, domain name will be more likely to be dugg, stumbled, blogrolled, added to resources pages, and just about any other type of link you can imagine. A good, reputable domain will also tend to convert at a much higher rate than the long, “weird” looking domain names, it just carries more trust.

Those are the main reasons why a good domain name will help your search engine optimization efforts. A lot of the benefit comes from the other “side” benefits rather than having the keywords in your name itself. Of course, you still need to have a site that’s worthy of the domain–in terms of design and content–but a great domain is an excellent start. You still have to work and compete to be at the top for your keywords, but the right domain name might be just the edge you need if you’re doing everything else right.

One parting note, has anyone else noticed the convergence of SEO and domaining? Domainers have all these sweet domain names they don’t know what to do with and all these SEOs wish they could get their hands on some of these great domain names. (Psst…some people on both sides are starting to cross over and the two industries are beginning to merge).

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7 Comments

  1. Dan says

    “there’s nothing you can do to guarantee a first place ranking, that’s just the way it is.”
    ___

    This can never change?… Is this written in stone somewhere?

    This post is not to offend anyone in the SEO industry or anyone else, so please do not take it that way.
    ___

    The future of domains/Website/SEOing…IMHO:

    For example…take the keyword search ‘diamonds’ on Google…diamonds.com should be in the first spot & diamonds.net should be in the second spot(its reversed right now)… diamonds.net must have jumped through more ‘Google hoops’ than diamonds.com.

    With the new wave in development of domain names and the recognition of their value…this is the way Internet search should be headed… in the future.

    If say debeers.com wants to rank first for the keyword search ‘diamonds’…they should have to buy diamonds.com. But never… should the domain debeers.com or debeers.com/diamonds ever be ranked in front of diamonds.com for the specific keyword search ‘diamonds’.

    I don’t care if the debeers.com site has the top 5 SEO experts in the world working on the site and has a Google page rank of 10 and backlinks from 20,000 page rank 8 sites… no ranking for it in the top 40 results for the specific keyword search ‘diamonds’.

    Its time that the domain/website asset holders determine the ‘value’ of THEIR assets when it comes to Internet search…and not Google.

    If you want to be ranked #1 for a specific keyword search…you should have to own the #1 keyword domain for that search…and if you currently do not own the specific domain for that specific keyword search and really want the #1 one spot…you should have to open up your wallet.

    Domain/Website asset holders… OWN the Internet…about time they OWN Internet search and dictate what the value of these domain/website assets are worth… when it comes to Internet search…And not keep letting Google and the rest of the SE’s… dictate this part of the value of these assets.

    The days are soon going to be long gone when there is crappy content on keyword search term domains…if there is currently crappy content on a good domain like diamonds.com…it will be bought by someone that knows what they are doing…if search results are going to be ranked how they should be…by their domain name…without having to jump through all the current… ‘Google hoops’.

    Internet search in the future will not be as simple as ranking listing’s according to just keyword search and corresponding domains….but its going to be a lot different than what Google’s doing today.

    I keep hearing about domains that are just ‘parked’ with a bunch of ‘ads’ on the home page…and that these ‘parked websites are a bad experience for people searching on the Internet.

    But,

    Has anyone really taken a GOOD look at almost any Google search results page…They ALL look like nothing more than a bad PPC landing page…Seriously.

    Its time to go ‘old school’ on Internet search…a search engine with NO advertising at all…(but one that would still make tons of money)

    I remember way back about 5 years ago or so…there was this great search engine everyone loved and It had no advertising on it…

    I am trying to think of the name…its kinda hard to remember that far back…wait a minute…I think it started with a G…it was like…Goo…

    Oh yea…

    It WAS called Google.

    LOL

    Bottom line…

    Internet Search has to be totally revamped… in 99 % favor of domain/website asset holders.

    Why?

    Because domain/website asset holders are getting screwed by SE company’s…by letting them determine a huge portion of the value of these assets… when it comes to Internet search.

    Google does not own these assets…you/we do…so why are you/we letting them determine the value of these (your) assets… as it relates to Internet search?

    Who IS going to end up changing this huge ‘imbalance’…

    A couple of Domain industry leaders along with a couple very smart SEO experts…that are SO tired of jumping through…Google’s, Yahoo’s, MSN’s HOOPS.

    Jumping ‘through hoops’ is for ‘Seals’ at Sea World…Its not for ‘Domain/Website Asset Holders’!

    This is not 2001 anymore.

    I have a news flash…In order to have the very best Internet Search engine on plant in 2008-Forward…it does not need to be called ‘Google’.

    Peace!
    Dan

    BTW: SEO.com…another perfect example:

    Currently NOT ranked on the first page of Google…much less in the #1 spot…where it belongs (RIGHT NOW) for the specific keyword search ‘SEO”…

    It will sure will be nice when ‘Google decides’ that you have ‘jumped through enough of their hoops’ for them to rank you at least on the first page for the keword search ‘seo’.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=seo&btnG=Google+Search
    __

    BTW2: I have to go on this ‘rant’ every 1-2 months or so…Its the only one I have…and I am sticking to it…LOL

  2. Dan says

    Hi Again…lol

    “One parting note, has anyone else noticed the convergence of SEO and domaining? Domainers have all these sweet domain names they don’t know what to do with and all these SEOs wish they could get their hands on some of these great domain names. (Psst…some people on both sides are starting to cross over and the two industries are beginning to merge).”

    ____

    This is the greatest new ‘trend’ that could ever be happening in the online world…IMHO.

    These industry’s were never “two industry’s”…they were always just perceived as two separate industry’s…they have always really been one Industry.

    This ‘trend’…make’s my first post above…that much more valid I think…

    IMHO…as always…lol

    Best,
    Dan

  3. dave says

    Thanks for the comments, Dan. You raise some interesting points. I think the reason Google has so much power and nearly everyone jumps through their hoops is because we let them. Oh, and that tiny detail of the millions of people using their search engines. They’re only as powerful as the number of people using the, which right now is just about everyone. Actually, there are a lot of other ways to get traffic to your site besides search engines, search is just hyper targeted, super cheap, and it works.

    The old school search engines I remember were plastered with banner ads. Google is is actually new school. They revolutionized the entire search engine industry. The problem with the ad free version is that Google lost money with that model. They could only sustain that for so long. Obviously they make a LOT of money with PPC ads, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. If you’ve got a business model for search that can make more money I’d love to hear about it.

    I know people who are working on a better way to search right now. In fact, I believe eventually a better alternative to the current search model will emerge, but it may very well come from Google, or one of other search engines instead of some outside company. Google has a strong hold as THE brand for search, and people can usually find what they’re looking for, so they’re satisfied. Google will be around for a long time, but only the future will tell if they will maintain the stranglehold on the market like they have now.

    I guess you’re right that SEO and domaining aren’t separate industries, but if you’ve been to the “industry” conferences for each group (I have), you can’t deny that “pure domainers” are completely different from “pure SEOs.” I’m not saying one is better than the other. I think each could learn a few things from the other. But from my observations, domainers make a lot more money with a lot less work than most SEOs, so it’s pretty obvious who’s in the better segment of the industry ;)

  4. says

    When I saw debeers and Diamonds, I have to tell that Oracle had bought lots of domain names that points to their url. Many big industries have started acquiring or buying long domain names without hyphens though(afaik).

    Hypens are good when certain keyword are mentioned in that way for ex: short-sleeve etc., Very long domains could hurt or increase the SEO based on the content and what they provide to their visitors.

    I personally do not mind how big a domain name is as long as I could find useful information on what I searched for, I can just bookmark it or do a ctrl+a and save that url.

    Regards,
    Shiva

  5. Jordan Kasteler says

    Speaking of domain names, interesting to read an interview with Michael Mann in SEObook’s update today. Surprising to see no mention of SEO.com though.

  6. Dan says

    Hi Dave…

    Thanks for the nice reply.

    Spoken as a ‘true blue’ seo’er…lol

    I only make post… like the 2 I made on your blog today…just to ‘spark a little…not so everyday thought’.

    Why?

    Statements like this…

    ___

    “”Oh, and that tiny detail of the millions of people using their search engines. They’re only as powerful as the number of people using the, which right now is just about everyone.””
    ____

    That was pretty much the point of my two post…

    Domain/Website Asset holders have ‘unwittingly’ given this power to them (Google)…

    Visitors…will go to the best quality SE…What I am saying…its Google…NOW…but thats going to end.

    The “tiny detail’ you talk about in the quote above…can be changed…’in a blink of eye’.

    I am sure ALL the other SE’s thought the same think as Google thinks now…’before Google came along.
    ___
    “They’re only as powerful as the number of people using the, which right now is just about everyone.”
    ___

    I understand the quote above fully…and I understood this, before I made my two post above…My ‘start page’ is Google…and I use it all the time.

    But,

    I am still calling on…the complete over-throw of ‘Internet search’ as we know it today.

    ‘Google Search’…is just a ‘stepping stone’ to where Google’s going…

    If you think Google is just about search…now days…I would ‘respectfully’ call on you to do a ‘double think’.

    Google is about becoming…

    MSN/Apple…which as we all know…has NOTHING to do with being… a continuing search engine of any measure.

    Google is money funding machine…for them to fund everything else…that has nothing to do with Internet search.

    If you had to rank what was the MOST important thing about Google 5 years from now…

    I will BET…’Internet search’… is NOT in the top 5.

    I will “bet the farm”…

    Just…not my farm…LOL

    Thanks again for the follow reply.

    Peace!
    Dan

  7. Habika says

    The Search Domain can put it at number 8 on a brand new site! It also helps with closely related terms too, as most searching is accomplished with reasonable variations.
    If domain names were the only reason to be number one, you would have to constantly plow through web domains that would say, “domain for sale, own this spot”. Don’t see that. It would turn off Google’s visitors if they started it, and others didn’t. That’s what type ins in the address bar are for, the “get lucky” spot, unless we been there and liked it.
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