You would think search engines are like an "equal opportunity employer." That everyone has has the same chance to get ranked for certain keywords by taking advantage of on-page and off-page techniques, which include some of the following:
Theoretically speaking, my competition could match my site in each of these categories. For example, if I build a high-quality link, my competition can do the same. If I optimize my title tags, H1 tags, content, and other on-page elements, then my competition can essentially do the same.
In essence, they can match me link-for-link, quality content for quality content, title tag for title tag and everything else I am doing to ensure they rank just as good, if not better than I do.
However, one thing they cannot do is match the domain name of my site. Having a great domain name is an exception, and Google and other search engines place a lot of emphasis on keyword rich domains.
This is where Google and others have shown some biases toward websites. How is it that search engines are biased? Unfortunately, search engines use highly complex algorithms to find and display the results you and I see, and with any computer-run system, you can find a way to manipulate it.
For example, look at the search results for "online universities," a keyword in a known ultra-competitive industry.
The first three results are for www.onlineuniversities.com followed by a mix of .com and .edu websites. This might look good on the surface, but looking deeper into why these sites are ranking revealed some interesting results. I only looked at .edu sites to get an idea of why they are not ranking in the top spots since it would be natural to think an .edu should show up before a .com.
Onlineuniversities.com has a small amount of Open Site Explorer and Google links compared to the rest of the competition for this term. In addition to having a lot fewer back-links, there is a huge discrepancy between their number of .edu and .gov links compared with the competition.
So how is it that Onlineuniversities.com is out ranking four .edu sites, which are highly relevant to the search term "online universities"?
I attribute a lot of this to the domain name. There are other reasons keyword domains and SEO go hand in hand such as:
- Credibility – A keyword specific domain looks more trustworthy to search engines and to individuals linking to the site. If someone has a business selling widgets and their website domain is widgets.com, search engines and individuals have a good idea what the purpose of the site is.
- Anchor text links – External links to a keyword domain include that specific keyword in the link because that is the company name. This is a great way to get keyword anchor text links from directories like Yahoo, Business.com, and Best of the Web. These directories don’t allow keywords to be used in the title when submitting a listing. They only want the business name however; if the name of your business online is keyword rich there is a good chance you will get listed in these types of directories.
- User-friendly – Keyword domain names are easier to remember then other domains. From a user perspective, they are more likely to remember widgets.com then reverbnation.com which is actually a site that shows up for the term widgets.
Individuals in the SEO industry would argue that Google is placing less emphasis on keyword rich domains, but I feel like they still place a fair amount of weight on these types of domains. This is a great strategy to incorporate with your SEO efforts and one that creates a core competency for a business. In every niche, you will find keyword rich domains and that is why businesses are looking to use a keyword domain to their advantage.