To use a keyword in the domain name or to not is one of the age-old questions that people in the SEO world can’t really agree on. On one side we have people who would say that it is very important and as much as possible a must-do. The other half is convinced that this practice is overrated and is in fact not that helpful in increasing page rank.
The fact that Matt Cutts said in Google’s YouTube video blog that Google intends to reduce the importance or weight of keywords in domains as far as ranking is concerned further reinforces the belief of the latter.
On the other hand, it would also be foolish to completely disregard the benefits that one can get from having keywords in domain names. Any reliable SEO company or team knows that. However, they do have to weigh the pros and cons of incorporating into the domains of their websites the keywords they are trying to rank in because the truth is, there are also many websites that have become successful thanks in part to keyword domains.
The biggest advantage of doing this is obvious: your website may immediately get accurate hits from keyword searches. Generic and long-tailed domains (usually composed of three words) that match search queries have a high chance of landing a lofty spot in the SERPs. This is not just true for Google, but also for the other major search engines.
Despite of what Matt Cutts has said about the matter, the devaluation of keyword-rich domains hasn’t been realized yet. Plus, let’s face it: the algorithm is still an automatic system that will generate keyword search matches and if your URL matches the search, then you can also make it to the search results.
Every online entrepreneur needs to know how to brand a website. Being able to make a recognizable impression by the mere mention of your domain name is an indication that your branding efforts have been very successful. If your customers develop a sincere loyalty to your products they would gladly patronize your merchandise and services without even fully knowing the details about their make, or what they are about. If you’re already an established brand, people would simply take your word for it that what you’re offering is great.
In relation to domain names, it has always been easier to brand a name that’s memorable, striking, and immediately gives people an idea of what it is about. Take the product and name iPanema. This is a brand for rubber flip-flops that are perfect for the beach.
The name is actually very apt since Ipanema is the name of a beautiful beachside neighborhood in Brazil. Once you know about the place, you’d get the idea that it is a brand name for beachwear. Afterwards it becomes is so easy to associate that with rubber slippers and flip flops.
Now regarding Cutts’ opinion about keyword domains, he doesn’t completely dismiss it as useless SEO. He was merely stressing the importance of branding, and that in Google’s opinion, it should and will have a much more significant weight in terms of determining page rank.
When Keywords for Domain Names Go Wrong
There are disadvantages though in using keywords as domain names. First and foremost, you are sacrificing your chances on branding. A website with a domain like “businesssuitsforwomen.com” is going to have a harder time branding their URL. It leaves the impression that it is just like all other merchant sites that sells clothing for corporate women.Ê Notice that J.C. Penney uses its own name in its website and not a keyphrase describing its merchandise.
Using the store or brand name in the domain though will make the site appear more exclusive, prestigious, and practically like a virtual boutique where you’d be comfortable . It will be easier for customers to recognize your website name as a brand name they can be proud of.
Mismatching Anchor Texts and URLs
Besides making it difficult to promote your domain as a brand, it would be very odd to have a domain other than your company or store’s name. For instance, you run an online shop for arts and crafts materials and you’ve named the site as Sarah’s Creative Scraps. It would be odd to have a domain like “artsmaterials.com” or “scrapbookingmaterials.com” and when visitors enter your site, they see the banner proudly saying, “Sarah’s Creative Scraps.”
Now this may not be a huge problem since it probably will not affect page rank that much; however, online consumers are intelligent and often discriminating people. Many can spot promotional attempts at a glance. It may or may not affect their inclination to buy or jump into business with you on your site but it’s one thing to keep in mind.
Work on both Keyword AND Branding
Having said all those pros and cons, perhaps the best thing that can happen to your site though is this:
If from the very beginning you used a vital keyword in your domain name and you later succeeded on making it a brand name, then youÕd have hit an SEO jackpot. A brand name that contains frequently-used keywords will have more juice in the search results. Consider this: if another website links to your own site, they’d either use a keyword-rich anchor text or use your domain name itself as the anchor text.
If your domain is more keyword-inclined, it will be favorable to your website SEO-wise; if it is leaning more towards branding purposes, you can be sacrificing your SEO advantage. Now if you get to have both, you’d be enjoying the best of both situations.
The advantage in this situation is this: as a brand, many people would already be familiar with your domain. They will have the tendency to do two things, both of which will bode well for your website. Either they will go directly to your site through exact-match search and/or by typing your URL, or they will gravitate towards your site if ever they see it among the organic results when they make a search query for related keywords.
It boils down on what you want to achieve first for your website. Do you want to establish yourself as a brand right away, or do you want to rank so that you can generate income first and foremost? Once you have an answer, the disadvantages would simply be minor setbacks for your website. Ultimately you’ll find that using keywords in domain names is not a completely bad thing.