Should You Have Keywords in Your Domain Name?

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wwwThis is a long disputed question in the search marketing community, the answer of which depends not only on how different search engines treat keywords in your domain name, or URL, but also the size of your advertising budget, and other factors. The term keyword stuffing, referring to pages that are artificially inflated with keywords, applies also to domains that are stuffed with keywords, in the fashion keyword1keyword2keyword3.com. Instead of going into a lengthy analysis of keywords in the domain name, however, we’ll point out two approaches to identifying your target audience that should help you decide how to shape your domain name. In the end you will see that the consideration of whether or not to include keywords in your domain name is not the most important one.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

Who will be visiting your website? And how will you attract visitors? Large corporations that have giant branding budgets can afford to successfully market and brand made-up names such as Amazon, Google, Target, Sears, etc. These names are short, simple, and easy to remember, and supported by their large advertising budgets companies are able to spread their names in front of millions of people, and rerun advertising that burns (brands) the names into people’s minds.

How Large is Your Advertising Budget?

But what about hobbyists and smaller businesses that do not have large advertising budgets? Their advertising campaign may be largely run online, where customers are attracted through newsletters or blog postings, for example. In these instances the customer’s contact with your brand will depend largely on the effectiveness of your content (the amount of visitors you can draw in through the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)), in addition to traditional marketing methods. Since users will be clicking through to your website, the nature of your domain name may not play as big a role as you think. However, the keywords in your URL still help influence and shape your corporate identity. Branding budgets aside then, let’s see how we can successfully brand a low-budget domain name.

Selecting a Successful Domain Name

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Selecting a domain name is an important and fairly permanent move (although with the advent of Google’s Webmaster Tools it has gotten easier to move and re-index your site should your domain name change). Your link popularity and branding will be based on the domain name you have chosen, so it’s important to choose right the first time and avoid having to change (and lose branding and linking popularity) once your name is firmly established in the marketplace.

How Search Engines Treat Domain Name Keywords

While it may be true that search engines take into account keywords in your domain name, it’s important to consider how much traffic that will really get you in the long run. At the time of this writing, domain names have become quite sparse, and the odds of registering a domain name that also has high search volume for its keywords is slim. Google owns the majority of the search engine market, with Bing and Yahoo trailing far behind. From our in-depth research of the effect of domain-name keywords on search engine rankings, we’ve learned that in general, search engines do credit you for the keywords in your domain name, but that’s primarily so your customers can find you (ie. by the name of your business).

However, more important is the competitiveness of those keywords. A very generic, competitive keyword domain name, such as chocolate.com, will still be very difficult to rank for. In other words, not everyone searching for “chocolate” will see your website as the #1 result. It takes lots of work to get any website, regardless of keywords, to the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for competitive, highly searched for keyword phrases.

Google’s Search Engine Updates

2013 – Google’s Keyword Tool is officially gone. Keyword Planner has replaced the Keyword Tool’s place. Keyword Planner has many of the functions that the Keyword Tool had along with many other new features. Keyword Planner can be used to find new keyword and ad group ideas, get performance estimates, and add them to your campaigns. This being said, one of Google’s oldest tools for webmaster has officially been removed.

Google page rank toolbar hasn’t been updated since February 2013. Usually this gets updated every three months. Some believe that this could be an end to the toolbar. When asked about this, Google responds with “no comment”.

Some algorithms are being updated daily instead of having one big change on a certain day. This makes it easier for people to see the small changes and gradually adapt instead of going through one large change. However, the Penguin and Panda algorithms continue to have big update releases.

Quality Content is the Bottom Line

In the end, the sites with quality content, organized in quality fashion, with quality branding, gain the highest rankings because they are quality sites. You can spend your time trying to keep up with search engine technicalities, or you can focus on your content, web design, and advertising to promote a quality brand that, because of its high quality, people and search engines alike will want to discover.

3 Keys to Choosing Your Domain Name

Our analysis of the various rumors that abound has taught us three general principles in selecting a quality domain name – we recommend using Namecheap:

  • Easy to Remember – your domain name should be catchy, simple, and easy to remember. Remember that people will need to type in your domain name. You should therefore take into account potential misspellings and keep it short to avoid typos.
  • Makes Sense – you want your domain name to make sense, to reflect what it is you do. Since you haven’t had the money or time to make people understand what yabaloo.com means – you will need to create a name that makes sense right off the bat without having spent money on branding. An example would be bluewidgets.com – your customer automatically expects to find blue widgets.
  • .COM – ideally (unless you live outside the United States), you’ll want to register a .com (dot com) domain name, because that’s what people default to when typing in a domain name. Additionally, it helps to avoid hyphens if possible.

For more tips on finding the optimal domain name for your website, see our article on choosing a domain name.

About The Author:

Alex has been involved on the business side of the internet since the early 2000's. He holds both a Management Science degree from the University of California at San Diego as well as a Computer Science degree from NJIT.

We Rock Your Web had its roots back in 2004 as the tech blog for a web design and development company Alex founded that has grown and evolved into the parent company of We Rock Your Web.

While his foundation is rooted in web development, his expertise today lies in content and digital marketing, SEO, organic and paid search, analytics, and publishing. Alex is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs.

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