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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.

Alex bring a series of in-depth articles on search marketing and content management systems as well as troubleshooting tips to We Rock Your Web's collection. He is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs, Bella and Lily.

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60 Comments on "Should You Have Keywords in Your Domain Name?"

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Hasen
Hasen

what will happen if i use two domains for the same site,
one is with key word based domain, that says what i sell
another for my company name

Muphet
Muphet
How about hybrid domain names? I am currently considering one name (all my previous “tries” weren’t as successful or easy to remember) that will be catchy. I have two in mind and they both are easy to remember/search. But how do you feel about hybrid domain names? Let’s say we have hosting company and two domains to choose: websitehosting (keywords) vs. galaxyhosting (keyword + random word) Some people will look just for website hosting and don’t care about the brand, but search engines might show you 5 similar websitehosting domains and the client might choose a different one instead. With… Read more »
WVCharlie
WVCharlie
Alex, thanks for the insight into the sea of confusion that offers changing rules of engagement on an almost daily basis. If you could validate for me what I think I have read and re-read in your article and companion articles by outlining my current scenario. I have an enterprise SaaS solution for transcription industry that exceeds most of the security standards and requirements on top of being extremely flexible, robust and easily customizable. We have thought about ‘unique’ ‘cool’ names, however, do not have a strong (almost non-existent) marketing budget for branding, as we have spent a ton on… Read more »
GoodIdea
GoodIdea
Hi Alex, great and strong post! Do you suggest having a domain name with keywords that are part of a famous domain? Would I be forced to spend a lot on marketing to differentiate myself from the famous domain? For example. my domain will be bookingflight(dot)com. Does that mean that anyone who searches a phrase on Google that includes the word “booking” will include the ads for booking(dot)com? Of course since it’s a very famous domain, my ads will be after booking(dot)com and to be before booking(dot)com I’d need to make ad campaigns with higher bids than booking(dot)com! Which I… Read more »
Synergised
Synergised
Hi Alex, I know this is an older post so I’ll be surprised to get a reply – but will ask anyway 🙂 My site, which I’m planning to launch at the end of the month is 5am-club(dot)com. I love the name and 5am club is trending more and more, but the sites that use it are massive, and very popular. I’m wondering if it’s worth tackling them on the keywords “5am Club” (currently around 1300 and 3600/month on the Google keyword planner) or even aiming at the “how to wake up early” words getting 22,200 hits. The Yoast plugin… Read more »
Sara Thackeray
Sara Thackeray

Hi,

I wondered if you could help!

My current domain is naturalbornfoodie(dot)com and I love the name. It’s about healing with natural foods and nutrition.

I have been reading about a USP in your niche which I want the blog to focus more on detoxing naturally with food, nutrients to improve health.

I will be qualified nutritionist in one year and am interested in detoxification.

Does this domain make sense if talking about detoxing naturally with nutrition.

I’m no sure if I’m overthinking it!

Thanks Sara

Hassan
Hassan

Great post!

Will it be okay to use a domain like this (mindanbody.com)? “An” is a short form of “and.”

Rajendra Reddy
Rajendra Reddy

Hello Everyone, my current domain is krreddy(dot)in but I am planning on moving all my content to mydirtytalks(dot)com, is this a good idea? Krreddy(dot)in is about tech news, making money and coupons.

David
David

My wife is renaming her business. Her current business name is Murals by Morgan and the web domain is muralsbymorgan.com. She is changing her business name to Morgan Mural Studios. We are deciding between morganmurals.com and morganstudios.net (the .com version is already taken). We like the sophisticated connotation of “studios” (that was the reason for the name change in the first place) but going for a “.net” domain makes it feel less authoritative. morganmuralstudios.com is also a possibility but we ruled it out as being too long.

Any suggestions?

Larry
Larry
I think that short-term, it makes sense to include the keyword you are targeting in the domain name you choose. This means however (especially since the EMD update) that you should limit the amount of on-page SEO that you are doing to keep from triggering an over-optimization penalty. The other side of this is of course, you are looking to build a brand, at which point having the keyword in your URL doesn’t make as much sense (unless of course it is part of your brand name). It’s really a matter of your business model: Are you more concerned with… Read more »
Anil Valvi
Anil Valvi

I have to read it carefully once again to implement it. Wonderful post.

My Experience
My Experience

Hello guys, I’ve read all the comments and I don’t agree that Google doesn’t like domains that reach same destination. Over the past 5 years I have made 50+ domains with the same destination and mostly ranked very well on competitors keywords.

Thanks, just my opinion.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Imagine if your business (or website) is called “Acme“, but somebody else holds that domain name. Instead, you have some obscure domain name called, say, “mybusiness.com“. What happens when your customers, recalling that Acme has a product they want, type “acme.com“? They’ll end up at your competitor’s website. One lost sale.

Shalu Sharma
Shalu Sharma

Interesting article. But I feel that domain names are not important, what is important is the quality of content and the frequency of updates. The era of keyword stuffed domains are now gone.

Contreras
Contreras

What domain name extension is preferred: .ws or .me? wich one is the easiest to remember. ex. Medico.ws or Medico.me? (.coms and .nets are already registered)

Anonymous
Anonymous
I have a site that has two keywords in the domain name. There is decent search traffic but the competition is low. I started coming up in the SERPS for this keyword phrase even when it was parked earlier this year. I also have a review site tailored to various markets with no keywords in the domain and my main pages are up against really high competition. I have had to spend quite a bit more to rank (this could be because of the domain name and competition). I see other websites hitting the first page much easier on some… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous

Nicely said. I would like to have your opinion about a domain name. I am trying to open an online bookstore, and, for the sake of example, let’s call my publishing company “Ocean Life”. Oceanlife.com is taken, so I would go with ocean-life.com. Should I go with E-OceanLife.com, or OceanLifeBookstore.com, or even Ocean-Life-Bookstore.com instead? I’ve read here that more than two or three hyphens are not good.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Guru,

I have a business selling English food (ukgoods.com) in the US. Someone is trying to sell me english-food.net for a reasonable price. Do you think it is worth it? There are 90,000+ global searches for the keyword “english food”.

Thanks!

Anonymous
Anonymous
Hi, I have a question about a domain name for a business. The business is called Jane Harris Hypnotherapy and will be exclusively working in a city called Nottingham. For SEO purposes (for search terms – “nottingham hypnotherapy”) would it better for the domain name to be: * janeharrishypnotherapy.com OR * janeharrisnottinghamhypnotherapy.com OR (as that domain is getting too long) * jpnottinghamhypnotherapy.com All domains like nottinghamhypnotherapy.com and variations have been taken. It would be good to get your SEO viewpoints! I know how to setup a website with title tags/keywords/content etc., it’s just the domain I need advice on as… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous

Keywords in your domain name ARE important. Why? Because Google wants small businesses to be able to locate themselves by name in the SERPs. You’ll notice that regardless of how competitive a keyword phrase is – if it’s specific, usually the domain name reflecting that keyword phrase ends up somewhere near, if not at, the top of the SERPs.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Good article but I have to disagree that Google does not take very much interest in the domain name. In building 25 niche websites over the last couple of years, I have had several different occasions when a brand new site without content (only the WordPress start page) was ranked on the first page of Google for the long tail keywords in the domain name.

These sites would sometimes outrank posts on other sites that had the exact same keywords in the title of an aged post! Just my personal experience.

Cheers!

goccine
goccine
Great article! I feel like I understand the information in this article, yet I’m still confused with a few things. Just so we are on the same page, my initial plan is to use content and social media to drive visitors/traffic to my page. I am in the network marketing/home-based business niche. The whole idea behind what I’m doing is, educating individuals in network marketing/home-based businesses on learning the secrets for how to attract and retain their clients. The issue I’m coming across is – the domain names I’m trying to get for my website are definitely related, but aren’t… Read more »
Eurydice
Eurydice
I think it is important that your domain name reflects the heart of your business, no matter what option you end of choosing. Of course, in a perfect world you could create the most pithy domain name and purchase it for only a few cents without worrying about anyone else having already grabbed it. Because this is not a perfect world, the best options for a domain name are often not available. This leads to an interesting question: What to do about competition? If you have a website called “coolblackclothes.com,” what are you going to do about competitors who have… Read more »
Jeff K
Jeff K

Hi, After reading your blog article on whether or not to include keywords in a domain name I wondered how something like my name (as the brand) followed by what I do, for example jondoeengineering.com or jondoe-chef.com [ed: names changed to protect confidentiality] would be considered as keyword stuffing and whether the hyphen makes the situation worse? I would appreciate your thoughts.

Get on the First Page of Google
Get on the First Page of Google

you can always create an alias for people to bookmark and use so they can access the site more quickly.

Kroberts
Kroberts
I hope you don’t edit out this comment because people need to know that YOU ARE WRONG. Keyword rich domains ALWAYS have had the advantage in ALL search engines. It would be extremely difficult not to do so. While I am sure it can be done, the SE’s are no hurry to do it. I assure you. What ever gave you this idea anyway? Obviously your new to SEO or you would never have made such an ignorant statement. If you would like to know more about how the SE’s work, feel free to contact me. I won’t point my… Read more »
Used Cars Dalton Georgia
Used Cars Dalton Georgia

Exact keyword phrase as domain seemed to have worked. Its ranking can move downward but some days #1 on Google.

Anonymous
Anonymous
I was really intrigued and encouraged about the fact that Google continuously re-formulates their algorithm for web search functionality. As a marketing professional and a child of the information aged, I am fully aware of how endless a frontier the web still is for marketers to communicate with their targeted audiences. The internet has been a revenue pumping pipeline for well over two decades now and when it finally became mainstream all those years ago, it completely changed the game of advertising and commerce. The essential rules have remained, and will always be the same; offer a good product or… Read more »
Doma Ining
Doma Ining

Excellent tips. I’m just starting with domains. I’ll definitely employ some of the methods to get me started.

JohnS
JohnS
I have a question which is a variation on this theme. We own a perfect keyword domain name for a popular product we sell but it is different from our company website domain name. This alternate domain name is highly searched and is the singular version of a competitor’s plural company name. At one point the competitor actually offered to buy it from us. We have created a site with the singular keyword domain name we own that is linked to our regular company website. We clearly state on the homepage for this alternate domain name who we are and… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous
When I heard this question posed, I had to laugh a little bit in retrospect. I have worked in marketing for over a decade and it is funny how synonymous naming a business and naming a website domain name have become. The challenges are essentially the same. You want a name that will not only readily reflect what it is that you do (See: Tires Plus, Petsmart, etc.) but also be memorable enough to make you stand out and stay on top of the customers’ minds. The latter part of this equation is obviously trickier than the former part and… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous
The key is to choose a domain name that reflects your mission statement and not just the surface products you are offering. In this case, “coolstyles.com” or “blackdesigns.com” may be more suitable; because you are really selling fashion, and though your products change you will always be selling fashion. So core competencies should always directly influence a domain name. Think about your business in two, five, and ten years. Imagine the different ways you may evolve or move to a different track entirely. Then sit down and start coming up with some domain names that tell consumers what you are… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous
The first point made is that having keywords in the domain name not only depends on how search engines treat the keywords in the domain name, but on ‘a company’s advertising budget and other factors’. What sort of advice is this? If having keyword-stuffed domain name is low-budget, why would anyone do it? In this instance, ‘low-budget’ seems to equal ‘cheap’. And people can always tell when something is done the ‘cheap’ way. Plus, you have to wonder whether an advertising budget really makes a difference, since surely there are businesses or brands out there with large budgets that might… Read more »
Gerry
Gerry

Hi, Master. Now I am building a website, my product is swimsuits, and now I have prepared 2 domain names, one is the girlsswimwearsale.com, which has a traffic volume of 1000/month I checked the Google key words, and the other is swimsuitspace.com that I came up with by myself. Now, the first domain is a little longer, and the second one seems not so popular, I do not know which is better. Appreciate if you can give some suggestion.

Thanks for your assisting. Regards, Gerry

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Hi Gerry, great question. In your situation I would opt for the second option, SwimsuitSpace.com. The meaning is a lot more clear, it’s shorter and easier to understand, and you will have an easier time branding this name with your customer base. Typically keyword-based domain names are only worthwhile if they also follow the guidelines I just mentioned and if the keyword count is significantly high (5,000 or more exact searches per month). GirlsSwimwearSale.com is not only a mouthful but the grammar is a bit confusing as well, and the length may make it more subject to typos.

-Kimberly

Anonymous
Anonymous
I believe that a truly good domain name will also have a good connotation, no matter what it is. It is here that my opinion differs slightly from that of the article. I think you can have a nonsensical name for your domain, AS LONG as that name makes connotative sense. If your unique business name can bring to mind powerful, personable, or effective real words, I’d say you are free to make something up. In this case, the connotation will do a lot of your branding for your business, saving you that marketing overhead needed otherwise. Of course, making… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous

I have a great series of keywords in my domain name, but the only available variant is one that is jam-packed with hyphens. What’s your call guru? Should I dump the keywords and start over with a shorter, easier to remember name, or should I go with the keywords and the hyphens?

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