Back in the day, choosing the right domain name used to have a huge impact on your SEO ranking but this has changed a bit.
Exact Match Domains (or EMD for short) was a big deal. Google will promote your results because the keywords were present in the domain. This alone provides website accuracy and ranking power.
This makes sense on the surface. If you’re looking to buy a laptop and do a Google search, a website name like buylaptop.com or laptopforsale.com will pop up as great places to show iPhones for sale.
Other companies use subdomains and subfolders to stuff more keywords into each URL in hopes of ranking better. A site would include a page with a web address of www.exnrt.com/free-seo-course to get immediate SEO results.
But now, search engine algorithms have changed.
Before getting into the details of whether using keywords in a domain helps SEO, it’s important to establish a basic understanding.
Table of Contents
What are Domain Name?
A domain name is a unique address of a website that can be obtained through domain registration. It usually consists of a website name and a domain name extension. A memorable domain will boost your brand and help your audience find your website.
A full domain name (www.exnrt.com) has a three-part structure. It starts with the device or host name (such as “www” for “World Wide Web”), followed by the name (exnrt) of the site itself, and finally the top-level domain extension (such as .com or .gov).
What is Keyword Domain?
A keyword domain is basically a domain name that contains keywords related to your business, products, services, etc. An example of a keyword domain is Seo.com, and seobyexnrt.com. This name contain the keyword: SEO. In this example, a search engine keyword matches your domain keyword if the business target is Free SEO Courses.
Exact Match Domain
Exact Match Domains (EMDs) precisely match the search query most likely to generate traffic for your website, and historically tended to rank well.
Many Exact Match domains were purchased by webmasters, internet domain investors, and entrepreneurs looking to make money selling popular domain names that could rank well for the query because the keyword they were trying to rank for was in domain name.
For example, if I wanted to rank for [Free SEO Course], I would have purchased the domain freeSeoCourse.com.
What did Google’s John Mueller say on it?
Who is Google’s John Mueller?
John Mueller is a webmaster trends analyst at Google. He has been working at Google since 2011, and his main focus is on helping webmasters and site owners understand how Google search works and how to improve their site’s visibility. He regularly participates in webmaster-related forums and speaks at industry conferences. He also writes on the official Google Webmaster Central Blog about webmaster-related topics.
Keywords in domain names are overrated. Pick something for your business, pick something for the long term.Says John Mueller
Keywords in top-level domains (TLDs)
This topic was covered in the latest Ask Google Search Console’s (formally Webmasters) video with a question about keyword-based domain extensions (also known as top domain levels).
The Question is: Does a .jobs domain improve Google ranking for jobs?
First, here’s what Mueller had to say about .jobs extensions:
“This is a really common question that gets asked quite a lot regarding new upper band levels.
In short, no, you don’t get a special bonus like that from having a keyword in your upper domain level. You can see this by naturally searching for anything that interests you.
I think most of the top results don’t have those keywords as part of the end of the domain. Often, they are not even present in the URL at all.”
Using Keywords in Domain: Good or Bad
Keywords in domain names used to be a major factor in SEO rankings, but this is no longer the case. Google has stated that keywords in domain names do not provide a ranking boost.
When users search on Google or other search engines, they are more likely to click on a domain name that includes at least one of the keywords in the search query.
For example, if a user searches for “how to build a website,” they are more likely to click on a domain name like howtocreatewebsite.com or learntobuildwebsite.com than a domain name that does not contain any of the keywords in the search.
This clearly shows the importance of having keywords in the domain name when it comes to click-through rates of users. That’s why, back in the days, you’d see a lot of ridiculously long exact match domain names like bcheap-computer-for-sale.com. In those days, many SEO strategists were making sure that domains containing keywords were useful to speed up your SEO efforts and search ranking: if you wanted to rank for “cheap computer” all you had to do was buy the domain CheapComputer.com and you would get a rank on the first page.
The Change in Search Engines Algorithms
Google has realized that trusted sites need more than just a great domain name. The algorithm has been changed to take many other factors into account, such as referred sites and trusted information.
The focus on site content is clearly visible on the results page. In the past, Google would display results and minify keywords in the title tag, which often included the domain. Now, when you do a computer purchase search, the keywords in the search question are minimized within the data tag or content portion of the site.
But have you noticed that you rarely see those crazy long domain names anymore? That’s because in 2012, Google noticed that many low-quality websites and email were abusing the search ranking system by using exact match domain names, and Google updated its algorithm.
Since then, the weight Google gives to keywords in a domain name has decreased. In fact, by now, it is well known in the SEO community that exact match domain names will be penalized by Google and also Bing if a site does not have quality content to support.
All of this is meant to say that keywords in domains are no longer an automatic factor for a high ranking.
Can you still use keywords in my domain name?
Yes, but with caution. Note that keyword domains are not necessarily a necessity for every business or company, and not all keyword domains are of equal value.
Keywords play an important role when it comes to getting traffic to a website. Users type keywords into search queries and are likely to click on domain names and links containing those keywords. But you need to keep in mind that Google considers user experience important – this means that the keywords in your domain name must be relevant and consistent with the content of your site. In other words, you should consider registering keyword domains that match the focus of your site or business.
We’ve all heard of the term “keyword stack”. This refers to web pages that are artificially inflated with keywords. The term keyword stack also applies to domain names, so you need to be careful with your keyword selection and make sure you have quality site content to back them up.
Tips: Using Keywords in Domain
- Keyword Flow: Ensure keywords blend well together logically, not randomly. Utilize Google AdWords tool.
- Memorability: Logical keyword flow enhances domain recall. Avoid lengthy, complex names users struggle to remember or type.
- Brand Power: Incorporate brand and a strong keyword. E.g., BobsGuitarRepair.com for Bob’s guitar repair service.
- Balance Keyword Usage: Include intuitive keywords. E.g., BobsWatches.com conveys brand and purpose, while avoiding excessive keyword saturation like BuyWatchesOnline.com.
- Avoid Hyphens: Hyphenated domains hint at spam and confuse users. Opt for a clear, hyphen-free name.
- Keyword Quantity: Limit keywords to 2-3 essential ones, avoiding excessive keyword stuffing like outdated spam tactics.
Importance of Domain Name
Choosing the right domain name is crucial for effective marketing. It should align with your brand and be user-friendly. Consider the top-level domain (TLD) such as .com for better recognition. A professional and readable URL enhances user perception.
Domain Names and PPC
Domain names impact Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, especially if keywords are included. Location-based domains can boost local SEO results. Specific TLDs like .uk or .de can improve clickthrough rates for location-specific searches.
Changing a Domain Name
For established brands, changing a domain is unnecessary due to branding and traffic. Focus on quality content, referral links, and reviews. Newer companies can consider a change for future growth beyond specific keywords. Prioritize comprehensive SEO strategies regardless of business age. Contact us for advanced SEO services.
If you can include a keyword that helps make your business clear while keeping the scope memorable, unique and on-brand, feel free to do so. However, stay away from domain names that it might consider “keyword-rich” or “keyword-targeted” (such as best-free-online-seo-course.com). We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth noting again: while these types of domain names carried weight as a ranking factor in the past, their association with low-quality content means that users (and search engines) may now view these keyword-packed names with a negative bias.
More importantly, in recent years Google has made several changes that prioritize sites with keyword-rich domains if they are of high quality. Having a keyword in your domain can still be beneficial, but it can also lead to more thorough scanning and a potential negative impact on search engine rankings, so be careful.
If you’re starting a new domain, you’ll want to choose one that matches your brand rather than one that exactly matches your target keywords. Only add keywords to the domain name if it looks natural and matches your brand name.
When deciding on the keyword or keywords to use, ask yourself:
- Are people actually searching with these keywords?
- Will these keywords make your domain name more memorable?
And if it turns into an “either this or that” situation, focus on a domain name that stands out for memory and creates a brand for your business. If you can put a keyword or two in it, great. And if not, it’s not a big deal because the domain name is such a small factor in SEO and search ranking.
How many keywords should I include?
For better search performance, consider adding one or two keywords to your domain name. Short, memorable names are generally preferred. However, relying solely on a longer exact match domain without quality content is less effective now. Including keywords alongside your brand name can boost rankings and click-through rates, but it’s just one of many SEO strategies.
Does Google Like Exact-Match Domains?
Google generally favors exact-match domains as long as they’re not spammy. An example is Hotels.com, which matches the keyword “hotels” and dominates search results due to its user-friendly and memorable nature. This 27-year-old domain has strong authority with 61 million links from 127,000 sites and a domain authority of 87. It ranks highly for the keyword “hotels” and employs a smart brand strategy. Google initially penalized some exact-match domains for spam but later recognized their value and improved their ranking.
Do country-coded TLDs (ccTLDs) impact SEO, particularly for local businesses?
Country-coded TLDs (ccTLDs) like .ca or .co.uk can be beneficial for local SEO. They signify your business’s location and can boost visibility within specific regions. However, if you plan to expand beyond your local area, using a non-location-based TLD or gTLD may provide more flexibility in attracting a wider audience without tying you to a specific location
How does Google consider various types of domain names for ranking purposes?
Google ranks websites based on various factors, including domain names. Traditional TLDs like .com have historically held higher authority due to familiarity and implicit feedback. New gTLDs (generic TLDs) like .doctor or .clinic are industry-specific and may positively influence clickthrough rates and branding, potentially leading to improved rankings over time.
Is the age of a domain a significant factor in SEO ranking?
While domain age was once more impactful for SEO, today’s focus is on content, technical aspects, user experience, and relevance to search queries. While older domains may have accumulated valuable backlinks and pages, ranking now hinges more on being the most relevant result for a query.