Keyword Rich Domains, Too Powerful?

Is it about time Google finally pulled the plug on exact match keyword domain names?

Should Google really lower the importance and ranking weight given to a keyword rich domain name, just because some SEO’s go fishing for keyword rich domains to use and abuse?

keyword rich domain names

And are keyword rich domain names really as powerful as they’re made out to be?

This article is based on my experiences and opinions with keyword rich domain names, particularly over the last few years when I’ve acquired a small number of them for building genuine informational sites on them including this one.

The article isn’t about the advantages and disadvantages of using keyword rich domain names versus brand names, or using keyword rich domain names as part of an overall strategy of creating satellite sites to capture keyword related search and driving that traffic back to the main site, or 301 redirecting keyword rich domain names back to the main site, or how restricting a keyword domain can be. It’s primarly concerned with keyword rich domain names as a sole ranking factor, taken in isolation.

Low Level Competition Markets

Every man and his dog knows that in low competition markets keyword rich domain names are all you need to rank at the very top of Google, that’s a fact. Go and do some keyword research and find a low level keyword market, buy the exact domain, put up a site, give it a bit of time and although you might not get alot of traffic you’ll rank no1 for that specific term in a short time. Low amounts of traffic can work and convert very well sometimes particularly in a small niche, but that’s for another article.

Keyword Rich Domain Names in More Competitive Markets

The stiffer the competition, the more difficult it becomes to rank a keyword rich just on the domain name alone.

In a stiffer market I have an exact match keyword domain name, coupled with site content it ranks down on page 18. This is a competitive market, in the web design field but it’s not ultra competitive. So if an exact match keyword rich domain name was the golden ticket then I would have expected it to rank slightly higher than this, it didn’t. With a matching home page title, and decent content the site is no where to be seen.

Keyword Rich Anchor Text

As everyone in web development knows Google’s ranking pays particular importance to the keywords used in links (see section 2.2). So if I was to fire some links at this domain in this stiffer market, particularly with the anchor text being the same as the keywords I was targetting then no doubt it would shoot up the rankings. Nevertheless it would take effort.

Another aged exact match keyword rich domain name that I own, in a fairly competitive market ranks on page 2 of Google despite having a decent amount of links with keyword rich anchor text. The links aren’t great links though as they’re primarily article marketing links, but they should be enough for a page 1 ranking based on the authority of the current number 9 & 10 listings.

Keyword rich domain names aren’t the sole ranking factor, there are obviously other important ranking SEO factors at stake here.

A quick search on Google for keyword rich domain names, shows an article that Jill Whelan wrote way back in 2002, when guess what, keyword rich domain names where the topic of the conversation. What I take from this article, is that in many of these low level competition markets, a keyword rich domain name isn’t even needed to rank, an exact match keyword rich page title would suffice on it’s own.

Keyword Rich Domain Names and Relevance

Google looks at relevance, so why shouldn’t it pay that much attention to a domain name, particularly an exact match. And if it ignores or lessens the value of the domain name, then what’s next, Google ignoring the page title because SEO’s know that this is obviously one of the most important ranking factors. Should Google also ignore keywords in the file structure?

Whether you should go for a brand name or a domain name is for a different article, but keyword rich domains definitely help, though the further up the competition chain the more factors and SEO you’ll have to work on and not just rely on the domain itself.

Search on Google, for instance look at competitive terms such as car insurance – no keyword domain names here. Despite the lack of keyword rich domain names, I’d take a bet if a site given all the same SEO factors and everything being equal, age etc that a keyword rich domain name would be easier to rank.

I’m firmly of the opinion that they aren’t too strong. I think they work in low level competition, where a strong page title might even be enough. They are relevant and a strong signal as to the content and theme of the site, though not the quality. And if it’s you’re sole ranking strategy in a more competitive market then you’ll find out it isn’t the silver bullet, though it may help, brand considerations appear to keep things in check.

Am I right or wrong? Anyone else got any thoughts and experiences on the power of keyword domains? Randfish thinks keyword domains are far too strong, and from inside information believes that Google will turn down the dial on the importance of them, personally I don’t think Google needs to.

8 Responses to “Keyword Rich Domains, Too Powerful?”

  1. RichardNo Gravatar Says:

    Good post Michael, but you do also need to consider navigational queries. This is one of the cornerstones of direct match domains.

  2. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Richard,

    Hope things are well.

    If someone types in keyword phrase + .com etc then it’s fair to assume that it’s a navigational search.

    In more competitive markets that Google obviously has large amounts of historical data and search behaviour patterns then Google can no doubt infer more reliably whether it’s a navigational search or not, and thus keep keyword domains in check.

    In low competition markets that I’m assuming have low traffic numbers, how does Google infer navigational intent particularly for generic keywords. For instance if I buy a keyword rich domain name, within weeks it could be number 1 of Google for those keywords, and this is without Google having much historical data to base an inference that I am indeed looking for a company whose name matches the keywords I have typed in.

    Isn’t it arguably just because the competition is that weak that these domains rank simply on a page title and exact match domain.

  3. PaulBNo Gravatar Says:

    lol anything to do with the guy 1 place ahead of you for seo belfast? Id say hes pretty beatable with the right links. Plus they only have like 3 pages of content.


  4. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Paul, not at all. Maybe that’s a relevant case in point though of how easy it is to rank for low competition keywords. This blog isn’t specifically targetted at those keywords.

  5. DerickNo Gravatar Says:

    Content + keyword rich domain + a few links is a deadly combo.I have seen keyword rich domains with good content beating poor-content sites with thousands of links.Links are heavily abused than anything else if we are to talk about abuse.

  6. DerickNo Gravatar Says:

    Also,you shouldnt waste your time trying to beat somebody to the top and complaining about why you are not at the top,just focus on building your site and providing quality content.

  7. Guillermo OrtizNo Gravatar Says:

    I’ve found keyword rich domains to be a huge nuisance. One of our competitors is not even based out of our city, but was able to secure the city name + web design and now ranks on the first page with only a few backlinks. I find that they have too much ranking power based soley on the domain name and little to no other SEO efforts.

  8. fashion designNo Gravatar Says:

    totally agree, keyword rich domain names for low competition niches, for a good “medium” site it’s good to be brand named

Michael Wall

Michael Wall is an experienced SEO based in Belfast N.Ireland currently running his own SEO Agency.

Michael Wall is available for Internet Marketing, Google Adwords PPC and SEO work. Please call Belfast 02890 923383 or use the contact form.

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