Choosing The Right Domain Name For SEO Benefits

by Gary on November 13, 2007 · 19 comments

in SEO

Domain names are very important. Although it doesn’t really matter what sort of domain name you choose for your online presence sometimes even small things can make a big difference; for instance, having your keywords in your domain name. For example, if you provide web design services it can certainly give you an advantage if you have the expression web design or web designer in your domain name.

If your company enjoys great brand recognition then you can easily have your company’s name as your domain name. But if you are just starting out it can be beneficial to you in terms of search engine optimisation if the phrase that represents your service appears in your domain name. The keywords in your domain name are also useful when people are linking to your website from another website and are simply using your URL instead of a proper anchor text; the keyword-enriched domain name makes sure that you get the benefit of the anchor text.

The problem is that most of the names have already been taken. Just try to register a normal-sounding domain name and you’ll see what I mean; even weird expressions are not available these days. So in this case scenario how to choose the right domain name? You can try the .net, .org, .us, etc. versions of the domain name or go for some esoteric variations for instance small-business-web-designer.com or something like that. But frankly you shouldn’t really try too hard; provided you generate relevant content on your website and pursue a balanced linking strategy you are going to rank well no matter what sort of domain name you have. Just try to have a smaller, catchy domain name that is easier to remember.

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  • Jon Dunn

    “But frankly you shouldn’t really try too hard; provided you generate relevant content on your website and pursue a balanced linking strategy you are going to rank well”

    Yup, completely agree. Although its difficult to prove- keywords in the domain name have very little ranking influence in my opinion. There are much more important things to focus on. Also, i believe search engines to see domains like this keyword-keyword-keyword.com to be untrustworthy.

  • Marc Levy

    Completely true… finding a decent domain name is todays marketplace can be extremely frustrating, but as said, don’t spend forever worrying about your domain name. Pick one and focus your time and efforts on the product/services/content on offer.

    I don’t think search engines see domains like this keyword-keyword-keyword.com to be untrustworthy, but a longer domain name definitely dilutes the weight given to it by the search engines. Thats why webdesign.com would be worth more than top-quality-webdesign.com under the search term web design.

    • Gary

      I recently got this to the first page of Google http://www.doublespark-seo.co.uk/uk-seo-services/Cambridgeshire/Cambridge/
      lots of hyphens in the url and very little link juice required, page is also brand new. That said The keyphrase “Cambridge SEO” is not exactly the most competitive.

      My thinking is that if I could get to the 1st page of Google for a few surrounding towns, with very little effort, it would be a good way to pickup some incremental business.

  • SEO Carly

    I believe domain can play a big importance, especially if it’s a one word generic. I’ve had too many of these types of domains that have shot to the top of the SERP’s beating out Wiki, Microsoft etc with minimal work.

    Also i recommend getting a .com, because you can loose out on alot of type ins from people who have heard your domain/brand and automatically go to the .com or use Control + Shift.

    Brand recognition is also a big factor, if i can’t locate a very short keyword domain i go for a 5 letter brandable and pronouncable domain such as Furly.com as i really don’t like hyphenated domains.

    • Gary

      Good to see you!!

  • Jon Dunn

    “I believe domain can play a big importance, especially if it’s a one word generic. I’ve had too many of these types of domains that have shot to the top of the SERP’s beating out Wiki, Microsoft etc with minimal work.”

    Ive never experienced this… got an example?

    If you have two sites exactly the same on page optimisation and link pop (without a duplication filter!), but one has a keyword in the domain, then yes, it would rank higher. However, build a few quality links with anchor text to the other and that will rank above the keyword domain.
    Having keywords in the domain has small ranking influence, but can make a difference in the whole scheme of things.

  • SEO Carly

    Thanks Gary, i’ve been so busy on and offline it’s unbelievable.. Hopefully i’ll get a break over Xmas. :-/

    Jon there’s many examples of this, search Viagra and Viaga.com comes up, search games and games.com comes up, phones and phones.com comes up.

    For “most” queries, a large percentage of the top 10 contain the terms in their Domain or URL. If you do analasys of these sites, very often there’s far more worthy sites in terms of backlinks volume, quality and anchor.

    For example one domain i had Establishes.org went to #1 for the term establishes with 2 forum posts as backlinks and it beat out Whitehouse.gov, Wiki, ArsTechnica, CNET, ICANN and a bunch of other solid sites with pages in the PR7-8 range.

    I admit, the terms not competative but these big sites had the word in their Titles and in their page copy along with solid internal links with the term as anchor so were definately contenders to rank.

    I didn’t even have it in my title, the word occured just once on my page and i had a total of 2 PR0 backlinks. It wasn’t a “honeymoon” rank either as it sat there for months until the site went offline.

    I got alot of other examples, but that’s one that was strikingly obvious the rank was attributed to the keyword domain.

  • Garry from PPC-Advice.com

    Although descriptive domain names may help in the short term, I think better managed content and link building is still king. That being said, webmasters and site owners have to be smart about protecting their brand. Cybersquatters will often register misspellings, plural forms, and hyphenated variants of your bread and butter domain name.

    • Gary

      High Garry – Welcome to Phoenixrealm, thank for the tips.

  • Jon Dunn

    Carly, Ok lets look at these examples you quoted, I am using results from Google.com……….

    Firstly the search “Viagra”……………

    1. viagra.com: 25 758 links with heavy use of “viagra” in anchor text.
    2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viagra: 8 770 links, with a smaller percentage of “viagra” anchor text.
    3. magicbluepill.com: 1 981 links, heavy use of “viagra” anchor text.

    Search for “games”……….
    1.games.com: 35 531 links with good varied anchor text and high percentage of “games” in those variants.
    2. games.yahoo.com: 162 012 links, many poor quality links from geocities.com. Variation in anchor text is minimal.
    3. addictinggames.com: 5 314 190 low quality links with the anchor text “AddictingGames.com” many coming from the same domain.

    search for “phones”………
    1. http://www.apple.com/iphone/
    2.www.switchboard.com
    3.threestore.three.co.uk
    4.www.phones.com: 895 022 links

    As always with seo, its never clear cut, but from what I have seen from the examples you gave I see no reason to believe that a keyword domain has high ranking influence. Unfortunatley your website that you used as an example doesnt exist anymore so I am unable to comment on that.
    Websites with a good generic keyword as a domain are generally old, well established sites with good link profiles. Also links to .www.keyword.com also contain the keyword which is also a ranking bennefit.

  • SEO Carly

    Jon, they were just random examples off the top of my head with no real checking involved.

    Further to just sheer number of backlinks and inanchor numbers, the authority of these links need to be taken in to account.

    I’ve got a 250,000 page forum, a 110,000 page forum and a 60,000 page article site so i could gain nearly half a million backlinks with the one anchor text however the weight would be minimal.

    Buy two domains, one exact match keyword and the other somerandomgibberish.com and apply the same backlinks and anchor text and see what happens for the keyword term.

    Apply some links as anchor, and some as pure URL to simulate a natural backlink profile.

    You can get .info’s and .in’s for around the $2 mark, so the whole experiment will cost you under $5.

    See if you get the same results i did.

    Also have you ever 301′d a keyword domain to a non-keyword domain and vice versa?

  • Jon Dunn

    Carly, I was just trying to explain that the examples you gave and the results on Google to me make no suggestion of a keyword domain having high ranking influence. I have all ready stated that I think it has an influence but its minimal. I also previously mentioned about having to identical sites and link profile but one with a keyword domian ;)
    I cant remember 301′ing a keyword domnain to a non keyword domain and vice versa. Why what is your experience of this? Im sure I dont have to tell you that all link “juice” is passed on from a 301 redirect?

    • SEO Carly

      I’ve done a number of 301′s to keyword domains or vice versa over the years with the same effect.

      Usually when a client starts out with junkdomain.com and later scores themself a nice keyword domain, or when they have a keyword domain and go for branding with a short 5 letter brandable or similar.

      Each time going from the keyword domain to the branded, the rankings sink for the keywords in the domain name but not others. Going from the junkdomain to the keyword SERP’s jump dramatically for the keywords contained in the domain.

      The last one had websitedesign in the domain and was solidly #9 for Website Design, the domain got changed to companyname.com and it went backwards in to the 100s after the 301. Now 4 months later the old rank still hasn’t been obtained however it’s just broken back in to the top 20.

      Actually my domain would be perfect to show you this, it’s top 5 for “SEO Company” and top 20 for “SEO” and has been sitting there solidly for months with almost zero movement.

      I’m thinking of changing to a good domain i have that contains SEO as my current one is just companyname.com

      If i make the switch i’ll be sure to post here so you can see.

      Gary with your domain, if you want me to setup a cPanel for you on my reseller server just let me know. I got oodles of space/bandwidth, and this way you will have a unique IP and location.

  • Gary

    I bought a domain http://www.website-designers-uk.co.uk/ quite some time a go.

    I have yet to do anything with it but I will in time build a small mini site, hosted on a server outside of my main network. It will obviously be SEF and I will do some limited link building. I am doing this as I hope in time it will become a valuable feeder site to my main sites, and I think having keywords in the domain will help it rank – well I certainly hope so.

  • Hey

    I totally agree domains are very important – and while mentioning most good ones are ‘gone’, there is always the option to purchase from existing owners.

    Great blog – added to bookmarks :)

  • Jon Dunn

    Thanks Carly, thats very interesting indeed. I find it strange that the keyword in the domain is affected so badly going when going to a non-keyword domain because the links pointing to the old domain will still retain the http://www.keyword.com link or the “keyword” anchor text. Good thoughts though, i think i need to do some experimenting myself with this ;)

  • SEO Carly

    I just noticed today when looking at the stats, i’m also #3 for “Internet Design Company” from 208 Million and hovering around the #50 mark for just “Internet Design” from 1.2 Billion and #8 for “Internet Designs”

    There’s a ton of search terms with “internet” in them i havn’t even tried to target like the ones above i come up high on in the SERP’s, i’d be very shocked if this happened without the word internet in my domain with all else being equal.

    It will be interesting to see how Gary’s domain performs for the “website design” search term, i think it will rocket in on the UK engine.

  • Jon Dunn

    Hi Carly, interesting comments about the redirecting of keyword domains and vice versa etc. I think i need to do some experimenting with this ;)
    I would imagine then, that your ranking for “internet design company” is due to the fact that you have internet in the domain name and you have lots of “company” anchor text links pointing to your site as well as company in the page title. It would be interesting to see where you stand for that term on a non keyword domain (without “internet”), or with the term just in page content.

  • SEO Carly

    Yes i have a fair few “company” backlinks, which has helped push it to #4 for SEO Company but hardly any “internet” backlinks so the ease of ranking there is with the word in the URL.

    Where keyword domains have their advantage is when standard links are used with no anchor the word/words in the domain effetively become the anchor.