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Keyword-Rich Domain Names

By Jill Whalen, 6/27/2002

The myth of using keyword-rich domains for SEO purposes has been perpetuated
for way too long, and quite frankly I'm tired of seeing it written about as if
it's an all-important SEO factor.

See for
Yourself


Perform some searches in any spidering search engine
and sure, you may very well find keyword-rich domains in the top spots. 
But upon closer inspection, you'll see that the same keywords are also in the
Title tags of those sites.  Title tags *are* very important to high
rankings; I daresay that they're as important as body copy.  Many see the
keyword-rich domain name, and assume that's what is causing the high
ranking.  Yet it's much more likely that the high ranking is a direct
result of the Title tag and/or the body text, along with the other usual SEO
suspects.

Look at the Links

And let's not forget
about off-the-page criteria.  The reason why some sites are in the top of
the results isn't always readily apparent by just looking at the site in
question.  Some rank highly simply because there are keywords in the
hyperlinks pointing to the site.  Google is especially susceptible to this
phenomenon, which has been dubbed "Google Bombing" in the Web Blog world. 
If enough sites link to a site using the specific keyword phrase in the
hyperlink, it can have a dramatic effect on rankings.  David Gallagher
recently interviewed me for his Business 2.0 article entitled "Top of the Heap,"
where he wrote about his quest to become the number-one site in Google for
the phrase "David Gallagher."  All he did was ask everyone who read his Web
Blog to link to his site using his name in the hyperlink.  Once the "Google
Dance" for that month was finished, he was number one!


And no, his site does not have "David Gallagher" in the domain name. (As an
aside, the sites he was up against were fan sites for the actor David Gallagher
from the TV show "Seventh Heaven."  You can read David's article -- and my
quotes -- in the July 2002 Business 2.0 print magazine.)

What
About Directories?


With directories such as Yahoo!, it may
appear as if keywords in the domain name make a big difference to
rankings.  After all, the directories are not spidering the words on your
pages and don't have much to go on to determine your position.  But you
know what?  My very unscientific research shows that in actuality, keywords
in the Yahoo! title are the more likely reason for top rankings.  Remember,
those that purchase keyword-rich domain names very often name their site the
same thing as their domain name, and submit that phrase to Yahoo! as their
title.  For instance, a site with the domain of keyword-domains-r-us.com
would probably be titled, "Keyword Domains R Us."  As with the spidering
engines, the words in the title are likely to be what's boosting those sites
in the Yahoo! results, not the domain name.

What the Engines
Say


Just to be sure I wasn't leading you down the wrong path, I
asked Tom Wilde, General Manager of Search Services at Lycos, if domain names
factored into their ranking algorithm.  He told me that they are a factor
in the Lycos algorithm, but since they're so open to being abused, they're a
very small factor.  He confirmed that the Title tag and the body text copy
were given much more weight than the domain name.  However, for those of
you who just don't feel comfortable unless you have keywords in your domain
name, Tom did tell me that using a hyphen between the keywords would be your
best bet for getting them recognized as separate words.

Don't
Worry About It

Since I've optimized hundreds of sites without
ever purchasing keyword-rich domain names (and always get high rankings), I'm
sticking with my "don't worry about it" stance!  Like the Meta keyword tag,
domain names are definitely not something to obsess over.  I recommend
purchasing the domain names that work best for branding reasons.  To me,
YourCompany.com name makes a whole lot more sense than
your-keywords-here-so-you-can-rank-high.com, no matter how you slice
it!

Jill Whalen is a leading search engine optimization expert and owner of HighRankings.com. A frequent public speaker, Jill specializes in helping clients write and organize their web site content in a search-engine-friendly manner. She publishes High Rankings' Advisor, a biweekly newsletter featuring Q&A about SEO.

 

 

Speaking Engagement

I am speaking at SMX West

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