SEO

Google, Yahoo & Microsoft : SEO Influence of Keywords in Domain Names

SEO Question : Are keywords in URL and domain name important? And how does it differ across various search engines?

Although a very basic question, I’ve been asked this many times by clients, friends and other SEO’s during meetups. For years, this question has also been frequently asked in many forums and blogs; whether keywords in URL and domain names are important and how each search engine treats such domain names.

The importance of keywords in the URL and URL structure is fairly important, and here is the level of importance for the top 3 search engines:

  1. Microsoft Search
  2. Yahoo Search
  3. Google


From Google’s perspective, keyword in domains plays a very small role in determining the rank of a website. Google is more focused on the quality of links pointing to a website and the content of that site, not whether the website has its primary keyword in its domain name or not. [Not to say it's not important, it's just not as important.]

Advantages of Keywords in URL Structure

One advantage of having the primary keyword in a website’s domain name is that even if some other sites link to the website using just its URL, the website still gets the benefit of the keyword as its anchor text.

Having keywords in the domain name helps to improve CTR (click thru rate) since the URL with the keyword gets bolded in the search results which grabs more attention of the searchers.

When this question was asked in the WebProWorld forums, a member said:

“Domain names are for people. There are plenty of sites at the top of the SERPs for their chosen keyword(s) that don’t have them in their domain name. Make the name easy to remember and spell because it’s for people.”

Quite true! If you make a search in Google for Computers, you will find that the sites placed at the top are leading computer brands that do not have the word “Computers” in their domain names.

If you are targeting a long keyword phrase such as “Refurbished Toyota Corolla for Sale” then trying to include this keyword in your domain name won’t be a good idea at all, at least from the users’ perspective. You’d be better off just putting up a Craigslist ad icon smile Google, Yahoo & Microsoft : SEO Influence of Keywords in Domain Names

However, there were views against this thought as well, another member of the WebProWorld forums said:

“We’ve seen good results with keywords in the URL, if no reason other than to entice searchers to click your search listing. Human visitors are becoming better at ignoring spam in search engine results, and are looking to important clues in your listing. Keywords in metadescriptions, titles and URLs get clicks.”

He has a point as well, with more and more spam sneaking into the search results, users now look for vital clues in the search engine listings to determine which link they should be clicking.

Also another member of the forums said:

“URLs are not so important for Google but do play a more important role with Yahoo. However, in more competitive categories so many other things come into play – branding particularly – that I wouldn’t be driven by the tld.”

Microsoft, Yahoo and Keyword Freindly Domains

So if you are targeting Microsoft and Yahoo in your search marketing campaigns, then you should probably have a domain name that has your targeted keyword in it, especially in Microsoft Live Search.

If you are targeting a moderate to highly competitive industry, then other vital things such as links and branding will easily outweigh the advantage that one gets from having keyword in the domain name, but the keyword in the domain or URL structure is highly beneficial in these search engines.

I also ran across this post in the Contractor Web Development community which nicely explains how each search engine treat domain name keywords

“Google, while highlighting keywords in the domain name, does not give preference to them, as that would be unfairly shifting favour to an aspect of a site that can easily be manipulated and does not necessarily determine content or its quality.

Yahoo has been reported to take into account domain name keywords in the past, but recent search results suggest that less emphasis is placed on domain name keywords, which has helped filter out keyword-stuffed and spam-riden sites with low quality content.

MSN Search apparently does take into account domain name keywords. As an example, compare the results of “cheap travel” on MSN Search and Google. You will notice that the MSN results are dominated by keyword domains containing the keywords cheap and travel, while Google results are not.”

So to boil it down, keyword in domain names are not important for Google, moderately important for Yahoo and it is somewhat a major ranking factor when it comes to MSN / Live Search.

Share with us your thoughts on this issue. Do you think that it is important to have keyword in domain names? Please leave your comments below.

Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Google, Yahoo & Microsoft : SEO Influence of Keywords in Domain Names
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Google, Yahoo & Microsoft : SEO Influence of Keywords in Domain Names

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34 thoughts on “Google, Yahoo & Microsoft : SEO Influence of Keywords in Domain Names

  1. If keywords in domain name do not play a role why is that so that sites that have not been optimised for anything can do equally well for the keyword in the serp? And if this wasn’t so you would not see so many keyword-stuffed domain names that want good positions in the google serps.

  2. I’d have to disagree with Google being in 3rd position for keyword in the URL importance. A search for a bunch of random keywords in Google returns at least 3 websites above the fold with the URLs optimized: http://snurl.com/2a9f9 as an example.

    There is a difference, though, between UK results and North American results, so I’m guessing that the policy could potentially vary on different continents? I’d still say that there is some level of importance with Google, rather than none at all.

  3. Im with Kerstin on this one. I have been in SEO for about 11 years and always find it difficult to beat a competitor on Google if their domain is keyword rich. The only way to get above them is too optimise my own url to include keyword rich information. Not to be confused with the old spammy keyword stuffing domains.

    Do a random search for anything on Google and you will see that 9/10 times the top 3 results either have the keyword in their domain or subfolders / subdomain.

    The example you gave on ‘computers’ – the top 3 search results for that phrase, agreed dont have computers in the domain but have a larger amount of good quality inbound links with keyword rich hyperlinking. So in effect the inbound links outweigh the domain, but I bet if the 3rd listing was keyword rich domain/subdirectory they would move up to number 1.

  4. JD N Coke,

    Exactly, that’s why I wrote that the keyword in the URL is important on Google, but not as important as other variables, which outweigh the keywords in the domain.

    Looking at computers as an example (and yes, I know this is just one example of millions), a search on Yahoo or MSN, prominence in MSN is given to the Wikipedia computers page, computer.org/computers, and computers.ebay.com before the manufacturers.

  5. One factor that is overlooked here is that other sites will link to you with your domain as the anchor text. So, if you own http://www.keyword.com and are getting many links with the anchor text of [keyword] or [keyword.com] that surely will help you to rank for [keyword]. So while it seems that keyword-rich domains play a major role in search ranking algorithms, but it might be more of indirectly through anchor text of incoming links.

    To test this, you would need to track the anchor text that are linking to these sites.

  6. i definitely agree with the rankings, as far as yahoo vs google is ranked at least. when i tried to get my domain to show up high in serps with my name in it, i used a domain that had my name in it–and in yahoo i eventually ended up in first, but google was a much tougher cookie to crack..

  7. I have to disagree with the statement about google, i have found that for uncompetitive keywords on Google the domain name is a huge factor. I have seen no1 rankings for websites that are under a year old and dont have any links or PR but do have a keyword rich domain.

    As for Yahoo it is def a factor, new sites that have a keyword rich domain tend not to have much problem getting T10 ranking.

  8. Thanks for the great comments. The point of these Q&A posts is to have readers answer and contribute to the questions. I think we’re getting a lot of diverse answers and insight, and this will lead to further enhanced discussion :)

  9. My experience, like that of Chriss1, has been that having the keyword in the URL is important primarily for the anchor text links, not necessarily because the search engines give the keyword in the domain more weight. I don’t even take that into consideration. If having the keyword in the domain name gets more weight from any given engine, great, but it’s not on my list of SEO concerns.

  10. It is best to have targeted keywords in your url for your seo endeavors. Natural links usually use your url name as anchor text so having a url that contains your targeted keyword is the best for seo optimization.

  11. I had reason to check out generic keywords for a client; Below are some comments from leading SEO experts

    Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team specializing in search engine optimization issued statements last week reinforces the strength of the keywords in SEO ranking

    “Domain names are the primary way of mapping where domains are on the web and Matt expects that to continue. Domain names are important and inseparable going forward”
    “Owning a keyword match domain name is going to carry some weight in Google for the foreseeable future. It is something they want to reward. ”

    “The keyword in backlink is golden, if I launch http://www.beer.co.uk or http://www.steel.co.uk, been a half decent SEO I should be able to get top 3 of those terms, BUT and this is a big but, if your in a highly competitive term area and you are good you can actually bind your brand to a search term which is golden as well”

    “Having a generic domain helps with link building tremendously, if you owned the domain Childrens.co.uk, it is likely that when people link back to you from their sites that they will use the anchor text ” Childrens.co.uk”. The fact that this is one of the main keywords you will be targeting in the search engines, combined with the fact that it is used exclusively in anchor text to your site and it matches the domain location exactly adds up to a very powerful piece of SEO, with the additional benefits of direct type in traffic”

    “content is king…but only if users can find it, generic keywords and good SEO guarantee good placement”

  12. it just goes to show, the internet is a changing beast. the nice thing about a brandable name (over keywords) for me is that it feels like it will survive any algorithm changes.
    mind you, sometimes a name can be brandable AND have keywords in it too ; )

  13. Kerstin have a point there, looking at or searching using the same search engine but different country SE, would shown different type of result.

  14. Seems almost everyone has an SEO point of view. Here is the point of view from an owner of a website. I worked very hard to choose a name that reflected our sense of style and quality for our art glass and glass jewelry business. I also wanted to make sure that the name did not lock me into a specific product or prevent me from growing my business in a different direction in the future (like selling supplies for glass fusing for example). I now have a trademark on the name Trezora, and have worked diligently to get my rankings up over time. I am now bouncing between #1 and #2 in Google natural searches for most of the keywords I desire. I do not use any of those keywords in the index URL and still beat my competition that do include keywords in their URL. Of course Microsoft, as everyone has noted, is a different beast – the natural search returns websites that hardly make the top 50 in Google and for good reason. Is it any wonder that Microsoft is so far down the list for people?

  15. Mendy /The url glassartjewelry is listed at Google n0/2 under the search glass art jewelry/ the url glassjewelry is listed below you on Google page 2 IMO because its seo script is non existant but still made it to page 2 / The url Jewerly is listed No/ 1 under the search Jewerly / seo about proof

  16. Hmmm …

    Jonathan,

    I just did the same search in Google for “glass art jewelry” and Trezora is #2 and the url artglassjewelry is listed at #3.

    Now here is the strange part, when I redo the search for “art glass jewelry”, Trezora remains at #2 and the url artglassjewelry rises to #1. So Google does put relevance not only on keywordds but on word order.

    And by the way, there is a difference between singular and plural keywords. Look at the difference in my rankings between “glass pendant” versus “glass pendants”.

    Finally, just to be clear, keywords in the URL do make a difference, but I was trying to say to all the professional SEOs to not always push your clients to include a keyword in the URL as that may hamper future growth, direction or even change in business. I may dream big but Amazon did not start out as http://www.amazonbooks.com. ;-)

  17. Keywords in the domain are extremely important period. We’re arguing over which engines place the most emphasis and by how much.

    Regardless of all of that, the bottom line is that a short, keyword-rich .net, .org or even .ws will be a far better long-and-short-term investment than would the 22-letter, 3-4 word .com, with or without keywords in the 22-L domain (and especially without).

  18. i prefer using keyword on page title. using keyword on domain name is not effectife, moreover for a long keyword. with keyword on page title, our domain name can be everything., and the target can be setting.

  19. I have a question. I’m the owner of a boutique graphic design company in Baltimore http://www.hardlysquare.com and I recently saw that the URL http://www.graphicdesignbaltimore.com was available, so I bought it. If I link this site to my main site http://www.hardlysquare.com will it help my pagerank? On another note, I’ve noticed that Yahoo has me as having links but Google doesn’t when I search link:www.hardlysquare.com. Why is this? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  20. Thanks much for the info. I am using your thoughts as I design a new website. I am wondering as well if the keyword order in the domain name makes a difference. Would instrumentaljazzmusic rank differently than jazzinstrumentalmusic, for instance.
    Thanks again!

  21. The generic domain name should reflect the natural search term used and used in your text, description, keywords…………………………..

  22. Great info, I am getting so sick of the domain game, less and less available because people are so wasteful with them, and the squatting etc. You either end up with a memorable name or a keyword friendly name, but seldom both. When will the madness end! :D

  23. I ‘perform’ seo for three health industry websites. Each provide news, jobs, ces. Jobs and CEs are provided through the same application for each and are listed very blandly as jobs or ces in the URLfor all three websites. I’m fighting to them each branded as, for example, occupationaltherapyjobs (or OTjobs) in the url. It’ll be painful for the dev team, but after reading here, I believe there is an argument to include them and to go that extra mile (and pain) to include them.

  24. more correct version:

    I ‘perform’ seo for three health industry websites. Each provide news, jobs, ces. Jobs and CEs are provided through the same application for each and are listed very blandly as jobs or ces in the URL for all three websites. I’m ‘fighting’ to have each branded as, for example, occupationaltherapyjobs (or OTjobs) in the url. It’ll be painful for the dev team, but after reading here, I believe there is an argument to include them and to go that extra mile (and pain) to include them.

  25. I agree. Having keywords in the URL can dominate in the search engines. I do seo marketing for small local business to promote their products or services. Clients are satisfied with the results. I appreciate your great tips! Thanks for sharing.

  26. The keyword in the domain name helps a lot, if you don’t have the keyword in the domain name you must always work harder and better. My opinion.

  27. How about the opposite question – how do Google, Yahoo and MSN PPC advertising handle domains as keywords? Suppose I am bidding on http://www.cars.com Will the search engines disallow this keyword, or even worse, strip off the www and .com, leaving me with cars as my keyword? Any thoughts?

  28. Bottom line. with the same budget would a decent SEO pro want to work with a tld keyword to promote a new brand name or offer the brand another store entrance or would he tell the client our social linguistics mean nothing ? Humans still program script for the species, if there is an advantage I will take it, country codes & the international .com is now branded advantage. BBC.co.uk BBC.co.uk/news BBC.co.uk/ whatever I want.co.uk, I now trust .co.uk
    it is now a trusted brand.

  29. There is a further point to consider – site owners who have secured a good keyword related domain are likely to be seo savvy, so the domain name is probably the first of many seo techniques that have been employed in the site to obtain the high rankings.

  30. It sounds like the consensus is that keywords in the domain name will help at least some…some believe more than others. I have two questions. 1) is there any SEO impact to .com, .net, .info, .org, etc? I can buy .info domains from Godaddy for under $1each. and 2) do hyphens-in-the-domain help or hurt in any way?

    Thanks

  31. dot com was the first registration 25 years ago it is The Brand to have.
    In the USA the com is advertised extensively, in the UK the .com & country code co.uk are used by the trusted corporate brands. For commerce dot com & country codes are seen as brands & that is the the weight they have. In seo terms not important, in every other way very important unless you registered silly fun one.

  32. My experience is that my site converts better by having a keyword domain name than a branded domain name. I think keyword domain names at least tell visitors a little bit about your website so it tends to be ranked better on google