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:
- Microsoft Search
- Yahoo Search
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 :)
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.