Branded vs Keyword-Rich Domain Names

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Whenever I am working with a client that is looking to start a new business and website, I am almost always asked the question…should I purchase a domain name with keywords in it for SEO? Unfortunately there is not a clear cut answer to that question. Lets examine the different strategies behind purchasing a branded URL or keyword-rich URL.

Branded Domain

Personally, a brand is one of the most important aspects of a business or personal identity. Your brand is the foundation for everything you do. Your brand name and identity will be on your website, print material, business cards, letterhead, invoices, etc… This is ultimately what people will recognize and associate you with, so when you have the opportunity to purchase the URL that matches your brand name, I 99% of the time say to go with that. Of course there are exceptions to that, which I will explain below.

Some key reasons why you should choose a branded domain for your business URL:

  • Its easy to remember
  • Short and memorable
  • Another way to put your brand in front of your customers
  • Maintains brand consistency
  • Looks cleaner and less spammy (compared to keyword-rich url)
  • More professional
  • Tend to attract more loyal visitors/readers

Typically if you are looking to create a long-term brand, it is a safe bet to choose a branded domain. Just take a look at the top 100 blogs on Technorati, almost all are branded domains. It is proven that by having short and clean URLs that match your business name that people are going to trust you more than someone with the domain

On the flip side of things, lets see when having a keyword-rich domain can be helpful.

Keyword-Rich Domain

Now there are some situations when I would recommend using a keyword-rich domain name.

If you are trying to brand yourself as an industry expert. A good example would be something like “variable home loans” or “The Product Launch Coach ” where you are trying to position your personal brand as a memorial name or tag line. In that case it could be beneficial because you are branding yourself or company, while using the main keyword/phrase at the same time.

For marketers who are setting up targeted landing pages where they are trying to capture traffic from a specific keyword/phrase. I have used this method a number of times, where I purchase a keyword-rich domain, optimize it for a specific phrase, and then route the user to the main domain once they land on the landing page.

For affiliate marketers it does make a lot of sense. The search engines do place some emphasis on having keywords in the domain, so from an organic standpoint it can increase your rankings (especially if the domain matches the search query). If you are trying to promote a product and drive people to your affiliate site, you are not necessarily worried about building a brand, since you are marketing another businesses product(s).

I would love to hear what other marketers and business owners think about this topic. Do you agree with this post? Why or why not?

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson is the creator of StayOnSearch, a blog dedicated to Marketing Professionals, SEO's, and Business Owners. He also is the President of Search Creatively,... Read Full Bio
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  • Edwin

    You've missed out the 3rd (and most desirable) option: purchase the most appropriate generic domain name for your niche/industry. Frankly, you're doing your readers a great dis-service by not addressing this.

    Sure, that's not likely to be available off the shelf for regfee, but the right domain name is the gift that keeps on giving, as it will simplify your SEO efforts, reduce your PPC costs, make your company stand out from its competitors, and make it much much easier for customers to find your website again.

    So from your example, would be the perfect exact-match generic (and keyword-rich) domain name. There's no artifice in the form of twisting the keywords around, adding hyphens, etc… it is simply THE domain name for a real estate agent in business in Tampa.

    And that makes it astonishingly easy to remember since people only have to remember their train of thought at the time they saw the URL: “I was looking for a real estate agent in Tampa… Ah yes,!”

    This is even more significant if you're addressing a national market, where the location modifier is not relevant. Here, you're competing for mindshare with many other companies in the SERPS and elsewhere so any edge you can get is worth its weight in gold, in the long term.

    Basically the best domain name is the single most obvious domain name for that niche. Ask yourself the question “What is it that we do/we sell?” and the answer is also the best domain name.

    For example:

    – We offer tax preparation services >
    – We sell maple syrup >
    – We produce risk assessments >
    – We sell electric bicycles >

    Beyond the above, remember that if you're doing business within a single country, you will often be as well off (if not better) securing the ccTLD of that country as you would the .com. For example, a study showed that UK internet users are 6 times as likely to choose a domain over the equivalent .com if they are presented with both in the search results.

    A similar trend has been shown for many other popular extensions, such as .de (Germany), (Australia) and so on, where the ccTLD vastly outnumbers .com in local use.

    And remember, your URL isn't just for SEO. It will appear in your email address (the bit after the @), on your business cards, on your company letterhead, on brochures and leaflets, on the side of your cars, trucks and commercial vehicles, during your TV commercials, on the radio, in your signature on discussion forums, incorporated into your logo, on tradeshow booths, on billboards, in mobile ads, in magazine and newspaper ads, in articles about your company, in every incoming link pointing to your website, on invoices, on awnings, on packing slips, on press releases, on white papers, estimates and proposals, on packaging and wrapping materials, on carrier bags, on the product itself, on product literature, manuals, instructions, guarantees, on presentation folders and in hundreds of other places.

  • Christopher hofman

    Good point, Edwin. With the new .co there are still plenty of opportunities to pursue this strategy

  • Mcarter

    Excellent article and comment by Edwin

  • Sue | Infrared Sauna Therapy

    Great article and of course comment! Thanks guys.

  • Megri

    In Google caffeine era I have seen many of domain with keyword are ranking

  • Keith

    I believe in keeping it simple and easy to remember. If the name tells the customer what you do or sell and where you are, you’ve got it. Setting up a toyshop in Melton Mowbray? Call yourself Melton Toys.

  • Business Cards Los Angeles

    it is really nice read.
    thanks for sharing..

  • Grand Rapids Web Design

    Very interesting SEO article, thank you. I have a client who is troubled over whether to choose a branded domain that isn’t very memorable anyway; or a keyword rich one that no doubt would need to have at least 1 hyphen in it because all the “good” keyword rich domains for her industry are taken. I am going to show this article to her in hopes that it will help her understand a bit of what I am talking about. Thanks alot, just bookmarked the site & will definitely visit again to stay on top of new seo and domain related articles. 🙂