Keyword Rich Domain Names – Their SEO Value & Invincibility

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Keyword Rich Domain Names – Their SEO Value & Invincibility

Despite post-Panda/Penguin spam worries, keyword (KW) rich domain names still have a place in SEO.

This analysis will outline both the positives and negatives of KW rich domains on CTR and Rankings/Traffic. The result will highlight how KW rich domain names can be used positively for SEO and show that they will never be devalued or removed completely from our search results.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

First – CTR

Positive: Bolded URLs

Setting up your search results to attract a higher CTR can ensure you get more traffic from lower rankings. Simple.

KW rich domain names can assist with improving this CTR.

The most obvious benefit is that the URL is bolded in searches that relate directly to the keyword in the URL. For example:

Search: spit hire Melbourne

Search: spit roast hire Melbourne

Search: spit hire

Having your URL bolded is just another way to differentiate your result from others in the SERP. The greater the number of bolded keywords, the greater your chance of catching someone’s attention and getting someone to click through to your site.

Negative: No Brand Awareness

Having keywords present in your domain name doesn’t do any favors for your brand.

Each search result is like a mini-advertisement, so having your business name feature as much as possible will assist with brand development. The Title Tag, URL, and Meta Description can all play a part in marketing your company name in the SERPs. Take your brand out of the domain, and you’ve got one less area to work with.

How to Overcome the Negative

Look at the silver lining: you’ve still got the Meta Description and Title Tag to work with! Fill these with worthwhile content and brand mentions, and you’ll be able to win back searchers who are wary of your keyword-filled domain name.

Credibility is a big thing online. No one wants to waste his time with spam, so having informative content wherever it’s possible is always a must, even in the SERPs!

Second – Rankings/Traffic

Positive: Historically, KW Rich Domain Names Attract High Rankings

Matt Cutts himself has said that Google has diminished the importance of keyword rich domain names in search results. Despite this, there are many examples of KW rich domains that have high rankings but poor link profiles and sub-standard, on-page SEO.

This could be for a number of reasons. In the linked video, Cutts isn’t saying that KW rich domains have been completely devalued, just that they’ve simply been reduced to a level that is more appropriate to other branded domains. They aren’t as strong as before, but they still carry strength.

Another factor could be the aforementioned strong CTRs that are associated with KW rich domains. If your KW rich domain is ranking fifth, but it has a stronger CTR than the results above it, Google is going to give more prevalence to your website, and that means higher rankings and better traffic.

Negative: Penguin Has Hit a Lot of KW Rich Domain Names

The recent Penguin update saw a lot of KW rich domains devalued. However, the reason for this isn’t because of the URL’s structure. The risk you run with having a KW rich domain name is over-optimization. Because target keywords are in your URL – essentially becoming your brand – they tend to feature too heavily throughout the website’s content. Penguin slapped sites that included these keywords too heavily, resulting in spam.

How to Overcome the Negative

Just because there are keywords in your domain, it doesn’t mean you need to go overboard with them. Write with the user in mind and ease off on the target keywords. After all, it’s already in your domain name, so Google has a fair idea of what you’re going to be talking about on your site without you mentioning it multiple times.

Google and your target audience are one and the same. Don’t set up your site to satisfy just one of them.

Why will keyword rich domains never be devalued?

It’s important to remember that a lot of companies out there just happen to be trading under a name that is keyword rich. They did it because it marketed well to clients, not because it would benefit them in search engines.

As a result, Google isn’t going to start penalizing every KW rich domain it comes across. It is an unfair assumption that every site employing this technique is trying to game the system, so we won’t see an across-the-board slap handed out to websites that do.

Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas is a digital marketing professional from Melbourne, Australia. His background is in content and he has experience in running website and social marketing... Read Full Bio
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  • “Just because there are keywords in your domain, doesn’t mean you need to go overboard with them.”

    This. I cannot agree with this more and if I had a dime for every time I’ve seen it, well. I’d be rich.
    It just gets used far too often. A bit over the top, imo.

    • Dylan Thomas

      It’s an old school approach that should be stamped out!

  • I simply hate it when I see keyword rich domains in SERPs.

    • Dylan Thomas

      I think there would be a lot of people in the same boat as you Mahesh. It goes back to the point I made above that we like to see brands in our search results – it creates a personal connection and sense of recognition. When we see a KW rich domain, we instantly think ‘spam’. However as I mentioned, this may just be a company’s actual trading name, not just a SEO tactic for their website.

  • Keyword rich domain names are a positive in search ranking for relevant search terms, particularly with geographic location. If the website design and site usability are of high quality, along with relevant valuable content, these factors will combine with the meaning of the keyword domain name to produce better visibility in SERP’s.

  • Jonathan

    The real value is in owning the root domain keyword “It’s an old school approach that should be stamped out!” ? The only thing that is not old school is technology Our language – linguistics are limited & will be until processors are implants. The brand is the (dot) com or (dot) cc or use the TDL keyword to co-brand the developing brand name, it is not all about the deep pockets of established brands, how else will seo / competition flourish.

  • Good article Dylan. I continue to see keyword domains perform well. Though I think I perceive what Matt was talking about too. You do have to pay a bit more attention to the rest of the site’s SEO. I had one client whose company name was his keywords, and he did own his company name domain at a .com address. He did not immediately rank as I have seen in the past. But with a little on-page push, we quickly got him to the top of the first page.

    One thing I think you could have covered more directly, is the over the top practice of registering a long list of different keyword domains and immediately 301 redirecting them to the original site. I’ve seen existing companies read articles like this and go out and register a ton of keyword domains. If they don’t redirect them, they create duplicate content sites. If they do redirect them, they have built up no authority and will have zero value (my opinion of course).

    Keyword domains should be evaluated from the get go, and not used as a quick fix for an existing domain.

    • Dylan Thomas

      Completely agree Norm. Your point on buying a ton of keyword domain names – I think that any practice that is seemingly ‘gaming’ the system is going to fall on it’s face eventually. You only have to look at practices adopted in the past (e.g. spamming keywords) to see that if it isn’t penalised now, it sure will be in the future.

  • Having a keyword rich domain should have very little to do with rankings. The site’s content should stand on its own. I’m surprised that Google hasn’t yet put much effort into correcting this problem. A keyword rich domain is not indicative of a site’s value or relevance.

    • Dylan Thomas

      If you watch the video attached linked to this piece you’ll see that they have looked into it. The amount of weight they are given is still unknown though.

  • Jonathan

    MobileMarketing@ “A keyword rich domain is not indicative of a site’s value or relevance” ageed BUT, if the site is authorative & individual to the root domain url Then the domain Insurance / Auto / “Mobile Marketing” has a great deal to do with the subject matter Geo = Canada / Mobile Marketing = keyword !!! please change your handle to XXYBB$$ or something thats stands on its own.

  • maybe they check for other factors like the length of domain name… eg:- less than 50 characters etc

  • pw

    In years to come when the speculators and parking kings have been paid off, Keyword domains will be even more relevant. If a user searches “electric bike,” the odds are that one will find information on
    Search engines can’t get away from the facts that Keywords domains will always be relevant, no matter how hard they try to get away from this fact.

    • Dylan Thomas

      I think there is evidence of this even now PW. At the end of the day though, if the content is no good, the site won’t rank!

  • I absolutely agree. I think the less it matters the better. Its used to be a lot more difficult to rank for certain things because all of the good domains were taken. Now it should be more possible to climb up those rankings.

  • A Keyword rich domain is not sufficient to prove the value of a website.

    • Dylan Thomas

      Agreed, but it does provide assistance when utilsed in conjunction with other techniques. Just like any facet of SEO.

  • TechDude

    I just came across this post while searching for new SEO tactics which work. Almost all SEO blogs are just blabbering gibberish and nobody seems to have any definite idea of the right SEO tactics recently. Except guest posting and link baiting to some extent, all other SEO tactics seem to be somewhat diminished. I just saw this post which almost gave a stamp of authority that EMD is still working. I am not saying that they do not work. But they are not working that well anymore and I can say that from experience. I have blogs with EMD .com (exact match domain .com) domains and they are recently nowhere there in Google search though they are working well with Bing and Yahoo still. They have several dozen original quality articles but I had not updated them that frequently for quite sometime due to lack of time. So, I am not sure keyword rich domains are working that well right now. At least, one domain of mine definitely proves it wrong. Just wanted to correct the post.

    • Dylan Thomas

      I’ve had some results that suggest the opposite. Obviously there’s always other factors that come into it, but from what I’ve found, KW rich domains can have advantages (as listed above).

      Of course, we all trust our own results!

  • I really think it’s better to use a branded domain than a KW rich domain – of course in certain situations. I mean what happens if your company suddenly wants to venture into a different niche? You have to use a separate domain and your brand becomes disjointed. Of course KW rich domains have their benefits in search, but for longevity a branded domain will win.

    • Dylan Thomas

      Spot on Malcolm. You’ve got to weigh up the pros and cons before rushing into buying a KW rich domain.

  • Ariel

    @Dylan, then, if I have a KW rich domain shoudn’t I put that same words as keywords? If so, where do you mean, in the content or in the site description?

  • Nice analysis Dylan,

    That’s true that keyword rich domain will not get penalized but their presence in itself, represent unprofessional.
    So buy using such tactics they can attract highest visitors to that particular keyword but it will never going to help them to stay alive for long time.

  • I think finally it comes down to quality content. Just having a keyword rich domain name won’t help you if you do not have relevant content and if you do not have a regularly updated website.

  • Octavian Ambrosa

    “Negative: No Brand Awareness

    Having keywords present in your domain name doesn’t do any favors for your brand.”

    True !

    However, I don’t think that a small local business will see this as a negative aspect as long as they have the needed visibility within Google. I saw websites that are ranking #1 with very poor on site efforts, and a few medium quality links.

    Besides that, brand awareness can be created slowly using the other available tags, social media, and last but not least the content and website’s look and feel.

    Not to say, using this as a S.E.O. “forest” will bring the awareness to your brand pretty fast, and cost effective.

    S.E.O. forest = multiple keyword domains with a very high search volume that also have a very high competition that are expanding their branches with lower search volume second level keywords.

  • I’ve seen lots of discussion on keywords in the domain name but no examples. As noted above, I am just starting out so I’ll have no “referral” links and need page 1 SEO presence ASAP. Which format would best suit me with “mustang” and “lover” as my keywords:
    1)mustang-lover (I made the dash using the lower-case option on the key next to the “0 )” key. Is this the hyphen I’m supposed to avoid if I want to implement EMD?).
    2)mustang_lover (upper-case option, same key/underscore)
    Your attention will be immensely appreciated. Thanks, Dave

  • GSoul

    An important point. I had a website with a branded name domain, and a KW Rich domain name. Google insisted for one year the first result of the first page of the main keywords to show only the KW Rich domain name, so I changed and now I’m fine with Google. Wasn’t an option in this case. ‘I just followed the rabbit.’ Oh, and for the record, the KW Rich domain has only one word. Funny isn’t?

    KW Rich domain still has more value than anyone can think of.

    Hope that’s a kind of good hint!

    Best regards

  • kitty

    I’m a complete newbie to this. So am I right in thinking that it’s better to have a KW rich domain name as opposed to putting those keywords as your keyword criteria ( not sure of correct name of this, but all those words you want to be listed and reached under)..?

    Because I have just bought my domains and they’re both branded domains, one being and the other com , so now I feel like I’ve made a mistake?…

    • GSoul

      No. You didn’t make a mistake. What happens is that you can actually use both types of domains. I still use my branded one, simply because the old business cards and so.

      Keyword domains are better for a simple local or specific term search on search engines because they go bold all along the way with your site description and hopefully your page title. See? The bolder the better, that’s the rule!

      • GSoul

        Just to say that the branded one redirects to the KW Rich domain name.