Keywords in Domain Name. What’s the SEO value?

Recently, I met a client who had over 100 domain names for his single business.  He bought the domain names, which were premium .com’s which had some valuable keywords in them, with the intent of ranking highly for the keywords in Google’s search index.  Long story short, the campaign for all these keywords was as short lived as it took to visit the domain registry or auction.  Domain names which exactly match keywords that you’re targeting, can have some marginal effects on seo.  But not standalone.  Let me explain.

Exact match domain names, or “EMDs” as they’re called, are often bought with the intent of automatically ranking highly for a specific keyword, or set of keywords.  The problem with all the hoopla associated with this tactic is that it is myopic.  There is no way buying a domain name or two (or 100) will get you ranked for a competitive keyword which has the top 10 actually delivering more value than a domain name that reflects the genre of search the user is making.  Domain names do matter, but Google actually began penalizing websites with little actual value to the user a long time ago.  And exact match domain names are no exception to the rule.  It’s important that you infer the intent of the searcher.  Do they want to see an exact match domain name?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But you can be sure that they don’t want to come to a site that shows little respect for what they actually wanted when they entered their search query.  They want someone that gives them the value and ease of use which they’re looking for in the first place.  So provide value.  And the user will appreciate it.  And in turn, Google will take notice.

The EMD is targeting a slew of algorithms that essentially boils down to one search engine ranking factor: relevancy.  Relevancy is great, but if you can’t establish your authority, ease of conversion, and popularity along with that relevancy, you’re missing most of the puzzle.

In order to see that exact match domain names really don’t work for keyword which has stiff competition, simply Google “seo san luis obispo” and you’ll notice that Central Coast Digital Design is ranked #1 and the YouTube video about Central Coast Digital Design is #4.  www.SEOSanLuisObispo.com is nowhere to be found.  Central Coast Digital Design doesn’t even have “SEO” or “San Luis Obispo” in the domain name!  That’s proof that exact match, or even partial match domain names, are of limited value.  How limited?  Experts agree that domain names which are rich in keywords tend to have approximately 3% impact on a website’s overall SEO, based on that keyword being mentioned in the domain name.  That’s 97% puzzle unsolved.  A much larger portion of that 97% is branding recognition.  Something that is becoming heavily weighed by Google’s algorithms recently.  So, buy that premium and keyword rich domain name….if it fits into your overall marketing strategy.  Just don’t try to take a shortcut in SEO by becoming a generic “come one, come all” kind of business.  After all…would you really trust a local SEO Company with the domain name “buyseoservicesinsanluisobispo.net?”  Know your brand and help others find it easy.  After all, it’s your business reputation that people care about, not whether the domain name you have contains keywords which are “Google’d” that often by others.

Justin Morgan is the Marketing Director for Central Coast Digital Design, the first and only website conversion specialists in San Luis Obispo, CA.  He is also the lead SEO strategist for Agency Lead, a highly influential marketing firm based in Grover Beach, CA.