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How Important Are Keywords In A Domain Name For SEO?…


The world of search engine optimization can be very contentious, with radically opposing views on what the right approach is for your website to climb to the top of search results. With Google continuously evolving its ranking algorithms, it can be anyone’s guess as to what the right approach is at any given time. This debate can often be triggered before a website is even created, with aspiring website creators wondering if they should be finding a domain name that contains their future site’s main keywords.

The importance of domain name keywords has changed dramatically over time as search engine algorithms have evolved. While there certainly are benefits of having targeted words in your domain, they are not as important as they once were for SEO. In some cases, they can even hurt your search rankings if implemented incorrectly.

There was once a time when search engines were much more trusting of websites. Don’t get me wrong, search algorithms were still incredibly complex, but they used different logic to determine what a relevant site was for a given search. It would oftentimes look something like this:

You search for ‘buy bicycle for city commute’

Google finds ‘citybicyclestore.com’

Google puts ‘citybicyclestore.com’ at the top of your search results partially because the domain name is very relevant to your search criteria.

Of course, many other factors would play into this logic, notably the content that is on citybicyclestore.com as well as any inbound links that site had from other websites. Nevertheless, the domain name played an important contributing factor as well.

Once people caught on to these ranking factors, many would optimize their sites purely for search engines rather than humans. This led to many long domain names trying to cram every relevant keyword that was available. People would then game the system by overloading their websites with keywords and buying links from other sites that were doing the exact same thing, which made for a pretty bad experience for people just looking to find some quality information.

This led Google to rethink what factors were important for a search. It seems obvious now, but they realized that a relevant domain name plus keywords on a website does not equate to a relevant website. Instead, they began focusing more on determining whether the content on a site was actually valuable to real people and not just for search engines.

Think about the last five websites you visited. Chances are that they weren’t overly long and filled with keywords, but rather were a short and brand-focused name. Even this website is called hover.com and not something like easilyfindandbuydomainnames.com.

This is because Google realized how people were gaming the system and began taking measures to correct this. Here’s a video from esteemed Google engineer Matt Cutts, who was the head of their web spam team at the time: