Including keywords in your domain name is the vanity plate of e-commerce. Businesses from coast to coast regularly agonize over whether or not to buy new domain names incorporating vital keywords. For businesses just starting out, the choice is easy; if a domain name rich in keywords becomes available, snap it up. However, if you’re an established online presence, with a well known brand, is it worth the upheaval of changing your URL for one that takes keyword selection into account?
Yes: The Trust Factor
A domain name is one of the hardest things to change about your internet presence. Once registered and your site uploaded, it’s very hard to justify a complete change. Other on-page elements such as site content, page titles, meta data and menu systems can be altered on a whim. Links can also be built without too much trouble. But a domain name? It requires much more thought and resources to toy with. This school of thought suggests that a domain name is less open to manipulation by those chasing improved rankings and is therefore, looked upon favorably by the search engines as a fixed and trusted element unlikely to be regularly manipulated for rankings gain. The theory goes that if you can bag a domain name including a term related to your product or service (very difficult nowadays as most of them are already taken) then you’re already well on your way to establishing a good relationship with the search engines.
A second point in favor of including keywords in the domain name where possible is that it acts as great anchor text when other sites link back to your using only your domain name. Anchor text is a critical element of off-page optimization but it’s often hard to get other sites to use beneficial text i.e. phrases using your keywords. Lazy linkers will often just use the web address so, if your keywords are included in the domain, you’ll still pick up a useful link with optimized text.
And what of the humble surfer? As the whole point of optimizing a site for better listings is to be more visible to relevant traffic, it stands to reason that including those same keywords in your domain name will also win brownie points with web users. One of the basics of internet marketing, whether you start with SEO or pay per click, is the important of keyword placement and keyword density in your landing page. Echoing keywords that your intended traffic is likely to key into the search engines in your domain name is a great way of quickly forging an affinity with them and reinforcing the promise that your website is capable of meeting their search needs. While a brand name is great when you’re an established force, it won’t help at start-up when you’re seeking to attract large amounts of quality traffic.
Including keywords in your URL has become increasingly popular, but that doesn’t make it the only viable route to good search placement. In an over saturated market, its difficult (if not impossible) to get a good domain name which includes relevant keywords. For example, if you wanted to start an SEO or online marketing company, trying to find a domain name using those keywords, that hasn’t already been registered, is a mammoth task. The choice is then to take a less then perfect domain, often making the address longer and including hyphens to get a unique URL. This makes the domain less memorable and poses problems for offline branding.
More useful, is a website address that compliments your business identity as it will help to build brand recognition. Often, these domains are more memorable, shorter and will translate well into any other on or offline marketing activity undertaken at a later stage.
Fresh, unique content and good quality links are still required for good rankings, even if you have the best domain name in your particular industry. Rather than pay above the odds for a URL featuring keywords, marketing budget can be better spent on these core areas as they will ultimately target and deliver relevant traffic.