I'm a graphic designer and writer in Northern Ireland. Welcome to my blog.

The real value of keyword-rich domains

http domain name

When I became self-employed, I mainly targeted the Scottish market. Three years on, my business is international, and just yesterday I began working with my first Japanese client — something I’d never have contemplated back in 2005. Throughout my short time of going it alone I’ve learnt about online marketing, and I thought I’d share the importance of keywords within domain names.

I’ll use two of my websites as examples: logodesignlove.com and davidairey.com.

  • logodesignlove.com has been live since January 2008
  • davidairey.com has been live for since May 2005

In a Google search for “logo designer” here are the front page results (click image for a larger view):

Google logo designer search

davidairey.com is listed in the #5 spot, whereas LDL is just one place behind in #6 (results vary from day-to-day and across geographical locations). Remember, davidairey.com has been live for three more years than logodesignlove.com.

I’ve seen some SEO tutorials explaining the benefit behind ‘keyword stuffing’ your domain names, and how search engines place more significance on websites with relevant domains.

Before you rush to a domain registrar with your list of keywords, results can be deceiving, and reflect more than a simple $10 purchase.

Update: 14 July 2008
Matt Cutts recently had this to say about keywords within domain names:

“Generic domains that users are likely to remember, will indeed carry more weight than others. There is a real value to those FuneralHomes.com for example. Google does give keywords in the URL a certain amount of weight, but you don’t need it in order to rank.”

In his Domain Name Keyword Importance article, Scott Boyd writes:

“Think about it logically. If this was such an important factor — i.e. more important than any other SEO factor, as people are saying — why would Google allow this? A keyword in a domain says nothing about the quality of the content on the site – it’s something that anyone can manipulate in an instant and at very low cost.”

Scott rightly places emphasis on quality content, however, there is one benefit to having keywords within your domain name, and that’s the “anchor text” people use when they link to your website. I’ll explain.

logodesignlove.com has significantly gained ground on davidairey.com because people use the text “logo design” within their links, as opposed to “David Airey.”

An inbound link pointing to davidairey.com is most likely to be typed as David Airey. A similar link to logodesignlove.com is most likely to appear as Logo Design Love.

Considering the importance of anchor text on inbound links, this will have a bearing on web searches for “logo designer.”

With that in mind, the main point still reverts to your content, because if it’s not good quality, you won’t create any inbound links.

There’s another reason behind LDL’s rise. The content is more focused on the topic of the Google search, whereas here on davidairey.com, there’s a broader spectrum of posts, from marketing to photography, art to web development.

The real key to front-page Google rankings lies not in keyword-rich domains, but in the quality and relevance of the site content.

You can rank highly for any term you set your mind to, regardless of your domain. Short, catchy titles may help, but ultimately, you need to use your business sense to define your brand.

Search engine optimization resources

If you’re interested in boosting your search engine traffic, here are a few useful resources:

Your search ranking experiences

If you’ve had similar, or differing experiences with search engine rankings, I’d love to know.

My second book on Amazon

Related posts

54 comments about “The real value of keyword-rich domains”

  1. Hmmm… Interesting. Are you finding that people click through to davidairey.com from logodesignlove.com? Or in other words: do you think having multiple websites (one or more extremely topic focused and one general for enlisting services) is a viable strategy to drum up business?

    Thanks again for the intriguing content.

  2. The timing of your post is perfect, David. I just changed my domain from douglaskarr.com to marketingtechblog.com this last week. Though Google is still updating their indexes (I’m properly redirecting), I’ve already moved the site from #2 for “marketing technology” and “marketing technology blog” to #1 on Google’s search results.

  3. I guess if I was selling something this would probably mean more to me. I’ve never been big on these types of things. It’s like I have this great little sidebar idea for a poll and I designed how I want it to look in Photoshop, but now I’m stuck because I haven’t a clue how to code the thing to get it to work. Coding, like SEOs and keywords, bore me to tears. I suppose I should learn … someday.

  4. This has definitely been my experience. Having a domain with your keywords in it really helps.

    I think one reason Google gives so much weight to your domain name is that a surprising amount of people will type the domain name of a website into Google, instead of the address bar, e.g. someone wanting to open logodesignlove.com may type that directly into Google search, or perhaps just “logodesignlove” or even “logo design love”. And Google needs to provide them with the result they are expecting.

  5. Very nice and on time. I was just thinking to register a domain.

    For this purpose I thought for many names in my native language but after reading your post, I will try to get a name for the market I am looking to attract.

  6. Keyword stuffing can get a site lablelled SPAM by Google’s search engine. As long as content is relevant to the domain name, there should be no problem. But even if the website is legitimate, excessive keyword stuffing could cause the website to be labelled SPAM. Google then removes the site from search results completely.

  7. James,

    I do have quite a few visitors arriving from Logo Design Love, both via the sidebar banner and the logo design resources page. Having two websites around a similar topic can definitely help, but then it’s also twice the work.

    Doug K.,

    Great job with the search rank improvement! I hope Google’s index updates sharpish for you.

    Doug C.,

    You’re not selling anything? Your website shows you as a designer / illustrator for hire. Are you moving down a different route now?

    Ben,

    I’ve also been known to type website names into the search field. Sometimes I know part of the URL, but not all, so need a little assistance.

    Meraj,

    It all depends on your target market. If your new website will be focused upon those people in your home country, a domain in your native tongue is a good option, but from your comment I think your audience is broader than that.

    Nevine,

    That’s a valid point, and one that I’ve not (thankfully) had experience of. I’d not be surprised to see it happen, but I reckon I’m safe enough.

  8. I completely agree with you. The domain adds less value to SEO. Take e.g capital.com, it should rank #1 for the keyword “capital” but no, it isn’t even on the first page.

    However, the google does have the importance for page titles and headings.

  9. Hey man,

    Noticed your url is different from your title of your post. Was that intentional? I think it might affect your ratings form my limited experience?

    Also what can help is a good site title name. For example yours is David Airey :: Graphic and Logo Designer. You might consider the reversal Logo and Graphic Designer. I’m pretty much sure if you search graphic designer, you might get a better rank response. Dont forget the site discription as well.

    Finally all these are tweaks, content is still king. Like my website Design Sojourn | Strategic Industrial Design Blog, would not rank in industrial design if I did not consistently write about industrial design articles.

  10. “You’re not selling anything? Your website shows you as a designer / illustrator for hire. Are you moving down a different route now?”

    You seem a little miffed about what I said in my previous post so let me clarify …

    Your blog is very serious, very business-like. Mine is like the playground where kids climb around on the big plastic animals. Yes, I have my contact info and a link to my portfolio, but I don’t promote them. They are not the focal point of my blog.

  11. Muhammad,

    That’s a good example, using capital.com. Cheers.

    DT,

    Sometimes I change the post ‘slug’ to remove unecessary words, such as, ‘of’ ‘the’ etc. Words that search engines don’t need. Do you change the post slug in WordPress too? Thanks for your website title suggestion. I’m targeting ‘logo designer’ searches, so think the current arrangement might work better.

    Doug,

    Ah, please don’t get me wrong. That’s the beauty of text with no facial expressions or voice tone. I’m not miffed at all, just curious. I saw your blog as a section to your portfolio site, not realising the separation you want to keep. In hindsight I can see how my question was mis-interpreted. Sorry about that.

    Oh, and I love the description for your blog:

    Mine is like the playground where kids climb around on the big plastic animals.

  12. Content does have a lot to do with rankings, and the quality (and frequency) of yours make your position well-deserved, in my opinion. We’re currently targetting our services more regionally.

    With a domain of peacockcarter.co.uk, we’ve done pretty well in the shortish time we’ve been going (although we do have older domains from our previous respective businesses), and we are noticing improvements, even now.

  13. If have tossed around this point for a while. My personal finance site, “The Happy Rock” has been slow to grow, but my content schedule was light too.

    I often wonder how much growth I sacrificed by creating a brandable but non niche related url name.

    I am working on a second site and flip flopping between “pf'” or “personafinance'” in the title. PF is much more crisp and clean and even brandable, but personalfinance gets me great linking keyowrd but is more generic.

  14. Hey David,

    I just started to get more deep into this topic. I think my blog (yourdesignblog.com) is still too young to make any conclusion about how useful is this domain. Also I have to learn a lot about the way how the Big Google watching us. You posted here some really good starting points for my research.

    Thanks

  15. All very good points, domain keywords are an important part of SEO.

    As you know I recently changed my own domain from my brand name to a keyword heavy domain and I have noticed improvements almost immediately.

    It is important to remember that SEO involves lots of different parts an no 1 area on it’s own will determine your rankings, it’s the way you combine them.

    Content is by far the most important but it needs to be supplemented with good keywords, title tags and incoming links etc… to be most effective.

  16. All is cool :) Actually, I should have picked a better name and domain for my blog. Just out of curiosity, would it be a hassle for everyone if I did decide to change the name and the domain?

  17. What an excellent post. I too have used domain names to my advantage, though now find pushing a ‘brand’ pays more.

    And as above there.

    CONTENT REALLY IS KING!

  18. Thanks very much, Richard. Glad to know your own efforts are gaining momentum.

    Happy Rock,

    There are pros and cons. I’d probably not remember your name if it was more generic.

    Szabi,

    You’re very welcome. I imagine you doing well with your domain and relevant content.

    Shaun,

    Good job with the immediate improvements! Was your boltonwebdesign domain affected by the Digg, or was that your fluffypig one?

    Doug,

    If you change your domain, you can add a couple of lines of code to your htaccess file, meaning anyone who visits your old domain will be automatically redirected. Simple. Let me know if you want more info.

    Dan,

    I agree. The brand is certainly more important. Thanks for commenting.

  19. I have just updated the post, linking to a recent quote from Matt Cutts of Google.

    Generic domains that users are likely to remember, will indeed carry more weight than others. There is a real value to those FuneralHomes.com for example. Google does give keywords in the URL a certain amount of weight, but you don’t need it in order to rank.

  20. Once I learned this, it was on. I learned having a keyword in the domain is gold when I started getting search engine hits that had “review” in the query to posts that weren’t reviews. But the word is in my domain name. Now I know I can mention a product in a post and have a chance at ranking high for people looking for reviews of the product. It’s pretty nice at times.

  21. I’ve got a client who launched her blog with a keyword phrase that people actually type in to search for solutions to a problem. She’s only made about 20 blog posts over the past three months, and most of them have been poems about grieving.

    I was STUNNED to look at her log files and see the number of visitors her blog site was getting. Further digging showed they were searching for her domain name and finding her blog.

    That made a believer out of me in keywords within domain names!

  22. David: It was a blog post on fluffypig.com which made the front page of Digg, so understandably thats site was suspended. Apparantly it received 180,000 page views in under an hour and crashed their servers constantly.

    I really can’t understand why they took down my boltonwebdesign domain and jigsawinternet emails as well though!

    I have just got my emails restored but still exchanging heated emails trying to resolve the sites.

    Maybe they don’t want to give me my blog back because they know the next post will be something along the lines of ‘Host Gator SUCKS’ lol

  23. i more prefer meaningless domain names, so i can put on any content :)

  24. Regarding my previous comment. Yes, my target market is quite broad and not limited to only my home country.

    It is very nice to see other very useful comments in this regard.

  25. Hey David,

    your post has been stolen by this “blog” here:
    http://dtrent.net/the-material-value-of-keyword-rich-domains
    http://dtrent.net/the-real-value-of-keyword-rich-domains

    tad

  26. Stephan,

    That’s interesting to know. Cheers, and good going.

    Shaun,

    That’s terrible how all your domains have been taken down because of just one being ‘Dugg’. I hope you do publish news of your hosting experience, as I don’t know anything about Host Gator, and it’s always useful to learn from customer testimonials.

    Tad,

    Thanks for looking out for me. I’ve known of that content thief for a while now, as he’s stealing from both my blogs.

  27. This is great – I’ve been doing a little research about keyword rich domain names and this is the best resource I’ve found that explains it in a way that I can understand.

    I have one domain name that is simply used for a lead capture page (ie zero in terms of content) and it is consistantly on the front page of google’s search for my main keyword string. All I do is articles, blog posts and place it on my forum signature link – so not really doing much in terms of real seo. On the other hand I have a site thats related to the lead capture page domain – it’s pr2 but it’s buried somewhere back on page 10 : )

    Great post.

  28. Hi David,
    Great post, I like the point about LogoDesignLove getting the “Logo Design” keywords in the anchor text whenever someone mentions it, as that is something incredibly obvious that I had somehow overlooked before (and I’ve been doing this whole webmaster thing for a while now).

    I was fortunate enough to be able to buy one of the best “logo design keyword” domains (in my humble opinion) a few years ago at a pretty decent price, I spent the latter part of last year developing it and I am now going ahead with it full throttle, so I guess we’ll see how much the domain name itself helps in the search engines, LOL.

    BTW, you have a great blog, I’m a long time reader, first time commentor. If you’re ever looking for a Guest Writer for either of your blogs just let me know!

  29. URL and site name will be the same. Made up of 3-words that also start some of my sentences. An example being: YourAgeMight (not actual name – keeping undercover at this time). The start of some of the paragraphs will read Your age might . . . thus allowing of repetition of the URL, site name, and topic categories.

    Your age might free you from paying taxes
    Your age might hide behind a smooth complexion
    Your age might redefine you

    Will doing things this way help or hinder with SEOs

  30. Shaye,

    Good of you to offer an insight of your front page Google domain, and glad this post proved useful.

    George,

    That’s a great address you’ve got yourself. I wonder what effect the ‘.org’ extension has, instead of the ‘.com’. I notice that logodesign.net is on the 2nd page of results for ‘logo design’, so perhaps it doesn’t matter too much?

    Catherine,

    Be careful not to repeat the same three words too many times, as this might lead to a penalty (check out keyword stuffing).

  31. Good pointers on SEO. To tell the truth though I have never tried any of this stuff till now, but have now started reading up on it.

  32. I think a great deal of your success with the Google ranking is probably more down to the success of your blog. So many different factors affect how Google ranks your site, the domain name being one of thousands. The key to good rankings is probably more down to content, and your blog seems to be packed with accurate, relevant and useful content.

  33. Rob,

    I’m sure my content does help somewhat. Thanks for the compliment!

  34. I agree with you about the domain name and wish that I had used the word logo within my business domain name as firebubbledesign.com showed up for all sorts of irrelevant searches in the early days of the site being published such as bubble writing and fire places! Not the best search engine results if your a Logo Designer!

  35. Help, I have read all the advice here and found it helpful yet a bit confusing. I bought a domain for its key word, va-loan.com. This is not a widly used search term although more companiers are offering va loans. The search term “va loan” is what I am after here, but so far I am not appearing in google. I have an white hat SEO project that is on going for two months posting articles and forms.

    So why do I not appear on the term “va loan”?

    thanks for any advice.

  36. Richard,

    Google oppoerates a sand-box on newly registered domains which is essentially a period of time where you have to build up trust between your domain and Google. It would take a very comprehensive SEO campaign to get it to the top of Google after only two months, even with a not-so-common search term. And by the looks of it you’re competing against the likes of Wikipedia and a .gov domain for the search term.

    From my experience we’ve worked with domains that have stayed in the sand-box for anything up to 12 months in the past. Although I’ve just spotted Google has given your site a Pagerank, so the likelihood it is out of the sandbox already.

    I guess the key to it is patience, keep working on your white hat SEO, build up relevent links to your site, and keep generating content and updating your site regularly. Your site code is fairly well constructed, though could possibly do with a little housekeeping (validation with W3C), maybe move to tableless layout.

    I hope that’s a little help!

    Regards

    Rob

  37. Thanks, that is helpful.

    One more thing I don’t understand. Sometimes people with new websites say they get indexed within a few days, others say it only takes a week or two. I have experienced this myself. But my SEO company has been creating links to va-loan.com for two months and so far none of them appear when I check my back links. They say it takes a few months to appear, does this sound right? I own other websites and have placed links on them to link to each other, none of those links have ever appeared either.

    (ex. http://www.va-loanofficer.com, http://www.va-loanapplication.com, and many others.)

  38. It depends entirely on how you’re checking your backlinks. If you use ‘link:mysiteurl.co.uk’ within a Google search you’ll get a very different list to that in Google’s webmaster tools…

  39. That’s interesting, Rob (HostPipe).

    I wonder why there’s such a difference through two Google tools.

    Thanks, by the way, for answering Richard’s questions. You did a better job than I could’ve.

  40. The answer to why they are different, so I’ve been told, is basically anyone can use ‘link:mysiteurl.co.uk’, whereas only legitimate webmasters can view their legitimate list of backlinks using the webmaster tools.

    I personally wouldn’t be terribly happy if my competitors could view the full list of my inbound links, hence why you are only getting a snapshot using the link: tool in google.

    I guess where would the fun in SEO be if I had easy access to all of my competitors inbound links!!!

  41. Well that must be true, using Google search it shows a total of 41 links. Using Google webmaster account it shows 1425 links!

    This is good news, thanks for the tip.

    I guess now its all about the age of the domain. I have had it for about 6 months, but someone else had it before that (a few years) but had it parked with Google ads on them. I am wondering if this is hurting me. I am thinking with time, things will improve.

  42. Domain keywords are important when it comes to SEO, but not necessary. The value of having keywords within a domain as shown by the ranking of this domain, has been debated for some time. It can help, but with proper seo, you can rank well for relevant searches for an occupied niche.

  43. I have recently started looking in to SEO. Articles like these are great bits of info to help boost your rating. I found that hiding a paragraph on your site that is filled with buzz words, hot topics or key words help get your site noticed be the search engines. You can make it invisible to the viewers of your site but the crawlers will see it. I’m not the best at writing so having this hidden paragraph helps me out meeting some of the requirements for the search engines.

  44. I’d not recommend hiding any text. As far as I’m aware this could lead to a search penalty if the engines find out.

  45. Really! That I didn’t know, I just got the tip off another site. To me it seemed harmless but I don’t want to give bad advice. I will have to remove what I have hidden on mine. Thanks for the info.

  46. You’re more than welcome. Glad you’re taking action too. Wouldn’t want any damage to be done needlessly.

  47. Having your main search keywords in your domain name is definately the way to go.

    Makes getting good Google and Yahoo search results much easier I’ve found.

  48. I have one oddball case that might lead to more interesting discussion. My site has been exactly one page for a couple years, and has never been more than a few pages, but it has always been about freelance graphic design, or simply my resume and portfolio with recourse to graphic design and the like. My domain is bonfx.com. I have not had a blog there ever (until a few days ago) and I have been anywhere from #10 to #20 or so (seems to float up and down) for the term “freelance graphic design” or “freelance graphic designer”. In this case, bonfx.com for a domain name makes no sense. HOWEVER….I have owned the domain since 1999 and the content has always been on the same topic, however scant (to non-existant) the content was. I think in my case, the AGE of the domain and it’s association with certain keywords is a huge factor. I’m now working to capitalize on this nice chunk of what seems to be prime real estate and write some great content and contribute to the identity design global chat…and pick up some great new clients and projects. Your site is really tremendous David. Kudos! What a great resource. Given the amount of work that goes into doing this (I’m a web developer), the size of the growing population of the world, it really seems in everyone’s best interest to share and share alike. There is more than enough to go ’round – if you are willing to work really hard!

  49. Thanks for sharing your story, Doug, and for the kind words about my site. I stopped by your blog and like the clean grid. I hope it helps bump you further up the rankings.

  50. Thank you as well! It looks like you are going to be an unavoidable personality if we are working in the same niche! I just plugged a page from your site:

    http://bonfx.com/2009/09/08/top-10-fonts-for-graphic-designers-from-6-top-blogs-combined/

  51. Well, in blogland you learn something new every 5 minutes. I had to change my permalink format…sorry!

    http://bonfx.com/top-10-fonts-for-graphic-designers-from-6-top-blogs-combined/

  52. And a good change it was too, Douglas.

  53. Going to all the internet marketing conferences I do, I ask around about this, there is definite relevance for keywords in the domain. The top 3 domains to go for are .com, .net and .org from what I understand.

    SO anyone done on any studies of dashes vs no dashes? Supposedly it doesn’t matter.

  54. For the long tail keywords (KW phrase that contains about 3 till 5 words with under 10k searches in US and under 20k competition), I often find there are domains can be at 1st page of SERP Google.com with very little backlinks (under 10 backlinks). Usually they contain keywords rich and have extension .com or .org.

    If you know the way to research precisely, you will get long tail keywords with keyword searches under 10k/month in US geographic and with competition under 20k. At the 1st page SERP Google, you will see only very litlle backlinks are needed. Thus there is an opportunity to be listed in the 1st page only by purchase domain name with that keyword with ext .com or .org

    But, you will not be able to do that in case you have to buy expired domain for some particular business.

    Regards.

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.