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Is There Ranking Power In Keyword Domains?

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Is There Ranking Power In Keyword Domains?

Domain names with keywords in them are considered valuable for a variety of reasons, including a long-standing idea that they might be directly or indirectly helpful for ranking purposes.

Choosing a domain name is an important step for launching a website, so it’s important to make the right choice.

The choice of a domain name generally falls into three categories:

  1. Keyword domain.
  2. Word + keyword domain.
  3. Brand domain.

It is arguable which approach is best. What is not debatable is that it’s helpful to learn about the topic before making a decision.

Keyword Domains

A keyword domain is a domain name with keywords in it. An example can be Widgets.com.

Using a domain name with the keywords in it can provide the perception of authority.

Some companies own generic domain names and redirect them to their websites, for whatever reason.

For example, Coffee.com redirects to Peet’s Coffee, an artisanal coffee roasting company. That makes it easy for people to navigate to Peet’s.

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But, the downside of generic keyword domains is that “all of the good ones” are already registered and prohibitively expensive to pry off of a domainer.

There is also some internet history related to generic keyword domains.

There was a time when internet users typed the keywords of a product or service they wanted straight into the browser or search engine. This practice was called direct navigation.

Direct navigation resulted in significant ad revenues to those who owned those domains and “parked” them.

Parking the domain was setting it up so that the domain names showed ads and only ads.

The lucrative business of parked domains was helped by search engines of the time that ranked those parked domain names in the search results.

So, if someone typed a one-word query like [burgers], then Google might rank Burgers.com.

Then in 2011, Google reduced the search visibility of parked domains from the search results.

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So, is there ranking power to keyword domains? Not anymore, but John Mueller of Google has something to say about it, more on that below.

Word + Keyword Domain

Because many keyword domains are already registered is why a popular choice is to add a word to the keyword to form a domain name, which helps to describe what a site visitor can expect on visiting the site.

This results in domains like Cheap[name of product/service].com, [name of product/service]Reviews.com, Fast[name of product/service], and so on.

A word plus a keyword for a domain name is not a bad way to go.

Upside Of Word + Keyword Domain

The keyword instantly brands what the site is about, and the word tells the site visitor what to expect in terms of the user intent.

Searching for a review? Try [name of product/service]Reviews.com.

Downside Of Word + Keyword Domain

The downside of this approach is that it locks the website into providing a specific niche and can limit its ability to grow.

So, if you start out as [JoesCameraReviews], it’s going to be hard to transition that site to reviewing (or selling) other products.

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There are many sites with keywords in the domain that rank very well.

Branded Domain

A branded domain is a domain name that doesn’t necessarily have keywords in it.

Amazon, Zappos, and Etsy are examples of branded domains.

What’s great about a branded domain is that the brand name doesn’t necessarily limit what the site can be about.

Many sites with branded domains have very little trouble ranking in the search results.

Google Offers Four Insights On Keyword Domains

In the course of answering a question in a recent Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller offered four insights on the ranking power of keyword domain names.

Four insights into Keyword Domains and Ranking:

  1. Keyword domains don’t rank faster.
  2. Keyword domains don’t automatically rank better.
  3. Keyword domains lost strong ranking influence years ago.
  4. Keyword domains ranked the same as branded domains.

1. Keyword Domains Don’t Have A Time Advantage

There is a belief that keyword domains are able to rank better faster than branded domains. But according to Google’s John Mueller, this is not the case.

There is a perceived advantage with obtaining keywords in links through the anchor text. This is something that’s been discussed for years. An argument can be made for and against.

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Unfortunately, John Mueller’s statement didn’t address this perceived advantage.

Here’s what John Mueller confirmed:

“…it takes time like any other new website… Obviously there are lots of websites out there that do rank for the keywords in their domain name. But they worked on this maybe for years and years…”

2. Keywords In Domains Don’t Rank Better

John Mueller was quite firm in asserting that keyword domains do not rank better than branded domains.

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords.”

There is so much that goes into ranking, like content, user intent for that content as well as links. All of that likely takes significant precedence toward something like keywords in the domain.

While John Mueller didn’t specifically say keywords in the domain name are not a ranking signal, he did affirm that there is no dramatic benefit from having the keywords in the domain name. And that’s an important insight.

3. Keyword Domains Lost Influence Years Ago

John Mueller asserted that keyword domains lost influence years ago.

Here is what John Mueller stated:

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.”

This may be a reference to an algorithm update from 2011 (official Google announcement here).

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In late 2011, Google updated its algorithm to add a classifier to remove parked domains from the search results.

A quote from Google’s algorithm update announcement:

“This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads.

In most cases, we prefer not to show them.”

Nevertheless, the idea that keyword domains were better than brand domains continued in the search industry, even though Google was no longer giving a boost to parked keyword domains.

An argument can be made that there is a minimal signal. But there is nothing to lend support to that theory.

It’s been a long time since any search engine has published research that included keywords in domains as any kind of signal.

We’re living in a time when keywords in headings (H1, H2) have diminished ranking weight.

Current algorithms no longer give extra weight to title tags. This we know, and it calls into question the idea that Google continues to give a direct ranking bonus to a keyword in a domain name.

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4. Keyword Domains Ranked The Same As Branded Domains

This is another statement that contradicts the idea that keywords in a domain name have a ranking benefit.

John Mueller points out that the keywords in a domain are unrelated to their current ranking:

John Mueller’s statement on keywords in domains:

“…it’s kind of normal that they would rank for those keywords and that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking.”

Mueller clearly notes that having the keywords in the domain name is unrelated to their ranking.

Research A Domain Name Before Using It

It’s always a good idea to research a domain name to see if it was previously registered and how it was used.

There are rare cases where a domain that was used to spam can become stuck in a Google algorithm loop, causing it to become banned for a month, getting released for a few days then banned all over again, preventing the site from ranking higher than the second page of the search results.

For more information on the legacy domain penalty, read Google Algorithm Bug Puts Sites In Weird Limbo State.

SEO Advantage Of Keyword Domains

There are many advantages to having a keyword in a domain name. But an SEO advantage is not necessarily one of the advantages, as Mueller makes clear.

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“…that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking.”

Stand Out With Your Domain

It may be a good idea to choose a domain that stands out. This can be with a keyword or it could be with a brand name.

Former Googler Matt Cutts recommended in a webmaster help video in 2011 that choosing a domain name that stands out can be a good idea in certain situations.

Matt Cutts advised:

“For example, if you have 15 sites about Android and they all have Android, Android, Android, Android, it’s going to be a little hard to remember, to rise above the noise, to rise above the din.

Whereas, if you have something that’s a little more brandable, then people are going to remember that. They’re going to be able to come back to it. Even sites like TechCrunch, nothing in there says tech news.”

Takeaway On Domain Names

There are pros and cons to the different kinds of domain names to use for a website.

If the business wants to leave wiggle room to grow to encompass a wider topic, then a domain name that is less committed to a topic or even a brand name is appropriate.

Of course, one can start out with a narrow-topic domain name and change it in the future. But that can result in other sites changing their mind about linking to the site and fans of the site losing interest.

So, the best advice may be for the business to consider what it wants to accomplish now, what impression it wants to make to site visitors, what story the domain name communicates to the visitor, and also how well the domain name fits into the future of the business.

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On the question of ranking, it’s clear that there is no direct keyword-based ranking benefit to a domain name, which makes selecting one a little easier.

Watch John Mueller discuss domain names at the 21:50 minute mark:

More Resources:


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7 Data-Driven Content Strategy Tips For Improving Conversions

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7 Data-Driven Content Strategy Tips For Improving Conversions

There’s an old maxim in the marketing world, “content is king.” This has been true as long as search engine optimization has been around, and probably dates back even further in the world of general marketing.

But as simple as that adage is, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, namely what kind of content?

In those early SEO days, it meant identifying your keywords and jamming them into pages anywhere they would fit.

But modern digital marketers are smarter (not to mention that strategy doesn’t work anymore).

These days, successful content starts with a plan that’s backed up by numbers, a data-driven content strategy, if you will.

But what exactly does that mean?

In simple terms, it means developing content using an approach built on user information. This can include information like demographics, survey answers, consumer preferences, etc.

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You probably don’t need to be told why this is important, but just to make sure there’s no doubt, let’s be clear: Using a data-driven content strategy helps you decide where to spend your time, effort, and money.

In other words, you have finite resources. You don’t want to waste them on people who aren’t likely to convert.

A data-driven content strategy allows you to tailor your marketing campaigns to generate the best ROI.

For the purposes of search engine and PPC specialists, it can help you decide which keywords to go after, ensuring you’re targeting the right audience.

Sounds simple enough, right? All you need to do is pop open your content research tool and look for commonalities, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

But never fear, that’s why you’re here.

In this helpful guide, we’ll give you a step-by-step approach to developing, implementing, and optimizing your very own data-driven content strategy.

Ready to get started?

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1. Set Your Content Goals

The very first thing you need to decide is what you’re hoping to accomplish. You can’t be all things to all people, so you need to make some choices.

Do you want to increase traffic? Are you looking to make sales? Do you want more leads?

Determine what your content goals are and identify the channels best suited to meet them. Once you’ve done this, you can establish your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Be sure to keep this in mind while you’re creating content.

Everything you add to your website or campaign should serve a purpose. If you’re not sure what it’s doing, your audience won’t know either.

2. Define Your Target Audience

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to figure out who to go after to make it happen.

Comb through the demographic data and other information you have access to. Spot commonalities that occur across many or some of your targets.

Many marketers find it helpful to create customer personas. Using your data, imagine a typical person for each of the various roles you’re targeting.

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For example, you may have a prospect persona, a lead persona, a buyer persona and a repeat persona.

Put yourself in the shoes of these imaginary people.

What type of language resonates with them? What is their highest level of education? Do they want professionalism or personability? Why are they on your website? What do they hope to accomplish with your help? Be as detailed as you can.

Many marketers even give them a name. For example, if you were creating personas for your plumbing supply company, you may have:

Lead Larry – 45 years old

A mid-career plumber, Lead Larry owns his own one-man business. He makes $75,000 a year. He went to a trade school and his work van is 6 years old. He’s looking for a way to reduce overhead and find cheaper parts than his local supply company. He values hard work, honesty, and professionalism.

Be as creative and detailed as you like, just remember this isn’t a fiction-writing exercise. You’re creating personas based on your typical target, so keep your persona in line with who they actually are.

3. Review Your Competitor’s Content And Do Topical Research

Now it’s time to take a look at what the competition is doing. Maybe they’re just flying by the seat of their pants, but they’re probably putting some effort into their campaigns, too.

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Review what they’re doing and look for what appears to be working.

For example, if they’re blogging, they may have a view counter on the page. If so, what type of blogs are getting the best results?

Look for trends in your industry. What’s everyone talking about? Is there a big trade show coming up? Or a new technology about to be released?

Figure out who you’re competing with for clicks, not just to see what’s working for them, but also to gain ideas for content of your own. Start making a list of things you want to cover.

If there are influencers in your niche, this is also a good time to check and see what they’re posting about.

4. Conduct Keyword Research

Once you’ve settled on what your content should be, it’s time to perform that old SEO staple: keyword research.

Using a tool like Google Analytics, Semrush, or something platform-specific like YouTube’s Search Insights, figure out the type of language your content needs to use.

This will help you in more than just the SEO aspect, too.

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Using keywords in your content demonstrates to your audience that you speak the same language they do. And that doesn’t mean English, it means using the nomenclature everyone in the niche will understand.

Going back to our plumbing supply example, that means referring to a product as a “three-fourths full port threaded ball valve,” rather than a “metal connection thingy.”

Okay, that’s a ridiculous example, but you get the point.

The good thing is that you probably already have a working, if not expert knowledge of this.

5. Create Content That Aligns With Your Goals

If you remember, the very first step to creating a data-driven content plan was to determine your goals.

Now, equipped with everything you’ve done since then, it’s time to create the content that addresses them.

Don’t be intimidated. You don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to write the kind of content your audience wants. And you’ve already done a lot of the foundational work – now it’s just time to put everything together.

Your content could take nearly any form, videos, blog posts, infographics, case studies, or white papers.

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If you’re not comfortable doing these on your own, it should be reasonably easy to find a writer or videographer in your area or extended network. Just ask your connections for recommendations.

If you’re still not confident in your ability to deliver or you can’t afford to hire someone, don’t worry. We have an excellent piece that will walk you through everything you need to know about content creation.

6. Promote Your Content On The Right Channels

You’ve created your masterpiece of relevant content. Now it’s time to share it with the world. But how do you do that? Do you just post it on your corporate blog and wait for Google to index it?

You could take that kind of passive approach, but this is great stuff you’ve just made. Everyone in your niche will want to consume it. And to make sure you get the eyes you want on it, it’s time to promote it.

But before you go linking to it on Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn, and every other social media platform and aggregator site you can think of, pause for a minute.

When you were developing your user personas, you hopefully received some data about where your targets live online.

Are they regular Twitter users? Do they haunt industry-specific forums? Are you connected to them via Slack or other instant messenger apps?

Find out where they hang out and post away. In most cases, if you’re not sure if your targets use a platform or not, you should just go ahead and post anyway.

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There are some sites where you can be dinged for unpopular content (Reddit, for example), but most of the time, there’s no harm.

This is also a time to start thinking about how you can repurpose your new content.

Do you have an opportunity for a guest blog post on another site? Or, would your new infographic fit perfectly in your next investor report?

If your data-driven content is built on the solid principles we’ve discussed, it will get engagements.

7. Use Analytics To Measure Results

After your content goes live, you can begin measuring your ROI to see what you did well, where you missed the mark, and what could be optimized to perform better.

This is where the KPIs discussed back in step one come back into play.

Some of these are easier to track than others.

If increasing sales or conversions was your goal, you should have data that backs up performance. Likewise, if you set out to improve traffic to your website, you should have the analytics to track that.

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Things like brand visibility can be a bit trickier.

Regardless of what it is you’re using to determine success, you should find the data you need to track performance in Google Analytics.

For a detailed walkthrough of this process, we’ve provided information on exactly how you can measure content marketing success.

A Data-Driven Content Strategy Is A Winning One

Data is a marketer’s best friend. It tells you exactly what works, what doesn’t, and often, why that’s the case.

And a data-driven content strategy is vital for success in today’s hyper-competitive business and SEO environment.

Use the tools available to you to gather data – that’s why they’re there.

Learn to identify what the numbers are telling you and use them to help you craft the kind of content that not only attracts views but gets shares and achieves your goals.

More Resources:

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