No SEO bonuses for keyword-based domains
Google’s John Mueller answered a question on Reddit about the ranking benefits of using keywords in the domain name. Mueller confirmed that there were no SEO bonuses for keywords in the domain and listed reasons why keyword-based domains should not be used.
Mueller lists valid reasons why keywords in domains don’t provide ranking bonuses and why choosing these types of domains can backfire. However, there are still reasons (non-SEO related) why keywords in domains can still be a valid choice.
Keywords in the domain name
There are many reasons why some SEOs recommend using an in-domain keyword. Some say that when someone links to you with just the bare URL, the keyword will act as anchor text and influence Google rankings.
But John Mueller has already explained that Google knows the difference between a bare URL and anchor text and that Google will not use the keywords in a bare URL.
Others say keywords in the domain help with SEO because keywords help Google understand what the site is about. But his recent Reddit response discredits that idea.
Something to consider is that the idea that keywords in domains help with SEO is not supported by any research papers or patents.
The idea that keywords in the domain name are helpful for SEO is just an opinion with no real basis (apart from anecdotal claims) to back it up.
Still, there may be valid non-SEO reasons why a keyword-based domain might be desirable.
How would Google rank domains based on keywords?
The person on Reddit asked how Google would rank various domains based on keywords.
“How would Google rank the following domains: web-design.com, web.design, web-design.net?”
Google’s John Mueller offered his perspective on how Google handles keywords in domains.
“No difference. Also no difference if you used sabertoothed-hedgehog.com.”
Choose a long-term domain name
Mueller then suggested that it might be a good idea to pick an area that could survive a shift in focus.
Amazon is a good example. Amazon started as an online book seller and was able to transition to selling almost anything because its domain name was not specific to books.
Many of the very first SEO agencies started out as web design companies. When they finally moved from web design to SEO, they also had to change their domain names.
Another example is how trends change, so what seems trendy at the time, like adding the word “mediaat the end of an SEO company’s name, may sound tired or cliché years later.
John Mueller advised choosing a domain name that can survive a change in business model and trends.
He continues his response:
“Choose a domain name that you can rely on for the long term.
Maybe you are doing web design now, but what will you be doing in 5, 10 years?
Choose something that allows you to grow, or go for a domain name that’s more like a brand you can grow and people can find you directly with (that would be my recommendation).
Secure the future of your business
Mueller went on to explain how it can be very complicated to change a domain name or restructure a site because the purpose of the site has grown.
Some sites start out by focusing on one topic and that’s fine. But it’s always a good idea to give yourself room to grow.
For example, a TV review website may struggle to market itself as a soundbar review website if it has the words TV and Review in its domain name.
Mueller explains why choosing a domain that can grow with your website is a good idea.
“Creating separate sites for business sub-ideas is a problem, merging sites is a bigger problem, moving domains is a problem.
All of these things take a lot of time, some money and more. Go for something you want to keep longer, which gives you space.
Keyword domains have no SEO bonuses
Mueller went on to explain that there are no SEO bonuses for using a keyword-based domain name.
“There is no secret (or public) SEO bonus for having your keywords in the domain name.
(and for those who come up with “but there are keyword domains that rank well” – of course you can also rank well with a domain that contains keywords.
But you can rank well with other domain names as well, and a domain won’t rank well just because it contains keywords.)”
Could a keyword domain be useful?
We know that keywords in a domain name can limit a domain’s reach in the future and force that business to focus on one topic.
However, in my experience, if you are building an affiliate site based on PPC traffic, having a keyword in the domain could help conversions and that is something that can be scientifically tested at using A/B testing to identify which domain name works best. .
A general keyword might also be useful.
A keyword in the domain can signal to a potential visitor that your site has what they are looking for.
Neither of the above two reasons is directly related to SEO. But these are valid reasons why one might consider a keyword-based domain.
But these kinds of considerations need to be balanced against the advice John Mueller shared and the understanding that a keyword-based domain could limit business growth.
John Mueller made the following points:
- No ranking bonuses for keywords in domains
- Keyword-Based Domains Can Limit Your Business Growth
- Pivoting to a new domain is a huge hassle
- Choose an area that has the potential to grow
Ideally, when starting a business, the idea of eventually expanding into other products should be included in the business plan.
So even if you’re starting out as a pillow business, giving the domain name a brand-like name will help keep the door open to the potential to grow the business into much more than just an e-commerce website. of pillows.
Read the Reddit Thread
How would Google rank the following domains: web-design.com, web.design, web-design.net? Suppose people search for “web design” on Google.
Read John Mueller’s response