Keyword rich domain names have long been a source of debate in the SEO community. Just a few years ago, having the exact match keyword for a search term virtually guaranteed that you’d dominate the rankings. Keyword rich domains fetched incredibly high prices on the domain name market, because people knew they would easily translate into rankings and into money.
Then Google clamped down on keyword rich domains. Google (rightly) reasoned that just because someone was able to pick up the exact match domain for a search term did not necessarily mean that they were the best resource. Google devalued the way they looked at keyword rich domains and many of their rankings dropped.
Then more recently came the Panda and Penguin updates, both of which heavily clamped down on web spam. Because many of these keyword rich domains used spammy techniques or spammy content to get ranked, a huge number of them dropped right off the front page.
So do keyword rich domains still matter? Do they still give you an edge in the search engines, or have they completely lost their effectiveness? The answer is clear: They still matter. A lot.
Matt Cutts: “Diminished” But Still Carries Weight
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam has already made a public statement about these keyword rich domains. Cutts’ statement basically said that they’ve diminished the power that keyword rich domains have in search engine rankings, but that they still carry some weight.
This makes a lot of sense. A lot of legitimate brands use exact match domains. Punishing these brands, which are extremely useful resources, would be counter productive to Google’s mission of trying to bring the best search results.
Exact match domains will most likely always carry some extra weight. In Google’s eyes, it’s just slightly diminished.
But Wait! There’s More …
But that’s not all there is to the story.
When people talk about the advantage of exact match domains, they think first of the algorithm edge that the domain has. But that’s not its only advantage.
Exact match domains also tend to get higher click through rates. There are two reasons for this.
First, people associate exact match domains with trust. If you typed in “eliminate back pain” and saw “eliminatebackpain.com”, there’s a very good chance you’d click on it. It’s not because you recognize a brand, but because your brain automatically assumes the exact match domain is credible.
Second, the exact match domain will be bolded in its entirety when someone conducts a search. This makes the listing more eye catching and gets more clickthroughs.
Though nobody can tell exactly how much of Google’s ranking algorithm depends on CTR, there’s little debate that it does play a significant role. In other words, if you have an exact match domain, you’re going to get more clicks because of a high CTR. That high CTR can then lead you to higher rankings, which will generate more clicks for you still.
This is why the exact match domain and the keyword rich domain are never going to fully die down. Yes, there’s an algorithmic advantage – But there’s also a psychological advantage.
“But My Traffic Dropped After Panda / Penguin”
What if you were one of the many thousands of webmasters who saw their site drop off the front page after the Panda or Penguin update? Why did this happen to you and what can you do about it?
Most likely the reason your ranking dropped wasn’t because of your domain. Instead, you got dropped because you had too many unnatural links coming in or your website appeared to be using the main keyword too many times.
The latter is a common problem with exact match domains. Since your domain is the keyword, you’re going to end up saying your keyword a lot of times in your text. That could look unnatural to Google.
The answer to this problem is to re-do your linking strategy from scratch. Get more authentic, natural links and re-do the text on your site so it doesn’t look like you’re keyword stuffing. Then either wait for your rankings to improve, or submit a reconsideration request.
Keyword rich domains used to be the end all be all in SEO. Today, they’re not as powerful, but they still hold a lot of influence. The power of keyword rich domains has not gone away and likely never will.Read More ...