How Domain Name Affects SEO of a Website?

It all starts with a domain name.

If you have some knowledge of search engine optimization and want to register a new domain to start a website, you may have some questions regarding how domain name affects SEO of a website, blog or online property. Because it is this domain name which you cannot change at a later point in time. Everything else can be changed, you can change the theme of the website, you can change the content and other things pretty easily but changing the domain name is practically impossible if your brand gets really big and popular over a period of time.

So before registering a domain name, you must know how the choice of a domain name affects the SEO of a website. If at all it affects the SEO of a website, does it affect it in a positive way or does it affect it in a negative way or is the effect negligible after a period of time?

Should You Buy Keyword Rich Domain Names?

The most common questions asked by business owners or website owners are

Shall I choose a keyword rich domain name or shall I choose a more brandable domain name?

If you are not aware of what a keyword rich domain name is, it is a domain name which contains primary keywords for which the domain wants to rank in search engine result pages. For example, bestsoccerdress.com is a keyword rich domain name where the intention of the website owner is to rank for the keyword best soccer dress. Again, shoesforwomen.com is a keyword rich domain name where the business owner wants to rank for the keyword or phrase – Shoes for women.

So the obvious question which people wonder before registering a domain name –

Shall I choose a Keyword rich domain name or Shall I choose a more generic brand able domain name? Does having Keywords in the domain name affect the SEO of my website in any way?

The short answer is – Domain name does not matter in SEO anymore since Google launched the EMD update.

Exact match domain names did matter in the primitive days of Internet wherein a Domain name which contained a specific word or phrase had higher chances of ranking on search result pages. So if your business is competing with a website whose domain name is shoesforwomen.com, the chances of that other website ranking for queries related to women shoes will be higher since it has those keywords in its domain name.

Eventually, as the web grew in size and the number of websites increased in number, the value of an exact match domain name started reducing. Search engines realized that just because a website has a particular keyword in its domain name does not mean it has better information about that subject. Over time, search engines started giving less emphasis to keyword rich domain names and more emphasis on the authority of the website, content quality, content usefulness, user experience and all the other “important” aspects regarding user behavior.

Somewhere around 2012, Google launched an update to their search algorithm in the form of EMD update.

This update would filter low quality exact match domain names from search results because Google found that most websites who have keywords and that too exact match keywords in their domain names are generally low quality in nature. The website owner has built the website for the sole purpose of getting ranked in search engines and in general, these sites do not provide as much value to users as other non keyword rich domains do.

With the EMD update in place, the value associated with keyword rich domain names was gone and there is no utility of purchasing keyword rich domain names anymore. And this is unlikely to change in near future.

What about Keyword Rich Domain Names for Search Engine Marketing or Ads?

Now that we know that keyword rich domain names have no extra benefit from the SEO perspective, you may wonder if there is any incentive of having a keyword rich domain when you are specifically targeting higher clicks from your Search engine marketing campaigns like Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Instagram Ads and advertisements displayed on other platforms.

Reality is, in some rare cases, keyword rich domain names perform better than non-keyword rich domain names when you are doing marketing campaigns over display network, search network, Google Adwords and the like. I said, some cases and mostly it is not the case.

For example, if you have a website with the name divorcelawyers.com, the chances of getting a higher click-through rate is slightly higher in Google display network over your competitors because your target audience can see those keywords in the domain name and may prefer to click your ad over your competitors thus giving you a slightly better return on investment.

So yes, in some cases, I have observed keyword rich domain names perform well compared to their non-keyword counterparts exclusively when you are doing search engine marketing and heavily investing in advertisements and paid traffic.

Brand-able Domain Names

Short, brandable domain names which are easy to remember have no extra effect on the search engine optimization of your website. It gives you no advantage of having a short or more easy to remember name and just because you have access to a short domain name does not necessarily mean that you will outrank a competitor who has a long domain name.

However, the advantage of a short brandable domain name is that it sets your brand correctly. It projects your brand correctly towards your audience. People remember your website not only for the content but also for the brand and the feeling that is generated from their experience. The more people remember you, the more they recommend you to their own network of friends, colleagues and family members, the more it helps to increase your reach.

So yes, a brand-able domain name although does not help in the SEO of your website but it helps you build a solid framework for creating a unique brand, a unique voice, and a unique feel which people love reading and experiencing. And that brand is usually an SEO magnet which attracts links, mentions and other attribution from popular sources.

Our Suggestion: Choose a Short Brand-able Domain Name Over a Keyword Rich Domain Name

If you take our advice, we would always suggest you to consider a short brand-able domain name over a keyword laden domain name. The reason is – it is ultimately your brand that sells on the web, not the keyword themselves.

Neither the brand-able domain name nor the keyword rich domain name will help you from the SEO perspective. However, the advantage of having a brandable domain name is that it is far easier to create a solid brand from a brand-able domain name compared to a keyword laden domain name.

A keyword laden domain name looks cheap and does not pass the right message to a serious user who is looking to buy something or wants to be a loyal customer. A keyword laden domain name also comes with a suspicion, since users don’t really have a high amount of trust associated with Keyword rich domain names anymore and prefer short and easy to domain names which they can easily remember.

To wrap up, domain names have no effect on the SEO of your website but short, brand-able and easy to remember domain names helps in the long term branding of your website and thus they are preferred over keyword rich domain names which are slowly becoming obsolete from the blogger and webmaster community.


Be Sure to read our SEO Guide which contains useful information about SEO and we have discussed in detail key SEO Concepts with examples.

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