For those who don’t know, a keyword domain is a domain name with keywords in it. For example, BakerStreetDentists.co.uk. A branded domain is a domain name without the keywords in it, such as BondDental.co.uk.
I don’t advise investing time and money in the purchase of keyword domain names to reach the top of Google‘s much-coveted first page, here is why:
Often purchased in addition to the primary domain name, keyword domain names are believed to increase the chances of dominating Google’s first page. But targeting specific search terms and setting up domain names to include them to drive traffic to your site will most probably fail to reap the benefits you are looking for.
Usually, with an additional domain name, you want to bypass the effort it takes to go through the lengthy process of SEO by simply catapulting the power of a keyword domain. However, the keyword domain is now a rocket ship without fuel. Actually, calling it a rocket ship is too kind. These domains are pointless in most cases.
The only exception to me advising against bothering with this strategy is if yours is the only dental practice located in a quiet location, where there is little competition online, this may work, but only may. But therefore, why would you want to go to such lengths to invest in additional keyword domain names when your bona fide website is most likely dominating Google’s first page anyway? Also, any domain name with content would work equally well in this setup; it wouldn’t need to be a keyword domain name.
The only way any domain will work for you in Google from an SEO perspective is if you bother to optimise it and continually work on it. But my argument is that if you are going to do that, then you are better rewarded if you invest that same time and money into your primary website.
Building a second website, maintaining it and doing SEO on it and nurturing something that won’t yield nearly the same return you could yield from your main website seems pretty pointless to me.
A topic on which I have had many a discussion, practice owners are far better advised to promote their brand and focus their efforts in nurturing the business that way. You will have spent time building a brand, so invest in it.
Allow me to explain…
The other week, a practice owner and friend told me he had purchased 14 domains names because ‘someone told me to make landing pages on them, and I will rank high on Google’.
If wishes were horses, we’d all be on that first page! As I jestfully suggested to my friend: ‘Why don’t you ask the guru who advised you to show you how to do it? :p’
Google’s official stance maintains that such behaviour will most certainly NOT increase a site’s relevancy or ranking for searches.
Its webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller maintains: ‘Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword. So in short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name.’
Putting it to the test
To test this, five years ago, I placed blog articles on the domain bakerstreetdentists.co.uk – and none of them except really long obscure terms ever got to the first page. Then when we added a new SEO expert to our growing team as part of their initiation, I had them work on this website as a trial project. We had him work on SEO for the domain name, and again no notable ranking improvements. We worked on the domain for a year to see how long it takes to dominate the first page of Google for ‘Invisalign Baker Street’. We eventually saw results but nothing more or less than we would have with a non-keyword domain. It was a waste of time, money and effort for any regular business because that same investment could have been made on the primary domain name for other ranking opportunities. I did give the domain name away to a local client to benefit from the SEO work!
Once upon a time, buying a domain name such as ‘bakerstreetdentists.co.uk’ would indeed have meant you would automatically appear in the top rankings of Google if someone searched ‘Baker Street Dentists’. However, that once upon a time is now some 10 years ago.
Back then, it was possible to add a few pages to a newly registered keyword domain, write a few blog posts, go live and see your website magically appear on the first page of Google. Google is a shape-shifting phenomenon, so as soon as it is alerted to cheats and cheap wins, it changes its algorithms and that is exactly what happened in 2012. Google noticed they had a problem with many low-quality spam websites abusing the search ranking system with exact match domain names, so Google updated its algorithm and made them less effective.
Google Adword campaign
If you are sitting on keyword domains and are itching to make use of them, then there is one way you can shift some domain hoarding guilt. The other way spare domain names might be worth utilising is if you are running a Google Adword campaign and want to make a separate landing page for that campaign.
Interestingly, the hugely successful online ‘furnishings for every budget’ company (and one of Amazon’s biggest e-commerce competitors), Wayfair.com, started out as a conglomeration of keyword domain names.
In a nutshell, in 2002, two US college friends (analytics, optimisation and SEO experts) saw the potential in buying up specific keyword domain names to sell home goods – from RacksAndStands.com to SimplyDogBeds.com – to the point at which they had more than 250 single item stores, were making millions but understood they needed to change their approach and consolidate if they were to continue their success and manage their business wisely.
So, in 2011 they rebranded as Wayfair.com – just before Google changed its algorithms to play down the value of keyword domain names – and the rest, as they say, is history…
So, build your brand
Generally, the aim of any Google update is to improve the quality of user experience – often from the point of view of the relevance of the search results.
Without high-quality content, a website that has a keyword domain name will come under the scrutiny of Google – and may even be penalised.
Google is all about user experience and having numerable keyword domain names may only serve to make your business look a bit spammy.
Instead of targeting keywords, promote your brand’s domain name to increase leads. Why channel your energies into a website that serves no real purpose to your patients or anyone else for that matter who is curious about the quality of your services and the ethics of your business?
Your time is far better spent giving careful thought to relevance, the longevity of the name and the success of your practice. Truth is, your domain name is only one of many factors that affect your SEO ranking.