Google Lowers The Value of Keyword Domains

I got an email from Brandon Na of Seattle Organic SEO saying there appears to be a significant change to Google’s algorithm where they don’t appear to give you as much value for the keywords in your domain name.

It had long been held that having your keyword in your domain name is a quick and easy way to rank for the keyword or phase that you want. However, that may no longer be the case. Below is Brandon’s email on the matter.

This past month, a number of sites have been dropping in their rankings despite a long history of ranking high for their keyword phrases. The reason appears to be a significant change in Google’s algorithm (which is not 100% confirmed, but it very much appears that this has happened) where they don’t appear to give you as much value for the keywords in your domain name. For many years, they would give you more credit for something like this:

Searches for “Car Insurance” because you owned Insurance.com (which by the way, a company paid a reported $14-17 million for the domain name; probably regretting this one now).

This is definitely why it’s VERY important to SEO the other elements that Google has in their algorithm like backlinks with great anchor text to your site, other on-page elements and having honestly a great overall SEO strategy that can get you through these unexpected and unplanned painful updates.

Honestly, it should of been this way from the beginning, but that’s why we have lots of opportunity right now. A lot of what Google and the many other Search opportunities in Mobile applications, WordPress plugin searches and the many places where we search including Facebook are mostly broken or not refined. People are “looking” and “trying to find” you, but if you’re not there, they’ll call or fill out a form with your competitor.

You’ll be happy to know that a search for John Chow still has johnchow.com at the #1 spot. 🙂


70 thoughts on “Google Lowers The Value of Keyword Domains”

  1. d3so says:

    This is both good and bad news. It gives a chance for competitors to rank due to their quality rather than their domain.

    1. Vince says:

      Exactly right d3seo. In the end, its all about quality anyway. A web searcher might visit http://www.perfectdomain.com because its number 1 but clicks back to the search results when there’s nothing there of any value. They then go to http://www.norelationdomain.com in position 10 with relevant content and on target and so the visitor stays there a few minutes and takes an action. Eventually this site will out rank & out perform the first site.
      High 5 to Google *raises hand*

      1. Hey John,

        Having a keyword or a keyword phrase in a domain has been overrated for a long time.

        It worked in some cases but not in others and it was never the only factor in getting good results in search engines. Just one of them.

        But it’s helpful to read your post and find out what the people in the SEO field are observing.

        1. Matt updated about the keywords and domain in his video.

          Specially for you guys – If you guys want to look than below is the link for

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAWFv43qubI&feature=youtube_gdata

    2. Ramakrishnan says:

      Quality must comes first, every human looking for sites that solves their problem no matter what the domain is .com,info,.biz,.me. and what ever. John Chow mostly writing about blogging exprience & foods. we all find him on web not for his domain name, only for his qulity articles. this is another nice post John

    3. I still have plenty of keyword rich domains ranking well, even with little content on them.

    4. I think the domain name will always have some influence on the rankings.

      1. Work online says:

        Hey Penny Bid,
        I also prefer to you domain name will always have some influence on the rankings.

        1. Yes, of course it will. And there will still always be the type in domains that do crazy well.

  2. Work online says:

    Hey,
    Have we seen any roll out yet?
    I ‘ve tried to look for some info but so far only limited details on the web.

      1. There are so many things that go into ranking a domain that it will somewhat difficult confirming this.

      2. The Google forum may never confirm this.

        1. Free Picks says:

          google form is actually dead, you did not get any reply from the google official there

  3. Considering that there are more than 200 factors involved in the ranking of a webpage, I don’t see this change as not too dangerous. Good SEO needs more than just a keyword domain.

    1. Yes, but I think a keyword domain will always help. Google isn’t going to completely disregard your domain name.

      1. It really doesn’t matter what all of us think as far as Google is concerned. They will keep on doing their thing and what they want and no amount of speculation on our part will have any influence on them.

  4. Vince says:

    I’ve seen this change myself recently and your spot on. More examples will become evident as time goes on.

    In the example above, I would guess the domain insurance.com would be safe provided it was relevant to the search in the example case of ‘car insurance’. If they provided nothing to do with car insurance than yes this update should affect them and they probably shouldn’t have even ranked for that in the first place. If they already have the authority for the keyword ‘car insurance’ and provide those related services, and visitors took action inline with other algorithm ranking factors, then my personal opinion is that it wont affect them badly purely on the fact that insurance.com is their domain.

    But if you had makemoneyonline.com and your site was a blank page, ie ZERO content, value or relevance, then it wouldn’t rank anyway given the amount of competition for that keyword.

  5. Joel says:

    Great to know this!

  6. Dino Vedo says:

    Interesting stuff, looking forward to see how this will unfold!

  7. Interesting to know about Google algorithm

    1. What? You didn’t already know about it?

  8. George Tee says:

    Google’s new algorithms are ways of making the organic SEO rankings right and fair which improves overall search quality, as it mainly went after content farms and aggregator/spam sites. If keyword in your domain name is not related to your searches which the query gives, it absolutely affect that domain in this Google update and would make that site with much lesser rankings.

  9. Techabouts says:

    It is good as it will give more value to content

  10. Simon Dodd says:

    hmmm,

    Interesting stuff… It will be interesting to see how this unfolds although I think if your site has valuable and original content around your keyword it shouldn’t make too much difference!

    Keep up the good work

    Thanks

    Simon

  11. erik says:

    Considering this news is on the heels of the Panda/Farmer update, which has been confirmed to reduce backlink juice from spammy links, I don’t see enough evidence here to declare domains any less valuable. The change in rankings could have very well been attributed to other sources.

    1. Exactly, it’s going to take a while to see if this will really pan out.

  12. Mr.Ven says:

    I think keyword domains with good content are always appreciated….

    1. Then there are always the sites that do well and you have no idea why.

  13. This is good news because before I became a blogger I did not know how the Google search engine worked.

    I would type in a Google search and I would get links to sites that were not relevant to or didn’t have what I was looking for. Usually by page 10 of the search I could find the content that I was looking for.

    There needs to be a way for people to find what they are looking for without having to deal with sites that have paid or used shady techniques to get to the top of search rankings.

    It looks like Google is starting to take action in this.

    1. That just simply isn’t true. Like I said earlier, I have plenty of keyword rich domains still doing well.

      1. I am sure you are having great contents and good backlinks to support those domains.

        But however full picture will be clear in coming few weeks.

        1. Most have a few decent backlinks, but I do have some mystery domains that are doing well with very little content and almost no backlinks.

          1. It could be that there is hardly any competition in those niches. But then their doing well has very little meaning.

  14. lisa says:

    wow. that good

  15. Kristi Hines says:

    The real question is whether these keyword domains have valuable content on them, or if they’re just sales pages to another company, Adsense sites, etc. I would think that sites that have a high authority and produce great content would still be doing well. But what it really boils down to is Google giving all the love to brands. They want Allstate to beat anyone that has an informational site about car insurance in the end.

    1. Hey Kristi,

      Are you sure that Google wants to give all the love to brands? That would not be very smart of them. It would exclude all the good and genuine sites that give much better information than the sites of big brands.

  16. Deepak says:

    I did heard about google panda that was making waves on twitter every one was talking that they loss their visitors is this one has any connection with panda?

  17. I’ve had client seriously believe that they only way they would ever rank was to buy keyword-rich domain names and use those are a gateway to their actual site. Personally, I think a branded URL is a better thing than a keyword-based URL. Your brand is what sells, why not build it up?

    1. This was important and I always believe that great content and keywords added domain always rocks.

  18. Kirk Taylor says:

    It’s a good thing that the keyword in domain is less relevant now. This strengthens sites with relevant content and took a big bite out of those trying to make a quick buck.

  19. Christine says:

    That is interesting to hear, as I heard the opposite. And the ‘opposite’ surprised me because I assumed Google would place a lower value on keyword rich domains since they are trying to weed out the weaker content (not to imply that they are all weaker content).
    Hearing they are are making them less relevant only makes my domain name stronger. 😉

    1. Now people started to mis utilised their concept and theory hence this was expected.

  20. This is a bad news I guest, most of the webmaster bought keyword domain name because it help to rank better and this is happening… It’s a bad dream… Tomorrow when I woke up everything gonna be just fine 😀

  21. fas says:

    Google runs the show so it thinks it can do what it wants.

    1. Free Picks says:

      thats the spirit

  22. exsuit says:

    I think Google realized the weighting was too strong on keyword domains, and just reduced the amount of weight it would give. At one point I was searching for an ipad, found a keyword rick domain in the top10 results and found nothing but an empty wordpress install (with the “hello world” post still instact!). This was clearly a competitive term and the site had NO backlinks, NO on-page SEO, just the keyword rich domain to get into the top 10!
    Probably a wise adjustment to the algo on google’s part!

  23. I knew it would happen. I don’t value a keyword rich domain much, I prefer having a good name related to my niche as domain. Example such as retireat30.com for a make money online niche.

  24. This is probably the best change from google. Before, Lots of People used to buy exact keyword domains, and it makes good sites to rank low, but crappy sites to rank high.

    Good Job Google. keyword in domain is useless, because there are some domains which are meaningless.

    Just like, suppose if a keyword is “how to play cricket”, and the domain is howtoplaycricket.com, it is just senseless, because, that is just a question, and people are using that advantages, and want to earn quick money.

    Thanks a lot john, for updating this.

  25. Ardegas says:

    I was just about to buy a bunch of niche keyword domain names, following the advice of my favorite guru. I was about to buy keyword domain names, not because I find those niches interesting, just because they are keyword domain names, and with a potential to make money. Now I’ll have to rethink my strategy.

  26. MacSage says:

    It seems that Google rankings has always been somewhat of a moving target.

    I’ve been trying to nail down keywords for my small business WordPress guide and have found that folks are getting to my site via totally unrelated keywords. Go figure…

  27. I think while having an easy to remember domain name is good for your business for customers, Google will most likely rank your website by it’s relevant and interesting, fresh content, rather than just having a good domain name with the keywords it it. It makes much more sense as well. Have a relevant domain name and relevant content with a balanced keyword density and you will usually rank very well, no matter what changes Google make to their algorithms.

  28. I’ve noticed this too with some of my bigger money earners. Pretty much all of my niches I have one of the keyword domains for so this is a disappointment. I’ve paid premiums to take these off other buyers too.

  29. Black Market says:

    It’s a good change. Some keywords have more then one meaning, so having it in the domain name isn’t helping people find stuff.

  30. nik says:

    As others have said, a domain name definitely isn’t everything in SEO – but I do wonder how this will affect the domain trading business.

  31. PPC Ian says:

    I’m a huge fan of keyword rich domains and have always had a great deal of luck with them in search engines, especially dot com, dot net, and dot org domains. I personally think that the exact match domain should have some extra weight. After all, if someone can afford to buy a short, exact dot com domain, they deserve to be on the first page (provided the site is well done).

  32. Free Picks says:

    Interesting article!!

  33. It’s about time!

  34. Not really surprised. They obviously want to concentrate on giving good quality sites high rankings instead. Can’t say I blame them.

  35. Ben Alagnam says:

    Of course, even if you got great SEO technique but your site is a trash, what do we expect? Better start to make the Quality not the Quantity…

  36. It makes sense to lower the value of just parotting the keywords in the domain

    Many people branch out into new topics, or even change the directionto another subject area.

    I have a low or no money down, creative real estate investing website, for example – when I first started, the investingbc.com website seemed apropo

    Once you go into worldwide topics, the BC part is silly

    I still have it tho

    I should have gotten creative-real-estate-investing or something like that

    Doubt that it would be available, even back then, without going to .info or some obscure domain

    It makes sense for google to actually look at what is on the page!

    Andrew Larder
    InvestingBC.com

  37. Another example, the idea of using marketing in the website and combining it with a turn of a phrase caused me to register MarketingSharks.com

    I can ONLY imagine what google would be looking for if it ONLY looked at the domain name!

    Sharks with something to sell you! LOL

    Instead, google has it ranking well for the term “internet marketing success” – at least THIS WEEK – LOL

    Andrew Larder
    MarketingSharks.com

  38. Haven says:

    I think it’s better this way and I also believed that it should have been this way from the beginning why? If we wanted to create a search engine that is reliable and worth searching for then this should be it. This will also widen SEO professional on branding conscious or having their own trademark and not just following some site I’ve seen rank well on a particular keyword even though the contents are not high quality standards. My point is to create your own brand or name and remember you as you and not just because of the long keyword on your name just to top your site on the first page of a particular keyword…I think this is a best part to look for in terms of quality.

  39. after reading your article .. I searched for my own name on google..and guess what..my facebook profile is the #1 on Google ranking for cornelius henry

  40. Starfall says:

    But Why so sudden? Is Google Struggling getting advertisers? How can you say that a website has quality content? There are so many sites just copying and syndicating there content. I’ve seen sites on TOP now not related to the topic or worst there site/s flooded with targeted keyword.

  41. Miniclip says:

    According to Wikipedia. A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements. In Short “It Originate from a Unique Source. In My Opinion, Majority of us here doing online business are just replicating each other. How can you say that your Domain Name and Content is Unique and Original?

  42. in what way google giving low priority for the keyword domains.

  43. how google considering the value of keyword based on the links value or any other

  44. was about to fork out a thousand euro for a domain… think i might hold off for a bit 🙂

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