Branding vs. Keyword Rich Domain Names – Which Does Google Prefer?

The Domain Dilemma

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When it comes to picking a domain name most webmasters are in a dilemma of whether to choose a keyword rich domain name that will get better rankings on Google or a branded domain name that is more likely to get more visitors to the site and be easier to remember.

In recent times Google has been putting more emphasis on brand names over keyword rich domains which has led to the widespread presence of various branded online business at top positions on the search result pages even if they did not meet all the SEO guidelines. Though Google has always denied such favoritism, their criteria to assess the relevancy of any site are constantly changing to keep away spammers, gamers, and black-hated sites and Google is now adopting more novel signals to help them improve their page ranking system.

A recent video by Google’s Matt Cutts explains the situation further. Matt emphasizes that Google is ready to experiment mixing up the old and new signals in their algorithm and see its impact on the evaluation of a website.



Google has been looking at using more robust signals like link authority, page rank, and keyword-rich domains over the traditional signals like on-page optimization, link anchor text, domain names, meta-tags and meta-description. However, we can’t forget about parameters like branding, social networking, reviews, and personalization – they seem to be getting more attention from Google in analyzing the credibility of a site.

Aaron Wall from SEOBook sums up the current situation pretty well:

Classical SEO signals (on-page optimization, link anchor text, domain names, etc.) have value up until a point, but if Google is going to keep mixing in more and more signals from other data sources then the value of any single signal drops.

Have you adjusted your SEO strategies lately as a result of these new ranking factors? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Originally published on ineedhits

Branding vs. Keyword Rich Domain Names – Which Does Google Prefer?
About Courtney Mills
Courtney is an online marketing specialist at ineedhits - a leading search engine marketing firm with over 11 years experience. Courtney has been living and breathing marketing for over 2 years and specializes in web and permission email marketing and providing news and opinion to online marketing communities. WebProNews Writer
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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/search-engine-optimization-firm.htm Nick Stamoulis

    I’ve had clients truly believe the only way they were going to rank well was to buy a keyword heavy domain name. While going have keywords in the domain name can’t really hurt a site’s chances of ranking well, there are far more effective ways to help a site. There are so many other factors that the search engines are looking at, a keyword laden domain isn’t going to have a big impact.

    • Str82u

      I go both ways on that because we’ve seen both work and both fail. I think brand domains are approached a little differently when marketed, more creativly, “Str82u.dot means SOMETHING-SOMETHING straight to you” where a keyword domain doesn’t need (or get) that effort.

  • http://selfdevelopmentforyou.com Mark ‘MKWeb’ Hultgren

    I think that the latest trend of Big G is showing us that it will take a combination of all factors to get on the first page. Keyword rich domains, on page SEO, unique and original content, and of course using WordPress has personally helped tremendously. I run a service providing Networked Blogs for people that want to learn how to blog and by showing them how powerful creating ‘sub-niches’ within a niche can be we have brought many of our domains onto the front page of the SERPs within a month or two along with our Alexa rankings dropping below 500K for several of the domains. The URL linked to my name above is just one of over twenty various domains that this approach is working quite well with.

  • http://www.aediscreative.com Christopher

    Personally I like Google’s shift towards brands. I believe there is a certain level of legitimacy that comes with a brand. Let’s face it, those who would complain about a more complex algorithm from google are the same people who are happy to stuff a page full of keywords to the point that the content is barely readable. As long as there are people out there trying to cheat the system, google will continue to hone their efforts to give us the prevalent information we want.

  • Blessed Damozel

    Both kind of domain names have their own potentiality. But for speaking about Google, I have observed it giving more emphasis to keyword rich domains than brand names, though now, there seems a shift in its preference. The shift in itself is a big step for GOOG as most users prefer searching through brand names. But the domain name is not the only factor of getting ranking on SERPs, there are lot many factors that are considered together including inbound links, social networking influence and online activities at forums and communities.

  • http://www.bestratesource.com don

    Matt is clearly pushing web developers in one direction here, but for small or medium sized businesses generic names can be a huge advantage in online as well as offline marketing. Google only sees the world thru search and does not always factor in other media terms that make creating a brand vs an intrinsic valued kw domain name much more expensive, for every twitter there are 1000 relevant kw domain/websites out there.

  • http://www.zebratechies.com Anirban Das

    If you are following right method to update your website in terms of SEO,Contents,images,videos,then keyword rich domain or a brand domain both can do well on Google.Just you have to be well concerned how can you make your domain authoritative..that’s all.

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