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Keyword-rich domains - I told you so... here come the tears

Keyword-rich domains - I told you so... here come the tears

May 03, 2011 by

Back in February I wrote about the growing fashion to buy up multiple keyword-rich domains — like “”, “” etc — in the hope of gaining higher rankings on Google. There was some evidence that this type of domain could indeed rank well, without requiring many inbound links. At the time, though, I cautioned against this approach. Google has a history of acting against such practices by de-emphasising the spammy element and wiping out any benefit gained. Since then, we have seen it do just that with links on article sites.

Now it seems that the big G may indeed be preparing to act against spam in domain names. In March of this year, Google spokesman Matt Cutts slipped the news into one of his popular YouTube videos. You can watch the whole video here.

So if you are one of those who bought up a raft of keyword-enhanced domains, now is the time to prepare for their disappearance. If you’ve being considering doing it, don’t bother.

This recurring pattern of action and reaction by website owners and Google does raise an interesting question. What will happen when every ranking factor that could be spammed, has been spammed, and Google has de-emphasised all of them? Theoretically we should end up pretty much back where we started, except that the whole web will be stuffed with spam.

It’s always tempting to look for the magic bullet that will fire you onto the top page of Google, and the potential rewards are obvious. Forty percent of external traffic to websites comes from search (source: Outbrain), and in the UK over ninety percent of that comes from Google. But to build a sustainable online business with rankings that will stand the test of time, you need to provide good quality site content that is useful to your customers; and invest in building a network of links from good quality and relevant sites.

Anything else is vapour.

Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.


Read more about SEO here:

What is SEO and why should you be doing it?

Keyword research — a beginner’s guide

Three SEO mistakes you must avoid

Building links to boost your website ranking


Rosiehep's picture

Let's not jump the gun here. In the video, Matt Cutts doesn't say that keyword-rich domains are bad, or that companies are going to be penalised for using them. He simply says that keyword-rich domains aren't the only thing that Google looks at and that they may look at toning down their influence on the Google algorithm. But let's be mindful that it hasn't happened yet...

A lot of the comments on the video quite rightly point out that Matt also references global brands like Twitter, as an example of why you may opt for a branded domain rather than a keyword-focused one. Not a great example really of why you might prefer to use a branded domain - most companies aren't anywhere near the size of Twitter and never will be.

I do agree that keyword-rich domains shouldn't be used as a silver bullet. They need to be reinforced and backed up by all the right content on the page, accurate meta descriptions, good quality backlinks etc. But to to tell people to ignore them altogether could be an equally foolish mistake.

Rosie Heptonstall, 2nd Head

suppliersmart's picture

Great update and advice, thanks.
On the subject of links from good and quality websites, I have recently seen bought links outperform the original website on Google.
They openly admit to being sponsered links and state how amazing the "product" is they are referring to, even though they have probably never seen or heard of it before.
In my opinion this will do a lot more damage to your credibility/brand than having poorer scoring PR links in the first place.

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