From Google’s own John Mueller – “Keyword Domains Don’t Rank Better”


John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst over at Google recently held a webinar that covered the topic of keyword domain names. In the webinar he clearly stated, “keyword domains don’t rank better” and shared a list of four insights into keyword domains and ranking. Here’s the official list from Google:

  1. Keywords domains don’t have a time advantage
  2. Keyword domains don’t rank better
  3. Keywords lost ranking influence years ago
  4. Keyword domains ranked the same as branded domains

(Source – Search Engine Journal)

This has been a very controversial subject in the domain community where many people have had a hard time letting go of the idea that keyword domains give some ranking advantage. Now that Google is officially on record stating that keyword domains don’t rank better…it’s pretty hard to argue it any other way. Of course the domain community is not alone, the search community has also had a hard time with this as well…

“The search community has had an equally hard time giving up on the idea of keyword domains ranking better and Search Engine Journal did not that while there could be a minimal signal, there’s nothing out there to prove that there is and like I said above, Google has said that there isn’t.

Nevertheless, the idea that keyword domains were better than brand domains continued in the search industry, even though Google was no longer giving a boost to parked keyword domains.

An argument can be made that there is a minimal signal. But there is nothing to lend support to that theory. It’s been a long time since any search engine has published research that included keywords in domains as any kind of signal.”

(Source – Search Engine Journal)

Where I think most people get confused is that none of this means that keyword domains don’t carry an advantage when it comes to branding, and this advantage can carry over into SEO, it’s just not a direct correlation. Here’s what happens.

If you do have a keyword domain, it could be said that people are more likely to click on your site since the domain name itself will make you look like more of an authority. Google’s ranking algorithm does take things like this into account so your site could rank better over time if more people click on it when they see it in their Google results.

So while it’s not the domain name itself that is getting an algorithmic advantage in Google’s search algorithms, people’s perception of you as an authority could certainly increase their chances of clicking on your site in search results, which could lead to a higher ranking.

Still, all that being said, I think it’s time we put the idea of keyword domains giving you a ranking advantage to bed.

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.” (John Mueller – Google)

What do you think, is Google lying to us here or should we trust them this time?

Photo Credit: BigOakFlickr Flickr via Compfight cc

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Bill Kara August 3, 2018, 2:11 pm

    This has been the case for years, the perceived bump is not due to the keywords but like you suggested the user behavior.

    The thought process is good key words get higher clock rates verse their peers, especially vs long tail generic terms.

    Inbound links are often key word rich. You might link to Brandname site but on a generic your link text often matches the keywords…

    So because of things such as this they might still hold some edge but it’s still all based in having a great site with relevant content.

  • Jeff L. August 3, 2018, 2:31 pm

    This horse – a ranking advantage for exact match domains (EMDs) – stopped running so long ago I’ve forgotten when.

    Besides what you’ve offered, Morgan, by way of “other advantages”, I’ve learned that EMDs do work rather nicely on social media platforms. They’re easy to remember, easy to cite, easy to link to. People default to linking to keyword + .com or .org. FWIW, given the rise of social media as a source for or path to site discovery via network effects / discovery by network recommendation / an evolutionary step in “surfing the Web” via social media links & rec’s it’s worked out well for me.

    Long ago I realized / accepted that relying on the good graces of algorithms was a set up for failure and that any benefits were ephemera. That, in and of itself, was a good reason to target EMDs – reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with ranking effects.

  • Featured August 3, 2018, 4:23 pm

    Many times I have as well as I’m sure many others searched for keywords and then found the listings littered with sites that here the key words in their domain name.

    But maybe like you said people tend to click on the listing with the keywords relative to their search and that may be a major factor in getting them ranked.

    So at the end of the day although the key word is not given any special treatment from Google directly it is indirectly through the users and higher ctr is just one benefit.

  • Jose August 3, 2018, 6:10 pm

    Hello Morgan, many days without writing comments on your blog and others to be subscribed, due to a personal issue that ends well after all these days.

    With what I know about Google, we can all imagine or think that behind this great company there is something more, without being able to write if reading from my smatphone the news of the online advertising market, etc. a surprise was that of Google Ads before Google Adwords if you research is the same as before, the keyword exists for advertising, without this debian let exist all the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and for what little of this news I have not received , a call from good friends SEM that means that everything is old, continue as before.

    With what I know about Google, we can all imagine or think that behind this great company there is something more, without being able to write if reading from my Smatphone the news of the online advertising market, etc. a surprise was that of Google Ads before Google Adwords if you investigate is the same as before, the keyword exists for advertising, without this they should cease to exist all Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and so little of this news I have not received, a call from good friends SEM that means that everything is old, continue as before

    Google Keyword Planner Tools
    Keywords: Word Planner | Google Ads | Google is> Home> Tools> Keyword Planner

    Google AdWords is now called Google Ads. This new name reflects the full range of advertising options we offer in the Search and Search networks.

    As you can see you do not change anything “Keyword” is the same, here we are also sold that we can look at keywords to see which is worth $ 1 to $ 20…. to have more profits with the click on parking domains.

    If it is true that Google never warns which keywords do not accept in the searches and then everything worked is useless. this happened with a long time ago many keywords do not accept the algorithm of Google and waste a lot of time and money until finding the most dignified solution that each one must look for the opposite of what Google does if it works well, better and if you must not wait for everything to return to normal.

    Google lives on the keywords without them would not have what this company has, from its beginnings to the present.

    Happy day,

  • Doc August 3, 2018, 8:52 pm

    I say total BS… A site ranks on everything first as any real web person knows, but if you are selling a product especially.. If you owned you cannot say that the keyword wont help it rank better than which sells dishwashers. It takes more money $$$$ and time for a brand and I have not yet seen where it does not to let people know you sell dishwashers under a brand. If its a social, political, entertainment or other category sites, thats different , but for a product based site, there is no question it carries the site a lot faster than a branded one.,,,,, and on and on.

  • Jon Schultz August 4, 2018, 11:20 am

    Another bad decision by a mediocre search engine which, it may not be insignificant, has no keywords in its domain. Bing definitely gives some weight to the domain. When I’m looking for possible buyers of a multi-word keyword domain I often put the domain, without the extension, into Bing’s search bar to find websites on other extensions or similar domains.

    A keyword domain reveals so much about the focus of a website, it’s pure blindness for a search engine not to give it any weight at all.

    Furthermore, as we move into an age where more web content will be video, keywords will be more important for search engines to consider to present people with what they’re looking for – unless they can somehow watch the video and figure out what it’s saying (which might be costly to the website owner).

    Hopefully, Google will change or be dethroned.

  • July 31, 2019, 11:20 pm

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