There is much debate as to the value of keywords in domain names. The question was recently posed in a blog post from Nominet. Nominet is the team behind .uk. In years gone by, the post notes that it indeed was a key decision in registering domain names. Then Google moved the goalposts changing their algorithms over time.
So in the past, Nominet notes that companies would register multitudes of domain names containing their keywords, for example buykeyword.co.uk or insurekeyword.com. These, they note, are known as exact match domain names (EMDs). And websites with these keywords would appear at the top of search results.
The algorithm changes started in 2012 with Google endeavouring to stop EMDs appearing if they pointed to low quality sites. Google, Nominet notes, was intent on preventing these sites appearing above higher quality sites competing in the same spaces.
Google’s guru on search John Mueller has repeatedly said EMDs play no part in search rankings. But as Nominet points out, many EMD’s can still be spotted through-out popular Google search results.
Nominet believes there are a number of reasons for this. One, Nominet explains, is direct ranking factors include a greater propensity of receiving external keyword rich anchor text links since websites which link to a URL containing a keyword are also linking that particular word highlighting a relevancy to Google between the two.
They also believe a branded effect also takes place meaning a greater percentage of customers may visit a site directly or search for the URL when it’s a short keyword rich URL leading to significantly more visits compared to competitors. Other ranking factors could include the quality of the content and RankBrain (Googles machine learning algorithm) being in play. For example if Google noticed people are drawn more to gTLDs containing keywords or referencing a particular location e.g. .london SEO benefits may emerge over time.
Finally Nominet notes there is also evidence that EMDs may provide additional value in terms of conversion.
Nominet also believes keywords can work on consumers’ psychology, with eyes drawn to the domain names in a search engine results list that include the terms they were looking for.
So in short, it seems that keywords do matter. But much less than they did in the past, and much less than having quality and regularly updated content.