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Keyword Domain Versus "Brandable" Domain Versus Current Domain
Planet13




msg:4400588
 5:48 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi there, Everyone:

Our site is about ten years old, has some inbound links (not a ton), and has a pretty awkward and un-useful domain name. People who see the domain name generally think we sell food, pets, or adult material, while instead we actually sell clothing...

So we are deciding about moving the site to a new domain, and would love to hear your input;

1) In google's current (and foreseeable) algorithm, do keyword domains still really work? (Our competition doesn't use keyword domains, but are well-branded for their company names. Of course, they have advertising / marketing budgets that dwarf ours.)

2) After ten years, how much of a "loss" will it be to us if we move everything to a new domain (ensuring that we do proper 301 redirects)? We only have less than 200 inbound links to the site, and a PR4, and to be honest, some of them are so old that I bet many of the sites that did link to us have fallen to abandon.

3) Since we would like to be significantly more aggressive in terms of link building and branding, would we be more likely to incur a penalty if we move to a new domain as opposed to doing the link building on the old domain (which has all the history to it)?

4) Would it be a bad idea to start setting up a new domain with the new name and just make it a 301 page that redirects to the OLD site. Then on the old site, we would still keep our clunky URL but change the graphics and logos to the NEW NAME (hence the graphics and logos would NOT match the URL).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and any experience in this you might be willing to share.

 

Lenny2




msg:4400603
 6:40 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

[I know of a site] that 301'd their entire site to a new domain. ...they've recovered all of their panda rankings.... and are doing quite well in the rankings (for now)....

We recently 301'd all of our URL's from complicated long key word rich to short and sweet and we didn't see a negative effect.

My opinion is that Google has the 301 DOWN... and it's low risk AS LONG AS YOU DON'T MAKE A MISTAKE!

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:48 pm (utc) on Dec 22, 2011]

Planet13




msg:4400612
 7:19 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ Lenny2:

We recently 301'd all of our URL's from complicated long key word rich to short and sweet and we didn't see a negative effect.


Thanks for the input. Can I ask why you did that (was it for branding / marketing purposes - which is why I am thinking of doing the same)?

to the NEW URLs have keywords in them at all? If not, could you describe the new URLs a bit (like are they nonsense words like zappos and such)?

Thanks in advance.

Lenny2




msg:4400622
 7:35 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Short... no key terms... ie. domain.com/category-name/item-number.

After we did it:

1. Our user metrics went up (apparently having less "spammy" URL's does make a difference.
2. Zero negative affect from Google... if anything our traffic improved SLIGHTLY... less than 2% difference hard to tell if it was from the url switch.
3. BUT BE CAREFUL! Don't make a mistake!

We did it for branding... I didn't like the long urls... and for SEO; we were hit by panda and one of the metrics they measure may be spammy signals like long ridiculous URL's... I didn't expect that user metrics would improve 5 - 10%...

buckworks




msg:4400648
 9:04 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

nonsense words like zappos


I cannot find the reference right now, so I could be wrong about this, but I have it in my head that "zappos" is a transliteration of the word meaing "shoes" in Greek.

Among others, it would be related to sabot in French which is a wooden shoe / clog, the Arabic sabbat "sandal", or the Spanish zapatos "shoe"

Planet13




msg:4400676
 9:55 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Among others, it would be related to sabot in French which is a wooden shoe / clog, the Arabic sabbat "sandal", or the Spanish zapatos "shoe"


ahh... thanks for the insight. I really did not know that.

Live and learn, as they say.

mememax




msg:4400690
 10:46 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here my two cents:

1) In google's current (and foreseeable) algorithm, do keyword domains still really work? (Our competition doesn't use keyword domains, but are well-branded for their company names. Of course, they have advertising / marketing budgets that dwarf ours.)

I still see many keyword rich domain in SERPs, especially in longtail queries. I think not only Google is moving to brand rich domains but the whole online marketing is requiring it. If you want to "attack" social media you need to create a great brand identity and invest on it. A keyword rich domain is not the best option in this way, imagine your name is womanclothes.com your competitors may buy woman-clothes.com and things like this.

2) After ten years, how much of a "loss" will it be to us if we move everything to a new domain (ensuring that we do proper 301 redirects)? We only have less than 200 inbound links to the site, and a PR4, and to be honest, some of them are so old that I bet many of the sites that did link to us have fallen to abandon.

I read of people making huge 301, lose their rankings and recover them in a 3 to 6 months period. I've got no experience on it, maybe Google is faster than before right now.

3) Since we would like to be significantly more aggressive in terms of link building and branding, would we be more likely to incur a penalty if we move to a new domain as opposed to doing the link building on the old domain (which has all the history to it)?

The only risk you got is of innatural link building. Since you start with no links, if you build links aggressively you may build them too fast (more than a monthly 10-20%), which Google considers as artificial links.

4) Would it be a bad idea to start setting up a new domain with the new name and just make it a 301 page that redirects to the OLD site. Then on the old site, we would still keep our clunky URL but change the graphics and logos to the NEW NAME (hence the graphics and logos would NOT match the URL).

I think that the best option is 301 the old to new domain, with same URIs (or different ones but be careful to not make any mistake). Creating a new domain just for a doorway will not help since users will see it as a doorway and the double redirect in my opinion is not a good idea.

In the end. I think you should create a new brand with the new domain and redirect there the old site. Tou can always buy keyword rich domains and build thematic and niche microportals, like sportwear.com - womanclothes.com - etc etc

buckworks




msg:4400691
 10:47 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

We need a true linguist to weigh in here, because I might have the language wrong for the source of "Zappos". However, it's a certainty that the word is more than just something random that someone made up.

Back to the OP, remember that skillful naming of categories can work keywords into your URLs. A keyword domain can be helpful for some things, but it can also be a limitation.

A good domain name:

- is distinctive
- is easy to recognize when read
- is easy to understand when heard
- is easy to spell (preferably no hyphens)
- is easy to remember
- is easy to pronounce
- is concise
- might or might not mean something related to what your site is about.

I'm sure others could add to that list.

[edited by: buckworks at 10:49 pm (utc) on Dec 22, 2011]

MrFewkes




msg:4400693
 10:49 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Keyword names rank in my experience Planet. But they still go below the fold. Would this not affect your keywords?

If it would - then dont bother doing anything (with google in mind)

If it would not - then it may soon - so dont bother doing anything (with google in mind)

I am going to have to try and branch out elsewhere now that my number 1 sites are below the fold - be proactive would be my honest and genuine advice. Dont do all the hard work I have done only to have your site treated like part of a cesspit.

Im being honest - skip this phase if you can - be proactive and forget about google.

mememax




msg:4400694
 11:02 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

forget about google.


That's it. You have to think about your users, if you got a easy to remember and distinctive name they can access to it directly. Imagine that your name is a keyword rich domain and one day a competitors ranks higher than you. That user may find equally useful that site because he doesn't remember yours.

don't forget the power of direct-referrer traffic. google is important but you have to focus on users first.

Leosghost




msg:4400697
 11:12 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

But they still go below the fold


No they don't..

What you may see and experience is not what all the rest of us see and experience..everyone's mileage may, and will, vary..

I have plenty of ( keyword in domain ) domains well above the fold in #1 slots in "organics" in searches returning over 500,000,000 results ( some over 1 billion results thus highly competitive sectors ) for the keyword(s)..and these are "money term", short words 5 , 6 , 7 etc letters..

Google are pushing organics down the page ( and I was saying so long before you noticed or posted about it ) ..but not all serps are ( yet ) only G properties and fortune 500 companies above the fold..

Using your brains will help to keep you floating to the top of serps and above the fold ..using bile ..won't..

Planet13




msg:4400724
 1:24 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Using your brains will help to keep you floating to the top of serps and above the fold...


Great... that puts me at an instant disadvantage....

tedster




msg:4400726
 1:30 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Many of these "Google properties" are made up of content contributed by websites - I'd say figure out how you can show up in these properties (Products, Places, Videos, Images, News, etc) because the trend is not likely to diminish. For instance, word is that Google recently hired a lot of support personnel for Places to help the SMB with issues they might be having.

These Google Properties are a lot easier for G to manage and control the gaming than "raw" organic listings. In many cases, that means you need your business to be there. And having a "brandable" domain makes more sense in that situation, I'd say.

Planet13




msg:4400736
 1:47 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

However, it's a certainty that the word is more than just something random that someone made up.


Well, according to wikipedia:

A few months after their launch, the company's name was changed from ShoeSite to Zappos (a variation of "zapatos," the Spanish word for "shoes") so as not to limit itself to selling only footwear.


So, full marks to buckworks for the catch.

[en.wikipedia.org...]

they were also founded by money from venture capitalists.

Oh boy; right now, with the way the organic SERPs are going and with the amount of venture capital that is being used in start ups, I really don't know how us small sites are going to survive. I have to say I am probably about as pessimistic as I have been in 10 years...

Planet13




msg:4400740
 2:03 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ tedster:

Thanks for your input in this thread. it is much appreciated.

...word is that Google recently hired a lot of support personnel for Places to help the SMB with issues they might be having.


I am embarrassed to ask what SMB stands for, since I am not familiar with that.

thanks in advance.

potentialgeek




msg:4400757
 3:18 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Cutts said he had a personal preference for brandable but it may not be a team position.

engine posted an interesting new case study:

[webmasterworld.com...]

It seems a good domain can actually have the equivalent of higher SERP ranking than another domain simply because it is more descriptive.

The study also suggests users return to sites (domains) they recognize in SERPs. Overall the study pretty much reflects my own approach to reviewing SERPs before clicking. I always look at both the domain name and page title.

I've seen good results for both non-descriptive domains and descriptive domains lately but not for those with hyphens. UK firms always used to love their hyphens but haven't followed google.co.uk results recently.

Thinking long-term you may also want to consider your exit strategy. It may be much easier to sell a business with a good unique brand name.

Planet13




msg:4400970
 6:31 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Cutts said he had a personal preference for brandable but it may not be a team position.


Well, i can see with the increased emphasis on user metrics why search algos would benefit from brandable domain names.

If people are typing in blue widgets into their search bar, google might not know if they want to find www.bluewidgets.com, or www.blue-widgets.com, or www.blue-widgets.org

But if someone were typing in widgetpalooza, the search algo would probably have a better idea identifying that a branded site was being reference, and thus, the user metrics fo rthe branded site would be boosted.

Just my guess on all this.

MrFewkes




msg:4401008
 8:29 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

From me
"Keyword names rank in my experience Planet. But they still go below the fold. "

From Leosghost
"No they dont"

From me now
errr - yeah right Leo - whatever you say.

Leosghost




msg:4401018
 8:54 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Of course they rank..

That is why I register domains with keywords in them, or easily memorable / brand-able names..

I said "no they don't",

to your assertion of,

"But they still go below the fold",

because mine... don't :)

Nor do those of very many other people..

tedster




msg:4401025
 9:15 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Clearly the "below the fold" issue is heavily dependent on what the exact query phrase is (as well as the resolution set for the monitor itself.)

If you aim to rank for a phrase that triggers Local results (Places pages especially), or Products or all manner of Universal Search blended results, then there may not be a lot of above the fold real estate to aim for. That's just the reality.

Planet13




msg:4401034
 9:38 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ Leosghost

That is why I register domains with keywords in them, or easily memorable / brand-able names...


so would it be fair to say that an "ideal" solution might be to have a "memorable" domain name with a keyword in it?

also, since it sounds like SOMETIMES you opt for a keyword domain, and sometimes you opt for a "brandable" domain name, how do you choose which one to use (keyword or brandable)?

MrFewkes




msg:4401038
 10:18 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Planet - some observations of mine for you which may be relevant.

Here, I see some brands like this.
Car Phone Warehouse
Massive UK brand - incorporating the keywords for the product along with a third word.

This could be a good way to go for you depending on the product. Other variants I notice people building.
Paddling Pool Direct
Paddling Pool UK
Paddling Pool World
Paddling Pool Universe
Paddling Pool ........ what is relevant where you are.

Or then you may get a related word as the third word
Car Parts Drive In
Car Parts Garage
Car Parts Mechanic
Computer Repair Tech
Computer Repair Boffins
Computer Repair People

Then - more modified - less relevant but worth considering
Little Paddlers
Kiddy Paddles
Family Pools

Then - obscure - really expensive to brand build - nothing to do with ranking in the se's
For Paddling Pools ....
Little Splashers

For Car Parts
Spannersnhammers
OilnOveralls
(just thinking out loud)

Then - the hardest -
for Burgers.... McDonalds.
for a general goods catalogue - Argos
for a grocery store - Asda
Massive brands.

My guess is you are already on these levels of thought at the very least. For ranking - I have had success with...

Product Name Direct

And even find searches in google external KW tool showing up for exactly that - Product Name Direct.

Getting the country version also works well - as ivariably there are searches already being performed for Product Name US - and these you will rank very quickly for with the domain productnameUS.com

Planet13




msg:4401056
 11:18 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ MrFewkes:

Wow, thanks for the great tips. Your thinking is much further ahead on this than mine.

I really like the:

Little Splashers


But as you said, probably no initial ranking benefit in the search engines. But I think it paints a great "image" in the mind of the consumer.

And even find searches in google external KW tool showing up for exactly that - Product Name Direct.


That's also a great tip. Thanks for the inspiration. I had a domain called prodcutname.us but I think productnameus.com might do better.

Wow, a lot to think about and a lot of good suggestions.

Lenny2




msg:4401211
 7:05 pm on Dec 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm going to venture to say that the key term in the name of the URL is not as important today as it was... and that it is probably not important at all in an otherwise well produced website...

Think about it this way, IN THE PAST Google asked us to make the ranking of our sites easier for them by making it obvious about what the site was about... OLD SCHOOL SEO. As time has gone by they have refined their search algorithm to be somewhat more advanced. They have a zillion more factors telling them what the page is about.... my opinion is that they don't need the key term in the domain to determine the content of the site...

Planet13




msg:4401229
 7:48 pm on Dec 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ Lenny2:

I'm going to venture to say that the key term in the name of the URL is not as important today as it was... and that it is probably not important at all in an otherwise well produced website...


Thanks for the input.

I can understand it not being as important in the grand scheme of things, but I wonder if it might have more significance for NEW web sites / new domains, where there is no link history or authority built in yet?

Also, I wonder on the effect of anchor text for inbound links? If you have a keyword in the domain name, then in theory you are going to get more links with the anchor text containing your keyword, since a large proportion of inbound links to a site will (generally) have the domain name as part of the anchor text...

netmeg




msg:4401351
 4:33 pm on Dec 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

If I'm picking a domain name for a business, I care far more about whether or not it's something that is memorable than whether or not it has keywords in it. That means sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn't. If you want to build a brand, you start with the users, not the search engines.

Even if it means you have to make up a word. (Zappos, netmeg, whatever)

Even if it means you have to pay more than the $10 hand reg fee for the domain.

(SMB - small / medium business)

Planet13




msg:4401352
 4:36 pm on Dec 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the tips, and the explanation for SMB, netmeg.

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