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I have had domains with no keywording or phrasing in them rise to the top of the pile while others with the same keyword or phrase in the domain have been kicked down.
Maybe some others have some ideas on this.
Those that had the url formed like:
FrequentKeyword1-FrequentKeyword2.com or .nation had absolutely fantastic rankings in major search engines.
The best one had one of those ridiculous "Welcome! Click here to enter"-pages where the code broke every single SEO rule. Poor title, no description, no keywords, no header, no keywords in text or link text, no img alt:s, no nothing.
That page had 7 #1 placements and another 22 page one placements for FrequentKeyword1 involving engines like AltaVista, Fast, AOL, Direct Hit, Excite, GoTo, HotBot, iWon, LookSmart, Lycos, MSN, Netscape (ODP), Northern Light and Yahoo.
The client had other sites, whose url:s were formed in the same way, and they too had faboulous rankings, in spite of clear deficiensies in the code.
From this experience, and some systematic research to verify the finding, I have concluded that keywords in url play a major role these days.
Would the following be a good approach in your opinion?
1. Establish the theme of your index.html page.
2. Get an address where the theme is the keyword (or the first keyword before the hyphen in case you need to construct a two word address).
Let me see if I can sort this out. I believe that Yahoo in now counting Yahoogle clicks, if my domain draws the clicks based on its 'eye-appeal' this might eventually be used in a ranking algo. SOooo, what first appears to have low ranking weight might positively affect the rank -perhaps substantially, depending on the SE- at some later date. I KNOW this happened with my site in Snap Live Directory, the public liked the domain/url/title, they clicked, and subsequently ratcheted a sizeable chunk of the site into the main directory.
So the site draws huge crowds both due to the appeal of the url and to its great ranking. The resulting click statistics would then keep pushing it up and up, right?
(A bemused aside on the ways of the world: The reason why I was asked to analyze the sites was that an HQ type wanted to take complete control over all the far flung sites that the folks in foreign subsidiaries had opened on their own and to merge their pages into the company's main site - which places lower in SE:s than anything I have ever seen. Fortunately, the top man wanted a second opionion and brought me in.)
This is not as appealing to the viewers and it makes the domain name harder to remember...but, so long as the domain name is not horrible, that shouldn't be a major hindrance...Especially because domain names by themselves are not as important because over 70% of internet users rely on the search engines and directories to find what they're looking for.
So, I think it's a safe strategy to choose a keyword...include it in the URL with hyphens...and then have the site revolve around this theme and its major keyword...while, if possible, incorporating 4 or 5 other keywords in the text.
Beyond the engines, there is something to be said for the surfer seeing the appropriate words in your domain name. Somehow I think that a surfer faced with buying baby shoes would rather go the baby-shoes.com, or baby.shoes.com than click over to www.heresamallthatsellseverything.com
Here is the thing: search engines are becoming (or have become) spidering-directories. They are building vectors and organizing sites into term categories just like directories do but their system is automated to allow for a greater number of sites. The problem for most sites is that they want to show up under alot of keyword phrases that are sometimes unrelated. That is real tough. SEs don't care how many terms you show up under, they just want to satisfy queries right? Of course they want to give the authority on a topic top position to give the searcher the most information possible. What kind of site will they choose for keyword search, say "mp3"? Joe blow's site that lists his favorite mp3s along with video games, nostalgic toys, and past girlfriends or will they post first a site with the most information possible on mp3s? This is the same for corporations that sell alot of unrelated products but why would any search engine want to put up a site in the top 10 with 1 page about mp3 products versus a site with 1000 pages about mp3s? Back to the url, no company is going to name their URL after only one product, that is foolish. Sites that have the keyword as the URL are mostly focusing just on that term throughout the site. However, this can be scammed and checks and balances must be implemented. In come titles, body text, in and out going links and voila, themes and the perfect check against the domain name.
Rencke, this info came from following up on the hints Brett has dropped in the past few months and reading a whole lot of SE engineer papers. Know what the engineers are thinking and it gives you a much tighter box to work with and eliminates a lot of conjecture. The rest is all about testing (which is my weak point). You don't have to have the perfect domain name, themes can work on their own but the site with the more consistent, focused phrase throughout and links to match will beat you.
Sorry to post so much...better stop writing so much on company time (glad my boss doesn't read here often ;))
Right now, I think a filename itself is more important than the domain name with Alta and Google.