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Because of these two issues, I'm thinking of changing domain names. However, I have two concerns. First, my site has been running for three months with very competitive keywords, so I assume if I change domain names I will lose 3 months of sandbox time. The second is that I would have to move all content onto the new site in order to pursuade existing links to switch over, which risks google penalising me for having mirror sites. So I suppose I will have to delete all the old pages and put in a redirect.
Is it worth it? How much weight is given to keywords in domain name and in associated domain-name-links as opposed to content and the quantity/quality of links?
If I do bite the bullet, what is the best way of doing it?
We tend to register domain names based on the company name. If we can squeeze a keyword into the domain name then fair enough, but tend to stick with the name of the company first and foremost.
I have heard that keywords in the URL can help, but I have also heard statements claiming the very opposite. I am sure there will be other things on your site that can be tweaked to improve SE performance before resorting to a new domain name.
Again, this is just my opinion - i hope it helps!
We face this issue right now with a client who just acquired the .com version of their business name - they are running a .org version at present. We were also happy to be ranking (and selling) almost immediately on important commercial keywords, so changing domain names is definitely not something we relish. However, they are in it for the long haul and the site is only 5 months old, so we will just bite the bullet and hope we can switch over with no major problems.
I'm not sure exactly how we avoided the sandbox-like-happening with this site. One thing I know of that happened right was that they acquired some powerful authoritative links the very week they were launched - free ones, not ROS and inline in articles. So switching domains is a relatively scary thing at present. I'm not at all sure how those monster authorities will respond to a request to change their links.
OK, I'm rambling - the quick answer is not to change domain names casually. Keywords in the name just don't make enough difference.
I agree that keyword-in-domain is only a very minor factor out of 100+ factors used in determining rank, many of which are MUCH more important.
Dear tedster, according to my own experience the domain selection is NOT a minor factor at all. In fact, I think it's one of the few key initial decisions for any successful online venture.
I had to spend 2 months and register several domains wasting money, before deciding the domain of our new project. :)
IMO The domain plays a significant role both for Marketing AND SEO; i.e. a listing on DMOZ is almost impossible with a title containing keyword(s) if the domain cannot support it.
Of course, it depends on the industry/topic of each site but when we have to do with very competitive markets, a keyword-rich and brandable domain is a key to success.
PS. I always suggest avoiding domains like keyword1-keyword2-keyword3-keyword4.com as they may help in SEO but they are worthless in terms of marketing your site (smells scrap).