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A couple of months ago there was this guy in a german forum: He proudly claimed to have registered a huge (?) network of almost 10000 domain-names, all made up of terms of widgets, widget-groups and branches related to a broad but concise market. I investigated some, and found them on a fairly narrow IP-pool.
The older central domains, from which he obviously started, do indeed offer some valuable services and products for the visitors and got a TBPR of 3 and 4, but the majority of the domains, the way he interconnected them via link-anchor-text and the noun-phrases he stuffed, are pure spam at its best.
I concede: As a linguist, I somewhat admire the way he automated to organize the semantic clouds;)
I was pretty sure, then, that he would tank with the whole structure within a relatively short timespan. I thought the whole approach was already outdated in 1999, and particularly the IP-trap would make googlebot rolling on the floor laughing. But today I took a brief look and the opposite is the case: Most of those domains, which got assigned a TBPR of at least "1" rank fairly well on each relevant keyword.
I have a relatively old webshop and I present my product-groups a la http://example.com/widgets.html, which, I think, is the way it is supposed to be. Being in a niche market, most of these landing-pages rank #1 without any effort. But from time to time a clever guy comes up shifting me to #2 simply by registering widgets.com. BTW: that guy is not a competitor of mine. He's in a completely different market.
I never "optimised" my site, just tried to make it "good" and do no evil. So far I survived all updates, and within everflux for many broader key-phrases other sites seem to oscillate around my own stable #2-#3.
But for the first time, this thing makes me a bit sceptical...
What do you think?
[edited by: tedster at 12:07 pm (utc) on April 17, 2009]
[edit reason] switch to example.com - it cannot be owned [/edit]
I thought this was a general habbit here: We are all so sophisticated, that talking to ourselves is the only means to make sure the receiver of the message understands us...
Honestly: If I remember correctly, the advice NOT to use keyword-domains is part of Bretts 26-steps-evergreen. And what I found, has been labelled black hat for more than 10 years now. I'd really be surprised if this lasts long.
Another thing I observed (but that'd be a topic of it's own) is an intensified optical presence of google-base-links on top of my serps, accompanied by unsually good rankings of price-comparison-websites. I don't think this is due to google having identified the search-queries as primarily commercial. Would rather speculate the google spiders are heavily learning from the price-comparison-sites in order to make it better one day.
Some heavy shake-ups to come, if you ask me.
For building a world-class business, a branded domain name is a long term success factor. However, there are many examples of VERY solid businesses who took a keyword domain and turned it into a world-class brand.
Really it's the site itself that makes the difference, not the domain name.
[edited by: tedster at 3:49 pm (utc) on April 18, 2009]
Sure. But in the example I gave that guy was interlinking thousands of keyword-domains, which I'd definitely call blackhat.
> having the keyword in the domain name still gives a relevance boost. That particular dial (how much boost) gets dialed up and dialed down in the algo all the time.
This is what I mean. I'm wondering why and how long that guy passed thru the algo with this. From time to time some very primitive optimization-methods receive an inappropriate wheight for a couple of months. This "UP" of keyword-in-domain as a ranking factor is suspicious. Keyword in link-anchor-text, title and description respectively. All fairly primitive.
Aren't we told to expect the dawning of the semantic web?
In the instances where there isn't a company name and it's just the 'blackhat' keyword rich domain, and the 'blackhat' serves decent content, then google isn't likely to care *how* they got there. And why would they? If google knocks out a site with good content there is a non-zero probability that the site that replaces it may not have good content.
I think keyword rich domains are going to be fine for the near future; wish I had time to get a bunch of them.
Are keyword domains really out?
Absolutely not! And I have the site to prove it:
Last year I bought a domain name with plans to develop it later. It's somewhat of competitve phrase, let say "buy blue widgets" and on top - it's a dot NET domain. I built two pages - home page and a page with 2 links to similar websites I do visit.
This is as far as I got, some other projects have had my attention since, so we have a dotNET domain with 2 pages and ABSOLUTELY NO INCOMING LINKS. I submitted the URL to Google after I uploaded the two pages, for "aging", and thinking I will get around to finish it soon.
This website has been ranking in the past few months in the top 3 for the domain phrase (mind you, it's not dotCOM)and for a bunch of other keywords, which are different from the domain name, but similar in nature.
I am yet to finish it, since it turns out the traffic is times smaller than I expected for those keywords, but the fact is - it ranked solely on domain name and a couple of outgoing links.
> Has someone argued that having a keyword in the domain name can have a negative effect on a site's rankings for that keyword?
No, not for the ranking, but many people in ecommerce would argue that branding (i.e. an ideally NEW, striking and easy to recall lexeme) is far more important with respect to choice of domain-name than a keyword. Long term. And in addition to that, a couple of thousand doorway-domains have been labelled a NoNo in SEO ever since 1999.
> Absolutely not! And I have the site to prove it:
> Last year I bought a domain name...
What I am aiming at is the present wheight of keyword-in-url as a ranking factor. I'd say
a) one year's performance doesn't say very much (though it is indeed a relatively long timespan and underlines my observation that this guy slipped thru far too long)
b) the wheight of this ranking factor is unusually high for an unusually long period of time. I'd like to know, whether you agree, and what you'd conclude from such an observation.