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Can a Keyword Rich Domain Also be a Brand?

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Internet Marketing


I was talking with a prospective SEO client a few weeks ago whose domain name was essentially citystatelawyer.com (imagine something like BostonMALaywerLLC.com). She had registered the domain name a few years prior because she read/heard/someone told her that a good way to rank well in the search engines was to create a keyword rich domain name. As a lawyer that caters to a specific region, creating a domain name that was citystatelawyer.com seemed like a great way to get to the top of the SERPs quickly and help her business grow. It worked fairly well for a few years, but the Penguin update that came out in April impacted her site pretty hard and she wasn’t sure why. I have a working theory that Penguin hit keyword rich domains because exact match domains are forced to use exact match anchor text, which Penguin really went after. I’ve seen many other keyword rich domains affected the same way.

While I can understand why this site owner went with a keyword rich domain (and many site owners with little to no marketing background often do the same) I don’t think a keyword rich domain will be as powerful, both in terms of SEO and business success, in the long run as creating an identifiable brand.

When you’re launching a company and website, it is important to keep SEO in the back of your mind. You need to think about how your brand is going to be positioned online, what kind of terminology you’ll use, how your audience will search for your products and so forth—but you shouldn’t sacrifice your brand for your SEO. I feel like a keyword rich domain name does that. In an attempt to rank well for one specific keyword (and there may be hundreds that could potentially drive traffic to your website) your brand gets lost. I always tell my clients “Think how you would answer the phone if someone called your office? Would you really greet them with ‘Good morning, this is keyword-keyword-keyword.com, how can I help you?’ How does that sound?”

I’m not saying that your domain name can’t incorporate a keyword into it, but that keyword should become part of the brand. SEOMoz, an SEO software provider, has the keyword “SEO” right in the title, but it’s part of their overall brand at large. SEOMoz is a brand that people can remember and recognize. If the company was named SEOSoftware because that’s the keyword they wanted to rank for, chances are they would be outdone in the SERPs by competitors that decided to invest in a real brand and not just a keyword rich domain name.

Keyword rich domains might work fairly well for microsites, but I don’t think they are the best option for a company that is looking to create a solid brand and build long term success.

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