Should small businesses or domain resellers use keywords in their domain names?

A little over a year ago, Matt Cutts at Google lightly suggested that having a branded domain like Twitter, Reddit, TechCrunch or Yahoo may be slightly better than purchasing a domain which was keyword-orientated.

The dichotomy between the two approaches above of course relates to an important area for small businesses called Search Engine Optimization.

Historically, there has been a strong argument for making a domain keyword-centric. For instance, if you sold Android phones you may wish to create a number of microsites with domains that contain the keyword “Android”.

Thus, if somebody linked to your site and the anchor text contained the keyword ‘Android’ there may be a higher chance of ranking higher for that keyword.

However, Matt Cutts warned that Google was considering tweaking its algorithm, to offer branded domains an equal opportunity to rank well when coming up against keyword-centric domains.

The value of this approach is obvious: A branded domain like Twitter, is instantly recognizable. It rises above the noise of SEO-orientated sites that use domains to boost their rankings. Also remember that Twitter and other branded-sites rank well despite not having keywords in their domain.

A keyword-orientated domain is in many respects built for a machine to a read. By that we mean Google’s famous ranking algorithm. This is not to say it does not have value. It just means you should choose a domain based on your business model and not necessarily to place well on a Search Engine, although this is of course important.

Matt Cutts is part of the Search Quality Team at Google, and is listed as one of the co-inventors on a Google Patent related to search engines and spam.

If you’re a domain reseller, keeping these points in mind is a great way to educate your small business customers who are becoming quite knowledgeable about SEO, but often put too much weight on a keyword-orientated domain.

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