One of the main questions I am asked as a web designer is should I go with a keyword rich domain name or a branded one? Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer to that. Both options have their own merits.

Branded Domain

Your brand is very important to you and is the cornerstone of everything you do as a business. It is seen on your website, stationery, business cards, invoices, etc. You’re working hard to establish your brand. So why wouldn’t you use that for your domain name as well? There are some good reasons why you should:

  • It is easy to remember
  • It is short
  • It keeps your brand in front of the customer
  • It looks more professional
  • It further establishes your brand and maintains consistency.

It is a fairly safe bet to go with your name or business name for your domain. There are many successful examples of this such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.

There are, however, circumstances when having a keyword rich domain can help.

Keyword Rich Domain

If you are a marketer and are trying to attract attention for a very specific keyword or phrase, purchasing a domain with that keyword or phrase to use for your landing page can be very effective. Once they have arrived at your landing page you can then direct them to your main site as the keyword rich domain has done its job.

If you use the keyword in your business name, such as mine Maple Moon Web Design Inc, you can have the keyword and your brand in the domain, so it’s both a keyword rich domain and a branded one – the best of both worlds!

If you are actually marketing a product rather than a brand, i.e. the product you sell already has a brand,  such as an MLM company.

Search engines have in the past placed some emphasis on keyword rich domains so from that point of view it may improve your rankings but take a look at the video below from Google’s Matt Cutts, where he explains that Google are moving away from that emphasis. Matt emphasizes that Google is ready to experiment mixing up the old and new signals in their algorithm and see its impact on the evaluation of a website, having received criticism for the unfair bias keyword rich domains have received previously.

“Now if you are still on the fence, let me just give you a bit of color. We have looked at the rankings and the weights that we give to keyword domains, & some people have complained that we are giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains. So we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm, so that given 2 different domains it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain name with a bunch of keywords in it. – Matt Cutts”
Aaron Wall of SEOBook sums it up nicely:

“Classical SEO signals (on-page optimization, link anchor text, domain names, etc.) have value up until a point, but if Google is going to keep mixing in more and more signals from other data sources then the value of any single signal drops. I haven’t bought any great domain names in a while, and with Google’s continued brand push and Google coming over the top with more ad units (in markets like credit cards and mortgage) I am seeing more and more reason to think harder about brand. It seems that is where Google is headed. The link graph is rotted out by nepotism & paid links. Domain names are seen as a tool for speculation & a short cut. It is not surprising Google is looking for more signals. “

What do you think? Will you adjust your SEO strategies as a result of these proposed changes? Do you think Branded is better than Keyword rich? I’d love to know what you think on this topic.