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When you first set up in business, you chose the name your brand very carefully, so it's unique, memorable and evokes your brand values and history.
This week you decided you wanted to make the move online. People are always asking whether you have a website so they can see pictures of your widgets and read information about how you make them. You've realised it would be a great way to capture traffic and would save you a bomb in printing brochures so you hire a web designer and a developer and they also bring someone called an 'SEO consultant' into the meeting to help you market your site online.
Choosing a Domain Name - Your Brand or Your Primary Keyword?
The first thing you have to do, they explain, is register a domain name. You want to use the name of your brand because it's how people know you - only your SEO consultant tells you that instead you should buy the domain www.luxury-red-widgets.com because your brand name doesn't have any keywords and it may harm your ability to rank in Google.
Can anyone tell me that this isn't an entirely ludicrous scenario?
Yet, even today, with all the technology in place to understand websites, it is still possible to get a huge boost in the SERPs just by having a keyword rich domain name - something made even more ludicrous still by the fact that as more businesses go online, there's fewer and fewer decent keyword-rich domain names left.
So, if you're lucky enough to own www.mobile-phones.com is it really right that you should have a decided advantage in ranking over a site called www.bobsfonestuff.com if Bob's business is just as legitimate, well-optimised and well-coded and his only mistake was buying a domain relating to his offline brand instead of buying www.mobile-phones.com?
Take the SERP for 'lcd televisions', for instance.
The first result goes to a very generic looking blog site set up using a template linked to the faceless "Electrical-Deals.co.uk" shop - but set up on "http://discountlcdtv.co.uk/" - something which sets alarm bells ringing for me. Not a great result as I wouldn't trust a site which has one URL in its logo and another on my screen.
Result #2 is an affiliate site full of ads. Despite saying it's a review site, I couldn't find any reviews - I gave up after being sent off site 3 times via an affiliate link masquerading as "more info."
These are not what you'd consider great results - they're not even particularly well-optimised sites - so one can only assume that their domain names - which contain 'LCD' in them - are helping them rank for these big money terms.
What I would expect to find when I type in "LCD Televisions" are some legitimate sites - Amazon is at #3, but I wouldn't bat an eyelid if it were at #1. Where's Sony? Panasonic? Toshiba? Where's Currys? Comet? Thankfully, Richer Sounds is in there at #10, below Pixmania, Kelkoo and Pricerunner - also established brands you'd expect to find - but brands lacking keywords in their domain names. All of these sites regularly rank very well for equally competitive keywords so I cannot imagine that our top 2 have done a better job of optimising for 'LCD televisions'.
While I understand the logic of using the name of a specific page as an indication of subject - I mean why would you call a page about bird watching lcd-televisions.html - using the domain name itself as a factor in the algorithm is something that really needs to go. It's causing a lot of garbage to clog up the SERPs and it's also diluting the effect of having a really great, identifiable brand name - and it's penalising businesses for not being the first to have bought a domain name rather than rewarding them for building great websites.
To learn about a host of other stupid ranking factors, take a look at our SEO training page.