Branding vs. Keyword Rich Domain Names – Which Does Google Prefer?

When it comes to picking a domain name most webmasters are in a dilemma of whether to choose a keyword rich domain name that will get better rankings on Google or a branded domain name that is more likely to get more visitors to the site and be easier to remember.

In recent times Google has been putting more emphasis on brand names over keyword rich domains which has led to the widespread presence of various branded online business at top positions on the search result pages even if they did not meet all the SEO guidelines. Though Google has always denied such favoritism, their criteria to assess the relevancy of any site are constantly changing to keep away spammers, gamers, and black-hated sites and Google is now adopting more novel signals to help them improve their page ranking system.

A recent video by Google’s Matt Cutts explains the situation further. 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.

Google has been looking at using more robust signals like link authority, page rank, and keyword-rich domains over the traditional signals like on-page optimization, link anchor text, domain names, meta-tags and meta-description. However, we can’t forget about parameters like branding, social networking, reviews, and personalization – they seem to be getting more attention from Google in analyzing the credibility of a site.

Aaron Wall from SEOBook sums up the current situation pretty well:

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.

Have you adjusted your SEO strategies lately as a result of these new ranking factors? Feel free to share your thoughts below.


One thought on “Branding vs. Keyword Rich Domain Names – Which Does Google Prefer?

  1. Regardless of what Google and Matt say, the only way to know for sure is through testing. I question how easily it is to differentiate a brand name domain from a domain built purely on keywords.

    From my experience over recent times and Google algorithm changes, getting a full keyword rich domain still does not guarantee any SEO shortcuts, especially for competitive keywords. I think we can take Aaron’s observations as advice: good SEO is based on proper combination of methods, not reliance on one single “signal”.

    Eric Gesinski