By: Cade Lee
I have noticed many articles and discussion about “keyword-rich domains over the last several months and I though it important to bring upa couple of things to be wary of when going out and investing a sizable amount into new domains that include your target keywords.
I should begin with what a “Keyword-Rich” domain is for those that are new to this and have never heard the term before. A “Keyword-Rich” Domain is simply a domain name containing the major keywords relevant to the site and SEO campaign that you are targeting. So as an example, in our industry, many of the SEO Professionals in Denver target the keyword “Denver SEO“. By searching for the keyword, “Denver SEO” you will notice that www.denverseo.net is the 5th result.
By doing a little more research on this site, you will see that this site has a PR of 3 compared to many of it’s competitors who have earned a page rank of 4 or higher. The domain is an older domain but even so, it has almost 25% of the domains that rank above it and it is still on the first page.
According to Google, there is one backlink from a web design directory, after further research we were able to determine that the domain has around 523 backlinks. When we compare this to some of the other competing websites that are ranked just below this website like www.hyperdogmedia.com, which has a PR 4, 2 backward links according to Google and according to our research this domain has well over 2085 backlinks.
So how is it that a site like Hyperdog’s is ranked below DenverSeo.net? According to some SEO professionals it would be due to the “exact match bonus”. There are many other factors that go into the rankings, but this is definitely a factor as it has been discussed by many internet marketing professionals.
According to some very savvy (at least in my opinion) internet marketing pros, an exact match bonus is awarded for just that, an exact match. Having a domain that contains most the keywords plus some stop words would mean less of a bonus or none at all.
So utilizing dashes in between keywords, stop words or other characters tends to penalize any kind of exact match bonus you might have received. If we go back to our original search, you will notice that many domains rank higher for the keyword “Denver SEO” than www.denverseo.net, so with hard work and useful content it is definitely possible to outrank keyword rich domains. Another example of this is the keyword “SEO” which is a very competitive keyword with well over 190,000,000 results. You will notice that www.seobook.com outranks www.seo.com by two positions. Once again this comes down to content, and site popularity. While keyword rich domains are absolutely beneficial, it does not seem to be the most important factor in obtaining a solid position on page one of Google in the SERPs for the keywords that you are targeting. As a matter of fact, we have seen clients that have a portfolio of keyword rich domains only to have those domains not even rank. It is a fact that keyword rich domains can be a benefit if used properly.
In our experience some misuses of keyword-rich domains are the following:
Domain Masking or Mirroring: This is really hiding the actual domain name of a website from the URL field of a user’s web browser in favor of another name.” So in the real world this means that the webmaster has placed a mask overlaying the real domain name and usually it’s content as well. So, when someone uses the new keyword-rich domain name in our case, it is really forwarding to another domain without changing the address in the address bar. The user will continue to see the keyword-rich domain regardless of the URL they are visiting.
Domain Cloaking: Usually considered a black hat technique. To put it simply, the content presented to the indexing spiders is different to that which is presented to the end user’s browser. This can be done by delivering content based on the IP addresses or the User-agent HTTP header of the user requesting the page. So ultimately if the visitor is identified as a “bot” or “indexing spider”, the server-side script will deliver a different version of the web page being called, usually content which is not present on the visible page. This technique is used to deceive search engines so they will display the page when otherwise the search engine would not display it.
Domain Redirecting: This is often times referred to as URL redirecting as well. Domain redirecting takes all traffic that comes through the new domain and redirects that traffic to the main domain. Redirecting is not necessarily “black hat”, however it needs to be done correctly so as not to confuse the search engines. If domain redirecting is done incorrectly than you could risk raising a red flag for duplicate content which would force the search engines to accept only one domain with that content. The biggest risk one faces with domain redirecting is raising a red flag that you are trying to “manipulate” the search engines to obtain a better rank with just the use of keyword rich domains.
Using any other method than redirecting such as domain mirroring, masking, cloaking or aliases can ultimately confuse the search engines as they will have indexed the same content under a different domain name. The major search engines will then select one of the domain names for that content which leaves your other domains out of the SERPs. So you would actually be leaving it up to the search engines to decide which domain will show in the rankings. This could mean that you would actually lose the page rank given to your original main site.
The other problem with Domain Cloaking, Mirroring and Masking is that the search engines suspect you are using “black hat” tactics to manipulate your rankings and all domains are banned. The safest way to redirect is using a 301 redirect or permanent redirect. All domains should be permanently directed to the main domain name which would be the central location online for all of the company’s products and brands.
In conclusion, before you go out and buy every keyword-rich domain that you can, make sure you do some research as to what makes up a good domain for the exact match bonus. After purchasing the domains, make certain that you redirect correctly so that you do not suffer the wraith of being banned from the major search engines.
Cade Lee is an Internet Marketing Professional in Denver, Colorado. He is the President of Iniquitous, Inc. a SEO Company.