Keyword Rich Domains

A long time ago (in Internet) I made the mistake of understating the value of a domain name that exactly matches a search term. Part of the problem was that it was hard to find a collection of domains that were similar and had legitimate content to compare. And while my opinion changed over time and not I'm a believer in keyword-rich domains, I still didn't have a good example to demonstrate their effectiveness. I do, however, now have an example that hints at the power of keyword rich domains.

Rachael Ray is a celebrity with several cooking shows, a talk show, many books, a magazine, and even a charitable organization. Many of these activities are supported by websites as you would expect. The first site to go live was rachaelraymag.com to augment and support the magazine. This site eventually ranked well for the obvious search term, Rachael Ray. After the magazine site there were two additional sites launched: rachaelrayshow.com for her talk show and rachaelray.com to be a gateway to all of her online content.

All three sites currently have a PageRank of 6 indicating a similar level of authority according to Google. The interesting part is that despite the magazine site going live first and being full of content (2,000+ pages), it has given up its top rankings to the gateway site which has a mere 6 pages of content.

So what happened? I suspect that part of the problem is that the domain name for the gateway site is an exact match. Not that it's really a problem, of course, since all of these properties are official Rachael Ray sites.

Now before anyone jumps all over my conclusion, I'll admit that my assessment was pretty light. I didn't look beyond pages of content really. In particular, I didn't examine each site's link profile and I'm certainly not keeping track of which site is doing a better job with on-page SEO. So there certainly could be some other factors that are pushing the gateway site to the top. In addition, even sites with poor domain names such as Wikipedia and Food Network appear above the magazine site hinting that something is indeed wrong. Yet, I think this set of domains is a good demonstration for how keywords can affect rankings given that an exact match domain with next to no content trumps all.

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7 Comments

  1. If you have the full keyword in the domain then you can rank number one with minimal SEO work. At the same time, you can have a branded domain with no keywords and still outrank a rich keyword domain through aggressive SEO tactics.

    If you can't grab a keyword rich domain, then go for second best with a domain that can be branded easily.

  2. Very interesting. I personally despise these so called "gateway sites". Many are created for AdSense (g)arbitrage, I lost good amount of money because of websites like that.

  3. I've always heard the dash was a great SEO technique. Counts as two separate keywords instead of just one long word.

  4. nice blog (checking through all the nofollow blog community).

  5. I agree there too. If I had a choice I would get both and do a permanent redirect of the "non dash" domain to the domain name with the dash. If you can't obtain the "non dash" version the best thing you can do is brand yourself well. You did get the dot com, right.

  6. I agree with you. Keyword domains can be very important for targeting a niche. Keyword domains with a "-" can even be better, for search that is.

  7. Marios Alexandrou

    I'm glad you brought up the issue of a dash in domain names. I'm still on the fence about that one. I think a keyword rich domain with a dash is probably better than a keyword-poor domain without a dash, but I don't know if it's better than no dash when the keywords are otherwise the same.

    I've got a new site I'm working on with a dash because the non-dash version was too costly. Hopefully I'll get some insight from it.

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