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Debunking the Domain Name SEO Myth

3 min read

John Mueller from Google engaged in an animated conversation on Mastodon concerning the relationship between domain names and SEO.

His discussion commenced with a post pondering the advisability of using a dash (-) in domain names.

The dialogue organically delved into the subject of incorporating keywords into domain names, with Mueller sharing his insights on the matter.

“Mueller’s discussion initially revolved around the topic of dashes in domain names, concluding with his statement that ‘Your domain name is unlikely to be the decisive factor in your SEO.’ This particular statement sparked discussions among SEO experts.

Here’s Mueller’s original statement:

“An #seo question from the X-Twitter world: Is using a dash ( – ) recommended in domain names?

  • It’s acceptable.
  • Choose a domain name that tells about your brand for the long term rather than simply gathering keywords (which is a common reason for using dashes). Develop a comprehensive domain.
  • In terms of SEO, dashes in URLs are marginally better than underscores. However, it’s not necessary to change your URLs for this reason. Avoid using spaces, commas, colons, or other special characters in URLs.
  • Ultimately, your domain name is not the deciding factor in your SEO success.”

Another participant shared their perspective, asserting that a domain name containing relevant keywords is advantageous over one without such keywords.

Here’s the individual’s statement:

“While a domain name alone won’t make or break your SEO, having one that aligns with popular search terms can be advantageous.

Having no dash is preferable to having one, but if you do use a dash, it’s better when combined with relevant keywords than having none at all.

(In My Humble Opinion)”

The person who expressed this viewpoint raised a compelling argument regarding the impact of keywords in domain names on click-through rates in search engine results pages (SERPs). They suggested that a website with “health” in its domain name would likely enjoy higher click-through rates in the SERPs when the domain incorporates words like “health” or “med” compared to one that includes “mart.”

The value of a keyword in a domain is less significant than its presence on the page, according to John Mueller.

He expressed:

“I don’t believe either of these scenarios holds.

From a branding or marketing perspective, there might be some merit (e.g., if your URL is featured in an offline advertisement, it could be more memorable).

The SEO impact is less significant than simply mentioning the word on the page. Is it still worth prioritizing?

(And yes, I understand, I understand; SEOs sometimes fixate on the minutest details, but to be honest, that approach is highly inefficient and harms the industry’s reputation.)”

Over two decades ago, keywords in domains, titles, and headings held significant weight as ranking factors.

However, those days have faded into history.

The landscape of ranking factors has evolved substantially with the advent of technologies such as natural language processing, BERT, and other advancements, reshaping how websites are evaluated and ranked.

The discussion participant indirectly referenced the opaque nature of Google’s algorithm, often described as a “black box.”

In computing, a black box algorithm allows you to observe the inputs and outputs, but the inner workings remain hidden.

Since these internal operations are unknowable, it’s impossible to pinpoint which input feature influenced the output.

The individual replying to Mueller added:

“I believe this is at the heart of the challenge. We ‘perceive’ that these factors may not have an impact, but we can never be entirely sure.

In the case of AdWords, they influence ad rankings based on my experience across hundreds of accounts.

Yet in SEO, I can only speculate on their significance.”

Another individual added to the conversation, saying:

“Well, as long as keyword-based domains yield results, people will continue using them. Perhaps Google should consider removing this bonus?”

The person who made this comment appears to believe in the existence of a bonus associated with having keywords in a domain. Is their belief accurate or not?

There have been significant advancements in the functioning of search engines today.

John Mueller’s response addresses the practical aspects of keywords and their relevance.

Mueller’s statement about the impossibility of distinguishing the impact of a keyword in a domain from other variables emphasizes the inherent mystery within a black box algorithm.

How can you quantify something that defies measurement? While the results are visible, they don’t unveil the inner workings.

Mueller provides practical explanations for why a keyword in the domain may not serve as a reliable signal.

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Shilpi Mathur
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