Prioritizing Brand Identity in Domain Name Selection: Insights from Google

2 min read

Google’s Search Relations Team recommends that when selecting domain names, long-term branding considerations should precede keyword-centric SEO strategies.
The presence of keywords in domain names does not impact Google search rankings.
However, domain names featuring relevant keywords may influence user behavior and engagement.
Therefore, the primary focus should be building a solid long-term brand identity rather than relying on domain names heavily laden with keywords for SEO purposes.

In a recent installment of the ‘Search Off The Record’ Podcast, Google’s Search Relations Team, comprising John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Martin Splitt, shared their insights on a topic frequently debated within the website owner and SEO community: the influence of keywords in domain names on search engine rankings.


The Debate Over Keywords


The conversation began when Mueller inquired, “When it comes to domain names, should I include keywords, or should I opt for branding?” Illyes responded lightheartedly, suggesting that the answer wasn’t straightforward. He mentioned, “From Google’s viewpoint or the Search perspective… Well, I can’t say it’s from a Search perspective. But, from Google’s and Steve’s perspectives, I don’t believe it makes a difference.”


Considering the User’s Viewpoint


Illyes went on to explain that although the inclusion of keywords may not have a direct effect on search engine rankings, it might influence user behavior.
He provided an example, saying, “For instance, if I need to get a passport photo, I have these websites that cater to various types of photos. Then there’s passportphoto.com. As a user, I’m more inclined to click on passportphotos.com for some reason,” Illyes clarified.


The Significance of Dashes and Exact Match Domains


When Splitt inquired about the significance of dashes in a domain name or the use of exact match domains, Illyes offered his perspective:
“The site owner can technically manipulate anything in the URL. Therefore, we shouldn’t assign too much importance to that input. This implies that in terms of ranking, it may not provide as much benefit as some people believe.”
In simpler terms, from a search engine viewpoint, the presence of a dash in the domain name does not carry much weight.
Nevertheless, Illyes mentioned that from a user experience standpoint, “having a domain name with a dash is likely more readable.”


Shifting Focus from Keywords: A Brand-Centric Approach


As the conversation veered toward the enduring consequences of selecting domain names, Mueller advocated for a greater emphasis on the brand rather than keywords.
He elaborated, saying, “Your website will likely evolve. You might be selling potato peelers now, but perhaps you’ll also offer avocado peelers a year from now. If your website is named bestpotatopeeler2023.com, transitioning to sell avocado peelers would be somewhat awkward.”
In essence, the Google Search Relations team advises incorporating keywords in domain names should stem from a strategic business choice rather than a purely SEO-driven tactic.
Mueller underscored this by stating, “You should adopt a long-term perspective because changing your domain name is always a cumbersome process. Ideally, you’d want to keep it for an extended duration.”

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Shilpi Mathur
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