Moving to Domain with Keywords

It is a known fact that one significant ranking factor on Google is if the keywords are in the domain. Granted this factor can be heavily outweighed by a multitude of other ranking factors but nonetheless it is factored in. This thread is not to discuss the importance of this factor.

Many businesses may go the route of choosing a unique, memorable domain for branding purposes, Amazon or Google being the most famous that come to mind. If you search for ‘insurance’ the #1 site currently is Allstate not insurance dot com.

BUT, what if you are a small start-up business that is about to launch a brand new website? For example, let’s say the company is for an event planning service and it is called BLAMBO. Let’s assume after some keyword research the most popular phrase is ‘event planners’.

In my opinion the optimum strategy is to host the website on blambo dot com (for branding purposes) and host it on eventplanners dot com (for SEO, assuming it is available). All the business collateral (business cards, letterhead, advertisements, brochures) would publish the site address of blambo dot com.

However, for SEO purposes, eventplanners dot com would be used. Not only does the domain provide an advantage, but it increases the chances the inbound link anchor text will contain the keywords instead of just containing the word BLAMBO.

I see two challenges in this strategy though and am interested in people’s opinions.

#1 - Duplicate Content Penalty. This is easily avoided by either (a) making the content significantly different between the two sites, or if there are budget constraints that prevent that, (b) instruct the search bot not to index the BLAMBO domain

There is a downside to (b) though. If someone searches for ‘blambo’ on Google, the main site will not come up. In fact I’ve tested this with a 1-month old website, and because the company is not yet showing up in any directories, it is very hard to find. Maybe over time this won’t be an issue after there are more inbound links. But in the short-run, would a possible solution be to create yet a third domain: blamboplanning dot com and have it redirect in a Google-friendly way so that it comes up for the search ‘Blambo’ but you are redirected to blambo dot com and Google still does not index blambo dot com still? I’m not sure there is a way to do that without appearing to Google as a doorway site and getting penalized? But I suppose one could argue, any time/money you save not creating unique content for blambo dot com is sort of lost by creating content for this third domain. So maybe the answer is to list in directories as soon as possible even if the site isn’t up yet. yellowpages dot com comes to mind.

#2 - Dilution of inbound linking - Probably the more significant of the two ‘challenges’ is preventing dilution of inbound linking. Essentially this strategy can only prove successful if the advantage of the keywords in the domain will overweigh the decrease in inbound links due to some linking to blambo dot com instead of linking to eventplanners dot com instead of all of them to one or the other. I think that a good SEO would have enough control to insure the vast majority of links went to the SEO site domain to the point it would make this a non-issue, especially for a small local business.

I would expect some might argue this solution is not optimal from an online branding aspect. But frankly, when you hit a home page, do you pay attention to the brand (big logo on the page) more or the domain in the URL bar more? I would say the brand. If someone bookmarks the SEO domain site, big deal, the still find their way back to the site. If they try to verbally refer someone to the site they are going to say go lookup Blambo or go to blambo dot com and they will still find the site. I think the lowest probability is the SEO domain being pushed around via word of mouth (go to eventplanners dot com) but even so, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Again, I’m not looking to discuss how big a factor keyword domains are. For sake of discussion in this thread let us assume all other ranking factors are equal.

The way round the duplicate content issue is to have one domain name rewrite/redirect to the other, and probably to throw a canonical tag into the mix as well. That way, you only have one actual site, whether it’s on blambo.com or eventplanner.com (I’d probably put everything on the brand name site rather than the keywords site), so you’re getting 100% of the googley goodness on the one site. It also helps to reinforce the branding for users if it’s all one site … if you run as two separate sites, they might get confused a/o frustrated because they don’t understand why two ostensibly different domains seem to be broadly the same website. As long as Google knows that one domain/URL is simply an alias for another, the problem of duplicate content goes away.

One of the big advantages of having keyword-rich domain names is for use in offline marketing. It may be easier to market a website using keywords than a not-very-well-known brand name in contexts where you’re wanting people to retype that domain name into their computer, possibly from memory. The downside is that there will be plenty of people who end up at your various competitors, eventplanning.net, event-planning.com and planningevents.com … unless you can register every combination of those words and common TLDs!

Can you elaborate a little on the specific technique. If you redirected from eventplanner.com to blambo.com don’t you lose the SEO benefit of having keywords in the domain as wouldn’t google only index the site as blambo.com?