Do Keywords in a URL Affect a Site’s Ranking?Oct 122016
One of the most common questions out there is whether a webmaster can boost their site’s performance by utilizing a longer URL with one or more keywords in it. For example, a site owner may want to purchase a domain with their brand name and a keyword in it, thinking that the keyword will help them rank better for it in searches […]
To answer that question, let’s learn a little about EMDs, and how Google feels about their usage as part of a SEO strategy.
ABOUT EXACT MATCH DOMAINS (EMDS)
Exact match domains, or EMDs, were once an often-used tactic to increase rankings. An EMD is a URL that has one or more keywords in it that the site wants to rank for. If you search for “kids clothes” and the top result is “kidsclothes.com,” that is an EMD.
Before late 2012, EMDs had been able to consistently rank on the first page of Google (if not in the top spot) on the basis of the searched keywords being in their domain names. This led to some very spammy techniques – such as the utilization of keyword-stuffed domains – as well as some complaints by other webmasters that their link building, content strategies, and on-page SEO were being overlooked because competitors simply got better domain names.
In October of 2012, Google rolled out an update that lessened the ability of EMDs to rank on the basis of their domains alone. This also penalized sites that participated in obvious domain keyword stuffing. This meant that EMDs had to earn their place just like everyone else—and that the URL “buychildrenskidsbabiesclothing.com” was no longer more powerful than “kidsboutique.com.”
Do you need your most important keyword in your domain name? It may not be a bad idea, because it will at least establish some level of trust. However, it will no longer help you rank. So if you prefer a short domain name with your brand in it vs a long URL with a keyword or two, know that you really won’t be at a disadvantage.
ARE THERE ANY SEO BENEFITS TO A URL?
Yes! However, they don’t really have all that much to do with keywords.
Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and other search engines prefer simple, easy-to-understand URLs that deliver what they promise. URLs that are filled with item numbers, special codes, or jargon may actually hurt the ranking for a specific page. This is because a simple URL — like /clothes/babies/age-2-to-4.html — is far easier for a user to read and understand than a complex one — like /baby/ID8247494839/KDW-34893849/landing-page.html. You know what you’re getting out of that first link.
URLs that are clear and easy to understand at a glance are more likely to be clicked than complicated ones. Additionally, a URL with clear keywords in it that is provided as a link on a homepage can provide a little bit of a boost, SEO-wise, because it has anchor text in it.
Essentially, the biggest SEO benefits you will get out of a shorter, clearer URL is from the increased click rate and reduced bounce rate. User experience definitely matters, and it impacts SEO in a bigger way than you might expect.