Keyword rich domains still rife in Google

Since the Google UK Panda roll out, it has been quite noticeable at the amount of keyword rich domains appearing within the search results across the board. This has actually been the case since the May Day algorithm change from last year. The study below looks at the impact keyword rich domains are having within Google and why the big G is placing so much emphasis on them.

Lets get this straight. Domain names or URLs that include a target keyword will benefit from anchor text used that links to the root or document from an external page – we all know that. From a usability perspective, I would always recommend that clients use keywords within URLs as this formulates a cohesive relationship between the content on the page and the naturally acquired backlinks. So I’m not knocking the use of keywords within a URL at all, however I do think that Google is applying far too much weight in some sectors regarding the use of a keyword term within the domain name.

The example below highlights a number of websites that have improved in position within Google for a competitive Movie related keyword term. You will see a list of the domain names used below the chart.

Watch Movies in Google UK from 1/10/2010 to 02/05/2011
Line chart highlighting improvement for keyword domains
List of KW rich domains

So why have all of these websites shot up in position since mid April when they weren’t ranking before? If we go a little further back, we can see that something similar happened post May Day update:

Watch Movies in Google UK from 15th March 2010 to 1st September 2010
Historical data showing improvement for keyword rich domainsList of URLs included within the above historical chart

The year previous, only a single domain ranked for the keyword term – which was out side the top fifty. The majority of these URLs used in this study are simply there due to the inclusion, or partial inclusion, of the keyword term within the domain, it is a simple as that.

Trust, authority, reputation and quality. This is the criteria any searcher wants in their search results, no? These four attributes can exist in isolation, but one of the key factors associated all four together is time. The age of a domain was always an indicator in working out the authority/history of the website, however it did not necessarily mean that a website would automatically rank well. However, in the past year – it is common to see a website improve in position that is only a few weeks old. Take the following URL for example:

The above domain was registered on the 5th June 2010, but based upon the fact that the keyword ‘watch movies’ is used with the address, the website approved dramatically in position only a few weeks after: position improvement
Position improvement over time in Google

As you can see, the website improved in position consistently from mid July onwards. You would normally see this result following a successful 301 redirect implementation, however there does not appear to be any other domains setup using a 301 redirect. So has Google’s obsession in serving up the most relevant and up to date information actually negatively impacted the SERPs? Lets see what the searchers say:

Google insights for 'movies' keyword terms

It is very clear to see that the demand for ‘movie’ related keyword terms has declined significantly since mid 2010. What is most startling is the fact that this should be a growing market online, why would the public – with improved Internet connections – be put off searching using these terms? Maybe the UK public have decided that they want to go to the cinema instead rather than look for pirated material (again Google doesn’t seem too bother about illegal websites being included within search results, despite being confiscated) on the Internet? Have we turned a corner ethically? I highly doubt it.

The reality is that the results returned for these query terms are not at a satisfactory level for your average searcher. Now why would Google reduce the quality of the results (not really a debate considering that the public aren’t searching as they were) for the movie industry? Perhaps they’re unaware of this issue that got lost following the Mayday rollout or perhaps there is a something a little more cynical at play.

Mahatma Ghandi once said “If the people lead, the leaders will follow” and his movie was huge – over to you now Google.