We have had a few clients ask us how important their domain name is when it comes to ranking on search engines.
This could be an extremely short article, with just the text: “Not very…”, but let’s back that up!
The oracle of all things search is John Mueller, search advocate at Google.
In March of 2017, John confirmed to us in a tweet that ‘Keywords in URLs are overrated”.
Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO. Make URLs for users. Also, on mobile you usually don't even see them.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) March 8, 2017
Although he has previously acknowledged in the past that whilst keywords do in fact play a role in SEO, their effect is only minimal.
Over the years, Google’s SEO focus has changed from being all about “is this site relevant to the user’s search” and started moving towards a “is this site user friendly and accessible”.
Most website visits are now done on a mobile device, which is why in September 2020, Google started to crawl (read) websites by emulating a mobile phone. If your website was not user-friendly for mobile users, your site was penalised and would move further down the search rankings.
”“I believe that’s a very small ranking factor, so it’s not something I’d really try to force. And it’s not something where I’d say it’s even worth your effort to kind of restructure your site just so you can include keywords in the URL.”John MuellerAll-knowing SEO guru
John emphasised this 3 years prior with the above tweet, recommending that all aspects of your website, including your URLs and domains, should be user-friendly.
Take for instance the following URLs:
You can see that whilst the second URL has more relevant keywords, it is a lot more difficult to communicate with clients (NB we purposefully added underscores as bad practice, always use hyphens in URLs).
The shorter and more concise your URL, and the easier it is to communicate, the better.
Domains and Subdomains
What is a domain and subdomain?
A domain is the main part of your URL, it’s the bit you purchase via a registrar.
The subdomain is what you can put in front of your domain to split your website into various parts.
(Not many people realise, but www. is actually a subdomain).
Are keywords important here?!
Again… not really. The MOST important thing is that it is user-friendly.
Long, keyword-crammed domains and subdomains are not accessible or user-friendly, are easily forgettable and/or confusing, and are likely to be penalised by search engines for being so obvious with their desperate SEO attempts.
As with all things web-development, accessibility and usability come out on top, as they should.
Websites are there to be used by people, and should be designed for people, not technology.
Google, and other Search Engines, are becoming increasingly aware of this and amending their algorithms so suit.
So in short, the URL and domain of a website are taken into account when dealing with SEO, but only by how user-friendly they are.
If you didn’t get the domain you hoped for, do not worry. A similar domain name that is as accessible as your first choice will do the job.