domainChoosing a domain name for your new website can be difficult when you can’t decide if it should reflect your brand name or contain related keywords. You have to ask yourself what’s better: a domain name that gets Google to serve your website up in relevant searches or a domain name that your target market remembers easily? This is a common dilemma and an especially important point to consider when trying to get your business  to stand out in a saturated market.

Google’s Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts explains “The Power of Keyword Domains” in this quick 3-minute video.

Here’s a summary of his main points:

It is possible to succeed without keywords in your domain. Think about the biggest successes there are like Zinga, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo. The names that are brand-able, the names you can instantly recall, tend not to be those keyword-laden domains.

However, Cutts goes on to say:

If you’re trying to shoot for a big success, sometimes going after something that’s a little more brand-able can be good.

If you’re trying to compete within a geographically-specific, highly niche area that happens to have many competitors online, you may want to focus more on keyword-driven domains.

Let’s use an example: say that you’re an attorney who only represents clients in DUI cases in Boca Raton, FL. Having a branded domain name will not help you to be found online. The searcher doesn’t  know the names of DUI attorneys because it was never important for him/her to know this before the incident. So, what they would do, instead, is type into the search engine something like, “DUI lawyer in Boca Raton.”

In this situation, your goal is to rank high on that first page of the search engine results page. Having a keyword-driven domain name like www.bocaratonduilawyer.com can help.

Rankings and weights that are being given to keyword domains and some people have complained that Google is giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains so they have been thinking about adjusting that mix a little bit and turning the knob down on the algorithm. So that given two different domains, it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain name with a bunch of keywords.

cutts-domainAlthough Cutts ends the video with the statement above, it was not until over a year later that he tweeted the message in the image to the left. There is a difference between having a domain name that contains keywords and a low quality domain name created around popular search topics that only exists for the purpose of driving traffic to a site. These spammy-type domain names should be discredited from search results. However, it does not mean that you should stay away from keyword domain names.

In my own experience, I’ve found that Google will still provide results that contain my search terms in the domain name before any others. While Cutts does mention that there will be less emphasis on these websites in a search result, it won’t necessarily be so if the domain name matches the content on the site. After all, Google is in the business of providing the best possible results in a search. As long as you’re not trying to manipulate the system, there’s nothing to be concerned about.

To conclude, remember that your branding – your firm name – may be different from your domain name. If you have a business that services a wide audience  you may feel that a branded domain name is the best choice. But, if you’re more in line with the DUI attorney from Boca Raton,  you may lean more towards a keyword domain name.

Ideally, you can have both:  register a domain name that contains your firm name and then set a 301 Redirect in place to the keyword-driven domain name. That way, you can have www.xyzfirm.com in your offline marketing materials and keep the keyword domain name online for the search engines.