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High Rankings' Advisor - Keyword-Rich Domain Names - Issue No. 016

June 26, 2002


*Introductory Comments:
---->   Catching Up

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Keyword-Rich Domain Names

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   How About You?

*Other SEO News:
---->   LookSmart Shakeup

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   Recap of Past Stuff

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   Yellowstone in Flux

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey all!  This issue is a bit shorter than usual since I am still
playing "catch-up" from my vacation.  But I did take the time to write
a new article for you.

One of the questions I am often asked is whether or not you should put
a hyphen between the keywords in your domain name.  For instance,
would be better than if my keyword
phrase was "high rankings"?  The truth of the matter is that I can't
actually answer this question, because I don't believe in creating
keyword-rich domains in the first place.  Read on if you've been
caught up in the domain name trap and would like to get out! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Keyword-Rich Domain Names++

The myth of using keyword-rich domains for SEO purposes has been
perpetuated for way too long, and quite frankly I'm tired of seeing it
written about as if it's an all-important SEO factor.

See for Yourself

Perform some searches in any spidering search engine and sure, you may
very well find keyword-rich domains in the top spots.  But upon closer
inspection, you'll see that the same keywords are also in the Title
tags of those sites.  Title tags *are* very important to high
rankings; I daresay that they're as important as body copy.  Many see
the keyword-rich domain name, and assume that's what is causing the
high ranking.  Yet it's much more likely that the high ranking is a
direct result of the Title tag and/or the body text, along with the
other usual SEO suspects.

Look at the Links

And let's not forget about off-the-page criteria.  The reason why some
sites are in the top of the results isn't always readily apparent by
just looking at the site in question.  Some rank highly simply because
there are keywords in the hyperlinks pointing to the site.  Google is
especially susceptible to this phenomenon, which has been dubbed
"Google Bombing" in the Web Blog world.  If enough sites link to a
site using the specific keyword phrase in the hyperlink, it can have a
dramatic effect on rankings.  David Gallagher recently interviewed me
for his Business 2.0 article entitled "Top of the Heap," where he
wrote about his quest to become the number-one site in Google for the
phrase "David Gallagher."  All he did was ask everyone who read his
Web Blog to link to his site using his name in the hyperlink.  Once
the "Google Dance" for that month was finished, he was number one!
And no, his site does not have "David Gallagher" in the domain name.
(As an aside, the sites he was up against were fan sites for the actor
David Gallagher from the TV show "Seventh Heaven."  You can read
David's article -- and my quotes -- in the July 2002 Business 2.0
print magazine.)

What About Directories?

With directories such as Yahoo!, it may appear as if keywords in the
domain name make a big difference to rankings.  After all, the
directories are not spidering the words on your pages and don't have
much to go on to determine your position.  But you know what?  My very
unscientific research shows that in actuality, keywords in the Yahoo!
title are the more likely reason for top rankings.  Remember, those
that purchase keyword-rich domain names very often name their site the
same thing as their domain name, and submit that phrase to Yahoo! as
their title.  For instance, a site with the domain of would probably be titled, "Keyword Domains R
Us."  As with the spidering engines, the words in the title are likely
to be what's boosting those sites in the Yahoo! results, not the
domain name.

What the Engines Say

Just to be sure I wasn't leading you down the wrong path, I asked Tom
Wilde, General Manager of Search Services at Lycos, if domain names
factored into their ranking algorithm.  He told me that they are a
factor in the Lycos algorithm, but since they're so open to being
abused, they're a very small factor.  He confirmed that the Title tag
and the body text copy were given much more weight than the domain
name.  However, for those of you who just don't feel comfortable
unless you have keywords in your domain name, Tom did tell me that
using a hyphen between the keywords would be your best bet for getting
them recognized as separate words.

Don't Worry About It

Since I've optimized hundreds of sites without ever purchasing
keyword-rich domain names (and always get high rankings), I'm sticking
with my "don't worry about it" stance!  Like the Meta keyword tag,
domain names are definitely not something to obsess over.  I recommend
purchasing the domain names that work best for branding reasons.  To
me, name makes a whole lot more sense than, no matter how you slice


(only $8 per thousand subscribers)

Krista Thomas from AltaVista recently told me the following:
"We had a very successful experience with the text-ads
in your newsletter based on my revenue tracking!"

Robert Clough from Search Engine Guide had a similar comment:
"[Our] ad produced a very strong response from your subscribers."

So what are you waiting for?

Ask me how you can showcase your product or service in an
upcoming Advisor newsletter.  - Jill

~~~Other SEO News~~~

++LookSmart Shakeup++

Three LookSmart board members resigned yesterday, and Chairman Evan
Thornley resigned as CEO. interesting is that?  Thornley
isn't totally out of the picture though; he and his family will be
moving back to Melbourne, Australia, where he will remain as Chairman.

According to Thornley, the three board members cited "irreconcilable
differences" as their reason for leaving.  My guess is that perhaps
those three ex-board members actually have a conscience.  Perhaps
Jiminy Cricket will get to the other four next and we'll see a
complete shakeup!  Since Thornley and his wife are among the four
remaining board members, it's doubtful to me that Jiminy will have
much luck with them.  Oh well.

If you're confused as to what I'm talking about, please read my
previous articles, "LookSmart Looks Dumb Again"
</issue006.htm#seonews1> and "Looks Like
Hoodlums" </issue008.htm#seonews3>.   If
you're in the mood for a really good laugh, check out the hysterical
satire at ActDumb: <>.

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

I've got tons of (hopefully) great stuff to review over the next few
weeks; however, I wasn't able to get to any of it this past week while
on vacation.  My laptop battery doesn't seem to hold a charge, and the
plane to Montana didn't have electrical outlets for me to juice up at.
Had I thought about it, I would have printed up what I wanted to read
before I left, but I'm so used to reading everything off the monitor
that it never even occurred to me to do so!

In the meantime, here are links to reviews of some previous stuff that
I liked in case you missed them the first time around:

"21 Techniques to Maximize your Profits on Google AdWords Select" by
Andrew Goodman - a special report that does exactly what its title
says it will do </issue006.htm#seonews2>.

"Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course" by Karon Thackston - a
full-blown copywriting course disguised as a .pdf file

"Search Engine Optimization Fast Start" by Dan Thies - an SEO ebook
for very busy people </issue013.htm#stuff>
(and you can read my interview with the author at

Happy reading!

~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

As you can see, I made it back from Yellowstone safely.  We did have
some plane delays at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport for some reason.
Both times we connected there, we ended up waiting on a non-moving
plane for what seemed like forever!  But hey, I figured it could be a
lot worse and tried not to complain too much.

Yellowstone itself was pretty cool.  It has changed a lot since I saw
it over 20 years ago.  There was a lot of debris from the '87 fires
still evident, which seemed surprising.  Plus, the geysers and hot
springs are constantly in flux.  Apparently, even Old Faithful isn't
quite as faithful as it once was, and other features such as "Minerva
Terrace" were practically all dried up.  When I saw Minerva years ago,
it was a beautiful, flowing cascade of water.

For some reason, the females in our family got a bit dizzy when
viewing Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, but the view from "Artist's Point"
was still as beautiful as ever!  It's cool to know that you could
visit Yellowstone every five years or so, and have things be different
every time.  If you've never been there, I highly recommend it as a
nice family vacation.  Be prepared for a lot of driving since it's a
huge place with tons to see!
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