In the early ages of the World Wide Web, domain names were considered one of the most important factors as far as search engine optimization (SEO) and Google page rank were concerned. If you had a domain, say headphones.com and a user searched for headphones on Google, the very first result might have been your domain, or at least one of the first few ones. However, with the introduction of Google Panda and further updates, this notion has taken serious bump.
Google Panda is the search result algorithm update which the search engine giant introduced back in 2011. Google’s logic behind Google Panda was pretty simple – to reduce the number of junk websites and increase quality websites on search rankings – giving way for higher user satisfaction. Since then there have been further Panda updates as well as their newest, named Hummingbird.
With all that said, what exactly is the effect of these updates on domain names? To paraphrase Matt Cutts, Google’s principle engineer, it aims to reduce ‘low quality’ entries that are ‘exact matches’, whereas relevant high quality content are far more likely to be placed at the top of the list. What used to happen previously in terms of domain names is that large domain companies used to buy and hold hundreds of thousands of domain names while putting up a banner and some junk contents to keep the site afloat.
As a result, when a certain keyword was typed on Google, domains with exact or close match of the keyword would appear at the top of search results. Google Panda, however, eliminated those low quality results, making the previously important domain names obsolete in the new landscape of the web.
Nowadays, while domain names carry some value in terms of brand or company promotion, the real weight is on the contents of the site. Google has tightened the rules so hard that even if you have a rich site with great contents while some of your pages are empty or ad-filled, your site might suffer what the web community now calls ‘Panda-slap’, or simply being ranked lower according to Google Panda algorithms.
So what does that leave for domain names? Well, they still hold some importance in the fact that they represent your company, brand and product, and a memorable or easy to remember domain name can do a lot to promote your company. However, domain name-based SEO, as it was before, has diminished greatly in the past couple of years.
A recent survey by SEOMoz titled ‘Top Factors Effecting Search Results’ conducted on 132 SEO experts revealed that in the post-Panda web landscape, only 7% weight is given on domain names in terms of SEO whereas contents and domain-level administration were given far more weight.
In conclusion, it can be said that while Google Panda has greatly diminished the market for ‘exact match’ domain names. While they can still be important in helping to grow your business and maintain a strong online presence, businesses are free to be more imaginative in creating their own brand and identity with their domain name.