I have been hearing conflicting opinions on the importance of keyword rich domain names as far as search engine rankings are concerned. Can you throw some light on this issue - if I register some keyword rich domain names, will these domains get good rankings in the search engines?

Christine Wilkinson


Hi Christine,

As you noted, there has been a lot of debate over this issue. Here's my take on this topic:

There are broadly two kinds of search engines: spider based engines (like AltaVista, Google etc.) which go to a web site and add the pages present in the web site to their databases, and the directory based engines (like AOL, Netscape), which instead of spidering sites, primarily take their results from a directory.

For the spider based engines, my research shows that having keywords in the domain names does not significantly boost your rankings - it only gives you a *very small* advantage in some of the engines. In order to get good rankings in the spider based search engines, you still have to do all the other things that are necessary to optimize a web site for the search engines - simply having keywords in the domain name will not ensure that you are automatically placed at the top. If you do a good job of creating search engine friendly web sites, you can get excellent rankings without having keywords in the domain name.

Now, for the directory based engines, having a keyword rich domain name helps because it allows you to include the keyword in the Title of your listing in the directory. This improves your chances of ranking highly in the directory based engines since most of them give a lot of emphasis on whether the keyword is present in the Title of the site's listing in the directory.

However, the mistake that most people make is to simply register a keyword rich domain name, create a home page which also repeats the keyword a number of times, and then add some links to their primary domain. The reason that this doesn't work is that with the spider based search engines becoming more theme based, they are increasingly looking at all the pages in the site to determine the site's ranking. A domain with a single page in it can just not hope to rank highly in such engines. Also, no directory is ever going to accept a domain which contains only a single page, and whose primary function is to take people to another domain.

So, should you or should you not register additional keyword rich domain names? You can, but only if you are prepared to spend the time and money to create completely new web sites for these new domains - i.e. these new domains should stand out as complete sites in their own right - their primary function should not be to take visitors to another domain. Also, you simply can't repeat the content present in your primary domain in these domains - all these domains should contain unique content. Otherwise, the directory based engines will not accept these domains, and the spider based search engines may penalize these domains for spamming.

Of course, if you are just starting an online business and haven't yet registered any domains, you should, by all means, register a keyword rich domain as your primary domain - since you are registering a new domain anyway, you should take any advantage that you can get.

Also, if you do register keyword rich domain names, you should separate the individual words of the keyword by hyphens - this helps the spider based engines recognize the individual words of the keyword. However, since many people forget to type in the hyphens when they are trying to directly go to a web site, you should also register the domain without hyphens, and redirect people from this domain to the domain containing hyphens.

Related Articles:

How to choose domain names


What are the specific guidelines concerning the titles of home pages and alias pages: length, capital letters or not, which punctuation marks are allowed? Do search engines react differently to these criteria concerning titles?

Andrea Kocsis


Hi Andrea,

The length of the Title is important only to the extent that some search engines ignore the Title after a certain length. The maximum length of the Title that each of the search engines accepts is different. There's no harm if the length of the Title in a page exceeds the maximum length for a particular engine. Your site won't be penalized if this happens - it's just that the engine will ignore the portion of the Title present after the maximum length. You can definitely include capital letters and punctuation in the Title - all search engines will accept them.

Your aim should be to include your target keyword(s) as close as possible to the beginning of the Title. This is technically termed the Prominence of the keyword in the Title. More prominent the keyword in the Title, higher will be the ranking of the page in the search engines.

Another thing that you must do is to make the Title attractive from the point of view of your human visitors. Remember that the search engines display the Title of a page in the results page for a particular query. Assuming that one of your pages in present in the results for a particular query, you will be competing with other sites for the attention of the visitor. To a large extent, it is the Title which will determine which site ultimately attracts the visitor. Hence, think of your Title as the headline for an ad - just as the headline is supposed to draw the visitor to the rest of the ad, the Title should induce the visitor to click on to your site.


I was wondering if charitable organizations were exempt from the paid listing services on search engines such as Yahoo!, LookSmart and Ask Jeeves. I am looking to submit a charity website to the search engines, but I do not want to fall foul of their submission policies when I attempt to not pay!

Simon White


Hi Simon,

Technically, Yahoo! and LookSmart are directories, not search engines. Here's a brief overview of their policies with respect to charitable sites:

1) Yahoo! requires that all sites which belong to the Shopping and Services or Business to Business categories under the Business and Economy category pay for listings. Sites which belong to other categories may or may not pay. Since charity sites don't belong to either of the above two categories, charity sites don't need to pay. Of course, they can pay if they want to, in which case the site will be reviewed within 7 business days. If they don't pay, getting listed may take a lot longer. For more information on how you can get your site listed in Yahoo!, see my article at

2) Here's what LookSmart says in their site:

To qualify for a free listing in the LookSmart Network, your agency or organization must be a registered, legally tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that belongs to one of the following groups:

i) Charitable or volunteer organizations that provide educational, charitable, research or social services

ii) Social-welfare organizations, including civic leagues, community organizations and advocacy organizations

iii) Military or veterans associations

iv) Government agencies, including local, state and national government sites

The key is that the organization must be registered and legally tax-exempt. Otherwise, even though it is a charitable organization, it needs to pay.

3) To learn more about Ask Jeeves' listings, see this article written by Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch at
March 2, 2001

Sumantra Roy, president of 1st Search Engine, is one of the most respected and recognized search engine positioning specialists on the Internet. Sumantra's articles on search engine optimization have been widely published and quoted in different web sites and newsletters on the Internet. His unique formula for establishing the most appropriate keywords for a site has been used by WordTracker, the most popular keyword research tool on the Internet. This formula is also used by many other search engine optimization companies for establishing the most appropriate keywords for their clients' sites.

Search Engine Guide > Sumantra Roy > Keyword Rich Domain Names and Title Guidelines