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Generic Domain Names Bring Major SEO Benefits
NOTE: This document is also available in PDF format, with additional analysis, and background information.
Webmasters have long believed that the domain name plays a role in SEO and in determining search engine rankings for a given keyphrase. We set out to test that theory.
125 generic .co.uk domain names (housing active sites) were randomly selected, and an analysis was conducted to determine the position of each site within the first 2 pages (20 results) for a search on the keyword or keyphrase contained within its domain name. For example, SpecialEffects.co.uk and the 'special effects' keyphrase.
Rankings outside the top 20 were disregarded for the purpose of this study. This analysis was conducted on Google UK, Yahoo UK and Bing UK, both in default search mode, and after selecting the "results from the UK" modifier offered by each search engine.
Two metrics were examined: the presence (yes/no) of the site within the first 20 results, and the specific position at which the site was displayed within those first 20 results.
Yahoo UK (default mode) and Google (default mode) both saw similar numbers of domains ranking within the first 20 results, at 56% and 57% respectively. In other words, over half of all the sites in the study ranked within the top 20 results on Yahoo UK and/or Google UK for a search on the keywords making up their domain name, and this was the lowest overall result. For Bing UK (default mode), 62% of domains ranked within the top 20 results.
It's worth noting that all 3 search engines gave a "boost" to the domains in the study when the "UK results" mode was selected. This increase in ranking probability averaged 4% to 5%, depending on the search engine. For Bing UK in UK mode, two thirds of the sites in the study ranked within the top 20 results.
While it's impossible to calculate the exact contribution of the domain name to the overall ranking probability, it would seem evident from the above that it is an important factor.
It's clear that the domain name is even more relevant in determining the position of a particular site within the overall search results. This is a straight like-for-like comparison since Google, Yahoo and Bing are all attempting to rank exactly the same sites. On all 3 search engines, ranked sites fell on average within the top 7 results, and the domain name clearly played the most important role in the case of Bing, with ranked sites ending up inside the top 3 results.
Since all other on-page and off-page factors are nominally going to be the same for each search engine, it's possible to attribute at least a significant part of the ranking differential between the 3 search engines to the influence of the domain name and the keywords it contains.
Google gives sites the least boost from their domain name, with Yahoo being slightly more generous. Bing, on the other hand, appears to place a huge degree of importance on the domain name, with sites being both more likely to rank, and more likely to rank well, on Bing than on either of the other search engines.
It would seem evident that the domain name is a significant factor in achieving a top 20 ranking on all 3 major search engines, with Bing being the most influenced by the domain name and Google the least.
NOTE: This document is also available in PDF format, with additional information and background notes.