More recently, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller stated in a Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout that keywords in URLs are a “really small ranking factor”. But small can still make a difference in the grand scheme of things, and there are also compelling reasons from a usability standpoint to include keywords where they are relevant.
A new study by HigherVisibility.com, whose findings were shared exclusively with Search Engine Watch, set out to investigate the relationship between the top ranked websites in various industries and the inclusion of keywords in their URLs.
It found that nearly two thirds of top-ranking websites use keywords in their URLs – but this can vary significantly from industry to industry. So what can we learn from the findings about the importance of having keywords in your domain URL?
The examine checked out the top 10 keywords throughout 10 most important industries: commercial enterprise, credit cards, debt, email software program, food and beverage, government and exchange, lodge, plumbing, software program and weight reduction. It then analysed the pinnacle page outcomes for these keywords and their URLs, to find out how often keywords have been used, and in what shape.
Overall, 63% of the top ranking sites for each industry – nearly two thirds – included keywords in their domain URL. Of the industries analysed, the debt industry had the highest incidence of keywords in their domain URLs, with 76% of URLs in the debt industry using a keyword.
Among the top ranking websites for each industry, seven out of ten sites used a keyword in their URLs, two included a partial keyword – for example ‘tp’ for ‘trade policy’ – and only one site included no keyword at all. This was the top ranking site for the weight loss industry, although it included the word ‘diet’ instead.
The debt industry had a high level of keyword usage in its domain URLs across various search terms. Out of the top 10 ranked websites for the word ‘debt’, 100% of sites used the keyword in their URLs.
Similarly, all top ranking sites for the keyword ‘debt equity’ used the term in their URLs, while 95% of the top ranked sites for ‘debt finance’ used the keyword in their domain URLs.
The keywords least likely to appear in domain URLs for the debt industry were ‘debt equity loans’ and ‘credit debt loans’, with 55% of top ranking sites using these keywords in their URLs. This could be because these keywords are longer, making it less likely that they would be used in their entirety.
The industry with the lowest incidence of keyword usage in its URLs was email software, although it’s interesting to note that this was also the industry with the longest keywords, with all keywords having at least two words, and some having four or five.
No set of websites rose above 60% keyword usage in their URLs, and the least-used keyword – ‘bulk email software buy’ – appeared in just 35% of URLs for the top ranked sites. ‘Newsletter email software’ and ‘best email software’ were the keywords most likely to appear in URLs, with both keywords appearing in 60% of top ranking URLs.
It’s clear that there is a link between the websites which rank highly for a certain keyword and whether or not that keyword appears in its URL. However, this is unlikely to be the only factor that determines whether or not a site can rank well.
As those of us in the industry know, countless other things can contribute to good SEO, and the study by HigherVisibility.com was focused on one aspect. But does this mean that you shouldn’t bother with keywords in your URLs? Not at all.
Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, published ‘15 SEO best practices for structuring URLs‘ in which he argued that “using the keywords you’re targeting for rankings in your URLs is a solid idea”. Firstly from a readability and usability perspective, having relevant keywords in your URL lets users know exactly what they’re getting.
Google’s SEO Starter Guide also states that, “If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than an ID or oddly named parameter would.” In other words, including keywords – or at least clear and direct information – in your URL is a best practice.
Secondly, Fishkin points out, URLs are frequently copied and pasted, and when no anchor text is used in a link, the URL itself will serve as anchor text – a powerful ranking input. However, he also cautions against keyword-stuffing your URLs or using keyword repetition:
“Google and Bing have moved far beyond algorithms that positively reward a keyword appearing multiple times in the URL string. Don’t hurt your chances of earning a click (which CAN impact your rankings) by overdoing keyword matching/repetition in your URLs.”
Fiskin also cites research from the International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining which demonstrated that the URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when deciding which site to click on.
Again, having clear and relevant information in your URL helps you to earn clicks – and while click-through rate is still hotly debated as a possible ranking factor, once you do manage to rank for a particular keyword, it’s no good if no-one clicks through to your site.
Exact Match Domains (EMDs) – when the domain of a site exactly matches the keyword that you want to target – can also be a means of ranking well for your keyword, but use them wisely.
Most brands will derive their domain from the name of their brand, which might also contain a keyword – such as glassesdirect.com. But Exact Match Domains are often a sign of a spammy website, and one which Google is on the lookout for.
alternatively, EMDs are regularly memorable, which is right from a usability standpoint – a user searching for reasonably-priced flights will have no trouble remembering the URL ‘cheapflights.com’, and there can be no mistake as to what the internet site is for.
when you have a legitimate purpose for the usage of an EMD and aren’t combining it with another spammy strategies, then you definitely need to be great.
In end: usability first!
the bottom line of all of this is to bear in mind the person revel in first and foremost. As we’ve seen, a clear, direct URL is the quality route to take on the way to make sure that users recognize what they’re getting from your website and are organized to click on on it. in many cases, this can additionally assist your ranking as an brought bonus.
most of the top web sites in diverse industries consequently use keywords of their URLs, but others which don’t are still capable of rank exceptionally. a whole lot as we now recognize that writing exceptional content is higher than stuffing it with key phrases, the same applies to growing excellent URLs. in the long run, it comes right down to what makes sense on your logo and internet site.