The importance of the domain name in SEO is a widely debated topic. There are those SEOs who swear by the effectiveness that a keyword rich domain name has on rankings. There are others who swear that the domain name is not all that important. In the end, it’s a really hard thing to test which is why there isn't more collusion. For the most part, we rely on what we see in the search engine results pages (SERPs) to make inferences about this issue. Today, I want to briefly point out both sides of the issue.
Argument: Domain Name IS Critical to Search Engine Rankings
There's no doubt that, if you were to search several random, short-tail keywords, you'd find that keyword rich domains appear toward to the top of search results quite often. While writing this article, I searched for shoes, cars, doors and rental cars. After taking a look at the results of each, many of the domain names in the top 5 or 10 of the search results are keyword rich. This in itself could be an argument that domain name may have a strong impact on search rankings.
When considering this argument from a logic standpoint, there is an argument that's hard to dispute and that's that a website's domain name, more often than not, is a good indicator of its content. For example, you wouldn’t likely see news articles about your favorite celebrities on the a website www.car-rental-agency.com. Likewise, you would expect www.cars.com to contain information about cars.
Argument: Domain Name ISN’T Critical to Search Engine Rankings
Analyzing the results from above in a different light, there are domains appears in the top 10 of search results that contain absolutely no keywords from the search query. The argument could be made that the keyword rich domain names are correlated with high rankings for competitive search terms, but may not be the entire cause of those rankings.
Can a case be made, then, that it's more often the SEO-conscious companies that utilize keyword rich domains and than that it’s their other SEO efforts that drive their rankings? Perhaps. If I were to build a site from scratch that was going to rely on organic traffic, I’d certainly choose a keyword rich domain name. But I’d also have a solid optimization strategy implemented, too.
Overall, I think it would be tough to argue that domain name has no importance or effect on search rankings. While you can certainly get by without a keyword rick domain, life would probably be a bit easier if you had one. If you've got an established site and are considering a changing to a more keyword-rich domain, you may want to consider focusing on other optimization techniques like creating better content and building quality links instead.