Cross-Engine Keyword Richness Inquiry

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The importance of keywords and phrases in domains, subdomain, folders, & page names

What impact do keywords in the domain have on placement in search engines? How about if they are in the subdomain or only in the page name? What if they are not there at all? Website Magazine looks at the top three search engines to determine if including keywords matters (and if so, where) in the fight for search result page real estate.

The search term we used to analyze the importance of search terms on placements was “Bakugan” – a Japanese anime TV series, popular children’s game/toy and movie. While not a immensely well-known term, the word “Bakugan” has a global monthly search volume on its own of five million with a low estimated cost per click (at Google). We’ve only looked at three pages (30 listings) of results on the most popular search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing). What we learned (consider it the synopsis) is listed below.

 


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Name Your Folders (NOW) - Perhaps most interesting about this study was the seemingly great importance placed on using keywords in folder names by search engines. While Amazon listings were present for the search term used across all search engines, their naming conventions remains quite consistent – within folders. Google places the most weight on folder naming, followed by Bing and Yahoo!.

Don’t Worry About Naming Pages - Other surprises (at least to me) included a relatively low presence for listings that included keywords in the actual pages names. It was not uncommon for just one of the listings on each of the three pages of results to include a keyword in the actual page name. While it does not look like it would negatively influence rankings, organizing content by categories and thus naming folders appropriately might be the best bet.

Subdomains Carry SOME Weight – Starting the project I was a believer that subdomains would have a pretty substantial impact. I was not entirely wrong but not entirely right either. I believe it is safe to assume that setting up subdomains would serve a website well, should the keyword not be included in the domain, or should the platform you are working with not support customized page names. (Why that would be in this day and age I have no idea.) Based on this study, Yahoo! listings had the greatest number of subdomains in their SERPs.

Some SE’s Favor Keywords in Domains, Others Not So Much – The question of whether to purchase domain names that include competitive keywords receives a lot of attention (or has in the past). I think it is safe to assume that the keyword we used for this study, since it was an actual product name, lent itself to greater exposure for the official website, which may account for the good performance of listings with keywords in the URL. Beyond the first page, however, there was a modest presence of domain names with the keyword included – although it never went higher than one or two listings per SERP.

 

The following are the notes (and percentages) from the study:

Bing.com: On Bing’s first page, only the official site (bakugan.com) included the keyword in question within the domain. The official site also had one folder section appearing and two subdomains on the first page of results. Several universal search results appeared (Images and News) in the search results, but six of the domains (two of which were from Amazon) had the keyword in the page name.

Folder Naming: 50%
Page Naming: 10%
Keywords in Domain: 40%
No Keywords: 0%
Subdomain Naming: 0%

On the second page of results however, three domains had the keyword included in their formal domain name. Four of the results had the keyword in the page name, but three had no keyword in the URL whatsoever (although it was included in the page title – one of which was a YouTube result).

Folder Naming: 20%
Page Naming: 10%
Keywords in Domain: 40%
No Keywords: 20%
Subdomain Naming: 0%

The third page of results is where things seem to get interesting. While most of us probably will not go that deep on a regular search query, it does reflect the previous two pages in some respects. Two of the listings had the keyword in the domain name, three listings had the keyword in a subdomain (two of which were from the same subdomain), two had the keyword in the page name and three had no keyword in the URL at all (although again it was included in the page title).

Folder Naming: 20%
Page Naming: 0%
Keywords in Domain: 20%
No Keywords: 30%
Subdomain Naming: 30%

Yahoo.com: On the first page of Yahoo! results, three of the listings were from the official site (one as a subdomain and one as a named folder section), two listings were domains with the keyword in question included and two listings were named folder sections. One listing had the keyword in a page name and another had the keyword in the subdomain. The final listing included the keyword only the page title and nowhere else.

Folder Naming: 30%
Page Naming: 10%
Keywords in Domain: 30%
No Keywords: 10%
Subdomain Naming: 20%

On the second page of results, three listings included the keyword in the sudomain, two listings included the keyword in the URL (although one was marked with the MacAfee Dangerous Download warning), three of the listings had the keyword in their folder naming and two listings had the keyword in the page name.

Folder Naming: 30%
Page Naming: 20%
Keywords in Domain: 20%
No Keywords: 0%
Subdomain Naming: 30%

The third page of results was to me the most interesting again. Three results had no keyword in the URL at all, two had the keyword in the domain name, one listing had the keyword in the subdomain and just one had the keyword in the page name. Three had they keyword in the file name.

Folder Naming: 30%
Page Naming: 10%
Keywords in Domain: 20%
No Keywords: 30%
Subdomain Naming: 10%

Google.com: The most fascinating of our subjects (no surprise there) has got to be Google. Even on a first glance, Google’s results page are vastly different from the others. The first position was dedicated to news results and shopping and video results appeared just after the official site (which again has the keyword in the domain name and an indented listing). From there, just one other listing had the keyword in the domain name. Two listings had no keyword appearing in the URL whatsoever, one had the keyword in a page name, and four had the keyword in their folder names.

Folder Naming: 40%
Page Naming: 10%
Keywords in Domain: 30%
No Keywords: 20%
Subdomain Naming: 0%

The second page is also pure Google as two of the listings on the SERPs are videos (one from YouTube – no keywords - and another from a Veoh collection which had the keyword in the folder structure). Just one listing had the keyword within a sudomain, and just two listings had the keyword in the page name. Three listings had the keyword in the folder name and four did not have the keyword in the URL whatsoever.

Folder Naming: 30%
Page Naming: 20%
Keywords in Domain: 0%
No Keywords: 40%
Subdomain Naming: 10%


The third page of Google results is where things get back to normal – at least as it relates to results pages on other engines. Only one listing had a keyword in the actual domain and one listing had the keyword in the subdomain. Two listings had no keywords whatsoever but three listings had the keyword in the folder name. Three listings had keywords in the page names as well.

Folder Naming: 30%
Page Naming: 30%
Keywords in Domain: 10%
No Keywords: 20%
subdomain Naming: 10%

 
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8 comments

BobJ 12-15-2009 4:59 PM

Great stuff!!

GregC 12-15-2009 7:19 PM

Lots to think about here.  Great article.  Thanks for the info!

KevinC 12-15-2009 11:09 PM

Ok what do you mean by "folders".  Please email me with this, I am lost..?

kevinmc3@earthlink.net

AnthonyT 12-16-2009 7:42 AM

Thanks again for another great article.  

To KevinC: I assume Peter's talking about sorting your site into a logical, keyword rich, folder structure instead of just keeping all of your page files in one folder, images in another, and css files in another.

I'm building my new site with this concept for the images.  I will start doing this for all of the product pages.  

How long is too long for a url?  Some of my pages can get pretty long. ie.

/products/crowd-control/retracta-belt/stanchions/single-line-crowd-control-post.asp

/products/crowd-control/post-rope/conventional-stanchions/urn-top-dome-base-post.asp

/products/signs-sign-holders/signage/engraved-colorcore-signs.asp

/products/bulletin-board/illuminated-enclosed-bulletin-board.asp

Peter A. Prestipino 12-16-2009 8:31 AM

To clarify, what is meant by "folders" is actual file folders on the domain with naming conventions which include the keyword or phrase - AnthonyT provided good examples - although I do believe them to be a little too deep (four levels is too much for engines).

JohnH 12-19-2009 12:44 PM

A bit 'o syncrhonicity, as I was going to research subdomains for SEO. I'm surprised at the weight folder names have, though.  Looks like I'll be restructuring a couple of sites.  Thanks for the info.

Atlanta Real Estate 12-19-2009 3:29 PM

Great article, interesting info and surprising about the directory structure and names.

Also, naming your photos using key words is something to optimize as well.

Quick Q: I'm a newby to Wordpress, is there a way to control directory names created by Wordpress, or does WP even put different pages and posts into different directories?

RahmanM 12-21-2009 5:00 AM

@ Atlanta Real Estate - I've had a similar question some time ago until I changed my free wordpress theme to a a paid one. Then, I saw all those tips form WordPress Help could work (although not on the free themes).

One such issue was to create subpages. Since I'm using a paid theme, it's been made possible to create a page under another one. This creates a subfolder.

Another way is to name categories and tags as folders. Each category or tag becomes a folder. Again, with the paid version I managed to create subcategories (subfolders).

This is as much as I've learned by experience.

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