A comprehensive study of the top 30 Google search results across 10,000 keywords has found the importance of keywords in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is decreasing, while short and highly relevant domain names have the equivalent worth of “thousands of keywords in the rankings”.

The study by Searchmetrics – one of the world’s leading SEO companies – suggests highly relevant content, social media signals and good domain names are among the most important factors in attaining a high ranking in Google search results.

The researchers say domain names are an important factor in search results and the study suggests domains with high SEO visibility also obtain higher rankings.

“The correlation between the URLs and Searchmetrics SEO Visibility Score of the entire domain is high. This means that success in search and content is also a domain based factor. The majority of analyzed URLs are part of successful domains that generally gain high rankings with large numbers of landing pages.”

Searchmetrics also found the highest ranking domain names are shorter, with the first search result position reserved for the shortest domain names, often where homepages rank most often.

While Google has stated it does not use social signals (such as the number of tweets or Facebook likes) as a direct ranking factor, the results of the study indicate the highest ranked domain names have more social cues than those sites further down the ranks.

The researchers suggest that social signals definitely play a role in direct traffic, brand awareness, and the overall online performance of a domain name. They say that good content performs better on social networks – and search engines want to recognise and display good, relevant and up-to-date content.

These findings bode well for the introduction of new Top-Level Domains like .melbourne, .sydney and .nyc, where registrants have the opportunity to register shorter, more relevant domain names with greater availability of the most popular terms.

Although there was no direct mention of new Top-Level Domains in the study, Searchmetrics has previously examined the impact of new domains using real world data on .berlin domain names.

Searchmetrics found .berlin domains consistently performed better than the same domains under the German .de Top-Level Domain or the ubiquitous .com, when searching for local content in Berlin. In fact in 42 percent of search queries, .berlin domain names were found to achieve a higher ranking.

Importantly, Searchmetrics found that on average .berlin domain names achieved a local ranking advantage of 1.18 positions higher.

This result, combined with the advantages delivered by relevant content, strong social media signals and good domain names, means a new Top-Level Domain name under the likes of .melbourne, .sydney and .nyc could be a powerful tool for achieving a higher search ranking.

Image: Searchmetrics