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Keywords in your URL are extremely weighted, and I am aware of most bad practices, but the question as to whether the word "the" in a URL, as in www.thewebdesigner.com, is a bad idea or not is very hard to find information on.

Searching has yielded next to nothing because the definite article is a special case in search algorithms. That is, you end up searching for the word "the" which is a bit too random.

I'm wondering if this is a good idea, because as in the example case, "web" and "designer" together in a URL would theoretically be a fantastic step in solid SEO. However, if Google somehow reads it as a stop word or treats it differently, it might not be so smart.

Can anyone tell me the effect of "the" at the start of a URL like thewebdesigner.com, and if this is good or bad practice, and a good or bad idea for a quality URL?

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I think what you're asking is really if the word "the" in your domain name (not URL), will impact your search engine results and ranking in Google.

Google no longer weighs keywords in a domain, referred to as Exact Match Domain (EMD) - see my answer here for more on that. Since EMD is no longer a factor, the keywords "web" and "designer" in your domain won't really have much of an impact on your rankings, as the article "the", commonly referred to as a stop word (rightly or wrongly), shouldn't either.

The effect of your domain name in searches is really only impacted by how much your domain name as a brand is connected to your site or products/services, and how popular as a search term your domain has become. As discussed in the link to my answer above, the word "Amazon" has become such a popular brand-name linked to amazon.com, that it outranks the actual "Amazon" geographical location in SERP.

For the generic keywords "web" and "designer" however, these are so commonly used that it's doubtful you can achieve brand-name recognition for them alone. You would have to add something more unique to them like: lightningboltwebdesign.com (available by the way) - but the word "the" isn't going to affect that.

What the word "the" might actually affect however is the length of your domain name and how complicated it is for people to remember and type into a browser's address bar. Most SEM suggest keeping your domain name as short as possible, so removing an unnecessary, non-beneficial word like "the" and replacing it with something that helps to build brand-identity would likely be wise.

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Thanks for your answer. Cleared things up. –  21stcn Jun 18 '13 at 8:31
    
That is not entirely correct: Albeit keywords in the domain and EMDs are not weighted as a standalone factor, it does have a (rather small, but still existent) impact as this graph by SearchMetrics shows (correlation between 2012 and 2013): searchmetrics.com/media/images/ranking-faktoren/… –  DKOATED Jun 18 '13 at 8:37
    
As far as I'm led to believe EMD's change from niche to niche and the more keywords you have in the domain the less effective it is. Does the above link cover keywords in various niches and ranging from one keyword to many? –  bybe Jun 18 '13 at 9:54
    
Yes, there are exceptions regarding EMD, such as the "Positive Engagement Metrics" I discussed in the first link provided. I was speaking in relative terms here to focus on the question of using the "stop word", which are also debatable. There are few absolutes in SEO because we are not privy to SE algorithms... –  dan Jun 18 '13 at 12:01
    
@21stcn You're welcome - good luck! –  dan Jun 18 '13 at 12:26

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