I am not a search engine optimization expert by any stretch of the imagination. At best, I am fair at SEO on my websites, and at worst, I am dangerous to them :). One thing I can tell you though is that a domain name is critical to a successfully SEO’d website, and having the prominent keywords within the domain name is important to its search engine results page (SERP) positioning.
NetBuilders, a well respected Webmaster forum, began a SEO contest a couple of months ago, with a prize of $1,000 going to the webmaster whose website achieved the #1 position for a keyword phrase it coined, Sulumits Retsambew (webmaster stimulus spelled backwards). With the competition nearly over, I wanted to have a look at the top 5 results to see how important experienced webmasters believe domain names are to good SEO, with a virgin term like Sulumits Retsambew.
Here are the top 5 organic results (not including Google News):
With the competition ending today, it seems clear that the domain name should have the keywords of the search term, however, it appears that .com isn’t necessarily king for SEO. Clearly some people spent more time than others on this competition, but you don’t need to have the .com for good SERP positioning.
The major caveat is that most search terms for which people want and need to rank aren’t virgin terms, and you can’t start from scratch. Domain age is something that search engines look at for positioning as well, and generally the best generic .com domain names were bought years ago, so it would be an uphill climb if you register a new domain name and try to compete with other older domain names and websites.
Bottom line is that having a keyword domain name is very important in SEO, but extensions other than .com can still rank very well.