Why Exact Match Domain Names are Good (or Bad) for SEO
What is in a domain name? If you ask me, from a search engine optimization perspective, I would hope that a keyword is in your domain name. But maybe your domain name is the name of your company, or your main brand. That's just fine. If that is the case--your domain name is your brand--you might consider purchasing an Exact Match Domain (EMD) as part of your overall search engine optimization strategy.
In this blog post, let's consider why EMD domain names are generally good for your SEO strategy and when they might possibly be a bad move for SEO.
Exact Match Domain names are just that--domain names that contain an exact match of a keyword or keyword phrase. So, an example of an exact match domain name would be "books.com" or "travel.com" or even Keyword1Keyword2.com where "keyword1" is one word and "keyword2" is another keyword. It's widely known in the SEO industry that having one of these keyword-rich Exact Match Domain names will astronomically increase the chances that the site will show up on the first page of the search results for a keyword search that contains those keywords or keyword phrase. Currently, this "additional ranking benefit" is only valid for .COM domain names that do NOT contain hyphens. The only other caveat is that the domain name must actually be a live website on the same topic as the keyword. Ideally, the home page should be about the topic of the keyword and it should be "optimized" for that keyword phrase. Just purchasing an Exact Match Domain name is not enough.
An Exact Match Domain name can be an asset for your search engine optimization efforts. It can truly give you the unique edge that you may need in order to increase your web site's search engine rankings and bring targeted traffic to your web site. Certainly if you have a web site on that domain name, visitors will know what to expect when they get there. And it can give you an edge over your competitors. After all, there is only one Exact Match Domain name for every keyword phrase.
Value of Domain Names
When considering the value of a domain name, and purchasing a domain name, there are several factors to consider. Just like real estate, you'll want to get a good idea of "comps,"what similar domain names have recently sold for in the past. You can search the domain name sales using DNSalePrice.com, which lists domain name prices when that data is available publicly. In some cases, you may even find the domain name you want if it was sold before.
The value of a domain name can be estimated, although really is ultimately determined on how much someone is willing to pay for it. There are a few online tools available to determine value, including Estibot.com and http://appraise.epik.com. Sites that do an automated valuation tend to use a combination of the amount of searches per month (if it contains a keyword) and the average CPC (cost per click) for that keyword. The higher the average CPC and the more people search for a keyword, the higher value an EMD will have.
Why EMD Domain Names are Bad for SEO?
By using an Exact Match Domain name for your website, you're ultimately putting a limit on possible future expansion of your business. As you promote your website on other sites, as you get links, send out press releases, or get mentioned, other websites are going to use the name of your website and will link to your site using your keyword. You will be "known" and your overall reputation will be around that keyword, the one you're using in your Exact Match Domain Name. Although you can get a good lift in search engine rankings, it may be limiting. I do believe that it will potentially limit your web site's potential expansion for additional keywords and additional content beyond your main topic.
For example, if you are using something like "books.com" as your domain name, it may be tough to start selling music on the website. Certainly you could do it, but there is not going to be a very good chance that you could rank well in the search engines for "music" being that the website would traditionally be about books.
Another reason may be the location factor. If you own a local business and you're targeting certain keyword phrases, or one keyword phrase in particular such as "cityname keyword" then an Exact Match Domain name might be just what you need. However, if you open up another location in another city, then the original "cityname keyword" domain name might not be appropriate.
Is an Exact Match Domain Name Right for You?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you currently spending a significant amount of money on certain keywords in Google AdWords? If so, some of that budget could be diverted into acquiring an Exact Match Domain Name and building a website. Over the long-term, it may be cheaper to rank well for that keyword phrase in the natural search results--so you can spend less (or spend nothing) on that keyword phrase in the future.
- Is your business primarily described by one major keyword or keyword phrase? Do you have a product or service (as a part of your business) that can be described by one major keyword or keyword phrase?
- Is that one major keyword phrase available for registration in the .COM TLD? If so, you should register it immediately, even if you have no plans for using it. Owning it will stop your competitors from using it.
- Can you acquire that keyword phrase in the .COM TLD? Is it available for sale at a reasonable price?
When it comes to search engine optimization, keep in mind that it's only a EMD in the .COM TLD that's going to make any difference and the domain name must contain a website. Weigh the cost of acquiring an EMD and the potential SEO benefit (better natural search engine rankings) with what you're currently spending on Pay Per Click. And, if you just want to rank well for that keyword phrase--go ahead and purchase that EMD.