Are Exact Match Domain Names a Good Idea?

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Exact match domain names are often suggested as being useful for SEO purposes.The logic is that Google take account of the domain name when they return results for a search and give a small boost if it matches.

Is that true?

Or have they been over-used and will you get penalised?

Without hacking into Google’s computer algorithm (not something I’d suggest!) we’ll never know for certain.

And even if you got hold of a copy today, there’s nothing to say that it won’t change at some stage in the future.

Some people run large scale tests for different searches in an attempt to find out the information and you can run your own test with a few searches yourself – it won’t be very scientific but it will give you a few clues.

What does seem to happen is that the importance of an exact match domain has varied over time and nowadays also seems to vary according to the search being carried out.

Google has a lot of data and is very good at crunching it with the aim of interpreting your search and giving you the best possible results.

What that means is that there’s almost certainly no single answer for whether or not an exact match domain will help in the search results.

If the search relates to a company or brand name, there seems to be a good chance that the domain name will be taken into account.

But because Google take into account other factors such as which links in a search result people click on and how long they stay on the page they visit, even that may be misleading.

The company will almost certainly have an exact match domain name (Coca-Cola.com for instance) but they would be foolish not to have that.

And potential visitors to the site will realise that they’ve found the right domain, so they will click and stay there, reinforcing the page in the search results.

But a more generic search – maybe you’re searching for a plumber or electrician close to your home – doesn’t appear to favour exact match domains at the moment.

Or at least it didn’t for me when I checked a couple just now.

Keep in mind that I tend not to be logged into Google – I log in to YouTube when I need to do something with a video but log back out when I’ve finished.

If I stayed logged in, Google would use my searches and any other factors they have to tailor the results.

They also take into account my previous searches on this computer because I haven’t turned off that option.

Additionally, they take into account where my machine is located (or at least where they think it’s located, based on the IP address information they have).

If I was searching from my phone, they would take account of the location the phone divulges.

So there are lots of different potential factors involved.

An exact match domain is just one of them and, in my view, isn’t likely to be much influence.

It might act as a tie-breaker if there were two otherwise identical sites that could be shown in a certain position in the search results.

But since there are thought to be in excess of 200 factors that Google take account of, it’s unlikely that there would be a tie-breaker needed given there are only typically 10 results on the first page.

Those factors vary in importance over time.

Partly to keep the spammers at bay.

Partly because our expectations change over time – we’re getting more sophisticated in our searches and I suspect that most humans can spot a potentially spammy page a lot faster than a computer can most of the time.

So if you’re choosing a domain name, don’t get hung up on whether or not you should have an exact match with your chosen keyword phrase.

Instead, go for a domain that makes sense (at least to you!), that’s available and that hasn’t been contaminated by any previous owners – a quick search on archive.org should show that.

And if you’d like more help, check out internet marketing in an hour a day.

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3 thoughts on “Are Exact Match Domain Names a Good Idea?

  1. Alex Newell

    I agree – a catchy name that makes sense to your market – not just a “cool” name or a witty one is worth way more than a mere exact domain name chosen just coz it matches a search word.

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  2. GRAHAM

    There are numerous theories about whether an exact match domain name helps your rankings. Even if you do decide to go with an exact match (assuming you can find one) you then have to decide on whether you are going for a dot com or dot net domain (or any of the other numerous possibilities). This, according to various reports, will also affect your rankings.

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    1. Trevor Post author

      Whilst there are a few people that think the domain extension affects rankings, there doesn’t seem to be any proof on that.

      Much more likely is that the results just represent the mix of domains in existence where .com has far and away the biggest share of registered domains.

      Reply

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