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Should I buy an Exact Match Domain?

Oliver Ewbank

by Oliver Ewbank on 13th February 2012

Domain NamesShould I buy an exact match domain? This is a question I get asked by clients on a monthly basis. The question usually comes in one of the five formats:

1.       Should we change our domain name to something more keyword friendly?
2.       Our competitor has an exact match domain is that why they are ahead?
3.       Should we buy a keyword rich domain and redirect it to our website?
4.       Should we have lots of keyword rich micro sites linking to our domain?
5.       We are rebranding -  do we need our main keyword in the domain?

All very good questions. Why not get an exact match domain? Everyone is doing it! After all B&Q have the domain www.diy.com and rank first for DIY (a keyword which has over 165,000 local monthly searches on Google.co.uk).

Granted, a keyword rich domain can help you rank for a specific keyword but it isn’t the be all and end all of your SEO campaign. It’s another ‘relevance box’ that can be ticked but that’s all it is.

One common misconception is that buying an exact match domain will guarantee you a number one ranking, it won’t. For example, www.cheap.co.uk own www.petinsurance.co.uk which redirects to their pet insurance page. However, they still don’t rank on page one for the term ‘pet insurance’.

If you’re thinking of buying a domain there are other important factors to consider:

  • Does the domain have a high PageRank?
  • How many years old is the domain?
  • Does it have a healthy number of backlinks?
  • Does it have any unhealthy ‘black hat’ activity linked to the domain?
  • Can you secure the .com and .co.uk?

I think sometimes we can all over-estimate the importance of having a keyword rich domain. In some cases it can work against you as you don’t have scope to grow a proper brand name. In particular I feel dash domains don’t have as much value to search engines i.e. www.this-is-my-keyword.com. If anything I think this shows search engines that you are looking for a quick win and not willing to put in the effort to gain premium rankings.

Brand Monitoring

Monitoring a brand online is now an integral part of any business. The explosion of social media and free press has opened up brands to a range of criticism. Review sites and customer forums have the potential to do real damage to your brand. The answer? Make sure you can monitor your brand and respond when necessary. This is easier said than done and is almost impossible when you have a keyword friendly domain. For example, if you have a domain called www.gardeningproducts.com monitoring the brand will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

A Blend of the Two

If you are looking to start a new website it may be worth using part of your main keyword along with a unique brand name i.e. www.fluffyinsurance.com for a pet insurance company. This name will make sure you tick the ‘insurance’ relevance box but you also have a unique brand name that will be easier to monitor online.

Conclusion

If you already have a mature website I wouldn’t be too concerned about changing your domain. You can still achieve premium rankings with good unique content and strong backlinks. An exact match domain can help you target a specific term but this can also be achieved with keyword rich URLs.

If you are operating in a competitive market place then a keyword rich domain could make the difference. However, in SEO there is very rarely a shortcut to getting good results. If you already have a mature domain I would focus your attention on good content and worthy links.

Image Source

Domain Name Rubber Stamps via BigStock

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank

Working in new media for over 8 years, Oliver Ewbank has worked for a range of brands including eBay and SportBusiness.com on SEO, PPC and Social Media Management. He has won awards for his SEO work and been featured in a number of publications, including Virgin online.

3 Comments

  • Andy 28th February 2012

    Hi Oliver,
    Interesting article. What is your opinion on exact match domains for local businesses? How many exact searches would you deem it viable to go for an an exact match domain. At what point do you consider competition over searches? If for example I wanted a website for a London Dentist then the searches are high but so is the competition..if I happened to plump for “dentures for children” or something….(don’t know why I thought of that tbh!!!….then it would probably be easier to rank than dentist london and therefore be targeted traffic for the client.. I hope it isnt too waffly…:o)

    Reply to this comment

  • Oliver Ewbank

    Oliver 29th February 2012

    Hi Andy,

    Exact match domains can work for local businesses but this area is also very competitive.

    Even if an exact match keyword has lots of search volume I wouldn’t get too carried away with trying to reference the keyword in the domain.

    If you have a website with good content and quality backlinks you can target both ‘London Dentist’ and ‘dentures for children’ despite the domain name.

    Reply to this comment

  • Dolphin 13th March 2012

    I suggest you download KeyDomainTool extension for firefox and use that for exact match domains.

    Reply to this comment

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