Your domain name is incredibly important, both in terms of its SEO value and its ability to visually entice customers and prospective visitors onto your site.
As many as 6 million businesses all over the world are listed with Google Places, so it would make sense to assume that this number is actually much higher if you take into account all those that are yet to register with Google. Every online user can be counted as a potential customer, so it’s vital that online businesses optimise their sites for SEO.
In order to begin understanding how domain names are important for SEO, let’s start at the very beginning…
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the ID string that is used to define a website. They exist in order to allow computers, networks and other services to tell the difference between the many websites out there, and they include domain names such as .com, .info, .net and .org, as well as country-specific domains like .eu, .uk and .ru.
When creating a domain name you can either choose to be keyword or brand focused. This means you can either include keywords in your domain name or stick to a branded name which doesn’t include any keywords whatsoever.
What are the benefits of using a branded domain name?
Branded domains do come with some benefits, such as:
- Branded domains can be easier to advertise, as they can stand out against the backdrop of keyword-focused domains.
- They are also more memorable for customers. This means that, should a potential customer see an ad for your site, they can remember it and visit it later on without too much difficulty.
- Brand domains can be better for long-term plans rather than short-term SEO opportunities. Some of the biggest and best sites out there are branded, such as Facebook, Twitter, eBay and so on.
What are the benefits of using a keyword-rich domain name?
Keyword domain names are also sometimes referred to as exact match domains. There are some definite pluses to using these domains, including:
- Google had traditionally ranked exact match domain sites higher in SERPs than branded domains (keyword relevancy factor).
- When linking to your site you can use the keywords used in your domain name, which can help you to rank higher for said keywords.
- The keywords in your domain name can be your brand, so you can kill two birds with one stone.
It is important to take note that Google recently updated its algorithm to devalue poor quality sites using exact match domains (also known as the EMD update). In fact there was a time when (circa 2009) an exact match domain is all you needed to climb up the search rankings for a large number of keywords. This advantage was heavily exploited by affilate and internet marketers to build a plethora of low quality sites.
This EMD update significantly affected affiliate/niche websites that often target low competition keywords with easily available exact match domains. Examples of such keywords are “african mango” (a popular diet pill with a vast affiliate network) or “tinnitus miracle” (also one of the best selling information products on Clickbank claiming to help people suffering from the debilitating tinnitus ear condition).
If your site is of high quality and attracts a diverse pool of natural links, then this should have had a minimal impact on you.
Which is better for small businesses?
Small businesses can implement exact match or keyword domain names depending on their personal preferences. For instance, Flat Pack Houses, a UK based company specialising in customised timber frame for homes, chose to go down the route of switching to an exact match domain name and has seen great success as a result.
However, your choice of domain name won’t be the only thing affecting rankings, so it’s important that businesses follow these changes up with strong link building and PPC campaigns.
Google’s Matt Cutts has even answered the age-old question of whether branded or exact match domains in this short video.
Matt Cutts explains that they both have their advantages, so at the end of the day it really is up to you when deciding which route to follow. However, with Google’s constant algorithm updates you should ensure your content is unique and interesting and that your SEO methods are as white hat as possible to achieve higher, sustained rankings for your website.
Which side of the fence do you sit on concerning this debate?