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Exact Match Domains

14:54 on Thu, 25 Jun 2009 | SEO | 0 Comments

While last month we looked at title tag optimisation, today we will be looking at exact match domains, something we get asked about frequently.

Last month, we covered how to optimise the title tag for the keywords you’d like to target. This time, we’ll look at the benefits (and pitfalls) of choosing a domain based on your keywords. Having the keyterm you want to target in the domain is hugely beneficial to your SERP rankings, especially if it’s an exact match domain.

The reason why having keywords in your domain name works so well is due to the fact that the search engine has to figure out what the intent behind your search is. If you search for say, “felt tip pens”, the search engine has to figure out whether you are just searching for sites related to felt tip pens or specifically the brand/company called “Felt tip pens”. This is called a navigational query and if your domain happens to match the keyword in question, the search engine will most likely assume that you are searching for the brand name and favour that particular site much more highly in the SERPs. So, if you have a particular keyterm you’d like to rank for, you can consider this when choosing a domain name.

What if your domain name had other words in addition to the keyterm you’re targeting? So if for example, your domain was www.bobsfelttippens.com you would still benefit from having the keyterm in your domain but not half as much as if it was exact. Google also bolds keywords in the searches so having part of your domain name bolded can result in a higher click through rate (CTR).

But before we do any of that, first of all, you’ll need to think about the merits of SEO vs branding.

Let’s say you had a felt tip pen website called Cool Feltz and the term you wanted to target was “felt tip pens”. Now, you could go for the domain name www.felttippens.com, which will be a great boon to your SEO efforts for the term “felt tip pens”. But you will also need to consider the fact that as your business grows and the general public starts to know the name “Cool feltz”, do you want your brand name to be represented in your URL or not? You’ll need to make a judgement call on this one, but either way, you should try and get both www.felttippens.com and www.coolfeltz.com and 301 redirect one domain to the other.

Some of you may be wondering whether you should consider getting a domain with the singular keyword www.felttippen.com. In general, both the singular and plural versions of the same keyterm get a considerable volume of searches. So, in targeting www.felttippens.com, you’ve essentially got both bases covered. (Since “felttippen” is also in “felttippens”)

Some people advocate placing hyphens between each word to help the search engine robot to read your domain. This is generally unnecessary unless you’ve got a keyterm with ambiguous spelling. The humorously circulated “pen island” is one example. Also, it’s often speculated among SEO circles that more than two hypens in a domain name may result in Google not trusting your domain name as much (can you name a great website with more than two hyphens in the URL? :)


You can see multiple examples of exact match domains ranking competitively, with much weaker link profiles than other competitors on the first page.

Note from Mark: Exact match domains can also rank well because of the benefit of the naturally gaining links with optimised anchor text from directories, blogs etc.

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