We’re not going to beat around the bush: Exact match domain names, or keyword-heavy domains, are not an SEO ranking factor.
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, people thought stuffing domains with keywords was a fantastic way to get organic traffic to their site. So much so that it became an almost spammy practice, which caught Google’s attention. Being the search powerhouse that it is, Google realized what was going on around 2010 and updated its algorithm to remove domains as a ranking factor.
John Mueller, the Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said in 2020, “Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword. In short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name.”
Instead of choosing a keyword-laden domain, he suggests focusing on a domain that can grow with your business. If you select a hyper-focused domain like “redwheelbarrows.com,” what happens when you want to expand into selling yellow wheelbarrows and other sundry gardening tools?
Since the early aughts, there’s been a shift in people’s search habits and phrasing. Twenty years ago, someone may have searched for a local attorney by typing “Springfield divorce attorney” — three keywords that speak to the heart of their intent. Nowadays, there’s been a shift toward natural language search, which looks more like this, “Who is the best divorce attorney near me?”
With the change in people’s search patterns, you can’t coast on an exact-match domain and expect it to do all the legwork of bringing in site traffic. Instead, focus on creating a website with quality content that answers these longer-form, natural language search queries. After all, Google most values relevancy in search results.
So, does this mean exact match domains are worthless? Certainly not!
Just because Google doesn’t include exact match domains as a ranking factor doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable to your business.
While Google’s bots and crawlers scour countless websites, you have to think about the human side of the equation, too.
Keyword-specific domain names are memorable and readily marketable. If people remember your domain name, they won’t need to rely on search engines to find your site again (or possibly get directed to a competitor’s site.) Exact match domains can contribute to an increase in direct traffic to your site.
As you search for the perfect domain name, keep the following tips in mind:
- Exact match domains don’t matter to search engines but do matter to your audience.
- Relevancy is key.
- Keep the strange spellings and characters to a minimum.
And most importantly, if you’re looking to perform better in SERPs, focus on your website content to ensure it is relevant and thorough in answering your audience’s questions.