This post is following on from “is brand optimisation the new SEO?” and deals with the question of how to choose the right domain name for your website after Google’s Penguin, Panda, and most importantly their EMD update.
As noted in our previous post, in the past having a domain name that exactly matched your product or service helped tremendously with ranking your website in the SERPs (e.g. if you’re selling red aluminium widgets then redaluminiumwidgets (dot) com, co.uk, etc would have been the perfect choice).
However, starting with the EMD (exact match domain) update this advantage was reduced significantly, to the point where it actually felt more like a penalty with seemingly little to no chance of getting an EMD to rank at all well for it’s core keywords.
So what constitutes a good domain name under these circumstances?
Well, if you are planning on getting most of your business via people finding you online, that is to say by having high search engine rankings, then an EMD for your product of service is probably not going to help you.
In this case, and remembering that branding seems to be far more important now, you’d probably be better off using your company name in the domain, “JohnsWidgets”, “JohnsRedAluminiumWidgets”, etc.
However, if Google’s recent algorithm updates are anything to go by and ranking a website for a product or service becomes harder and harder over time, then you may well be better off using the exact match “redaluminiumwidgets” after all.
Why is this?
Because if companies are forced into a position where we have to pay for search engine rankings (i.e. use Google Adwords) then the inevitable outcome will be that businesses will need to find new ways to get people to visit their website other than search engine traffic, since that kind of advertising is far too expensive to sustain for most small to medium enterprises.
And the best way that you could get people to remember your website would be if it exactly matched the product or service that they are looking for.
You then end up in a position where it doesn’t matter how many times per month the phrase gets searched for each month (this was one of the main measures of the “value” of an EMD), the core question is “how easy is this domain name to remember?”
Because as soon as you start advertising it, and people start seeing it and remembering it, they’re going to be searching for that phrase not to find a list of companies that provide that product or service, but rather they’ll be searching to find YOU!
So thinking about this, which is easier to remember, a website consisting of an obscure company name or mix of related words, etc, or a website that is an exact match for the product?
Suppose that you run an electrical company in London that does PAT testing and other forms of electrical testing on buildings and equipment.
Which domain name are people going to remember if they see it in a local or newspaper ad, on a business card, or even if someone verbally tells them the website address (which also has the issue of them mis-hearing the address, or confusing it if it is spelled unusually or quirkily):
AJPpattesting(dot)something, PTNelectrical(dot)something, pat-testinglondon(dot)something, pattesting-london(dot)something, etc, or electricaltestinglondon(dot)something?
It would be far easier to remember the last one, since it’s straightforward and explains exactly what the company does.
Hyphens can cause confusion, especially when they are “unsymmetrical” as above, and even with a hyphen separating each word it is still easily forgotten, meaning that your marketing could send floods of traffic to your competitors.
The extension of the domain also needs to be thought about, with .co.uk or .com being best for UK websites that are planning on obtaining visitors from offline marketing.
But overall for advertising in print, on the radio, or where you need people to remember your website address, then a domain name that exactly matches your product or service is definitely best since people will not just remember it now, they’ll remember it months and maybe even years from now when they need to order again.
So ironically while Google’s EMD and subsequent updates may have reduced the attractiveness of an exact match domain where ranking is concerned, it has actually increased the attractiveness of them where the marketing, or I guess you could say the branding of your website is concerned, since if people aren’t going to find you easily in the results, then you need to make absolutely sure that they remember your website name once they’ve seen it.
And there may be a side benefit if you truly do think of your websites domain name as a brand rather than a route to easy rankings – if you start to advertise yourself as yourexactmatchdomain(dot)com, etc, including in the major online directories, yell, and on other respected web properties, then you may find that your EMD starts to rank again, since Google will hopefully then not just see it as a blatant attempt to gain easy rankings by having a website that is a direct match for your product or service, but rather it will be a representation of your business or company brand.
Which it appears is exactly what Google want to see.
So EMD’s are not all bad and in terms of ranking, if you do the branding first then the rankings for the keywords may well follow later.