SEO

Do brands need an exact match domain?

Planning a start-up? You may need to think about SEO and exact match domains before picking a brand name.

If you’re about to begin an internet business then you’ll probably be planning an online marketing campaign that involves SEO. After all, most website visits begin with a search engine and exact match domains (EMDs) will often dominate the Google SERPs for a given result.

The importance of EMDs is a frequently discussed topic, with most SEOs saying this is becoming less of a search ranking factor in the future. This is due to how they have been ranking so well to get punching website’s punching above their weight, often ahead of much more highly respected and well-known brands.

But the fact is, at the moment these still work – with many industries and niches still dominated by exact matches domains. It’s likely things will get cleaned up with more brands outranking exact match domains in the long-term. But it’s not just thin affiliates and one-man bands who use EMDs. For example, in the UK B&Q are a huge home and garden retailer who use diy.com instead of a branded domain – and Google still have the problem with what to do with the EMDs which are also brands, e.g. Hotels.com and CheapFlights.co.uk – these are always likely to rank highly, especially for those exact match queries.

So in my opinion if you can do both – get a great exact match domain and build a brand – you’re likely to be in a stronger position towards both achieving rankings for exact match queries in the short-term – and also be in a very strong position as a brand in the search engines over the long-term too.

So here are my top tips, Google is a very crowded market place, that means it’s worth considering how search-engine friendly your brand can be when choosing the name. Not only that, but many people will type your brand name into a search engine rather than typing the address. That makes it essential you rank for your name or you’ll lose some of your own customers.

Avoid common words

Try to avoid everyday words in your company title, unless they are really specific to your business. Otherwise you just increase the number of organisations you’re competing with in the SERPs.

Having said that, using an everyday word can sometimes work if you have a hell of a budget to back it up. The mobile phone operator 3 is a good example.

Be smart about using your name, too. If your surname is ‘McDonald’ then you’ll have a hard time ranking for that because of the restaurants, so choose something else.

Keep your domain name in mind

Your company name should be your web address, as this will help you to rank for that name.

That means your choice of name should be massively influenced by the availability of the relevant domain name; don’t get excited about a brand until you’ve checked the domain is available.

Because of that, you may well end up calling your company something meaningless simply to enable you to bag the domain.

Of course, if you have a really terrific, keyword-filled domain name, then use the address as your company name. For example, the company behind contactlenses.co.uk is called contactlenses.co.uk.

Don’t worry too much if you have to choose a brand name that isn’t obviously related to your business. After all, ‘Google’ isn’t exactly the most informative of names but it seems to be doing okay.

Ranking top for your name is essential and your SEO agency can work on optimising the website for your other top keywords.

Register common domain TLDs

Many SEO commentators believe that the complex Google algorithm looks at how long a domain is registered for and gives preference to websites that have paid for longer than a year. I wouldn’t worry about this to be honest, as long as it doesn’t expire!

But what I would recommend is securing the common domain TLDs – if you build a great brand on a .co.uk domain for example, you don’t want to have to go into a high-bidding situation or even a legal case to secure the .com or .net versions of your domain in the future – so get in there early.

Supplement with paid search in short term

If you’re already operating under a name that you’re struggling to optimise then don’t despair.

Paid search will allow you to appear at the top and side of the relevant search results, even if you struggle to rank for your name.

But I don’t believe that any website is beyond optimisation. Go after local search wins and target highly specific, long-tail keywords.

Ultimately, though, if you can avoid a highly popular term as a brand name, then do so. A business really needs to rank for its own name, especially in the long-term.

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Kevin Gibbons is founding director at Quaturo, a content marketing agency in London, and frequently writes/speaks within the search industry at various blogs and events.

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4 thoughts on “Do brands need an exact match domain?

  1. Without doubt, I have found that using a EMD for a product type I have taken a big step ahead of online competitors. I try to ensure I have reasonable keyword density and on page seo and I have to do less backlining as a result. Works for me. Good piece !

  2. EMD has seemed to help me as well, allowing me to shoot ahead in niches. Though, have found that the more competitive the keyword, the harder it is to get the EMD to rank. Despite this, it takes little effort with an EMD with few competitors! Cheers for this!

  3. Getting exact match domain and building a brand will make you in a stronger position towards both achieving rankings for exact match queries in the short-term and will ensure strong position as a brand in the search engines over the long-term too.