There are two ways you can name your business’ website. You may choose a branded domain name or a keyword-rich domain name. If you want to ensure that your website is visible for relevant search terms in your industry or locality, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of branded and keyword domain names. It’s all part of the science of SEO-friendly company names.
Ten years ago, keyword-rich domain names were all the rage. For most savvy search marketers, selecting a domain name which includes one of their primary target keywords was a sure-fire way to reaching the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) in Google and Bing. There was an exact science to it. SEO marketers would buy up keyword-rich domains, upload a handful of pages of landing page content with relevant affiliate links for company. Then attract a couple of valuable backlinks and sit back to watch the revenue roll in.
Has the Exact Match Domain update killed keyword-rich domains?
Google expert Matt Cutts got wind of the proliferation and manipulation of keyword-rich domains and set to work on the search engine’s Exact Match Domain algorithm update, which launched in 2012. The premise of this update was to pinpoint and penalise keyword-rich domains with low-quality content that existed solely to manipulate their way up the rankings.
Although some labelled this update the death knell for keyword-rich domains, there is no doubt that many existing businesses and websites are still thriving today.
The key is to choose a keyword-rich domain that can double up as a form of branding, as well as a popular search term. Search Engine Journal specialises as a portal for SEO advice, empowering search marketers on best practice SEO techniques since 2003. Meanwhile Vegas Slots Online thrives as another popular hub aimed at casino gaming guides and software reviews. The latter has over 1,200 reviews of iGaming operators, helping to cement it as a font of knowledge on the online casino scene. Both exact match domain (EMD) sites are rich in helpful, unique content that offer a valuable user resource not only a commercial purpose. As this is a market comparison site, there are various examples of brand names that illustrate how online casinos approach this matter.
Google’s EMD update did not penalise household brand names like Hotels.com, which has one of the most obvious keyword-rich domains on the planet. That’s because the company itself has a rich history and the website boasts more than 15 million backlinks from more than 40,000 external websites. EMDs can still be a viable option online, providing you have the content and domain authority to underpin it.
Choosing a branded domain name instead
The alternative to selecting a keyword-rich domain name for your business is to use a branded domain. Using the name of your business as your website’s domain name is a great way to establish notoriety for your business. It keeps the brand firmly in the forefront of the customer’s mind and is often easier to remember.
Another benefit of avoiding an EMD for your business and opting for a branded domain is that your URL does not pigeonhole your operations. By wedding yourself to a keyword-specific domain, it’s very difficult for you to pivot and specialise in anything else. The general sentiment that many search marketers will recommend is that your website domain should underpin your brand rather than your target keywords. If you can achieve both things in the same URL, all the better.
If you are unsure whether an EMD or branded domain is best for your business, take some time to research the existing marketplace first. Search Google using one of the most common search terms in your industry. Make note of how your competitors are doing things. Although you don’t necessarily need to copy them, it’s helpful to understand whether the majority get success by operating as their own brand or by generalising with industry-specific keywords. In some ways, if most of your competitors are thriving using EMDs. There may well be value in doing the opposite and attempting to stand out as a unique brand among a list of sites whose metadata all looks the same.
If you do decide that an EMD is the way to go for your website, it is always prudent to look at the history of any domain. The last thing you want is to choose a domain that’s previously housed poor-quality content and ‘spammy’ backlinks. Tools like Majestic will give you clear historical information about a domain’s backlink profile, and you can even use sites like Archive.org and the Wayback Machine to get a feel for a domain in its previous guises.