One of the biggest debates in SEO, and it’s still going on after more than 10 years, is whether or not you should buy an exact domain name for your business. There are three popular schools of thought concerning this:
- Yes, definitely
- No, not necessary
- It wouldn’t hurt
The “Yes, definitely” camp makes its argument based on the idea that exact match domain names, because they contain your primary keyword in them, will improve your SEO. Well, that’s partially true. If you only want to rank for that primary keyword then it could hold an advantage. But if you’ve searched for a topic at Google then you’ve probably seen instances where non-keyworded domains ranked higher than everyone else. Just think Wikipedia; there’s a website that ranks for a whole slew of keywords not related to its domain name.
The “No, not necessary” people argue on the basis of branding. The wisdom in this circle is that an exact match domain name could hurt you if you are trying to build a brand. Frankly, I think they’re right. We could all think of several websites that have built a successful brand online without exact match keyword-heavy domains. Here are a few that come to mind readily:
- Blekko (the name of a search engine)
Four of those five are search engines and none of them are particularly struggling. Want another example? How about Facebook?
If the top brands online aren’t using exact match domains then it makes sense that it isn’t really necessary.
The “it wouldn’t hurt” folks, of course, fall somewhere in the middle. Their philosophy is it may not be necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt. Usually, these prognosticators will argue that exact match domains may not be necessary right now, but some day having your keyword in the domain could help push you up a notch or two. The fact is, right now, exact match domain names are doing well – but that may not be true next year, or three years from now.
Another argument says that all things being equal, having an exact match domain name could put you one step ahead of the competition.
I won’t argue with either of those points because, frankly, I’m not sure how right those people are. And I’m pretty sure they don’t know either.
SEO is a tricky business. Just when you think you know something, the game changes. I think the best policy is to go with a domain name that has the best potential for branding you and that will make your SEO life simpler. If you can create a brand using a keyword-specific exact match domain then all the power to you. The important thing is that you resonate with your target market. In that regard, I still believe in traditional marketing principles.