It used to be important to have an exact match domain. But do search rankings nowadays still take into account domain names?
In those days, there was a good probability that you were purchasing on a website with an exact match domain (EMD). For instance, if you were searching for a dog product, you would likely land on a website having the following address: www.dogproduct.com/
When search engine optimization was still in its infancy, it was normal practise for businesses to include their precise target keyword phrase in the domain URL.
Unfortunately, scammers and bad actors took advantage of this (or perhaps luckily, depending on how you feel about EMDs), scooped up many of these domains, and linked them to subpar websites.
Having an exact match domain used to be a big deal.
In 2010, CarInsurance.com sold for $49.7 million: still the most expensive domain name purchase of all time. So clearly, someone valued domains with that keyword.
However, do you recall the terrible guys we discussed in the previous section? Google eventually developed an understanding of their keyword-stuffing URLs and modified its algorithm to ignore them. But that does not imply that SEO is unaffected by the domain name of your website.
Regarding domain names and their effect on rankings, there is a lot of conflicting evidence.
There is little doubt that domain names once factored into rankings.
Matt Cutts, a software engineer on Google's Search Quality group, acknowledged the part EMDs played in the search algorithm of the tech giant in a 2011 Webmaster Hangout.
However, he also stated:
“And so, we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a little bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm, so that given two different domains it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain with a bunch of keywords in it.”
A year later, in 2012, Cutts tweeted that exact match domains with low quality would have less visibility in search results.
Finally, in 2020, John Mueller, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, discovered that the ranks of websites in search engine results no longer depend on the keywords in domain names.
In response to a question about whether domain names with keywords affect rankings, he replied, "In short, no. An extra benefit like that is not provided by having a keyword in your top-level domain.
The fact that domain names are not a factor in your total search engine results means that SEO specialists can stop worrying about them, right?
Your UX and public perception may be significantly impacted by the domain name you choose. Typically, the thing that people will remember most about your company is its domain name. Sometimes, that's a specific brand or trademark, not your company name.
For various properties, you might want to think about using subdomains or even separate domains. This may make it easier for customers to find you if you sell things that distributors also sell.
In terms of search ranking, using keywords in your domain is useless; if done incorrectly, it may even degrade your SEO.
However, if your branding is strongly tied to a specific service or item, putting a keyword in the domain could make your brand's message more obvious to visitors.
If a keyword is extremely relevant or is a part of your branding, don't be afraid to use it.
The TL;DR is that while your domain name doesn't directly affect your Google ranking, it does offer smart web marketers the chance to reflect their brand's values and improve user experiences.