Most businesses with a website choose a domain name that contains their business name or brand name like championroofing.com or smithjones.com. Some of them, like the first example, contain a clue about what the business does but many are like the second example and don’t tell you anything about the business.
Some businesses decide to forego branding and instead opt for a domain name like dallasplumbers.com or personalinjuryattorneychicago.com. These are known as exact match domain names (EMDs), and these examples contain a geographic indicator and a category keyword. The goal is to score a domain name that is a popular keyword phrase that people search for because historically, having keywords in the domain name has helped sites rank better in search results for those keywords. Also, when people type a search phrase directly into the address bar of their browser instead of in the search text box, either accidentally or on purpose, EMDs have performed well. That’s known as “type-in traffic” or “direct type-in traffic”.
Changes in Google’s Algortihm Directed at EMDs
Google recently announced via Twitter that they are reducing the amount of influence that the domain name has in their search algorithm. One of the main reasons for that change is that people were gaming the system by snatching up EMDs for every keyword phrase they want to rank for, and putting up single landing pages or low-quality websites, just to dominate search results. And it was working.
In an effort to sift out low-quality sites and duplicate content sites, Google is always tweaking its search algorithm and this is just another tweak. Their goal is to force websites to improve their quality and earn traffic or get dropped down in search results into obscurity.
Does Google’s EMD update have any significance for your website?
The Google algorithm change isn’t directed at all EMDs, it’s targeting low quality EMDs. So the answer is, it depends on why you have an EMD and how you’re using it.
Is your EMD your main business website? Or does your business have more than one website?
For most small businesses, one website is all that is needed.
If you do have multiple websites, does each website have rich, unique content? And is there a natural reason to have multiple sites, like:
- to separate focus on distinctly different lines of business (like HVAC and plumbing)
- to target distinctly different audiences (like services that are strictly B2B and services that are B2C)
- to serve different physical locations, like a franchise
- for a separate mobile website or a foreign language translation of your website
These are all legitimate reasons to have multiple sites.
However, if your business has multiple websites for only one physical location and one line of business, with one target audience, you might want to review your website strategy, especially if you purchased EMDs as a method of increasing traffic.
If, however, you are using EMDs as landing pages for PPC, you should be sure to noindex them so it’s clear to Google that you’re not trying to get these shallow, keyword-heavy sites to rank organically. They’ll still work for PPC, and with a noindex, they won’t be penalized, and neither will your main website.
There is value in having a keyword in your domain name or having an EMD, but it’s not a compelling reason, on its own, to give up a branded domain name. However, if you’re setting up a new website, choosing an EMD is still a good strategy as long as you’re not using it as a spammy effort to generate traffic.