A question we are very often asked is; “I sell blue widgets, and I can get the domain bluewidgets.com, bluewidgets.co.uk, and bluewidgets.net…..should I buy them”? There isn’t really one simple answer to the question, so the below article should cover the topic in enough detail for your to determine which scenario best matches your situation.
Scenario 1 – Your already have an established website and want to re-launch onto the keyword match domain
Using our ‘blue widgets’ example again, imagine you already have a website “mystore.com”. Your website might have been online for several years, and thus has built up quite a bit of equity with Google. Your have good rankings, you have regular customers…. it’s YOUR website.
Now imagine you go and purchase www.bluewidgets.co.uk. Because the domain has your main keyword contained within it “widgets”, it’s a great domain….. but are you really going to take down your entire website, and reconfigure it on your newly purchased domain? Moving your website to a new domain involves a lot of leg work, a lot of configuration, and a lot of potential for harm. Unless it is for a major re-brand, it should not be undertaken lightly, and certainly not just to benefit from a domain with your keyword in it. The risks, and potential loss of SEO value by far outweighs the potential benefits.
Scenario 2 – You already have an established website and want to buy an exact match domain to drive traffic (customers)
This seems to be the most common scenario. People have an existing site, and have seen some exact match domains they think they should purchase to boost their traffic and get ahead of the game in terms organic rank.
But think about it… how exactly are you going to leverage this new domain? Buying the domain alone isn’t going to benefit you at all. In this scenario there is only one thing you could do to leverage an SEO benefit from it….. and that is to buy the domain www.bluewidgets.co.uk and then build a new website on it, and have some links to your main site.
But it should be considered, that buying an exact match domain, and building a website, is by no means going to result in your ranking for any specific keyword, even if they are contained in your domain name. You will need to throw considerable effort at the new site, in building its authority with Google, before it is going to have any chance at all of benefitting your main website.
Even if you buy the domain and launch a well ranking site on it…. how do you actually plan to take visitors from the new site, to your main website? If you were searching Google for ‘Blue Widgets’ and landed on www.bluewidgets.co.uk which was then trying to get you to go to another website in order to purchase….how likely would you be to purchase? Very unlikely I suspect.
Instead of buying a new domain and trying to launch a new site on it, you would be far better off trying to build the authority of your main website, and generate direct traffic to it.
Scenario 3 – You already have an established website, but have the opportunity to purchase an exact match domain previously owned by a competitor
In this situation, it is possible that the domain still has some value in terms of how Google ranks it. By purchasing the domain, and creating 301 redirects you could direct this equity towards your main website. In terms of an SEO benefit this is the best possible scenario. However, it is highly risky, and not within the Google guidelines. It could actually result in a Google penalty and is not advisable. That said, it is a common technique which some SEOs use.
Scenario 4 – You’re a new start-up, and found a great exact match domain
Boom…result! Buy the domain, build your website, and enjoy the benefit of exact match. However, remember there are thousands of rules Google takes into consideration when deciding who should rank where. The keyword in the domain is just one factor, so do not base your business strategy on the fact that you MIGHT rank for one keyword because you own a good domain.
To sum it up
Don’t focus your efforts on one small ranking factor (keyword in domain name). Sure, if you can get a good domain at launch, go for it. Otherwise focus your efforts on what Google really wants, which is a good website, with good unique content and a solid user interface.
Also keeping mind that any profitable website will have traffic from hundreds or even thousands of keywords. One keyword alone is not going to make or break it.