Does Domain Name Matter for SEO? Here’s What You Need to KnowDecember 8, 2020
Many clients ask us the same question when we talk SEO strategy:
Should we buy this domain name?
We understand the thinking behind this question. Most of the time, our answer is, ‘No.’ But not always.
Does domain name matter for SEO? It does, but you need to be strategic. In this article, we want to share when we do and do not recommend buying domain names.
We Don’t Recommend Investing in Exact Match Domains
The thinking behind investing in exact match domain names makes sense, but they don’t provide much, if any, value.
To understand why let’s answer the question: what is an exact match domain?
Exact match domains, or EMDs, are domain names that include the keywords you want to rank for in the Google search engine results page (SERP). For example, if the search term is “European vacation,” an exact match domain name could be www.europeanvacation.com.
When you look at the search volume and see 12,500, it makes sense to capture this keyword, right?
The answer is, only if you want to put in the time and money to build the site. Without a domain history, it has little SEO value, providing a smaller lift than it once did in terms of transferring value via redirects. You’ll need to add content, images, and backlinks to build its SEO impact.
If part of our strategy includes a strategy and budget to build a microsite – specifically a geo microsites – around this keyword, then we might recommend it. That approach, however, requires a budget and a fair cost in terms of development resources.
Domain forwarding is often another reason exact match domain names make sense to buy. This approach buys domain names and then forwards (redirects) those URLs to your main site. Here again, if the domain has no history, the benefit is very, very small. Google doesn’t give as much value to redirects as it used to, especially when they have no rank value.
So, even if the domain would be cheap to acquire, we say, ‘Don’t.’
We Also Don’t Recommend Buying Expired Domains with History
If an Exact Match Domain isn’t a good buy because it has no value due to a lack of history, perhaps buying a domain with a history is a good idea?
Again, most of the time, we say, ‘No.’ There are so many caveats behind any strategy that involves buying expired domains. Here are three examples.
Example 1: Building From Existing Site Authority.
Before you buy, you want to vet any existing backlink profile. Lots of backlinks are no good to you if they are spammy. We often find that once you clear all those spammy links, you aren’t left with many clean, valuable backlinks.
Example 2: 301 redirects.
This approach buys a domain with an established history and 301 redirects it to your main domain. The problem? Google views this practice as sketchy. As a result, the expired domain you bought will not likely help improve the authority of your domain, especially once Google detects it. You might very well find that it does more harm than good.
Example 3: Private Content Network.
This example is the one that can work – but there is a caveat. It is labor-intensive. Here’s how it can work:
- You buy an expired domain that has a spam-free history.
- You dedicate time, money, and personnel to build quality content across the network of domains you’ve bought. And they must clearly be within your niche.
- You invest in building a clean link profile.
When you take this approach, then you will add meaningful authority to your domain.
If you’re buying an expired domain for this third example, maybe it’s a domain you’ve wanted for its relevance to your business, then it makes sense to make the purchase.
How do You Get an Expired Domain?
First, a website owner does not continue the payment on a domain name registration. The domain becomes expired. Before this happens, website owners receive notice that their domain name will expire soon. During this grace period, the owner can choose to renew the domain. If the owner does not, the domain name goes into an auction to sell it. Should no one buy, it gets dropped, aka deleted.
If you found an expired domain closely related to your business, you would want to evaluate it against these factors.
- Length of the domain name in characters
- The number of valuable backlinks
- The age of the domain based on the first mention of the domain in Archives.org.
We DO Recommend Getting Brand Domain Names
Brand domain names are those that match your primary domain name, across all the different types of domains. For example, your brand website might be www.travelagency.com.
A variation of this domain name could be:
The list could go on and on.
We do recommend you buy and squat on a domain portfolio like this that intersects with your brand. Doing so prevents your competitors from buying them and pointing them to their website instead of yours! Of course, you can point these to your website.
Now, we’re not necessarily recommending you buy these domains for SEO value. Rather, the small recurring costs now can save you a bunch in trademark battles later.
We Might Also Recommend Buying Variations of Brand Domain Names
If your brand name often gets misspelled, we may recommend buying variations on your brand domain name.
You’ll have to do a little research to find the most common misspellings. You’ll want to purchase the most common misspellings or variations.
These domains can be forwarded to your site. If the misspellings happen often enough, you may find you actually get a little SEO out of them. As people build misspelled links to your website, you ensure anyone who clicks the link finds you. And, even though it’s misspelled, the link gives your site an SEO boost from the backlinks.
Questions About Whether a Domain Name is Right for Your Business?
As noted in the beginning, we answer this question a lot. While the answers here reflect our general approach, we also understand every situation is unique. If you’d like a customized assessment of your organization, give us a call – we’d be happy to chat.