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For a while now, I have been meaning to test a couple of theories out to see what we can learn about the impact of exact match domain names on SEO. Even the discussion of exact match domains can provoke quite heated reactions (see the comments on this <a href=”http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/the-problems-with-exact-match-domains-11543″>YouMoz Post</a>). Although exact match domains are often sold for thousands of pounds or demonstrate a high level of prescience in the early adopters of new opportunities, there is some question over the value of exact match domains to a business. After all, the company looking to profit from an algorithm favouring this matches will only receive benefit for that<a href=”http://www.seobook.com/exact-match-domains “> one term</a> and exact match domains cannot represent what a whole company has to offer.
Increasingly, Google seems to be favouring brands. Last year around August, Google’s brand update changed the way that results were displayed for brand terms, as documented by <a href=”http://www.seomoz.org/blog/dear-google-big-brands-arent-enough”>Dr.Pete of SEOMoz</a>. Until the update, brands may have enjoyed the first couple of places in the SERPs for their own terms, but now searches on super brands can return 10 full listings of different products for that brand. Try a search on “apple” and see what you get- the humble fruit no longer features. Brand terms also offer companies the chance to differentiate themselves in the market and in the eye of the consumer, enabling people to develop a relationship with the brand and what it stands for.
Once a strong brand is established, how relevant are exact matches? In the recent JC Penney paid links scandal, one of the points the company (erroneously) raised in its defence was that “hardly any” of the website’s visitors came from organic traffic. <a href=”http://searchmarketingwisdom.com/2011/02/jc-penney-has-a-bigger-problem-than-paid-links/”>Alan Bleiweiss</a> wrote an excellent post about this red flag, placing the number of organic visitors to the site at just 7%. Shocking as that does seem it does highlight a fundamental point about big brands. For example, although Amazon ranks for the term “books” (position five, with books.google.com taking first place interestingly)- who accesses the Amazon store this way? Amazon occupies a space in the public conscience. I would hazard a guess that a huge proportion of the sales on Amazon come through branded searches or direct visits.
<h3>The Brand vs. Generic Domains Test</h3>
There is a lot of information and opinion surrounding this huge topic, which I am going to attempt to research and write about over the next few weeks. However, for a crude test to see what impact brand terms have versus generic, I am running a short test to kick the subject off. With only one link each, from this blog post, I am going to see which domain gets indexed faster-<a href=”http://www.oneresult-ecommerce-sites.co.uk”> www.oneresult-ecommerce-sites.co.uk</a> or <a href=”http://www.magento-web-design.co.uk”>www.magento-web-design.co.uk</a> If this proves too deadly slow, I will build some further links at a later date, but for now I’ll try the bare minimum.
The generic exact match domain has a moderate search volume of around 140 searches per month, the branded domain has none. However, OneResult has an established place in the index. The sites went live last Thursday (31<sup>st</sup> March) but this is the first link being built to them. Once the results are in, I’ll update this post and look at the further tests we can do. Happy searching in the mean time.
<strong>Update- Same Day 15:55: </strong>The results are in and the exact match domain has won. Checking the index with the site: operators, www.magento-web-design.co.uk is there but there are no results for the branded domain. This is what I expected to happen, but it’s interesting to see it in action. I don’t anticipate that the branded domain will be far behind the exact match, but once we have the cache data from Google I will check the time and date the sites were indexed for a direct comparison. With only one link to each site launched at exactly the same time, the exact match domain has been indexed faster. Although this is far too small a data set to draw any firm conclusions, it does suggest that there is some advantage to having a domain with an exact match on a term that is shown to have established search volume.
Step two will be to see how far I can move each site up the rankings with the same effort going to each. Stay tuned for more.
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