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Are Domain Names a Google Ranking Factor?

Does an exact match domain name help your site perform better in Google Search?See if the domain name is a ranking factor.

Let's put it this way: Exactly matching domains should be buried in the trash bag next to the person speaking on the speakerphone in public.Remember how every domain used to look like www.caraccidentattorney.com or www.buydogcollars.com?

This is what we mean when we talk about exact match domain (EMD: exact match domain).

An EMD is a domain name that contains the exact keyword phrase you want to rank for in the SERPs.Fortunately, on September 2012, 9, Google's Matt Cutts confirmed that exact-match domains are not a ranking factor.

Now that we've settled this controversy, let's analyze how domain names affect search results.

Disclaimer: Domain Names as Ranking Factors

You've probably heard a client or someone in SEO say something like this: "An exact match domain name creates instant credibility.

"It's the best investment you can make.

"It gives you a competitive advantage.

It's true - go back in time.The Hotels.com domain name sold for $2003 million in 1100, making it one of the most expensive domain name purchases ever made.

The same theory applies to keywords in your domain name.We've all seen claims that using keywords in your domain name can improve your rankings.

Domain Names as Ranking Factors: Evidence

There is a lot of chatter online about domain names and their impact on rankings.

Do Domain Names Affect Rankings?

In 2011, Bill Slawski investigated Google's exact match domain patents and found insightful information.

According to the patent, he theorized that keywords in the domain might perform better.

That same year, Google's Matt Cutts addressed concerns about domain names in a webmaster hangout..

Katz said:

"Now, if you're still on the fence, let me give you a little color, we've looked at rankings and the weight we give to keyword domains, and some people have complained that we give too much weight to keywords in domains.

So we've been thinking about tweaking this combination a bit and turning the knob down in the algorithm so that given two different domains, having one domain with a bunch of keywords doesn't necessarily help you.

So, back in 2011, domain names did affect rankings.

But in 2012, Katz shared on Twitter that if done incorrectly, it can negatively impact your rankings.

In today's world, domain names don't affect Google rankings.

Google's John Mueller said the same in 2020.:

"Just because a site has a keyword in its domain name doesn't mean it's more relevant to that keyword than other sites.In short, you don't need to put keywords in your domain name.

To be clear, you don't want to listen to this advice.

How Important Is Exactly Matching Domain Names?

The truth is that exact match domains are always grey hats, entering the world of black hats.From a ranking factor perspective, exact match domains are pure baloney.

Domain Names as Ranking Signals: Our Verdict

While there are exceptions to every rule, you want to properly evaluate your domain's goals in terms of domain names.

Speaking of exceptions, here's our verdict: that's when it comes to purely navigational searches.

For example, if someone searches for a domain (eg, Facebook), they specifically want to navigate to that domain (eg, www.facebook.com) via a Google search (rather than typing in a URL or opening a website via a bookmark).In this case, the fact that Facebook is Facebook will help Facebook rank for that query.

Want to learn more about domain names and SEO?Check out Maymurgh's advice on choosing a domain name.

Extended reading:

Is Domain Authority a Google Ranking Factor?

Are crawl errors and crawl budget a Google ranking factor?

Top 8 Google Ranking Factors - What Really Matters for SEO

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