Please note that affiliate links may be included in some posts.
Choosing domain names can be a tricky business.
When I first started I was big on Exact Match Domains.
So I registered domains like BestChineseDietPills.com, RollatorReviews.com and SeatCushionReviews.com.
Don't do that...
Make sure you choose a brandable domain name.
What do I mean by brandable?
For example, if you want to build a site that ranks for "best tea kettle" (2,900 monthly searches and an Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty score of 2), don't register bestteakettles.com.
Why not, you ask? I'll walk you through six reasons why it's a bad idea.
6 Reasons Not To Buy An Exact Match Domain
1. It Just Looks Spammy
Long exact match domain names look untrustworthy. They have an unmemorable URL structure. They just don't engender trust from your users.
2. It Caps Your Growth Potential
Once you've reviewed every tea kettle on Amazon, you'll realize that you could probably rank for "tea mugs" (8,100 monthly searches) and "tea cozy" (6,600 monthly searches).
But if your site's scope is capped by an Exact Match Domain, it'll be difficult to expand.
As well, its harder and more incongruous to write informational content ("how to steep green tea", "the 25 health benefits of green tea", etc.) if your domain is BestTeaKettles.com versus something like TeaDollar.com.
3. No One Will Link To You
If you want to get backlinks to your site to increase its Domain Authority, you'll likely have to do some manual outreach to other websites.
Trust me, it's much, much easier to get links to a site called TeaDollar.com, from the email address Ryan@TeaDollar.com, than BestTeaKettles.com.
(If you're into the tea niche, check GoDaddy to see if TeaDollar is still available).
The Exact Match Domain positively screams "affiliate site". Other webmasters are savvy and are unlikely to share your URL with their audience if they think you're just in it for profits.
Think about it...
Do you think the New York Times website would ever link to a site called BestTeaKettles.com?
Unlikely. But, I could reasonably see them linking to TeaDollar.com. To me, it sounds like a site for budget-conscious tea-drinkers. Or perhaps a quirky finance blog. You get the picture.
4. It'll Prevent You From Getting Into Other Affiliate Programs
Once you've 'outgrown' Amazon and want to experiment with other affiliate programs, it's much easier to approach them with your brandable domain than a 3-word exact match domain.
Will it really prevent you from getting into the Upton Tea affiliate program? Who's to say. But it certainly doesn't help.
5. Your Email List Will Suffer
Think about your own web-browsing habits. Would you feel comfortable giving your email address to a site called BestTeaKettles.com?
Say you were reading about a new Breville tea kettle on this hypothetical site and a popup appears asking you to subscribe to their email list.
How likely is it that you'd want to ever hear from BestTeaKettles.com?
If that were me, I'd be thinking, "OK...so I'm going to be sent emails about the best tea kettles. Since I'm buying one now from Amazon there's no reason to hear from this site again."
But "TeaDollar.com"? I would think, "Sure...now that I have my tea kettle I could certainly use some tips on how to brew my tea and recommendations on the best teas to buy."
You get the idea.
6. It Harms Healthy Anchor Text Ratios
When people backlink to you, they'll use anchor text like "click here", or keywords related to your site. In many cases they'll use your domain name. If your domain name is stuffed with your primary keywords, your backlink profile might look spammy to Google.
Google takes a dim view of over-optimized backlink anchor text- their Penguin update targeted backlinking strategies that they viewed as manipulative. For example, a website with 100% of it's backlink anchor text reading "best tea kettles" would have been targeted by the Penguin update.
So, if your domain name is stuffed with niche-related keywords, and people use them to link to you, there's a chance your backlink anchor text ratio will look somewhat 'off' to Google. It's another reason why you should opt for a brandable domain name.
A site name like "TeaDollar.com" will allow you to manually build and naturally acquire healthier backlink anchor text like "Tea Dollar", "TeaDollar", "Tea Dollar site" as opposed to something that looks spammy and keyword-stuffed like "Best Tea Kettles".
Gotch SEO has a really great post on understanding anchor text ratios in a post-Penguin world.
Exact Match Domains And SEO Value
All that said, there is some SEO value to having an Exact Match Domain. But, in my opinion, its costs dramatically outweigh its benefits. While choosing an exact match domain for "best chinese diet pills" might incrementally help you rank for that specific term, you''re losing out on the more important fronts I enumerated above.
How To Choose A Compelling Domain Name
For domain name inspiration, I use 5 primary tools. First, head over to GoDaddy and then choose one of the following tools for inspiration:
- Shopify's Business Name Generator: just input your keyword and it'll provide you some fairly brandable options (depending on how competitive your niche is).
- Panabee: basically combines 2 words together into unique combinations- a good brainstorming tool.
- Thesaurus.com: an online thesaurus- if you're feeling stumped, check out some synonyms for your keyword.
- DomCop: basically an expired domain name marketplace. You can filter through tons of expired domain names. It's good for inspiration or even purchase- just be careful not to buy a domain name with a spammy backlink profile. Yoast has a good writeup of how to identify a bad backlink profile.
- Domainr: a minimalist tool that quickly checks availability and helps coordinate purchase options.
You can also run a search for "domain name" on ProductHunt.com. Product Hunt is a discovery tool for startups and services, essentially- it'll have new domain name products every so often.
Anyways, depending on your niche, it's more or less easy to find a compelling domain name.
For something like "Tea" it's pretty easy. For a keyword like "Money" or "Lawyer" or "SEO", it's understandably much more competitive.
One process I've used is to scour Thesaurus.com to find a bunch of interesting synonyms for my niche's primary keyword and then plug them into the Shopify and Panabee domain name tool.
Before you know it you'll have a pretty strong list of candidates.
Keep track of all the domain names you come up with in a Google Sheet. Once you have 25 or so you can ask your friends and family which ones they like- that'll give you some objective feedback.
You can even create a Google form survey and distribute it to a bunch of people to get more comprehensive feedback.
While choosing a strong domain name is undeniably important, you don't want it to become an all-consuming task. Stick to the organized process I've outlined above and you'll be able to make a timely selection of a brandable domain name.
Last Updated on May 21, 2019 by j3teq
Hi Ryan: Excellent article. For months I worried about finding a name for my website. I came up with nostalgic home decor but, I’m not too sure that is a good name, however, with the information you presented here I’m going to do a little more digging and searching. Thanks for a wonderful presentation, well written and profoundly, clear that almost anyone can understand.
A former New Yorker, now living in Macon Ga. and owner of a 30,000 sf ft retail liquidation store.
Thanks. There are a surprising amount of short, brandable domain names out there. One of my favorite words to add to a domain is “adviser” or “advisor”. So it would be “keyword” + adviser.com. You can even make it “advisers” or “advisors”, and that’s 4 quick domain names to check that sound clean and ‘high-level’.