As recently as a few years ago, you could buy a domain name that was loaded with keywords and automatically rank pretty well for those queries. For example, I could purchase “marietta-used-cars.com” and rank pretty well for “marietta used cars” and related searches. Thankfully, Google is working hard to discount those kinds of URLs, known as “exact match domains”.
How does this affect you?
First, if you rely on those kinds of domain names to help keep you ranked high in the search engines, expect to lose some ground. Google won’t necessarily penalize you for those names, but you’ll no longer get an added boost from them.
Second, don’t worry about keywords when buying a new domain name. Find something short and memorable that is related to your business. If it happens to have solid keywords in it that’s great, but don’t worry about trying to squeeze them in there.
Like many changes that Google makes, this is one that has been abused by spammers for years now and it’s really a smart move for Google to reduce the usefulness of URLs like this. Google wants to find sites that have quality content to match the search queries, not sites that happen to have a domain name that matches. At the end of the day, changes like this are good for users.
These changes started happening late in 2012, but it seems that Google is continuing to whittle away at the usefulness of exact match domains. It’s always been wise to match sure that your various domain names (if you have more than one) canonicalize correctly to your main site. For example if you go to GreenMellen.com, you’ll notice that our server automatically redirects you to www.greenmellenmedia.com — the proper domain name with the “www” in front. It can be a bit tricky to get it set up properly, but your hosting company should be able to start. Here’s a brief tutorial if you’d like to dig into it yourself.
Purchasing a cute domain name for a special event or a postcard isn’t necessarily a bad idea (for us, maybe something like mariettawebsites.com), but always make sure it drives back to your primary domain name.
Just play nice
For most of us of this has been a quiet change. If you just work hard and write good content, then watching Google wipe out spammers with updates like this is a great thing!