A Great Domain Will Not Get You On The First Page Of Google

I’ve heard this over and over lately so it’s time for me to put this myth to bed once and for all. Many new Domainers getting-into this space are opting for development. This is a good thing and in my opinion the best way to build a business vs. being self-employed in the Domaining space. Remember, business owners can walk-away from their business for a month or two and still make the same money they were before. People who are self-employed still don’t answer to “the man” but when they take time-off, the money takes time-off too!

As more people get attracted to Domains and the development potential the topic of The First Page Of Google comes up. The first page of Google is the apex of SEO success and for those enjoying first-page spots you know that the traffic can be incredible. Of course I’m talking about ranking for something meaningful, anyone can get on the first page of Google for a term that under 500 people are looking for, but get into the 1,000+ range, where the real traffic is, and it gets harder.

The problem I see happening now is that new Domainers are doing the right thing and buying domains with keywords that exactly match popular search phrases. Nothing wrong with that right? The problem isn’t with the names that they are buying, it is with the expectations that they have for the names. If you’ve truly picked a niche with good search volume and revenue potential, guess what? Other people will already be in the space and good domain or not they’ve probably done the SEO work to earn their spot. Many new Domainers and new Domainer-Developers think, “with this exact match domain I’ll be on the first page of Google in no time!”


That’s right, I’ve said it over and over again this year and I’ll say it again now. A great domain will not get you on the first page of Google. Sorry, Google used to put more weight on domain names but they have dramatically decreased the impact that domains have on ranking. Bing, on the other hand still puts a lot of emphasis on domains and getting onto the first Page of Bing with an exact-match domain is a much easier prospect. Don’t forget Bing represents 38% of the search traffic…that’s a big number!

So then what’s the point of buying an exact-match domain?

An exact-match domain will always give you an advantage in the search engines. Google does use the domain name as part of its ranking algorithm, but you’ll have to do a number of other things right in order to get onto the first page. I think of exact-match domains as a very important part of my SEO strategy, but I acknowledge that it’s only a part, it’s not a shoe-in like so many people think.

What an exact-match domain can help me do is something that is important to every SEO nut like myself out there – outrank the competition. Let’s say I want to rank well in the debt niche and for the term “debt elimination programs” well the person who is #1 in Google is using an exact-match domain with dashes and the word reviews at the end. I have a stronger more targeted domain, if I do everything that person is doing (i.e. same or more pages of content, same or more number of backlinks, etc.) I can beat them.

That is what an exact-match domain is good for. To put it bluntly, it is the nail in the coffin, the one small thing that can give you that minor competitive edge that makes the difference. Let’s face it, being on the bottom of the first page of Google is one thing, get above the fold for a lucrative term and you could have a passive income stream for life. Just remember, the domain name is only part of your SEO strategy, if you think all those names you bought will guarantee you first page rankings you’ll have to come back down to earth and do the work that your competitors are doing.

Use exact-match domains like tools, it’s a bit like cheating – you give yourself an edge in whatever niche you want. Still it’s what you do with that edge will determine if you get on the first page of Google or spend your life relegated to the catacombs of page two and beyond…

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Kate Hutchinson December 3, 2010, 7:55 am

    Nice analysis here. I think a lot of people make the mistake of assuming that the domain name itself does all the work. Website development takes a lot more work than one might think at first.

    But starting out with a great domain name is a good step in the right direction!

  • Mike Sullivan December 3, 2010, 8:04 am

    I’m a huge fan of keyword domains. I think you’ve made some great points. There is no guarantee. But with good SEO and a good keyword name, you can kick ass. Other benefits are: easy to remember, lends credibility, and just looks good to the eye.

  • Rich December 3, 2010, 8:46 am

    I agree in part, but I think you are undervaluing the domain name a bit too much. I have a great domain name and here is what I have found, via experimentation over the years, are some of the most important factors:

    1) Domain name
    2) Domain age
    3) Title of the site
    4) Coherence of the first three factors listed above with site content
    5) Site activity (e.g. length of time that a visitor lingers on a site)
    6) Strength (authority) of links to pages on a site
    7) Freshness of a site

    Google’s algorithms actually do a pretty good job of finding good content for placement of ads, which appears to be its primary goal at this time.

  • Leonard Britt December 3, 2010, 8:56 am

    Yes, an exact-match domain is great for branding and can help with search ranking but Google places far more emphasis on inbound links, site age, etc so an area I realize I need to work on with my sites is getting those authoritative or topic-related links. It can be frustrating to put a lot of work into developing a site with an exact-match domain with significant search volume to find your site ranks on page ??? of Google and page five of Yahoo. Chitika and SEO Book have published some findings regarding the traffic obtained from various search positions. There is little value to being on page three to five other than knowing you are in the ballpark and need to keep working.

    • Morgan December 3, 2010, 1:44 pm

      Great comments everyone!

      Just to be clear on my post. I’m not saying that exact-match domains don’t make a difference, they do, it’s the core of my strategy. What I am saying is that it’s following SEO best practices that will allow you to edge-out the competition. The list is much longer than what you posted @Rich and I’ve written a number of posts about the step-by-step SEO process that I follow. At the end of the day SEO must start with one thing – good content. Without good content you will never have repeat customers and without repeat customers you don’t have much of a business.

      As for exact-match domains standing-out to end-users I completely agree. I think people are much more likely to click on exact-match domains. You just have to do your part to get the domain in front of them, if it’s on page two they may never see your great domain!

      Bill, I’ve done a number of posts about Link-Building – I’m happy to send some of these over to you 🙂

      Also everyone please remember, ranking well for something that has a lot of results is different than ranking well for something with traffic. I can rank well for plenty of terms that have millions of results but only a few searches a month. You need to use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool and look at the exact-match local search traffic if you want to understand how much traffic your site could get.

      I think @Mike Sullivan said it best in his comment, “With good SEO and a good keyword name, you can kick ass. Other benefits are: easy to remember, lends credibility, and just looks good to the eye.”

      Just remember good SEO means not using duplicate content, having excellent title tags, and much more. So many people throw a few pages of duplicate content up and change their title tags and then wonder why they don’t rank well 😉

  • Nameclerk December 3, 2010, 8:59 am


    Perhaps I missed it but I don’t recall reading a lot about your link building strategies for your development projects. Link building is one of the most important components of ranking and is also the toughest, most time consuming step in my opinion.

    Many good niches don’t draw natural links even when quality sites are built on quality domains. Outsourced link building is hit or miss with many scammers offering services in this area. Add in the fact that Google likes to see a wide variation of different types of links coming to your site and it becomes a very daunting task with no guarantee you’ll achieve the results you’re looking for.

    Do you have a standard method you’ve found to be effective? I know it’s a bit off topic for this post but it would make for a good future article and would be much appreciated. Especially from the standpoint of the domain investor who’s building out niche sites with exact match domains.


  • Chris December 3, 2010, 12:17 pm

    You have some very interesting points – and you did lay the age old “exact name” domain question to rest.
    I have a “made up” NOT keyword specific .co domain that is finally starting to show up on the first page of google for certain keywords – there are 13.1 million results and I show up at around 7 or 8 on the list – Any suggestions on how to improve that rank?

    Also – on a side note – I did enjoy reading the part that said anyone can rank #1 on google if 500 or less people search for the term. If you type in “co do follow” into google – my blog surprisingly comes up as #1 – and there are 569,000,000 results – yet when I typed this into Adwords keyword tool – I didnt see any monthly searches for it. O well – I think that in time people will start recognizing .co domains – what do you think?

  • Don December 3, 2010, 1:02 pm

    I think people look at the url when searching for an exact term. If your domain has an exact search and your listing comes up on the first page most people scan the title then the url. Not everyone though I think it sure helps to have the exact term regardless of how bing or google ranks them. They can change the way they rake sites on a dime.

    For example if you put in California Homes, the url should have these two terms in it as opposed bluedog1homes etc. People will click the url that has californiahhomes——.com more often just like when you see a google ad on the right side. If it is well writen that well help also.

    Also the the exact keyword for the url will be for credible and trustworthy.


  • Ed from htmlpress.net December 3, 2010, 3:42 pm

    “…being on the bottom of the first page of Google is one thing, get above the fold for a lucrative term and you could have a passive income stream for life”

    sometimes I wonder if it’s better to be on the second page of a search term and be the first entry rather than be at the bottom of page one.

  • PPC Ian December 3, 2010, 5:48 pm

    Great post, Morgan! I agree with everything. The one wildcard, in my opinion, is time. There are so many junk results showing up these days that I think Google could improve relevancy by weighting exact match domains even more. In terms of preparing for the future, I can’t imagine developing on anything but an exact match domain.

  • LS Morgan December 7, 2010, 2:34 am

    I just typed out a huge post about time and ‘the soak’, but I realized that PPC Ian had already commented on it.

    Yes, time is epic. I’m convinced that time/age is a primary multiple in the algo (probably somewhere in whatever incarnate Trustrank is in this week), against which every other SEO factor is ultimately contingent.

    I have a few sites that I spend upwards of an hour per day on, that exist in keyword spaces that are hyper competitive for the head terms. Keep plugging away on those tail terms, adding content, building links and developing your SN web… then, let time work its magic on all those factors…

  • LS Morgan December 7, 2010, 2:39 am

    Also, don’t forget about analyzing the competitiveness of your keyword space, which in turn allows you to use other SEO tools to figure out what your opponents are doing. There are simple tools out there (Micro Niche Finder, Market Samurai, etc) that give you a huge heads-up in this regard, particularly against Davey Domainer who’s using the G Keyword tool and campaign cost price to try and ‘guess’ what he’s up against. Against those people, I could outrank them for “Credit Cards” using LindsayLohanNipSlip.cc as my domain platform.


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