“A Domain Won’t Rank Well Just Because It Has Keywords In It” – John Mueller

Wondering which domain to go for, an exact match, partial match, or brand domain? Is there a preferred format or domain extension? John Mueller gives his answer.
Marie Aquino
February 17, 2022

Exact match domains, partial match domains, or brand domains, have always been a question in SEO. Some say that exact match is dead, some say they still work.

In an SEO Subreddit, a user asked which would Google rank when people search “web design” – web-design.com, web.design, or web-design.net?

Does Google still prefer exact match domains? If so, is there a preferred format for the domains? Is there also a preferred domain extension to use?

John Mueller chimed in and answered that there is no difference in what domain name is chosen. You can even go for sabertoothed-hedgehog.com! Here is his full response:

“No difference. Also no difference if you used sabertoothed-hedgehog.com. Pick a domain name you can build on for the long run. Maybe you’re doing web-design now, but what will you do in 5, 10 years? Pick something that lets you grow, or go with a domain name that’s more like a brand which you can build out & which people can find you with directly (that would be my recommendation).

Creating separate sites for sub-business-ideas is a hassle, merging sites is a bigger hassle, moving domains is a hassle. All of these things take a lot of time, some money, and more. Go with something you want to keep for longer, which gives you room. There’s no secret (or public) SEO-bonus for having your keywords in the domain name.

(and for those coming with “but there are keyword domains ranking well” — of course, you can also rank well with a domain that has keywords in it. But you can rank well with other domain names too, and a domain won’t rank well just because it has keywords in it.)”

We’ve tested exact match domains vs subdomains before and while we did find out that exact match still works and that they still rank well. When it comes to building a brand and growing a brand, a branded domain is still your best choice as it does not limit you to only the keyword that you are targeting.

Similar to Mueller’s answer, it’s a hassle to create separate sites to target additional lines of business or services or maybe even an additional location, it takes time to merge sites, migrate to a new domain, etc. If your aim is to build your business and brand, why limit yourself to an exact match domain, in order to just rank?