*This is a guest post by A.J. Wilcox*
Domain names are a funny thing. They are a low-cost, high-value item that many domainers have long used as a moneymaking tool. If you were first to the game, you could pick up some extremely important domain names. If you’re just now getting into the game, you are likely finding out why so many companies are choosing arbitrary names that are easy to brand, but nobody has ever used (ie. Google, zazzle, swoopo, etc).
Domain names, no matter how you slice it, are a very important SEO factor. Consider the following sampling of a Yahoo search for ‘Denver locksmith’, and look at the domain names:
Did you notice how every result on the first page contains the keyword variation in the domain name? Now, this is one of the more extreme examples I have come across, but it illustrates the point I’m trying to make.
Not Always the Silver Bullet
Depending on competition levels, an exact-match keyword domain can rocket you to the first page, and other times, you can spot situations like this where a search for the term ‘soft baby toys’ finds this site at the end of the 2nd Google SERP. It can, however, provide a quick leg up on keyword competition.
Domain Name Availability vs. Branding
I recently worked with a client who had the opportunity to use a new, exact-match domain name, or a 2-year-old branding term. After presenting the case for a quick leg up for our main keyword, he elected to stick with the better term for branding.
In the short and long term, a keyword-rich domain name can get you fast rankings, and help you keep them. In the long term, a strong brand can be worth millions, and your customers will be searching for your brand where your competitors won’t be found.
As a marketing graduate and an SEO guy, I am often conflicted on the choice between the two. Since the majority of local SEO firms deal with retrofitting sites for SEO, you usually end up going with your original domain name. This is one of those tradeoffs that you should consider when starting a new site.