Are Keyword-Rich Domain Names Still a Thing?

Should I Have Keywords in My Domain?

Not so long ago, back in mid-2016, I was disappointed to see that many websites were ranking high up on page 1 for no good reason besides their domain was exactly or very closely matched to my search query. The bummer of the past 10+ years that the internet has been flooded by Plumbers switching their business names from “AAAA Plumbing” to “” and it has worked. Shouldn’t we be beyond this by now?

People ask me about this a lot so I actually researched this deeply multiple times in 2016. It was sad, but true – keywords in your domain could make a BIG difference. Then at some point in the Fall of 2016, things changed. My domain name research became confusing and wildly inconsistent. Business owners kept calling to ask if they should switch their domain . My short answer became, “I just don’t know”.

Two recent disappointing examples of this are currently ranking in the middle of page 7 for “acupuncture in boulder” and with wildly unpredictable rankings relevant phrases.

The truth is that this is a big issue that Google has likely been chipping away at for years. And it’s complicated. We’ll leave the advanced technical research of Exact Match Domains (EMDs) and Partial Match Domains (PMDs) to others for now. You can find plenty of that on Google if you ask the right questions. All I know is that the writing has been on the wall (and on lots of blogs) for years now and we can see a sea change happening here. It’s long overdue.

Choosing a Domain Name for your Website

Yes you want your new website to rank as high as it can, right? Like tomorrow, right? Okay, but what about in 3 years or 5 years and beyond? Putting a new small business website out on the web is a lot like opening a new pizza joint in Downtown New Haven, CT. Are you kidding? Pizza in New Haven has been a big deal for generations and you want to rank where? Your pizza had better be mind-blowing. And that’s just it.

Today I can tell you that probably is not the best domain selection. Don’t even bother. My new answer to how to rank really well online? Do what Pepe’s does:

Make Great Pizza!*

*Disclosure: I was born in New Haven is consistently voted “Best Pizza in America” and I was born there, and I’ve eaten Pepe’s Pizza- so I’m an expert about it. 


Google is getting spooky-sophisticated as we’re knocking on the door of AI in the next few years. Google is getting really good at knowing exactly what you are looking for. And providing you excellent search results is how they make their money!

Think About it:

  1. Google now suggests great searches to you as you type and sometimes even give you the answers to your questions as you begin typing them!
  2. Google knows the busiest times of day at your pizza place because they track clicks, calls, directions requests and even users cell phones inside your store 24/7.
  3. Google can tell you exactly how long it will take for you to get to the pizza place because it knows the speed of traffic, road conditions and weather conditions.

Do you still believe that making an effort to “Game the search results” by adding keywords in your domain will help you in the long run?

The best strategy for domain names:

  1. Choose a cool company name. Follow good branding principles.
  2. If you are a local business – it is completely natural to have a city in your business name or domain.
  3. Choose a domain name that reflects your company name.
  4. If EMD Domain snatchers have taken all the good ones, get creative. But not wonky.
  5. Just Be Awesome! Make great pizza. Success will come no matter what your name is. Just ask Google.

Best Pizza in New Haven


Do you have recent examples of success or failures of domain names? Please let us know in the comments!