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Are exact match domains still a good choice?

Domain name enthusiasts refer to certain domain names as being “exact match.” Usually, this means the domain name describes a product or service, such as cars.com being an exact match domain for a site about cars. This compares to a brandable domain, which is one where the domain doesn’t describe the product, such as Amazon.com not selling the Amazon river.

The power and value of exact match domains used to be absolute. The consensus was that using a domain that exactly describes the products or services of a website was a good bet for a couple of reasons.

First, people type the domain in and find exactly what they are looking for. Also, Google gave lots of importance to the words in a domain name, making it easier to rank for the term of the domain. 

But Google has significantly reduced the importance of the words in a domain name in its search algorithms. So are these exact match domains still a good choice for websites?

Here are examples of two companies that are using exact match domains. One has been around for over a year and has had great results. The other is just getting off the ground but believes the valuable, exact-match domain will help it jump into the business.

BBQGrills.com

Ryan Maltbie had just $600 left in the bank account when he started his barbecue grill e-commerce store. But he had something much more valuable than the cash: a couple of years earlier, he bought BBQGrills.com and BBQGrill.com. He won’t say how much he paid for the domains but did say he refinanced his house to buy them.

He launched the site at the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic struck. With the aid of the great, exact-match domain name, his company is off to a remarkable start.

With no advertising, BBQGrills.com generated $1.4 million in revenue in 2020. This year it sold that much in just 90 days and sold over $500,000 of products in a single month.

Ryan credits the exact match domain name for much of the success.

“The reality is that we would not be successful if we were selling these products off of RyansOutDoorKitchens .com,” he said on the Domain Name Wire Podcast

yacht

Yachts.com

Let’s say you knew nothing about the boating industry but wanted to start a business connecting customers with yacht charters. How could you instantly build credibility with both consumers and yacht companies?

Owning Yachts.com would be a big help.

Entrepreneur Eric Borgos paid $350,000 to acquire the domain name this year.

“Yachting is a $15 billion dollar a year industry, and much more than with most businesses, a luxury image means everything with yachts, so having the best, classiest domain for it could make a huge difference,” Borgos wrote on his blog

And Borgos thinks there’s another benefit to owning such a great domain: if his yachting business flops, the domain name is still a valuable asset he can sell to someone else.

It will be interesting to see if owning the Yachts.com domain name helps his company get off the ground like it helped Maltbie.

What about domains as an investment?

Clearly, these two entrepreneurs see value in owning exact match domain names for their businesses. So what does this mean for domain investors?

Lately, one-word domains that can be used as a brand have become more popular than exact match domains that describe a product or industry. Think Lemonade.com for an insurance company. Like Amazon.com, the site’s domain has nothing to do with what it sells.

But exact match domains still have value. They might be an even better bet if they have both exact match and brandable uses.

An example is Desktop.com. Desktop.com doesn’t literally sell desktops, but it offers an easy way to organize web apps in what it considers a “desktop”, like what you see on your computer.

Desktop.com founder Rolf Larsen says this great domain has helped his business get instant credibility, which has been important for raising funding and getting its initial clients.

Exact match domains can have a role in any domain portfolio.

Is the exact match right for your website?

Give a lot of thought before your business chooses an exact match domain name. As Ryan Maltbie’s experience with BBQGrills.com shows, an exact match domain can help accelerate a business out of the gate.

There can be challenges, though. Exact match domains can be more difficult to create a brand around. And if you pivot your business to sell a different type of product or service, or expand well beyond the initial product category, you might find yourself needing to rebrand.
If you have ideas on which domains to register, why not see if they’re available? And be sure to check out our tips on getting started with domain investing.

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Andrew Allemann avatar

Andrew Allemann

Andrew is the founder and editor of Domain Name Wire, a publication that has been covering domain names since 2005. He has personally written over 10,000 posts covering domain name sales, policy, and strategies for domain name owners. Andrew has been quoted in stories about domain names in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and Fortune. More articles written by Andrew.

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