At this point, search engines like Google still offer a ranking bonus for a particular keyword is that exact keyword is the entire domain name. In general, keywords in URLs are nice and can help rankings, but the exact in particular has consistently offered a noticeable difference. So, in the evaluation of a particular domain, this aspect should be considered. But how, and to what extent?

Shaky Ground

First, it should be mentioned that at any given moment, this particular advantage can disappear. While in many cases it represents a worthwhile connecting of a user to an extremely relevant site, the potential for (and existing instances of) abuse make it a risky ranking factor. If Google decides that the bonus is doing more harm to their results than good, they can pull the plug.

A General Formula

When assessing most things, the calculation often comes down to a combination of quality and quantity. In this case, quantity represents search volume potential for the exact term (by default Broad Match is selected, and you need to check the Exact Match box to get the right figure), whereas quality can represent a few things, including potential to drive sales, and, in the easiest and most direct sense, the Google Adwords estimated average cost per click (cpc) for bids for this keyword. This figure represents what it would cost for a click from a Google ad, all other factors affecting click costs being equal. The more value that keyword can bring, the more people tend to be willing to pay for it, which drives the average cost up. So if you see a high cost, the keyword has potential, and any organic ranking advantage you can snag is probably worth it.

As such, while domaining obviously involves a large amount of factors, on this front a basic way to look at it is the Adwords monthly volume X cpc. This does not represent the amount you would earn per month, as from the Adsense side your money doesn’t equal the amount the person spent on the Adwords side (Google does take a cut), plus the exact domain doesn’t necessarily mean rankings, rankings don’t necessarily mean clicks from every searches, and clicks to your site don’t necessarily all turn into Adsense clicks.

At this point, it’s hard to really know what a volume and cpc combination would really bring your bottom line, even if you were certain you could lock up a top ranking. I just bought an exact match domain with over a million monthly exact searches and a lowish but not negligible estimated average cpc. With that kind of volume, I should see some return for sure once my site gets ranking, but it’ll be hard to know the potential until I do get the rankings going, and even then tweaking the design of the site along with the look and placement of the ads can have an important impact.

Even if you can’t predict an exact return on investment, this formula does give you some relative basis for comparison between multiple exact match domain options, or even between keywords in general outside of domaining. Like I said, it does get more complicated than this, but having a starting point for numerical comparison is really handy.

Non-Functional Keywords

Sometimes the volumes and cpc scores are good, but the domain is still potentially not worth buying because of the kind of keyword it is. In scouting for domains for sale at auction, I often come across keywords that were clearly bought for this reason. For example, let’s say ‘garden hose holder’ had great volume and cpc scores, and you could get a good deal on gardenhoseholder.com. While that might be tempting, a site about garden hose holders in particular might come across as a bit strange. Yes, the interest is there, but people searching are likely looking for a site for which garden hose holders represent a single category among others, and as a result, might not so much be willing to click on a domain like yours.

Yes, you might be able to flip the domain to someone not considering this (or who is intending to flip as well), but in general, it’s a better idea to buy sites that could be developed into successes, even if you don’t intend to at all. Have a search for the keyword in question and see what the results show. Would an exact match domain make sense in those results? Even if they don’t, if the volumes and cpc are high enough it may still be worth it. I’m just highlighting a factor to consider.

On the flipside, if a medium volume and cpc could very easily be turned into not only a plausible site but a plausibly clickable search result, then that should boost your interest.

Moving Forward

Do keep an eye out for these kinds of domains. If you’ve been a domainer for a while, didn’t think of domains in these terms, but kept seeing strange amounts of bid interest or high costs on some domains, this could very well be why. Even if this does not become a primary domain evaluation factor for you, it’s still a good idea to always do this kind of check. For some domains it will be totally empty (like short, brandable, meaningless words), but if it seems like the domain is indeed a keyword, it only makes sense to check it out from a keyword standpoint specifically.

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