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Did You Know?

80% of UK users would choose a .uk website over a .com website in the search results

77% of UK consumers prefer to shop at a .uk website over a .com website

76% of UK consumers search for product information online

65% of UK print and television ads now include domain names

56% of UK consumers regularly buy online

Source: Nominet Domain Name Industry Report 2010

Client Testimonials

"Having decided to add a Press Release function to our network of sites, we found the perfect name on Memorable Domains. Edwin was a pleasure to do business with and the transfer process was quick and painless."
   James Read, Adsonline LLP (bought

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CASE STUDY: The Use of Generic Domain Names to Improve PPC Ad Campaign Results

A targeted, exact-match generic domain name was used in the URL of a PPC ad campaign to double the click-through rate of that campaign vs an identical campaign run with a "brandable" domain name.

NOTE: This document is also available in PDF format, with additional footnotes.

Executive Summary

A challenge for online marketers is getting more clicks out of their pay-per-click search engine campaigns.

One approach is to use a generic domain name in PPC ads, since product- or service-related keywords in the displayed domain name and landing page should attract more clicks from people searching for that product or service.

We tested this theory using an AdWords PPC campaign for electric bicycles.

Ads featuring a generic domain name with an exact match to the product ( performed significantly better than identical ads featuring an alternative generic ( or non-generic ( domain.

The CTR of ads using the domain name was 15% and 42% higher than the two alternatives.

The ads produced 45% more clicks than the ads and 105% more clicks than the ads.

We conclude that the strong performance of a generic domain name is driven by factors such as:

  • the close match between the domain name and the product searched for (irrespective of the search keywords used)
  • automatic bolding of search terms in the domain
  • the potential positive impact of the domain name on ad quality score

Marketers should consider using generic domain names for dedicated PPC search engine campaigns for specific products, services or advertising initiatives.


A generic domain name describes a product or service using the words people automatically associate with the topic. Examples would be:


One of the benefits claimed for such generic domain names is that they attract more search engine clicks (both organic and paid) for product and service searches. Reasons given are:

  • The close association between search terms and domain name encourages searchers to click
  • The presence of search terms in the domain name leads to higher organic rankings or a better ad quality score in pay-per-click ad ranking algorithms
  • Search engines commonly automatically bold any word in the domain name that matches the search term, drawing attention to the listing

This claim makes clear intuitive sense, but do the numbers support the theory?

We ran some tests in AdWords designed to gauge the true impact of a generic domain name on PPC search engine results, including impressions, clicks, CTR and CPC.

The Scenario

First, we developed and published an 11-page, content-rich, informational minisite as our landing page. The site was dedicated to electric bicycles, a popular product group among environmentally-aware travellers:

screendump of landing page for ad campaign

We then chose three domain names to compare:

  • (an "ideal" matching generic domain)
  • (an alternative generic name with some keyword benefits)
  • (a "traditional" coined, keyword-poor domain)

All three domains resolved to the same minisite landing page, customised only by the automated inclusion of the domain name in 2 locations on the page.

Then we used keyword research tools to identify the most important keywords and key phrases relating to this topic, and split them into two groups.

Keyword Group A included relevant search terms featuring the words "bicycle" or "bicycles". Keyword Group B included relevant search terms featuring the alternative words "bike" or "bikes".

Campaign Tests

We set up an AdWords campaign with two Ad Groups, one for each keyword group.

We split the campaign into these two groups so we could test three things:

  1. The overall AdWords performance of each of the three domain names
  2. The comparative AdWords performance of an "ideal" generic name when it closely matches a set of relevant search terms (the "electric bicycles" group)
  3. The comparative AdWords performance of an "ideal" generic domain name for a set of search terms where other generic domains might be equally appropriate (the "electric bikes" group)

Ads were run on Google Search and search partners only, with the device platform limited to desktop and laptop computers. The targeted language was English and location restricted to the United Kingdom.

Ad serving was set to rotate ads more evenly, with no ad scheduling.

The following three ad variations were rotated for the Ad Group featuring "electric bicycle" keywords:

Electric Bicycle -

Electric Bicycle -

Electric Bicycle -

Each ad featured the same copy and headline, but a different display URL. The destination link for the ad headline matched the display URL.

A similar approach was applied to the second Ad Group, featuring "electric bikes" keywords:

Electric Bike -

Electric Bike -

Electric Bike -

Note that the ad headline for each Ad Group reflected the targeted keywords, as would be usual in an optimized PPCSE campaign.

Important: the only difference between the ads within each Ad Group was the domain name used. Headlines, copy and landing page content were identical.

The campaign ran from February 10 to February 22, 2009.

Interestingly, this type of test is now no longer possible. Google recently modified its AdWords policy to state that all ads in any one Ad Group must point to the same domain.


Comparative results for the three different domain names across both Ad Groups were:

Featured Domain Impressions Clicks CTR CPC ($) 38,404 907 2.36% 0.2504 30,222 624 2.06% 0.2531 26,718 443 1.66% 0.2589

Even without optimized ad rotation selected in campaign setup, Google clearly favoured the domain, whose ads received 27% and 44% more impressions than the same ads featuring the two domain alternatives.

The CTR of ads with the domain was 15% and 42% higher than these alternatives.

Together, these impression and CTR benefits meant that the ads produced 45% more clicks than the ads and 105% more clicks than the ads.

Although CPC was also lowest for the domain, the difference was not statistically meaningful.

Graph of total number of impressions

Graph of total CTR

Graph of total number of clicks

Group A: "Electric bicycles" Keywords

Featured Domain Impressions Clicks CTR CPC ($) 13,111 393 3.00% 0.2513 11,528 252 2.19% 0.2510 7,333 141 1.92% 0.2560

The performance advantages of the domain were particularly strong in the keyword group most closely related to the domain's keywords.

CTR for the ad featuring the domain was 37% and 56% higher than the alternatives. The net result was 56% and 178% more clicks than for and

Group B: "Electric bikes" Keywords

Featured Domain Impressions Clicks CTR CPC ($) 25,293 514 2.03% 0.2497 18,694 372 1.99% 0.2546 19,385 302 1.56% 0.2603

The keywords in this group favoured both the and generic domain names. This was reflected in similar CTRs for the ads featuring those two names.

However, Google displayed the ad more often, resulting in 38% and 70% more clicks than the two domain alternatives.

Conclusions and Discussion

These results lead us to draw several conclusions about the value of a generic domain name for PPCSE campaigns.

A generic domain name outperforms a non-generic name by delivering a higher CTR and an even higher number of total clicks.

The exception is likely to be where the non-generic name is an established brand or website with a strong awareness and trust factor for the product or service search terms in question.

Even in such cases, a generic domain name has potential value in targeting very specific product or service search terms with an appropriate keyword-rich domain. Established brands should consider a generic name for minisites associated with a particular product, service or ad campaign.

The choice of generic domain name itself is also important. An "ideal" generic name was able to produce 45% more clicks across all keywords than a "reasonable" generic alternative.

Generic domain names perform particularly strongly where search and domain keywords match closely. This suggests businesses might do well to isolate keyword groups within their PPCSE campaigns, and use an appropriate generic name for each group (thus maximising the total benefits).

AdWords does not provide the kind of data that would allow us to draw clear conclusions on exactly why an "ideal" generic domain name performed so well relative to the alternatives. We believe it is due to a combination of factors, notably:

  1. Domain name closely matching the product or service being searched for (irrespective of the actual keywords used in the search).
  2. Bolding of search terms in the domain occurring more often.
  3. Impact of domain name on ad quality score.

As such, the benefits are likely a mix of an inherent "greater clickability" (factors 1 and 2) and higher ad positions (through factor 3, and through factors 1 and 2 driving better CTRs).

Whatever the explanation, we would expect to see the ads featuring the winning generic domain name appear higher up the PPC ad listings on search result pages.

Landing page analytics data reveals the ad position for each incoming click from an AdWords ad. While not the same as data on ad position for each ad impression, it likely reflects the same pattern.

The graph below reveals that the ads featuring the winning generic domain name did indeed seem to get higher average positions than the other ads:

Distribution of clicks by ad position

NOTE: This document is also available in PDF format, with additional footnotes.