Generic Domain Names in Ads Outperform Non-Generic

May 4, 2009

Generic website names that feature descriptive words of products and services deliver significantly higher click-through rates (CTRs) and overall clicks than those with non-generic domain names, according to a UK study conducted by

The study was undertaken to test the seemingly intuitive theory that a generic domain name – such as or – would attract more clicks and perform better in pay-per-click (PPC) ads than a web address with a less intuitive or lesser-known branded company name.

Significantly Higher CTRs and Clicks

To test the theory, Memorable Domains created a Google AdWords PPC campaign using electric bicycles as a test product. For the campaign, it set up identical ads with three domain names:

  • (generic domain name with an exact product match)
  • (an alternative generic domain name)
  • (a non-generic name)

Results of the test showed that ads featuring the generic domain name with an exact match to the product had a CTR that was 15% better than identical ads featuring the alternative generic, and 42% better than ads featuring the non-generic domain.


In the same test, the “ideal” generic ads produced 45% more clicks than the “reasonable” ads, and 105% more clicks than the ads, which did not intuitively explain the product.


Name Choice Also Important

These results indicate that while the use of generic keywords is important, the choice of the domain name itself is also critical, since generic domain names perform particularly strongly where search and domain keywords match closely.

Because of these positive results, Memorable Domains recommends that marketers consider using generic domain names for dedicated PPC search engine campaigns for specific products, services and advertising initiatives. Moreover, businesses might do well to isolate keyword groups within their campaigns, and use an appropriate generic name for each group.

Reasons for Generic Success

Memorable Domains attributes the strong performance of generic domain names to several factors:

  • Because a generic domain name describes a product or service using the words people automatically associate with the topic, it encourages them to click more.
  • 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.
  • There is a potential positive impact of the domain name on ad quality score.

Exceptions to the Rule

The exception to these findings, Memorable Domains said, is in cases where the 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. The findings suggest that established brands should consider a generic name for minisites associated with a particular product, service or ad campaign.

About the research: The test campaign used as the basis for the research ran from February 10 to February 22, 2009. The campaign was set up to gauge the overall AdWords performance of each of the three domain names, the comparative AdWords performance of an “ideal” generic name when it closely matches a set of relevant search terms (the “electric bicycles” group), and 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. Memorable Domains points out that this type of test is now no longer possible, since Google recently modified its AdWords policy to state that all ads in any one Ad Group must point to the same domain.

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