Are Exact Match Domains Still Effective for SEO?

Published May 02, 2014 by Eric Sornoso in SEO
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An exact match domain, or EMD, is a domain that is highly relevant to the content of your website and more specifically, exactly matches the keyword a person uses when searching for your content. An exact match domain can be a location, food, type of drink, business name or anything else that a user might be searching for. There is a debate about the effectiveness of exact match domains. Those that use them, swear by them, while others believe that the content on the page is the most important factor. Indecisiveness about whether or not you need an exact match domain can cripple you and prevent you from achieving the results you want from your website. This article is going to break through the hype, hysteria and myths about exact match domains and give you the information you need to make the right choice for your website domain name.

Prominent Top Level Domains

You know a top level domain with an exact match when you see it. Diapers.com, CloudComputing.com, Rental.com and several other companies all have exact match domain names. Now, you probably don’t know who owns these domains.

Do a little digging and you’ll find that Amazon, IBM, and Enterprise Rent-a-Car own these domain names. These are only a few examples of how these giant corporations are using exact match domains to target and own their markets. These companies know exactly what they are doing and would not purchase an exact match domain name, unless the price was worth the investment.

The Cost of Exact Match Domains

Exact match domain names are costly. This is mainly due to the fact that exact match domain names are harder to get and in high demand. However, with a little creativity, you can still find top level domain names going for a regular rate.

If you have a website that targets a niche market that nobody owns the rights to yet, then you’re in luck. You should purchase the domain and then target the content to that keyword. The thing about exact match domain names is that if you don’t have related content on your website, the exact match domain name won’t help you rank. The content has to match the domain name.

Main Benefits to Exact Match Domains

Main-Benefits-to-Exact-Match-Domains

There are a few main reasons for you to buy an exact match domain name.

If you have a website that sells several items and doesn’t target a specific niche, you might be better off buying a domain that matches your business. For example, a warehouse superstore isn’t going to benefit from an exact match domain name, unless the domain is the name of the business. In contrast, if that warehouse then purchases exact match domain names for each major department in the store, that could help increase business. Exact match domains are in limited supply and that makes them more valuable. Google also takes into account how effectively a website targets their readers.

Exact match domain names tend to rank higher for the specific keyword in the domain. However, the content does have to match for this to work most effectively. Another advantage of an exact match domain name, is that if someone starts typing the domain into a search engine, it often is the first one recommended. Another factor that adds to the value of a top level domain name is that readers tend to view them as more authoritative. Popular opinion assumes that if a website owns a popular domain name, there must be an authoritative presence behind the website.

This can drastically increase your readership. Additionally, exact match domains names are very easy to remember, so first-time readers tend to come back again and again.

Keyword Matching

Google is getting more sophisticated at catching website that employ techniques that use anchor text to try and keyword stuff a particular page. Website owners now need to diversify anchor text to prevent a website from appearing like it is trying to gain the system. The top level domain name is still seen as a legitimate way to bring in traffic based on a keyword. Think of it as the ultimate, overarching keyword for your website. The keyword appears on every page and makes any content that matches the domain name more relevant. Additionally, you can use subdomains to make additional targeted keywords. For example, a website that sells camping gear could have a top level domain that includes camping, or another related keyword in the domain. Then, for subdomains, you can further increase the SEO of the website by including different types of camping gear like tents, packs and knives.

Do Exact Match Domains Rank Higher?

Provided you follow basic SEO guidelines, the simple answer is an emphatic yes. However, there are some reasons why this is the case. Take two websites with the exact same content, publishing regimen, editorial standards and budget.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Google didn’t punish a website for plagiarism and both websites were exactly the same except that one had an exact match domain and the other didn’t. The website with the exact match domain would show up higher in the rankings. The caveat is that this would only apply if the keyword the reader searched for and the top level domain match. However, if you can get an exact match domain name that has a high keyword relevance, it can drastically increase your rankings. But, you still have to put in the work to create an effective website that readers want to visit.

The Bad and Good News

The-Bad-and-Good-News

If it seems to simple that all you need to do is buy an exact match domain name, throw up some relevant content and bring in the traffic, you’re absolutely right. In 2010, Matt Cutts made an announcement that was devastating to those trying to gain the system. He stated that a change Google was going to implement would effect exact match domains with low quality content. It was no longer assumed that an exact match domain provided the best content.

The bad news is that the algorithm change has made it harder for exact match domain names to rank high. The good news is that if you can’t afford an exact match domain, you can still compete with a website that has an exact match domain. You can do so by writing better, longer articles and ensure that your content is well researched and useful to readers.

Including highly researched content doesn’t mean you have to include references for every fact, but you should make it clear through your writing that your website provides authoritative content. In the end, very few websites were affected by the exact match domain algorithm change. Matt Cutts later announced that only 0.6 percent of all search queries were affected by the change.

Final Thoughts

This goes to show that most people that invest in an exact match domain also know they must fill it with high-quality, engaging content. In summary, an exact match domain is going to help your keyword relevance and authoritative appeal to readers, but it is still the content and the value that you provide to readers that is going to make or break your website.

 

Written by Eric Sornoso

Eric Sornoso

Eric Sornoso is an avid learner and online marketing consulting. He runs Infographic Seeding and Fish Free Media, and is an author for several major SEO publications, including SocialMediaExaminer.com.

  • http://www.nebulasdesign.com/ Nebulas Website Design

    I think removing the emphasis from exact match domains can only be a good thing meaning the returned searches will now be more relevant and not just a site that ranks well because it has an exact match domain.

  • http://www.nebulasdesign.com/ Nebulas Website Design

    I think removing the emphasis from exact match domains can only be a good thing meaning the returned searches will now be more relevant and not just a site that ranks well because it has an exact match domain.

  • http://guadagnareonline.marketing/ Alessandro Cettul

    Nice Article, I think exact match will be less relevant in future.

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