Do Exact Match Domains Still Work in SEO?
Hey SEO folks!
Today our topic of discussion is, do exact match domains still work in SEO?
Here’s a teaser to what we are going to take you through:-
|Table of content:
While this ranking factor still works for Local SEO, you cannot just rank a website using EMD’s.
Many people are confused on this topic and there are a couple of discussions where some agree to it & some don’t.
Well, today we are going to take you through all of it via this post, all you need to do is stick till the end to get all doubts cleared.
Let’s get started with it.
What’s an Exact Match Domain(EMD)?
What’s an Exact Match Domain(EMD)?
It is a Domain with your targeted keyword. It is also called Keyword Domain.
For Example- You want to rank for a keyword, “buy college bags online”. If you would use an EMD in your domain, it should look like www.buycollegebagsonline.com.
Basically, when you choose a domain with your exact targeted keyword, it is called an Exact Match Domain. It’s like a fully keyword rich domain.
Google’s Official Statement
We always include(if available) an official statement from Google. In this video from 2011, someone did ask a question on the Webmaster’s Official YouTube Channel:-
Question: – How would you explain “The Power of Keyword Domains” to someone looking to make a decision about what kind of domain to go for?
Matt Cutts replied:-
It’s definitely possible to succeed without having keywords in your Domain. Think about some of the biggest successes there are Like “Zynga”, nothing in the Domain name says Social or Gaming or Anything like that. Other Examples Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, I mean the names that are brandable, that you can recall when you think about, tend not to be those Keywords laden Domain. It all depends on your goals, I would prefer domains which are brandable, because for example if you have 15 sites about Android, and all have android, android, android, it’s gonna be little hard to remember, to rise above the noise if you have something brandable, people tend you to remember, they’re going to be able to come back.
Some People have complained that we are giving much weight for Keywords in Domains, so we have been thinking about adjusting the noise little bit & sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm so that within given two different domains it would not help you as much as to have a domain with a bunch of Keywords in it.”
As you have read Matt Cutts doesn’t insist on buying a Keyword rich domain, So, they also changed the Algorithm back in September 2012 which doesn’t give much weightage to an EMD.
P.S:- There was a time when you just needed a domain with your targeted keyword, with no or less content & it ranked on the 1st page of Google.
Look what Eric Schmidt have to say about it:-
Recently at SMX West 2017, Search Engine Land asked Google questions regarding usage of EMD’s
Does EMD Still Work?
Google has never said that it is Black Hat method or a violation of their guidelines, but in the interest of doing good SEO, you should focus on what factors will rank your websites at the top.
For the keyword “shop beauty products”, we see that an EMD is ranking right after “Amazon”.
Here, we see that these websites are ranking on the 1st page, with Keywords in their Domain.
In the first example, the top 2 positions are considered as websites which are using an EMD.
In the second example, the search result for “expireddomain.net” is considered to be a brand search for Google along with all the other websites targeting that generic keyword.
In the above image, the top position website is using an EMD.
An amazing case study written by Mark Preston on Moz.com signifies the power of EMD’s. We have taken a short relevant snippet from the case study –
Mark Preston wanted to start its own SEO Consultant firm, so he registered the domain markprestonseo.com. He used his own experience of 15 Years and developed a user & search friendly website.
After a couple of months, when he checked the links through Ahrefs and noticed that the site was ranking on the first page for the keyword “Preston SEO”. It came as a surprise to him because Preston is a city and the administrative centre of Lancashire, England. While his business address, the address on his website, Google My Business, and citations all stated that his business is located in Blackpool (where he is located), not Preston. (The towns are about 17 miles, or 27 km, apart)
You Might be thinking how is it possible?
Here, Google algorithms got confused between Mark’s surname & the local Preston area. Google used markprestonseo.com as an Partial Match Domain.
I agree that the search volume is not great, but Google is clearly ranking him for a town that his business is not located in. To me, this shows that local is all messed up or the algorithm is seeing “Preston SEO” as a keyword, and not a location, so they are ranking him based on the keyword anchor text which just happens to be part of his domain.
We have seen that, despite the Exact Match Domain Update, Google still gives importance to EMD & PMD.
But that should not be the case every time. In the next section, we will do a comparison on when to use an Exact Matching Keyword or a Brand Name for your Domain.
Here’s another case study you can refer to: https://seojet.net/blog/seo-case-study-emd/
Branded Domains Vs EMDs
After reading the case study and GG’s slight love towards EMD’s, some of you might be convinced to use an EMD for your websites.
But that’s not always the case – both EMDs & branded domains have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.
|Pros of using a Branded Domain||Pros of using an EMD|
|A brand name has the ability to give your website an identity.||An EMD might work for niche businesses which have products focused only on a single thing. (casual shoes, silk kurtas, hemp shirts, etc.)|
|They are easy to remember. (As your brand is how customers remember you)||You might get an edge over other websites while ranking for that exact keywords!|
|It sounds less spammy.||Higher search engine click-through rates (CTR)|
|You can get a .com domain easily if you have a unique name.||You can target a local area to get quick traffic using an EMD or PMD.|
|A catchy & unique domain will help your brand establish authority in the long run.|
|Cons of using Branded Domains||Cons of using EMDs|
|Building up your website‘s credibility with Google takes longer and requires more effort.||EMDs and PMDs (Partial match domains) can limit your branding efforts and can create brand confusion later with similar businesses.|
|Click-through rates may be lower compared to websites using EMD or PMD.||Branding becomes generic.|
|Getting the exact handle for social media profiles would be difficult considering a generic name.|
|Users would not be able to remember your brand name|
|If a user will search for your brand in Google, it will show up along with all the other websites targeting that generic keyword. (like in the case of Expired Domains)|
As we have read, Google’s Official Statement & also, some of the rankings where EMDs are effective, we conclude that both of these domains have their own sets of advantages & disadvantages.
In SEO, there’s no direct answer for a given method or technique. It depends on our objective, location, competition, etc.
EMDs can be used if that’s your brand name and you are sure about continuing with it. Garry has mentioned that EMD’s are not bad but people use it to make it look bad.
If your objective is to rank for a keyword and you think, just buying an EMD will help you to rank on top, then you are WRONG! You might get an edge over others in this case but remember that it’s just a slight edge (1 out of 200 factors). Also, using an EMD has a disadvantage that your website might only appear (on top) for those set of queries used in the domain. And with this logic (which is incorrect), you will probably need to create an exact match domain for each category of your website!
If your brand name is generic like Cheap Flights or Weather Channel which in itself has a lot of search volume apart for their brand name (basically, where people are looking for flights that are cheap or weather reports) then it’s completely fine.
Lastly, think from a long term perspective and use a brand name that users will remember and search for!
Using an exact match keyword in your domain might rank your website but the other websites (which targets that keyword) will also appear in the SERP because for Google it becomes difficult to differentiate between a branded query and a generic one!
If you have any questions, shoot it in the comment section.