There has been a lot written about whether it is still worth getting a domain with an exact match to a particular keyword you are interested in and whether or not they work. Over the years, Google has become much better at delivering relevant search results to consumers and to some degree, EMD’s have been limited in their success. I believe there is good reason for that. Obviously, just because you own a domain with the exact match to a keyword doesn’t necessarily mean you have the best website for people searching for those specific keywords. However, I think it’s still an important consideration if you are looking for a new domain for a number of reasons.
First, there is the obvious point of branding. If you are trying to sell a product, having one of the main product words in your domain can help users trust your site more and improve the click through rate from the search results. However, focusing on an exact match with SEO tunnel vision can quickly get you into trouble. Let’s say you find a domain with four words that make up a pretty good exact match query. You have to remember that there are usually going to be lots of different ways consumers are going to search for that phrase so focusing on one term may keep you from finding that traffic coming from all of those variations.
I’m in real estate so I will use an example from my slice of the web. My market is Atlanta. There are a handful of keywords that make up the majority of searches for people looking to buy a house here; atlanta homes for sale, atlanta real estate, real estate in atlanta, homes for sale in atlanta, etc…let’s say you pick up a domain like atlantahomesforsale(dot)com. This would be a great term, but it doesn’t by itself do anything to get you any traffic for atlanta real estate, homes for sale in atlanta, real estate in atlanta and the inumerable other variations consumers are going to use when performing searches – that is, if we assume that the EMD will still actually help for the one search term we purchased the domain to help us with.
Back in 2012, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s SPAM team announced a filter for low quality EMD’s:
Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
I believe this is a good thing and is part of the continued evolution of Google. I also believe that there still MAY be some benefit to exact match domains, but I would like to share some thoughts about it first as I just purchased one that I think can be helpful to my business – provided I ensure the content on the site is going to be of value to consumers searching for this search phrase.
Here is something to think about if you do decide to use an exact match domain. Make sure it’s the right EMD. That is, make sure you are going to be using the one you feel is most helpful or can deliver the most traffic (preferably both) to the consumer. In the one I just purchased, I thought about several variations of a search phrase. I focus much of my business in real estate in a suburb of Atlanta called Alpharetta. So, I had to ask myself what phrase would be best or most specific and relevant to the general query of Alpharetta real estate. I thought of a handful of phrase that include; alpharetta real estate, alpharetta ga real estate, alpharetta homes for sale, alpharetta homes and homes for sale in alpharetta.
After thinking about this for a couple of days, I came to believe that “homes for sale in alpharetta” was the best phrase if I could find that domain. The next thing I did was used the Keyword Planner in my Google’s Adwords account. In this tool, you can get a general idea of the number of impressions each of these variations receives along with the CTR and other information:
Perhaps “alpharetta homes for sale” may have more impressions, but not once you look at the CTR so I decided to purchase alpharettahomesforsale(dot)net. I’m not linking to it, because it isn’t anywhere near ready for someone to view at this point.
So, Do They Still Work?
I believe they do with a caveat. It’s been shown through some testing by people much smarter about this kind of stuff than me that the older EMD’s are still working well and we know that low quality EMD’s are not showing up as well because of the filter and it would probably serve as good notice that a “new” EMD is probably going to qualify as low quality at least for a while so it’s important to be patient and build high quality content if you are trying a test such as the one I am doing. Actually, what I am doing isn’t so much a test as it is a strategic attempt to develop a high quality website for consumers on this topic using a domain with a strong exact match query. However, if you think you are going to throw up a trash website with an EMD and get it to rank, you are wasting your time.
For years Google has said build a good site with content made for the consumer and you will succeed. If you aren’t willing to put in the work needed to make that happen, don’t bother worrying about an EMD.