Are Exact-Match Domains An Effective SEO Tactic?

by | Mar 13, 2017 | SEO

Times change.

Several SEO strategies that used to be effective are now either worthless or could even score you a Google penalty. Some of the old-school and/or black-hat techniques that might have helped your site rank in the past include:

  • Keyword stuffing (jamming in a certain keyword as many times as you possibly can, whether it actually makes sense or not)
  • Blog farms or private blog networks (purchasing a bunch of links from low-quality and often irrelevant websites).

There are many other techniques that no longer work, but the one we’re going to talk about today is exact-match domains.

What is an exact-match domain?

An exact-match domain is a domain name that contains the keyword you want your site to rank for.

The idea is that having the keyword right there in your domain means your site will climb to page 1 and you’ll get all the traffic. For example, if your domain name was www.emergencyplumberbrisbane.com.au, you’d rank #1 for ‘emergency plumber Brisbane’ searches and you’d be flooded with calls about leaking showers.

But it’s not quite that simple.

Why are exact-match domains bad?

First of all, search engines are likely to see a website as spam if the URL contains exact-match keywords. Since having keywords in your domain used to give you a better chance of ranking, many websites with low-quality content previously appeared in the top positions.

So to create a better user experience, Google introduced the Exact Match Domain Algorithm. This update targets websites with exact-match domains and low-quality content. Google software engineer Matt Cutts tweeted that this algorithm affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree.

Matt Cutts Twitter

Even if you manage to rank on the first page with an exact-match domain, your listing is likely to be pushed further down the results page due to all the features Google has introduced for search engine results pages (SERPs). At best, your site will appear halfway down the first page under Local Packs and other Google SERP features.

Google Local Pack

SERP features like Local Packs (above) mean there’s less room on the page for exact-match domains.

So what type of domain should you choose?

The best type of domain is generally a unique name, especially for branded searches. Going with a unique name will have more benefits for your business. And by creating quality, targeted content for your website, you can still rank for the keywords you would have previously chosen to include in your domain. Your search results will also likely feature a Google My Business Knowledge Graph and Sitelinks, and you’ll also increase the chances of having the links to your social media channels under your website in the results.

GMB Knowledge Graph

A branded search for your business will usually display a Google My Business Knowledge Graph.

Sitelinks

Sitelinks give searchers a way to instantly navigate to the most useful page of your site.

In short, an exact-match domain has more negatives than positives. The Google EMD Algorithm could potentially negatively impact your site if you have an exact-match domain with low-quality content, and your website is likely to be pushed down the SERPs by Google features such as Local Packs.

We recommend a unique domain name because:

  • It is likely to rank at the top for branded searches
  • You could have the benefit of Google My Business Knowledge Graphs
  • Your listing has the possibility of including Sitelinks
  • Your social channels are likely to appear under your website.

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