Exact Match Domains & SEO: Do They Still Work?

Exact match domains (EMDs) were once considered the prize jewel of SEO. However, with Google’s many algorithm updates providing natural and high-quality search results, people are left asking whether EMDs still hold a competitive edge.

Read on to find out how exact match domains impact SEO, how Google sees EMDs, and whether you need to consider acquiring one for your business.

What is an Exact Match Domain (EMD)?

In a nutshell, exact match domains are domain names that contain specific keywords that match a particular search query.

There are countless EMDs on the internet owned by businesses, domain brokers, and cybersquatters who aim to earn by selling domains with trademark keywords at potentially very high prices.

For instance, a furniture shop in Sydney that wanted an exact match domain for their business might purchase the domain furnituresydney.com.au. Another example is when an electrical company in the same metropolis buys the domain electriciansydney.com.au.

Note how those domain names have the keywords furniture and electrician, along with the target region Sydney. Since these websites have target keywords in their domain name, we call these exact match domains.

Do Exact Match Domains Help SEO, and Do They Still Work?

Matt Cutts of Google announced a minor algorithm update in September 2012 to minimise spammy exact match domains in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Initially, Google’s exact match domain update intends to clean up results pages from spam content. The search company eventually realised the value of high-quality EMDs, so they fine-tuned the algorithm to reward well-optimised pages and punish spammy sites with exact match domains.

Ranking on Google’s first page nowadays means spending one step ahead of algorithm updates, and having a trustworthy domain with reliable ratings, reviews, and local business listings from authoritative domains. Even so, Google will still favour exact match domains that aren’t spammy and produce high-quality content.

You might also notice a few EMDs when running a quick Google search. There are large-scale websites with exact match domains.

One thing that’s common among high-ranking EMDs is their commitment to build out their domains and become a trusted authority source, and not just another EMD seeking to rank for just one keyword.

Exact Match Domain Myths and Facts

SEO specialists and webmasters have been using exact match domains for SEO for a long time. That’s why it’s normal to have unaddressed misconceptions around EMDs and their impact on SEO.

Here are some of the most popular exact match domain myths and the facts behind them. 

Myth: EMDs generally rank higher than other sites

The search industry’s most common myth is that EMDs have a much greater chance of ranking highly for their main keywords. 

Fact: Only non-spammy EMDs have chances of ranking better

It’s true that spammy EMDs once ranked better years ago. But Google’s algorithm has become intuitive to identify low-quality pages from trustworthy ones.

That’s why businesses must put more effort into creating excellent content that their customers are looking for, rather than purely relying on their EMD domain to rank well.

Myth: Buying exact match domains guarantees first-page ranking

Google released a public statement about their thoughts on spammy EMDs. However, there are still myths about acquiring exact match domains for the sake of increased ranking.

Fact: An SEO strategy should follow after purchasing an EMD

Acquiring a new exact match domain is one thing, but building an authority website is another. Unless you’re willing to commit to building out your brand long-term, an investment into an EMD likely isn’t going to be worth it.

Myth: Google punishes all exact match domains

It’s a common myth that EMDs are expected to rank well. But as Google cracked down on spammy domains, people eventually believed another myth that Google now punishes all EMDs.

Fact: Google only goes after abusive and spammy EMDs

We’ve already debunked that only high-quality EMDs have a chance to rank well.

In addition, Google has updated their algorithm to punish low-quality exact match domains with abusive link schemes and keyword-spammed content.

In other words, Google’s exact match domain algorithm update doesn’t affect high-quality EMDs.

Myth: Exact Match Domains no longer impact SEO

Some businesses believe that choosing an exact match domain won’t improve SEO after Google’s consecutive algorithm updates on EMDs.

Should you consider an Exact Match Domain for your business?

Getting an exact match domain and earning solid backlinks will significantly boost ranking and traffic. Pair that with high domain authority, and you will secure the top spots in several competitive keywords without any danger.

Moz claims that using exact match domains will minimise spammy backlinks as long as you focus on high-ranking domain searches. We also recommend not to link from low-quality EMDs as they may drive your users away.

It’s also vital to use a domain name that will resonate with and reflect your brand. Always aim to choose a short and catchy domain name that appeals to your audience, and not just for SEO purposes. However, should it contain a keyword; consider it a win!



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