The Power of Exact Match Domains: Fact or Fiction?

By Gary Magnone

As you’ve probably seen, there’s been a ton of buzz recently on the power of Exact Match Domains (EMD’s) to rank in Google’s SERPs. An example of this would be to rank very highly for the keyword “Competitive Keyword”, despite having a below average backlink profile and sub-par onpage content compared to the other ranking pages.

SEO’s from around the world have been taking to the streets (aka their blogs and Twitter) to appeal to Matt Cutts and his webspam team to adjust the algorithm and shift this balance of power. However, more recently, some legit SEO’s have stepped forward and voiced their opposition to these complains.

There’s Joe Hall’s post “Dear SEOs, Please Shut Up”, where he basically calls Exact Match Domains a SEO competitive advantage and urges SEO’s to “shut up already and buy your own!”. Then there’s Bill Slawski, author of SEO by the Sea, who calls the power of Exact Match Domains “SEO mythology and folklore”. In our brief Twitter chat this morning, he went even further to say that sloppy EMD’s can be more harmful than helpful for the rankings of a website. Check out the full transcript below:

power of exact match domains
bill_slawski: The benefit of exact match domains is SEO mythology and folklore, and sloppy exact match domains can be more harmful than helpful.

garyjmag: Myth, really?! RT @bill_slawski The benefit of exact match domains is SEO mythology & folklore, sloppy EMDs can be more harmful than helpful

bill_slawski: @garyjmag Yes. EMD is a poor ranking signal. First to register domain name is an automatic winner in search results? Not likely.

bill_slawski: @garyjmag The indirect benefits of EMD are possibilities that people will link to you w/the keywords that you want to rank for, and…

bill_slawski: @garyjmag The other indirect benefit is a search engine associating your domain with a matching named entity found within a query term.

bill_slawski: @garyjmag Though that entity association will look to much more than whether your domain is a EMD

bill_slawski: @garyjmag In the meantime, your site may be stuck with a pretty generic and ugly looking domain name.

Now, in my opinion, there’s no doubt that Exact Match Domains get some weighted power in the SERPs. But Bill does make some good points. Will degrading the weight of EMD’s in Google’s ranking algorithm really be the answer to all of our problems? I thought it might be effective before, but now I’m not as sure. Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments…

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  • Great post Gary! The Twitter conversation regarding EMD’s is very interesting. I agree with you that EMD’s positive impact on rankings cannot be denied. I also believe that while EMD’s are an indicator Google values, it’s not the single factor in why a site ranks (to Bill’s point registering a domain in itself doesn’t guarantee rankings). Even SEOmoz’s comprehensive SEO analysis gives 10% weight to EMD’s.

  • Anonymous

    My competitor registered a domain name with my keyword in it.
    Their website is ranking higher than mine on Google
    Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc therefore:
    Exact match domains names are too powerful, Google must change it so I can rank better.

    I think people are making a mistake in their thinking. People with SEO prowess are registering domains with the right keywords in the name, and we see those domains ranking because of the other SEO being done to the website. Look further down in the SERPs and you will see keyword domains at insignificant positions because their other SEO is insignificant.

    • Then you’re not doing it right.

      1) Build high quality content and LOTS of it.
      2) Build links with your desired keywords as the anchor text.
      A) Don’t forget to switch them up a bit as well
      3) Think like an SEO, not a lazy complainer!
      A) Do your keyword research.
      B) Don’t ignore long-tail keywords.
      C) Buy domains that have those keywords in them.
      D) Get a cheap web host that will give you a redirect from the new domains to your old domain.
      E) Build links to the new domains.
      F) See a rankings boost!
      4) If you are unable or unwilling to do the previous steps, quit complaining and get yourself an SEO that will do what you need them to do.

  • EMD’s have a huge copmpetitive advantage over non exact match domains.
    If we compare 2 websites same age , both with unique content the EMD will rank faster, also in the form As an example you can see my frostwire wensite that ranks 2 and 1 for the most important keywords. MAtt Cutts and his web spam team are just making every SEO life’s more difficult now also due to the http when your looged to your Google account.