Exact Match Domain Names

A few years ago, everyone wanted to have exact match domains because it was a sure-fire way to land at the top of search results. For example, if your company named Acme, Inc. manufactured round, red widgets, you probably own and use the preferred domain roundredwidgets.com.  That exact-match URL probably helped to keep you at the top of search results for several years.

But like a lot of old SEO tactics, this is falling by the wayside. This tactic still appears to work on Yahoo and Bing (for the time being), but Google is putting more and more emphasis on branding signals, and exact match websites are beginning to lose their foothold.

The Relationship Between Domain Name and SEO

It’s hard to shake the love that we’ve all seemed to cultivate for exact match domains. In the past, URLs and domain names were a major factor in search algorithms. The relevance of a domain name was seen as important because it was viewed as an instant indicator of what you do.  Nobody can tell from the domain name “acmeinc.com” what that company does unless they’ve been previously exposed to that company. But everyone can immediately tell what “roundredwidges.com” does.

Google is starting to turn this conventional wisdom on its head by looking, instead, for a cohesive online brand image.

Forming Online Brand Strength

Forming this cohesive image isn’t hard, but it is more time consuming than simply using an exact match domain. You will want to use your business name as your primary domain name, and you’ll want to ensure that you have Social Media profiles set up and established under the same names.

A blog is a very important component of establishing brand image. You’ll need to show what you are about in other ways than your domain name, so utilizing your blog to brand yourself is important. Update your blog regularly. In addition to talking about your industry and the services you offer, include news about your company – awards you’ve won, achievement of your staff, involvement in your local community, etc.  If you need ideas, you can always translate your offline marketing into online marketing  to help build brand strength.

You will also want to be clear about where you are physically located. Many exact match domains leave off an address. Google wants to know where you are and that you are a real company, not just a shell domain for another organization.

Don’t Panic

If you use an exact match domain, don’t fret. Not all exact match domains have seen their rankings fall. The companies who are still doing well are companies who have good brand signals. And some businesses are just simply named after what they do. The people who need to worry are those who are using exact match domains as a means to capture leads for their company and they are operating those domains as if they were separate from their original business.

Going back to our Acme example, if roundredwidgets.com is clear that it’s Acme, Inc and it names Acme on their website, lists Acme’s address and has all of their social media branded to match, they’ll be fine. But if Acme operates two websites and roundredwidgets.com pretends NOT to be Acme, Inc, they could find their ranking and traffic suffering.

If you have questions about what to do with your exact match domain, leave a comment below.

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7 Comments » for Are Exact Match Domains Still a Good Idea?
  1. Exact match domains still work in a lot of verticals on Google (attorneys being one of them). The real fear is that Google is going to “flip a switch” similar to what they did with Panda and Penguin and all of those keyword rich domains are going to find themselves at the bottom of SERPS overnight.

    That would be the single largest shift in Google’s algorhithm ever, imo. It would be a change on scale with the Florida update.

  2. Chris says:

    From what I’ve seen exact match domains that still have a true brand are doing OK. But if you have an exact match domain with little online branding then it’s going to suffer.

  3. jared says:

    With this latest change Google has made, exact domains won’t have the same weight as before and you will still need to do some work.

  4. Rohan says:

    I think your correct. We have to accept this update that is the fact. Using keywords in a domain is always an option but you have to think about it more carefully from now on. Yo just can not focus on created a keyword heavy domain and expect instant traffic anymore.

  5. Gole says:

    Well it was rolled outon weekend eve. Lets wait for few week days and hear impact. Some webmasters start reporting huge drop in search traffic

    • admin says:

      We actually wrote this two days before Matt Cutts made the announcement they where making more adjustments to fight weak exact match domains. We were already seeing a lot of evidence of this since Penguin.

  6. ellie design says:

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