A Look Into Exact Match Domains as a Business Strategy

A Look Into Exact Match Domains as a Business Strategy

Google’s algorithm has got some business owners scrambling to find out whether they’ll be penalized for having an exact match domain, something that, in the past, was considered a solid SEO strategy. Below we’ll delve into what this means for entrepreneurs, who should be concerned about a penalty, and how you can overcome one if it happens to your small business.  

What is an Exact Match Domain?

An exact match domain (EMD) is a domain name that exactly matches a common search query, as opposed to a website name that only contains one or two high-ranking keywords. For example, cheapflights.com is considered an EMD because of the popularity of users searching the phrase “cheap flights.” On the opposite end, a domain name such as “Billsautosales.com” would not be classified as an EDM because not all of the words are common search terms.  

In the past, using an EMD for your domain name was a pretty solid way to get your website ranked high on a search results page before you even really established your business and built up some quality content. You had a good chance at showing up at the top of Google’s results page solely because your website name matched a search query that a lot of people were using. That being said, it wasn’t the best way to keep your website ranked well; if people ended up at your site only to be disappointed by the (lack of) content you had published, they were probably going to move on, and quickly. Google would eventually take notice of that and your search engine rankings would actually drop.

So What’s Changing with Exact Match Domain?

In the past, Google announced that they were changing their algorithm to better recognize spammy EMDs and that these sites would be penalized for being what they are…spam.  That being said, Google doesn’t believe that all EMDs are spam. There are plenty of sites out there that have an EMD but that are also legitimate brands with good websites containing quality content. The change was meant to target the low-quality sites and prevent them from being ranked well. It seemed to work well, though it did cause a decrease in using an EMD as an SEO strategy because business owners were scared of being viewed as spam.

Who Should be Worried about Exact Match Domains?

If you’re a legitimate business owner who just happens to have chosen an EMD for their domain name, you should have nothing to worry about. As long as you’re selling a quality product, maintaining a successful website that contains valuable content, you should have nothing to worry about in terms of your rankings. Google is smart, and they can tell the difference between those who have earned their place at the top and those who have cheated, or gamed the system with a spam EMD, to get there. It’s the latter that should truly be concerned, which should actually be a positive for legitimate entrepreneurs; if the spammers are removed from the top of the SERP, that means there’s more room for the good guys to take over.

The Verdict on Exact Match Domains

Before we get into the overall takeaway, below lists some best practices to avoid being viewed as spam (or that you can use if you end up being penalized):

  • Consider using a partial match domain (PMD) instead of an EMD.
  • Ensure that you have an abundance of legitimate links back to your website.
  • Integrate your site with social media; this is a big indicator to Google that you don’t spam.
  • Consistently publish valuable content that will engage readers, and/or hire content writers if you think this is an area of weakness.
  • Use a variety of keywords when working on your SEO strategy; this prevents you from losing everything if you rely on one and then Google ends up making a change.

Overall, having an EMD isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your website even if Google decides to make an additional change to its penalty policy. That being said, it’s also not a solid SEO strategy. While it may pay off for some people, it’s risky in the long-term. That’s why we recommend using a PMD and then incorporating as many SEO best practices as possible so that once your site is ranked well, it has a good chance of maintaining that success. It may take longer, and it will definitely be more work, but in the end, it will be worth it. 

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