Are Exact Match Domains REALLY that Important?

Are Exact Match Domains REALLY that Important?

If you have considered building niche websites in the past at all, you have certainly heard all the chatter about how important exact match domains are.  But are exact match domains REALLY that important?  Are they critical to your success in building niche websites?

Well, here is my short answer: If the exact match domain is available, I will buy it; however, if its not available that’s okay, I will simply add a prefix or a suffix to the keyword in the domain.  Now read on for my long answer.  Also, I will briefly discuss why I think having the keyword in the domain is so important.

Exact Match Domain Example

To me it just makes logical sense that having the keyword in the domain name will help your website rank better.  After all if your domain name is “ebay.com” it only makes sense that your website should rank first when the search term “ebay” is typed into Google.  However, this does not only apply to brand names like ebay, Amazon, Catepillar, or Sony; it applies across a broad range of keyword searches.

For example, if you type in the search term “credit cards”, the #1 result in Google is CreditCards.com.  Some of the lower results include American Express, Citi Cards, and Discover Cards.  So all of the lower results actually offer Credit cards (they are credit card companies).  However, the #1 result – creditcards.com – is actually just an affiliate site.  What’s even more fascinating is the fact that they have fewer backlinks than the other results!  Creditcards.com has about 15,700 to the ranking page and the #2 result – AmericanExpress.com has much more – 803,000!

Now there are many factors which would make creditcards.com rank better than americanexpress.com; but one of those reasons is certainly the domain name.  The domain creditcards.com is MUCH more relevant to the search “credit cards”.  Now obviously if someone types in “American Express”, then the americanexpress.com domain name is much more relevant.

Is Google Ending the Exact Match Domain Bonus?

So, its clear that keyword relevancy is important in the domain name.  But does it really have to be the exact match?  I mean if creditcards.com were actually creditcardsreview.com, would it still rank as well?  I think in the past, Google gave a much bigger exact match domain bonus, but now I believe that bonus is much smaller (but still exists). In fact here is a great video by Matt Cutts from Google talking specifically about how important keywords in a domain name are:

As you will notice, at the end of the video Matt specifically says that they are thinking of “turning down” the amount of weight that keywords in the domain receive.  This clearly means that keywords in the domain HAVE DEFINITELY in the past received additional weight.  I believe this is still the case (they haven’t turned it down very much yet).

So, if you can get the exact match domain get it.  Even if they “turn the nob down” a bit as Matt suggests, I don’t think they will ever get rid of all the extra weight that keywords in the domain provide.  There may be less weight, but it will still be more weight than no keywords in the domain.

I Still Use Keyword Dense Domains

So, if you CAN’T get the exact match domain, I think you should still use a keyword dense domain by simply adding a prefix or a suffix to the domain.  This still provides some additional weight and perhaps just as much as an exact match domain does.  The keyword in the domain is really what provides the additional SEO benefits, I don’t believe it has to be an exact match.  Just to give you an idea, I have lots of exact match domains; however, my higher earning website is NOT an exact match domain.  In fact, 2 or my top 5 sites are not exact match domains.  They are simply keyword dense domains with a suffix, like keywordreview.com or keywordpro.com.

So will keyword.com outrank keywordreview.com?  Honestly, I think the difference is very small.  An exact match domain may provide a very small benefit, but its not enough in my opinion to give up on a keyword.  So if the exact match domain isn’t available, don’t worry about it!  You can still get most of the same SEO benefits from having a suffix like review, pro, hq, today. site, home, etc in your domain name.

In my personal experience if I find a good keyword, I go for it.  Getting the exact match domain is nice, and of course I always check for this; but if its not available, I still move forward and build my niche website.  I am doing very well with keyword rich domains that are not an exact match.  So, if you have been wondering whether exact match domains are REALLY that critical to your success, I hope this post has clarified that issue for you.

Let me know your thoughts below or if you have any experience with exact match domains that you would like to share!

 


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61 Comments for this entry

  1. Dennis says:

    I was on the first page of bing in 4 days, and number 1 in bing in just 6 days thereafter, with only 5 posts and a handful of backlinks because of keywords in my domain name. Rapidly rising in Google as I add more content

    • Spencer says:

      Awesome Dennis!

      • Steve says:

        I think Dennis makes a good point…Bing (and Yahoo) seem to give EMDs even more weight than Google…and I haven’t heard any noise about Bing turning down the EMD juice on their search engine. Google is still ahead of the pack as far as search share by a long shot, but Bing/Yahoo is also making up a few tenths of a percent month by month… so with that math factored in, it might be enough to offset the loss of Google EMD juice…

        Or at least, it’s not as bad as it might seem. EMD is still the way to go for some search juice “bonus”, in my opinion…

    • Graham Lutz says:

      How much traffic are you seeing from being #1 in Bing? and how much relative to total search traffic?

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the post!

    How important is the top level domain? If you identify a good niche but all decent .com’s are parked (even the ones with suffixes and prefixes) would you go for .net, .co etc.. or attempt to buy a parked .com

    • Spencer says:

      I personally only use .com, .net, and .org. However, I have no solid evidence against using other domain extensions. I have just always stuck with the .com, .net, and .org. I have never tried to purchase a parked domain – just not worth it to me.

  3. aldo says:

    Is good to learn from people who have already tested what they talk and in this case you did.

    I agree, i have being following different people and for example, http://www.securityguardtraininghq.com/ is an adsense site making more than $800/month and growing and the main keyword is “security guard training” so it is real near to the exact match but even that it doesn’t have a EMD it is on the top 1 with 300 backlinks and making a huge income from just one site.

    • Spencer says:

      Yes, Pat has done well with his site. This is a great example to solidify my point…thanks!

      • andres says:

        Hi Spencer. I find high keyword density for securityguardtraininghq.com. The density (I think) is so deep, example “Security guard” is found 13.2. What do you think about this? is it okay for you?

        • Spencer says:

          What do you mean its found 13.2? I’m not sure what you are asking, but I think its a good domain name with good keyword density.

          • andres says:

            I do check keyword density with seoquake. I found high repetition for “security guard training”, 23 times (almost 11.69). Keyword “security guard” is mentioned 39 times (densiry 13.22) in domain page.
            I think it’s deep.

            • Spencer says:

              I see, so 13.22 is a percentage of use. Yes, this is pretty high density. I certainly don’t usually use my keyword this often.

  4. Tom says:

    Spencer,
    Do prefixes and suffixes work on post titles as well?
    Tom

    • Spencer says:

      Yes, I always use words before or after my keywords in post titles. My title is rarely just the exact keyword. So lets say my keyword is “Red Widgets”, one of my post titles might be “How to Build Your Own Red Widgets” or “Red Widgets Reviewed”. Always makes your titles human friendly.

  5. Graham Lutz says:

    I don’t think exact match is a must have, of course, but it’s nice if you can get it.

    If you find a few good keywords, you don’t have to have the exact match to rank well quickly. I think it’s more about getting the right kind of site up with the right kind of links and the right kind fo content.

  6. Hetal Shah says:

    Thanks Spencer for making great post..

    You have actually solved a big confusion of mine, To have exact keyword rich domain or not? Since you have started niche hub here, I am searching for my future niche site keyword with exact match domain available, however till today I have not found out exact match domain, but now I am sure that I can add prefix or suffix to them. I am feeling relief :D

    Now I am eagerly waiting for your next post, that is to have .com domain or .net and .org domains are fine too?

    Cheers!

  7. Dave Starr says:

    For all the discussion this subject always brings up, I think the obvious answer is in the SERP’s themselves. Try 10 or 12 different keywords for yourself. Look at the top ten (first page) that Google delivers for each one.

    The results will average out surprisingly close to 50/50 between EMD’s (or highly keyword rich domains) and other, “keyword-poor” URL’s.

    I feel that way too much time is spent on this question that could better be spent building sites that rank, keyword-rich domains or not.

    • Spencer says:

      Dave interesting point! So clearly you can rank well without a keyword rich domain. However, I see your finding of 50/50 in a different light. I find that quite amazing that 50% of all results are indeed keyword rich domains – this is very encouraging. The reason? If you look at those results you will find that the HUGE majority of the time, these keyword rich domains have much less links to them! This is exactly what I explained with my creditcards.com example. If you have a keyword rich domain, you can rank much easier than if you don’t. I think if you look at the 50/50 results, you will have to agree that these keyword rich domains appear to have done less work to get to the top 10. However, I totally agree with you that its not the end of the world if you don’t have a keyword rich domain.

      • Dave Starr says:

        Fully agree, Spencer. I regret sounding argumentative there. Certainly, it is always better to get an EMD when you can. An EMD will almost certainly do better than a non-EMD, _if_ everything else is equal. You are 100% correct there.

        Problem is, for months now, this has become one of the “artificial stumbling blocks” folks seem to set up as an alternative to taking action.

        An non-EMD, started today and worked on actively will be way, way ahead of an EMD that doesn’t get launched while six more months of sitting around and asking questions about which domain is better. Just trying to inspire folks to get off the dime.

        (and I’m certainly including myself in the category of “folks”. I got way too many projects still in the “thinking about” instead of the “doing” phase)

        But it’s all good … and thanks for getting a good discussion going here.

        • Spencer says:

          Dave – no worries, I didn’t take it argumentative at all! I agree with your point here that not finding an exact match domain can be a stumbling block. I think its better to move forward with a good domain rather than a “perfect” domain.

  8. Lonnie says:

    Do dashes in the URL help or hurt ranking in your opinion (or maybe no effect at all)?

    • Spencer says:

      I have never done well with dashes, so I avoid it. But I have only tried a couple of times, so my experience is very limited here. I have just done well without dashes, so have never really tried to change things up.

  9. Marty says:

    Do you prefer a suffix to a prefix and is a prefix like “the” any good?

  10. Mike says:

    Spencer, another great article. I have been able to get some keyword rich domains and I hope they’ll help.

    If you don’t mind, how are checking your SERPs?

    Once you outsource your backlinks how long is is taking the backlinks to index and start to move the niche site around in google?

    Thanks!

    • Spencer says:

      I check my serps with Rank Checker a firefox plugin from seobook.com (its free). I usually see some movement after a few weeks. However, it usually (not always) takes 3 months before they start to make larger jumps in the serps.

  11. I was reading an ebook the other day where the author was building a niche site and used two keywords, one highly searched for term and more difficult to rank, and one long tail keyword, so she could rank for one and potentially rank for the other and get even more traffic. I’ve never tried this out, but it seems like a smart idea.

    • Spencer says:

      Yep, you can target multiple keywords on one niche site.

    • Victor says:

      Kenny,

      I have tried this before unintentionally. The end result was a weaker punch to the primary result. It took more work but I did hit #1 for both terms and many long tails after six months! The time spent building links and the site to me was not a great trade off. My time would have been better spent building more laser focused niche sites with one keyword in the domain rather than 2, and to just eventually rank for longtails which i may have not been aware of.

      Lesson Learned: Focus, Focus, Focus

      Hope that helps :)

      • Spencer says:

        Great lesson to learn! Thanks for sharing your experience on this!

      • Hey Victor,

        Thanks for the info. I was actually going to try it with some keywords I found, but I’ve been doing so much better with keyword research after reading this blog and the Adsense Flippers blog (you’ll see them commenting on here). I’m glad I didn’t buy that domain name now! Thanks!

        • Victor says:

          Yes, Spencer certainly has done a great favor by providing a place for us to collaborate :)

  12. Rahul says:

    I love your articles. This is inspirational. By the way you maintain this website. I guess your adsense website should be really high quality and well written. This is how to make adsense business. Well i am getting some clicks on my niche websites. It is really good and looks easy now.

  13. Chris says:

    Just to change the subject a little bit, is the Longtail Pro software ready yet?

    thanks for the great post, i for one would only use .com, .net or .org and find that suffixes would be better if exact is taken.

  14. Hetal Shah says:

    ah, I forgot to ask you one question..

    Any thoughts on Singular and Plural keywords in URL? Does that affect search results? and if yes then which one is more preferable?

    Also if I am adding suffix “review” then what is better; ‘review’ or ‘reviews’?

    Your personal thought and experience on this??

    • Spencer says:

      Hetal – you target your keyword. So if your keyword is singular, use singular; if your keyword is plural, use the plural. As far as the suffix, just add whatever makes the most sense (it doesn’t matter if its review or reviews).

  15. Victor says:

    I think the analogy of “waiting for all the traffic lights on a street to turn green before proceeding” best describes this topic :)

  16. Alex says:

    I’m not sure how many of you know about SEOmoz, but they release a search engine ranking factors report every year – http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors it confirms the drop in weighting for exact match domains and provides some interesting insight into how the ranking factors have changed since last year.

  17. Victor says:

    All the more evidence that the Google child has learnt to walk. Although a little less reliant on things such as EMDs, it still needs to be spoon fed.

    Thanks for bringing up that article Alex, I am aware of SEO Moz but have not seen this. Im blown away by the amount of emphasis social actions/triggers have been given recently.

    Good reminder that its not Google that make us successful, but rather the PEOPLE that find us using Google, and Google wants the best damn experience for its users.

  18. Victor says:

    It also seems that domain link authority lost some value. This should make things slightly easier when going up against giants like Amazon with huge domain authority and usually weak page authority.

    Thanks again Alex!

  19. Ritsos says:

    Here’s an interesting question (well to me anyway) .. I found a keyword in the medical field and checked the competition and there were 2 or 3 spots I felt I could beat. However, although there were few root domains, all the domains were medical directories etc .. my gut feeling is that this would give them more authority and therefore the keyword was best to be avoided .. would you agree ?

    • Spencer says:

      I’m really not familiar with what medical directory is…sorry. However I usually stick with the stats such as links to the page, keyword relevancy in the title, page, etc. However, its your call since I don’t know what the keyword is.

  20. Victor Pidkowich says:

    Although I cannot say for sure yes or no this would be an easy one to rank for unless I see the keyword. But I can tell from my experience, these will be a bit tougher because they are targeting the specific niche, but it depends on how targeted within the niche they really are.

    For example: Many amazon sub domains for the keyword “hand made blue widget” in the SERP is a great sign of weakness because Amazon encompasses many niches. But if there were many results, even still as sub domains, that concentrated just on the blue widget market it will certainly be tougher. But it is still weak if they are not focusing on the exact key phrase “hand made blue widget”.

    Ask yourself how targeted are the results? And are they relevant to the specific keyword? If they show weakness move on to other factors like links to the page and other factors to understand just how much weight the site really throws around.

    If you still have a hard time choosing, go for it. But make for sure it doesn’t become a black hole for time or money. Set a budget and a schedule.

    You wot know unless you try :) but prepare for risks.

  21. Ritsos says:

    Probably didn’t explain too well … If I come across a keyword say about football and there are a couple of top ten week ones I’d go for it … What I was wondering was if google gave priority to recognised medical sites.

    So if I got in the top ten for football and got a few facts wrong ..well big deal.

    If I did a medical site and claimed that it was good for your health to eat 10 times the recommended amount of salt (that’s bad!!) and got in the top ten because there were a couple of weak sites and people died or became really ill, it would reflect badly on google (let’s be honest, there’s a lot of crap gets in googles top ten) … I wondered if they made sure recognised medical sites were guaranteed top ten places …

    Hope that makes sense .. tired now

  22. Victor says:

    Makes sense :)

    Although I dont doubt Googles ability to be in bed with sites on certain topics to produce bias results, I certainly dont think thats the case, nor has it ever been the case.That would give certain sites a monopoly, and whos to say that the sites with the monopoly are telling the right stuff? Someone sitting at Google with a Degree in Engineering that has no a clue about anything medical? Or the millions of people visiting those result pages? This is why social triggers are so important to search engines.

    In the instance of medical advice and all advice or topics, its an opinion. Just depends on whos opinions gives better results. So Say you did the salt thing, people would make sure to leave negative signals some way some how either by hitting the back button which Google sees as a human negative interaction with your site, or by comments, or by nearly hundreds of other negative social triggers that Google is always monitoring. So even though you get to the top ten, if the negative feedback from people is high enough there is a good chance that your site will be removed from the top 10, from Google entirely depending on how inaccurate or fraudulent the info is, or a number of other penalizing factors.

    I hope that helps more :)

  23. mansukh says:

    hi, i am looking at targeting 2 keywords at a time so will long tail keyword domain help? for example i want to target iphone cases and ipad cases would ipadiphonecases .com be good or ipadcases .com and iphonecases .com seperately?

    • Victor says:

      I would personally select the lowest competition keyword, then use the other keyword to fill in some content.

    • Spencer says:

      I would probably do it separately. However, if you are planning to build this into a larger site, and are willing to put a lot of time and effort into, then perhaps going the combined domain name is not a bad idea. My personal strategy is to usually only target 1 primary keyword per domain.

  24. mansukh says:

    Or Like Nikon D3100 is also known as nikon d31 so can i combine nikond31nikond3100 .com???

  25. Ritsos says:

    Given that you don’t like hyphenated domain names .. fair enough. But how do you organise your subpages? So for example .. which of these would you use?

    dog.com/smalldogtraining.html

    dog.com/small-dog-training.html

    dog.com/small_dog_training.html

    wonder which google prefers ?

  26. George says:

    If the EMD is not available, is it best to go with a suffix that has fewer letters. I heard just adding an x or z at the end is a good idea. Would you go with http://www.keywordinfo.com or http://www.keywordx.com?

    • Spencer says:

      I think shorter is better generally, but if adding “info” makes more sense, I might go with that. Overall, its not a big deal either way – both are keyword rich.

  27. Abhishek says:

    Hi Spencer, i love your blog and newsletter.
    Can you please help with one confusion of mine.
    Suppose you have two very good keywords in the same niche, and both have very good traffic and cpc. Eg ‘baseball tips’ and ‘best baseball bat’. And you can get EMD or close to EMD for both, then would you create two sites or would you create one site and try to rank the pages?

  28. Abhishek says:

    Just realised you already answered this just 4-5 comments above.

    Cheers!

  29. thomas says:

    Hi Spencer,
    Love reading your posts and watching your videos. You are very selfless in helping others learn the better methods of internet marketing. Thanks and congrats!!
    I have done a keyword research using longtailpro and for a particular keyword, the top 7 sites are by amazon, best buy, walmart, target.com which are all online marketing sites but the 8th, 9th and 10th position are occupied by niche sites with 0 PR and 0 BLs. Would u suggest i should go for this keyword?

  30. Amit says:

    It seems Google EMD update will not give any advantage to exact match
    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/your-guide-to-googles-emd-algorithm-update/49915/

    Please let me know your thoughts.

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