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!