Goodbye Exact Match Domains, Hello Brandable Websites

By Spencer Haws |

The SEO industry is constantly changing, and rapidly.  Google is constantly tweaking their algorithms and new technologies are constantly entering the market.  Therefore, if you want to continue to rank websites (and particularly smaller niche sites), you need to keep up with the changes!

I have been building my blog and smaller niche websites since about 2008, and full-time since 2011.  During that time, I've seen alot of changes.

For example, a few years ago, I would only build a website if the exact match domain was available.  There was an extra “boost” for having the exact match .com, .net, or .org for your chosen keyword.  So if I was trying to rank for “Best Surfboards”, I would want to own or .net or .org.

As time passed, (perhaps around 2010?) I was finding lots of great keywords, but sometimes the exact match domain wasn't available.  But rather than pass on so many great keywords, I started purchases partial match domains. (Like or; if I was targeting the keyword “Best Surfboards”).

There was still enough of a “bonus” in having a partial match domain, that it was worth having a perhaps longer or less memorable domain name.  As long as my keywords were in my domain name, I was happy!

However, that has all changed.

Goodbye EMDs and PMDs


I no longer even care if an exact match domain is available.  And starting last year, I no longer even try to have my keywords in my domain.

You may have heard of the exact match domain algorithm update back in October 2012.  This was essentially a change by Google to remove some of that bonus/boost the EMDs used to get.  In my opinion, it wasn't a penalty, but simply making it more of an even playing field for all domains.

I had already been using partial match domains long before the EMD update anyway.  Here is a video of Matt Cutts making it clear that they are “turning down the dial” on the effectiveness of Exact match domains:

Please note, that this video is over 2 years old.  So, its unclear how much Google has “turned” down the importance of keyword rich domains; but if they were talking about it 2 years ago, you know that plenty has happened since.


Image from:

In addition, SEOmoz has produced case studies showing that less and less exact match and partial match domains are ranking in the search engines.  Here is an image from SEOmoz, showing the decreased importance of Partial Match domains.


Are EMDs and PMDs Bad?

So, do you get penalized for having an EMD or PMD?  No, I don't think so.  You can still build a very authoritative site that with an exact match domain name.

However, for the most part, those using keywords in their domain names are those who have tried to game Google (guilty as charged!).  As a result, Google is actually just penalizing the quality of websites that are very often associated with keyword rich domains.

In addition, Google has gotten even more vigilant at penalizing sites that are over-optimized, as Hayden of recently pointed out.  So, if you have keywords in your domain, and over-use it on your site, you are ripe for an on-site penalty.

So, you won't get penalized for having an Exact match domain, but you will if your site is over-optimized or you have a low quality website.  It just so happens that a larger percentage of EMD website builders than normal have low quality sites and over-optimize.

Why I Now Use Brandable Domains

I started experimenting last year with building niche sites without any keywords in the domain.  A perfect example is what Perrin and I did in the second niche site project.  We targeted the keyword, “best safety razor”; however, we chose a more brandable domain: and chose a premium WordPress theme.


I now plan to use brandable/non-keyword match domains for most or all of my sites going forward.   I have a few reasons why I think brandable sounding domains are better:

In fact, I'm glad SEO has come to this!  Finally, I can build sites with cool sounding .com domain names; rather than domains that I can't even remember because they are stuffed with so many keywords.

And as evidenced by and other sites I own, you can still rank just fine in Google.

We have heard for a long time that Google is starting to prefer brands.  Well, the first step to building your sites into something with authority, is to have a brandable domain. There is no reason that you can't build a legitimate site in your niche with an authoritative sounding domain (rather than a keyword domain).

Wrapping Up

Overall, I just wanted to clarify this shift that I've made in my business in case any of your are wondering.   I no longer use exact match domains or even partial match domains!

This is actually great news for me.  Now I just focus on keyword research.  Once I find a great keyword, I really don't care what domains are available, I come up with a brandable sounding domain and register it.

As stated, there is nothing wrong with using Exact or Partial match domains, I've just made the decision to move away from them for the reasons specified.  You can still rank in google with any type of domain.

What do think?  Is this news to you, or are you still focused on exact match domains?  I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  I look forward to the discussion!

Blogging & Niche Websites | 132 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding, and co-founding You can learn more about Spencer here.

Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?

Yes! I Love to Learn

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Quinton Hamp @ The Lost Cyclist

Dagnabbit. Now I have to start getting creative.

I hate getting creative. :p

Good article. The charts were really insightful on the overall trend.

Spencer Haws

Of course!

serge Marchuk

You don’t have to get TOTALLY creative 🙂 try to choose 2-3 related words that sound good together and are brandable.

I.e. Instead of making a different EMD website for each term you’re trying to real for, you can go for a topic-matching-domain that’s brandable, and you can always boost the rankings using PMDs and EMDs. see my comment below for a bit more of an in-depth explanation.

Tho Huynh

Yeah, you should be (and I hate being creative with domain names too) :))

However, I have seen several niche websites with brandable domains are soaring on top of Google. So, definitely a sign to move.

Pedro Guerra

Good to know Spencer. Im going to test it. I only had registered exact match domains so far.

Tho Huynh

You can register a new domain on Namecheap with free privacy for 0.98 (new account only). Exact Match Domain is a good sign for Google to say Hello to your own niche website.


Good article! And yes, EMD and PMD are quite outdated these days.


Very interesting. I was a bit surprised when you and Perrin went with the domain name “aPennyShaved” at the start of NSP 2. Especially since you did a PMD with your knife site.

Looks like you were just looking forward and thinking one step ahead.

I’m glad about these changes. It makes SEO more about who creates the best site rather than who snatched up a domain name first.

Spencer Haws

Yep, the SEO world is constantly changing. Its been almost a year since I created my survival knife site; that’s an eternity in SEO. Even back then I was moving away from PMDs, that was one of the last one’s I did.

Tho Huynh

I notice that your Knife site is being beaten by some spammy ones with a lot of links pointing to them. Maybe it is just temporary.

Spencer Haws

I already wrote about this extensively several times. Re-read the last few posts here:


I feel like i’ve been lied to!

Spencer Haws

Lol, I sense the sarcasm… 🙂


Great read! Glad I saw it today; I’m getting ready to start a second niche site, even though my first isn’t ranking just yet–not sure if that’s a good or a bad idea!


Yeah, it sounds logical. I think google tries not to encourage creation of more brands, but rather upping the quality of sites. I mean, if EMD or PMD can give you a little boost you can spend a little less time on quality. And brandable domains encourage you to get your game to next level on quality, because if you want to create a brand, you have to provide the best you can for your visitor/customer.

Spencer Haws


Benjamin Aries

A few quick points:

-I believe “Keywords in Domain” is still a ranking factor, it’s just not as BIG of a ranking factor. It’s a piece of the total puzzle, and one that can still be useful.

-Matching keywords in the domain is still useful for USERS, ie, real people. Google puts matching keywords in BOLD. If you search for “how to shave” and APennyShaved comes up on the results, the SHAVEed is bold.

This is a psychological plus (“Oh good, that matches what I wanted”), and also leads me to believe that Google takes the match into account.

-Exact Match or a high percentage of keywords in the domain IS a useful ranking factor, and will be for the foreseeable future.

It’s a useful data point, and I believe even if Google is cracking down right now, they will continue to use it.

Think about it: 1. Google knows what keywords are in your domain, ie, it knows what that domain is supposed to be about. 2. Google knows what the actual content of the site is. If 1 and 2 match, that’s a useful data point. It indicates that you are properly building a site with relevant, focused content.

-Domains are not free. This means that if somebody paid for a domain with a specific keyword, AND built useful content about that same keyword, they are probably making a serious site about that keyword / topic.

Again, it’s a useful data point that is hard to falsify.

Bottom line, I don’t think Exact Match or Partial Match is going away. You just have to be SMART about them.

Spencer Haws

Hey Benjamin – your analysis is spot on. I agree that EMDs and PMDs are not going anywhere – they are NOT bad (for others that are confused). They are just fine…they just aren’t as advantageous anymore. I hope people are able to see what I’m saying here (you are Ben). Everyone just needs to decide for themselves what type of domain they want.

Tho Huynh

Your points are great, but isn’t having an exact match domain too risky since Google can spot your website immediately?

Spencer Haws

No having an EMD doesn’t send red flags to Google, its just fine.

Brian Manon

what are your thoughts on domains with hyphens in them. ex. www.****-****.com

Spencer Haws

I usually avoid just out of personal preference for how the domain looks. But its fine.


A quick question, what if my keyword is: “Best Electric Shaver”, would be a PMD?

thanks for the article : )

Benjamin Aries


In that case, if your site appeared on the Google results for that keyword, “Electric Shaver” would likely be BOLD. This indicates that Google sees the match.


so it’s a partial match domain even if it contains just a part of the whole keyword you want to rank for, right?

I thought PDMs were
but the entire keyword! not just a part of it.


Spencer Haws

Both would be considered partial match. All keywords + extra words, or part of keyword phrase. All are partially matching.

Tho Huynh

Both of them are PMD since you have stated your main keywords there.

A good example of Brandable Domain is 9Gag, the domain has nothing to do with its content except being the brand.

Spencer Haws

Yes it would. And that would be a totally fine domain, you can rank. Remember I’m not saying sites are penalized for having and EMD or PMD…its all fine.


Yeah I got it. It’s all about the content of the site. As most of the EDMs are low quality, they’re getting penalized.


Dang, just bought a PMD a couple weeks ago for a niche site that I’ll be building out. Guess I need to make sure that it has good quality content…

serge Marchuk

As you would need to make sure of quality content with any other domain 😉

Never lose sight of The need for quality content.

Tho Huynh

It depends on your strategy. If you just churn and burn (build site, rank, bank money and leave them), you only need 1 good article on Homepage. A lot of people are doing the same, and they bank hard.


They are by no means dead. They just “turned the dial up”
Twice in the last 45 days or so. I have a large portfolio of these types of names and it’s very obvious when a change is made.

Stew @ NinjaGorilla

From what I’ve seen in the niches I’m tracking is that PMDs still rank well. However, these sites are not one pagers and have decent content, although often very few backlinks.

I tried myself a few months ago with a near exact match domain in a low comp/low vol search and…it ranked at #100 (best) so no G-Love there!

I am actually build “brandable” sites now because I think they are easier to market to other bloggers: “will you link to my site” sound much better than “will you link to my site”.

I also found it it gives you much more room to “expand”. In the above example your are pretty restricted with what you can promote on, whereas on a brandable site you can cover all things in your niche.

However…if I’m searching for “best surf boards” and I see in the SERPS then its pretty obvious what the site is about and they could get a click through advantage that way.

Spencer Haws

I agree!


Hi Stew

You are saying that sites with brand-able domains have the freedom to cover all the things in niche, I agree on that but if we are not restricting to a particular topic, then how can we make it as a micro niche?

Troy in Las Vegas

So then what if you do have a EMD or PMD, is there enough reason to change it? Have two domains, the EMD and the ‘cute and rememorable domain’ pointing to the site and just start using the cute one from here on for the site? Or just forget it and just build all future sites around ‘cute’ domains?

Spencer Haws

No, I wouldn’t change. Just make sure its quality content. For my future sites, I’m going more brandable domains.

John Shea

I really wonder how this will affect my primary niche site. It’s ranking #5 right now on Google for the EMD / Primary keyword. I have 10 articles on the site and about 750 products using an eCommerce plugin.. I suppose time will tell!

Tho Huynh

It means that your site is primarily an eCommerce website with thin content? I suggest adding more articles if it is your money-making website since it will attract more traffic through long tail keywords too.

Steve R

*** When including keywords in content in order to rank successfully, how many times would you include an exact match name or Longtail without over optimizing to prevent being penalized. Thanks.

Brian Manon

There isn’t a exact number. but check this video out on moz that might help answer your question.

Spencer Haws

Less than 1% in articles is what I shoot for. Hayden Miyamoto also has a great article on this:

Jon Haver

I definitely agree but still like to get a brandable domain that includes at least a partial match.

It will be interesting to see what Google has in store for us this year!

Tung Tran

I’m with you Jon 😀

I won’t use EMD anymore but having a partial match doesn’t hurt either… I think it’s even better for CTR as it clearly tells visitors what our website is about.

Tho Huynh

It does tell Google what your website is all about, and it makes people love your website since they know your website’s aim (what the content will be, what they will get blah blah)



Hey Spencer,

I still see some EMD ranking though 🙂

I have a question, its not related to your post and I apologize for that but I was wondering if you can answer this:

– When you sign up with Amazon affiliate, you should have the website with content first then you sign up with the program right?
Thanks for the help and hopefully soon I will post my story.


Yes Azedine,

They manually review the web page. You have to have a site that “adds a value to the customer experience by giving them insight on a subject or product they might not get by going straight to”

Keep in mind its rules: “Associates Program is not set up to just Advertise links within websites, or make mini Amazon websites”

Fortunately you can reapply “once your site displays content that will be of value to customers”


Spencer Haws

Yes, you need the site up with content first.



Thanks for referring me here from my comment on your old post.

This is great news in my opinion! I live in the clouds, dreaming up brand names. I can do that all day, haha. More addictive than KW research…

Having EMD feels to me like it restricts creativity and options for where you can take the content, and how wide/ deep you can go in a subject without it seeming “off” or ill-fitting to the EMD.


Spencer Haws

That’s great!


wow, the influence just drop down so bad ..

Big Shirly

Just curious, how is Google planning to measure brandability? Am I understanding correctly now that the domain name means virtually nothing (unless, combined with a kw-stuffed site)? A website’s rank now relies completely on the contents of the site?

Thanks for the write-up!

Spencer Haws

You don’t want a keyword “stuffed” site either. You just want nice relevant content; like Can you see keywords stuffed here? No, but it ranks for lots of things. In a nutshell, the domain just doesn’t matter so much to google anymore, just the authority of the site itself.


Thanks Spencer for that great article again.

In my opinion we can’t just say it’s good or bad, it really depends on a number of factors.

If we leave google aside for a while, I mean we don’t think about SEO one minute, let’s take a look at the user experience, for at the end of the day, we’re still targetting traffic. We all want more clicks.

When I am searching for a product online let’s say for example “PVC indoor greenhouse”, whatever comes up in bold in the serp arouses the attention (perhaps even more than if it’s a well known brand or something). That makes you instantly an expert in the area before even being clicked on. By clicking on you are rest assured that the website will deals with that very subject. To me that’s a click-getter.

Maybe it doesn’t work for larger niches, but for small and medium niches, I guess EMD or any domain name that takes the keyword (or partly the keyword) is still a good way to get clicks just because you’re more noticeable.

I now tend to add the word “guide” after the keyword but I always try though to keep the domain name as short as possible. In this case I’d have picked “”.
1) pvc greenhouse: that’s what the guys’s looking for
2) “guide”: everybody loves guides and free info.

That’s just my guess.. ; ) so far it’s been working well for me

Spencer Haws

Yep, that’s a fine domain; nothing wrong with that. If you can make a domain brandable and explain what it does; that’s ideal. I bet you could come up with even better names than


In the end, it call comes down to content……

serge Marchuk

And inbound links/referrals.

Think of content/on-page seo as your resume and your inbound links/external SEO as your referrals. Google is the interviewer and your website is the interviewee. The goal is to get the ranking/position.

Google won’t hire (rank) you simply based on your resume (content) without verifying your history/authority on the subject with your previous employers and referrals list (external seo factors).


So basically, even if you go for a n EMD or PMD, you can still rank #1 if your content is awesome.

Content is King – now where have I heard that before 🙂

Sarel Jan

Hi Spencer,

I still stick with EMD for many of my niche sites because one, they still rank well in Bing, which provides low but steady traffic while I build up my authority for Google, and two that it simplifies “safe” link building because my keyword is in my naked url.

I’m also more and more moving in the brandable domain direction, but for those type of sites I take a completely different approach and only expect returns in 6 – 12 months.

What’s your thoughts on Bing traffic for EMDs and link building with naked urls.

Spencer Haws

Interesting that you should mention Bing. They just came out and said keywords in the domain make no difference in their algorithm: (This was posted yesterday).


Well Spencer, for me this is not news. A lot of websites or blogs that are doing well today have brandable domains even as they target specific keywords.

A lot of changes are surely taken place in the SEO world just like in other aspects of life. However, the reasons you have given for moving away from EMDs and PMDs are clear.

One of the reasons that stands out for me is the fact that brandable domains are “Less likely to over-optimize your site without stuffing keywords in the domain”.

Since Google’s updates are bound to penalize websites that were optimized, it becomes necessary to stick with brandable domains.

Final thought, its more likely this is going to be trend for most people building niche websites!

I have left this comment also in – the social bookmarking and content syndication website for Internet marketers where this post was shared.

Sunday – contributor

{URL removed – Please don’t put self-promotional URLs in your comments}

Pratik Unadkat

I knew it was coming soon. Reason why I never preferred even EMDs were available. Great post Spencer. 🙂


I believe the room for EMD is still alive, since this algorithm got changed more than an year back by Google. Most of the EMD niche sites are still doing their best part after this update also.

Spencer Haws

Yep, again the domain doesn’t matter: EMD, PMD, brandable, they all can rank. Its about content. No bonus for having emd.


Excellent post as usual Spencer – very interesting how things have shifted around with regards to EMD, PMD and Branded Domains.

If you currently have an EMD and are hit by an over optimization penalty, I guess one way to do it could be to rebrand on a new domain and just 301 your old site and structure to your new domain.

You wouldn’t have to worry about the penalty following you, because once you have taken out the EMD, it would automatically help alleviate any ‘keyword stuffing’ that was accidentally happening due to the keywords in the URL.

Spencer Haws

Yes, that’s very possible.


I was disappointed to see what’s the title said but after reading the whole the article, i am come to an excited to know that i can scale out my portfolio of any niche with just using a brandable domains so i can target any keywords i want within the quality one. That’s a great new spencer as i just got to know you are moving out from EMD.

Kent Chow

Spencer, do you have any guideline what “niche brandable domain name” means? any other example?

I plan to build a few Niche Authority Sites. This would be a great blog post.

Any quick feedback here is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Spencer Haws

It just means a domain that doesn’t necessarily have keywords in it.,, – those are all non-keyword domains…brandable. is another example…

Kent Chow

Then, how about brandable name including partial keyword?

What would u name case study 1 domain again? or




Brandable domain names with keywords in them, Google doesn’t know, so yes you can still be punished. I have a camo site with “camo”, in the domain name. Everything in my site involves the word camo, so I got slapped.

Thinking about it, it makes sense. Camo in the meta, camo in the title. Camo h1 tag. Tons of links going to the page with the words camo. Tons of links leaving the page with the word camo. Even normal people who aren’t trying to SEO can get slapped with a penalty if they don’t structure properly.

To avoid this, when linking to categories and such, instead of saying “camo shorts”, I would have to say “shorts”, etc.

BTW, for those who don’t know how to check keyword density. If you use the word “best crunchy tacos” once per 100 words, that is not a keyword density of 1%, that is a keyword density of 3%. That is an important point that I do not think most people realize.


Never knew that Robert, cheers, Lenny

Jack Smith

Why???Could you tell me the reason for the following words.Thanks!

If you use the word “best crunchy tacos” once per 100 words, that is not a keyword density of 1%, that is a keyword density of 3%.


Jack, the reason is simple, when you think about it.

You write 100 words. Within those 100 words, you have your key phrase. Now, if your key phrase is just one word, its only makes up 1% of those 100 words.

If your key phrase is “best crunchy tackos”, that is 3 words, and makes up 3% of those 100 words.

Or lets say that your key phrase is an entire 25 word sentence. Your keyword density would be 25%, for that phrase within a 100 word article. Hope that helped.

Spencer Haws

I disagree with this Robert. 1 keyphrase usage (even if its 3 words long) in 100 words is 1%. Or if you want to get technical, and say that the phrase is 3 words long, so its 1 keyword phrase usage out of 97 words, that is 1.03% usage. You are NOT using your keyword/keyword phrase 3 times – its just 3 words long.

Spencer Haws

Sure that’s fine.

Mark Leney

I still stick with EMD for many of my niche sites because one, they still rank well in Bing, which provides low but steady traffic while I build up my authority for Google, and two that it simplifies “safe” link building because my keyword is in my naked url.


Totally sucks…have invested lots in exact match domains…quite sensibly buying what are finite resources in limited supply as the years go buy. At a price mind you. To think any gobbledegook crap name that says or means nothing and only costs $10 should be preferred over the exact match…. is mind numbing to me.

Stuart Walker

Why do you think exact match should be given a preference? There’s no logic in that at all IMO.

Building brands is the way forward. Sure you can build a brand around the EMD but an EMD simply getting a SEO boost because it’s an EMD makes no sense IMO.

Spencer Haws

Domain names still have value. It all depends on what its used for.

Stuart Walker

Hey Spencer, I’ve said this a few times but I think aPennyShaved is a genius name, very brandable and very memorable. Good choice of names.

I’ve never liked EMDs much looks very spammy to me.

Miki Vicioso

I’ve been doing brand able domains for a while. You could rank basically anything with or without your target keyword on the domain.

Is all about quality 🙂


Ouch this definitely hurt for me. It is very true what you said about the over optimizing penalty. I have a lot of EMDs and PMDs, on 8th -9th Jan 2014, they all took a noticeable nose-dive in the rankings. Definitely some panda refreshes happening there, time to change to a brandable domain and 301 redirect the sites.

serge Marchuk

Just lower your on-page keyword density and inbound (exact match) anchor text to be about 2% and you should notice an increase 🙂

Syera Syailendra

Its Good News we will back to Old Concept ” Your Name is Your Brand “


Hey spence, I dont have enough experience to agree or disagree with anything IM related yet. However;

Have you not noticed domains still ranking higher with EMD’s for crappy niche sites over otherwise better content sites targeting the same keywords?

I specifically went and made a 3 page website with a partial phrase match domain name and then made an EMD 1 page site both targeting the same “primary keyword”.

The 1 page site consisted of one 400 word article. The 3 page site consisted of 3, 700 word articles with images.

Yet my 1 page site is still doing better ranking first in yahoo (they must weigh EMD’s heavier) and 8th in google.

My better site from a content perspective is ranking on the 4th page in google.

So are we sure there is no benefit still for partial or EMD’s in domain?

Spencer Haws

As mentioned in the article, you can still rank just fine with an EMD. I have personally just made the decision to stop worrying about them.


I also want to point out while I havent looked into the metrics at all.

Perrins site targeting: “best electric razor/shaver” is on the second page of google for his query.

While a similar but less informative and not as good niche site called “” is on the first page of google.

With electricrazor being nicely bolded in its domain.

Whether this guy has more juice links, PA, Site age or whatever I dont know because I havent looked.

But it is obvious from a glance that perrins site far outdoes this niche site and yet it is outranking.

There are just too many examples I am seeing of cases like this using EMD and PMD’s too believe.

Then again im no expert so I am curious to what Spencer thinks.

Spencer Haws

Jack, “best electric shaver” is not perrin’s primary keyword. He ranks 2 or 3 for “best safety razor” which is what we are targeting first. We haven’t even really started trying yet to rank for “best electric shaver”. We will later.

James Petzke

I totally agree with what you’re saying here Spencer. All of my sites from the last four or five months have been brandable instead of just keyword domains. The beauty of it is that they have so much more potential for expansion once they rank for that first keyword.


I see some EMD still ranking strong like this site for kw ‘cheap car insurance’

Spencer Haws

Of course, EMDs will still rank – reread what I said in the post.

Peter Svenson

I kind of saw this coming as I was tracking my niche sites rank over the last few months as well as where they stood in both bing and yahoo.

Regardless, content is and always will be king. Any shortcuts that I have taken to rank faster never quite hurt as much as slapping up poorly written content does. Patience is a virtue in this game and it is starting to show even more.

I will now focus on brandable domains as well as niches that I have an interest in. Much easier to produce content over a longer period of time.


Hello Spencer,
Great post as usual and than’ks again for your feedbacks.

It seems that EMD was a big criteria used to compute the Keyword Competivness (KC) value in LongTail pro, when someone click on Analyse Competitors .
So is this always the case ?

More generally, since many SEO / Ranking criterias are updated so often, what about Longtrail pro and these changes ?

Spencer Haws

No, EMD is not a big criteria of KC. There is still weight given for keywords in the URL – anywhere in the URL – but its not a major factor. We update Long TAil Pro frequently as well – as does Moz – where much of the Long Tail Pro data comes from.


Hi ive bought longtailpro. I never managed to start a niche website. My top is 30$ a month….but it cost me blood sweat and tears to achieve this.

So i bought longtailpro and read Spencers lessons.
I think i’ve found a niche.

4400 trraffic
below 30 PR 4
juice links below 30 all 10
advertisement medium
$3,60 adsense
No for sale keywords…and no ecommerce / youtube sites.

So i like to take a shot…

The exact domainname (.com) is still available.
I can see in the top ten also exact domainname but with a hyphen.

Now i’m in doubt…buy the exact domain (.com) without hypens (mabye this unique change)….or a brandable domainname.

I’m a newbie, so i hope you experts can advise

serge Marchuk

buy both. Put a little effort into each, see which ranks better and then 301 redirect the lesser domain to the better ramming one, which will push the better ranking one even further up.


Rank them both. 2 domains on the front page = twice the chance you’ll get the searcher.


thanks Serge,

I will try this. I think i go for the PDM. A brandname is alway later still available.

I’m hope this niche works for me!


Spencer Haws

Either is fine – just make the content good. I would personally buy a brandable domain.

Gary Huynh

I would say that if you’re building an authority site then using a brand makes more sense than using an EMD. If you’re building smaller sites than keep on using EMD if they are available. Personally, I would click on an EMD in the search results over a brand name because it makes more sense to me. (I’m thinking in terms of an average consumer.)

Oh, and lets not forget about Bing as EMDs are still a big booster over there.

Spencer Haws

Honestly, I don’t think the “average” consumer looks at the domain before they click. They look at the title of the page, maybe read the exerpt of page content given by Google – but probably don’t care about the domain. UNLESS it sounds spammy; then that would decrease clicks.

serge Marchuk

I’ve found that EMDs still win over brand/PMDs , long as you don’t over-optimize your home page with keyword density & inbound links/anchor text.

Having said that, I also prefer brandable domains over EMD/PMDs. When I look at brandable domains though, I look at names that make sense, that at least gives an idea of what the website is about.

I.e. I recently registered a domain that I will go after a few different automotive terms with (insurance, maintenance, etc.); If someone sees the url in the SERPs, they’ll be able to tell that the website is about cars, and it’s not a spammy sounding EMD. Instead, it’s a TMD (topic matching domain), and search engines are smart enough to realize that your domain name is relayed to the keywords you’re trying to rank for.

Now, what you can ALSO do is register an EMD for Easy ranking, then 301 redirect it to the related page on your branded domain. I.e. to This will give the the SERP Ranking of the website that’s redirected to it.

Easy, brandable, rankable, and doesn’t look spammy. AND it will let you rank 1 website for multiple competitive terms, building it as an authority site.

*of the sites mentioned above, I only own It’s still a blank domain and I will not start working on it till later this year, I just wanted to bring it up as an example to emphasize my point. Any other domains mentioned above are examples and I’m not even sure they’re real domains.

Spencer Haws

Great points Serge…interesting idea with the 301 redirect.


great article Spencer, in my opinion if any keywords are still ranking from EMD it has nothing to do with the EMD but the brand and link quality, ie there is no special treatment given.

eg. if major brand names buy and use EMD’s -which they do, they dont gain the EMD benefit but the brand and link benefit

Spencer Haws



Hey Spencer,

Great article again.. yeah its been shifting that way for quite a while…… Wonder whats next… ?


Huh, 2 fo my sites are not only EMDs but EMDs with one hyphen between words somewhere. One is ranking #1 and 2 for very competitive keywords and the other one just jumped tremendusly yesterday from the stratosphere to top 40.

The first one I mentioned has been ranking for about 4 months with no issues.

BTW Long Tail Pro is the bomb

Spencer Haws

That’s great! EMDs can rank just fine as discussed. Thanks about Long Tail Pro!


This might be a dumb question, but I was thinking. I have around 12 EMD with less than 5 articles each. They all took hits of course. Im wondering, if starting a brand able domain and adding all those articles from those EMD’s to the brand able domain and turn it into a variety authority site? Does that make sense or would that just be worse?

Spencer Haws

That might work if the content is good.


I can’t watch Matt Cutts videos anymore. His gestures are maddening.

Matt Smith

Thanks for the update and information and the insight, Spencer. This seems like the natural flow of how things would go, doesn’t it?

Really this provides an incredible opportunity to truly develop a brand and brand recognition and create long-lasting success with any website. This could make building a following simpler/easier on social networks. I would think people would be more willing to talk about a brand than a 4-5 word long website name. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still see the opprtunity there.

Spencer Haws

I agree.


Really seems to me that again it all comes down to content and how good and often it is laid out, EMD or brand, it doesn’t seem to matter so much.

But maybe it’s easier to build marketing around a brand name than EMD.. logo wise, etc.. it’s also a bit more work if you’re handling 15 or 30 websites..


Hi Spencer,

Sorry, i’ve to disagree with you on this. I still think EMD or PMD are still okay if you’re SMART with it. I’m seeing lots of EMD’s ranking for keywords in the top of the SERP.

When i say SMART, there must be lots of quality content and longer post (1000 or more is really GOOD) so that google see that as a good quality site build for people.

Just look at Pat Flynn niche 1.0 sit. Still going strong. If the site content is not what people looking for, it would have disappear long time ago, right.

So, guys, don’t be dispirited but work on your site with lots of helpful contents even if your site is an EMD.

Anyway, i agree that a more brandable name is more catchy and easy to remember for your visitors.

Spencer Haws

Jeffrey, I agree with you 100%. I think you didn’t understand my post – I am NOT saying EMDs or PMDs are bad. Re-read the section of my blog post under the title, “Are EMDs and PMDs Bad?”. I essentially say what you just said here.

Jeffrey D


Yeah, you’re right on that. Thanks for the clarification.

Tyronne Ratcliff

Informative post Spencer. I prefer a hybrid of the two (brandable/partial match). By the way, love the value you bring to the blog. Have a good one!


I wish I had found this post a few weeks back when I chose my exact match domain for my first niche site! The site is doing okay, but I would have much rather come up with something else! Great information, I am new to this.

Spencer Haws

Glad I could help 🙂

Kelvon Roy

Hi Spencer,

I think that every domain is an exact match.

Therefore, Google will never take out its bonus.

The sad thing about exact match domain is that it gives a small room for inner page rankings.

Unless we want to use them for tiny amazon niches, it should be fine.


Just stumbled on this site while searching for the definition of a niche website. Great site man. I’m new to the world of Earning online but I’m definitely bookmarking this site. Lots of great information and helpful content.

John Devlin

Hi Spencer,

Good post, I had wondered about the name of a penny shaved, and this anwers it.

Quick question, taking this article into account, I am about to start a niche site in the tooling industry, Ive found an expired domain with more than enough to be a great feeder site. Would you recommend creating the niche site on this domain?

Its name is fine as its like “Shop4tools” and has sound metrics

Any advice would be appriciated.



Hi Spencer,
Just noticed something, your website now redirects to and new domain name is only 5 days old. Any chance you’re going to tell us something about this change. I assume this redirect is mostly “inspired” by seo attacks you had in the past. I would love to see your in-depth tutorial on how to redirect a website to another domain to avoid spammy links without loosing any seo advantages of the old name.

Spencer Haws

Yes, I’ll share more in the future…good sleuthing 🙂


Hi Spence

It looks like LongTailPro is still factoring EMDs to calculate keyword competitiveness. It looks fairly substantial too.

Is this something that will be changed over time?

Spencer Haws

Yes, we tweak the KC formula as things change.


Great News… Happy … We can go with brandable domain with best keyword search.


It’s seems like super authoritative emd sites still pull plenty of weight with Google over brandable domains. I’ve done a number of backlinks analysis where branded domains with plenty of juicy backlinks can’t overtake a emd domain with significantly less backlink juice.

I’m talking about pr3+ sites tho and very competitive keywords

The three I looked at were paintball guns, needlepoint pillows, and yoga mats.

Yoga mats ranks 10, but compare backlinks with 5-10 listings above it.

Again, these are auth sites, but I don’t see why at this point we would be talking about anything other than auth sites for seo.

frank joseph

You are right Spenser, i have a few EMDs ranking in the top 20 and freaking sure i may hit the dustbin if google comes up with another emd sh*t update or any algo update for that matter!
So am going to build meself a branded domain.


Great article Spencer!
I would agree with others that te EMD and PMD still rank very well, in fact I didnt saw any drops in any of my exact match sites.
But, what if I have a PMD site and is ranking pretty well, and have good content. But I dont like the domain, I think the site did overgrown the name, and I want to go beyond the keword in Domain, is it a good idea to swith the site to another domain and throw a redirect? Will I loose the rankings, is there any risk?

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