There’s been a lot of discussion about exact match domains lately, mostly down to Matt Cutts mentioning at Pubcon that Google is reviewing their value. The chatter since includes a number of theories, all warranting a closer look. Lets take a look at some current examples of exact match ranking positions, the positive and negatives of exact matches, and if you’re an owner of an exact match domain, ideas about how to combat any Google change of algorithm.
Traditionally exact match domains have proven a very good option to rank very quickly for a particular keyword. Not surprisingly, finding an exact match domain for keywords that can drive lots of revenue are hard to come by. Rand Fiskin at SEOMoz recently blogged some interesting stats about the strength of varying degrees of exact match and how it seems .com exact match domains seem to be the most powerful.
The tactic of using an exact match domains is commonly used by affiliate marketers looking to get some quick traction on a new project, but the tactic also stretches out to local marketers, and even right up to some much larger businesses. Lets take a look at some examples.
On the local front, it shouldn’t take you long to find plenty of examples of exact match domains being prominent in the search results. I’ve chosen a particular keyword “locksmith Chelmsford” that I helped a local business rank for at the beginning of the year.
It seems most of the world’s locksmiths reside in Chelmsford, and not surprisingly the SERPs are littered with exact match domains. The top position goes to the exact match domain, with 4 out of the remaining 6 all going to variations very close to the exact match. I would presume the majority of the searches for a locksmith in Chelmsford are for that phrase so it’s no surprise everyone is looking to get any advantage they can, however Google favouring of the exact matches leaves other sites at a disadvantage.
Lets move up the ladder a bit and search for a highly competitive commercial term such as “public liability insurance” There’s some big guns in the SERPs for this term, including Compare The Market, Simply Business, More Than, and even Wikipedia. However, you’ll find an exact match domain listed at number 2. Based on looking at the strength of some of the sites around it, the site has no right to be there, and it wouldn’t if it didn’t have an exact match domain.
So as of today, it looks as if exact match domains are holding on quite happily to their lofty status. Some believe that Google will continue to support exact match because Google own exact match domains themselves, such as the recently launched boutiques.com
SEO Unique showed a differing opinion mentioning the volatility of two exact match sites they own, showing how they both dropped out of the SERPs completely before bouncing back, seemingly as if someone had just flipped a switch.
If you’re reading this and searching for exact match domains there’s a couple of thoughts you should consider. Aaron Wall makes a very valid point about the restriction of exact match. You’re essentially putting all your eggs in 1 basket which could be a risky strategy leaves you little flexibility for further keyword development. The birth of Google instant throws up even more issues should you own the singular version of an exact match when Google is promoting the plural, or vica versa.
However, if your business is built around one service that you can rely on to be a real revenue generator for you, then an exact match domain could be a viable option. If you choose to go down this route, I would suggest that you don’t simply rely on its current built in SEO strength, but to optimise your site just as would if you didn’t have an exact match. You’ll then not only provide your site visitors with a great looking site but give Google a viable site to be ranked on its own merits, with the exact match benefits as a nice added bonus.