Why Exact Match Domain Names are Good (or Bad) for SEO

Should you acquire an Exact Match Domain Name as part of your Search Engine Optimization Strategy?

What is in a domain name? If you ask me, from a search engine optimization perspective, I would hope that a keyword is in your domain name. But maybe your domain name is the name of your company, or your main brand. That’s just fine. If that is the case–your domain name is your brand–you might consider purchasing an Exact Match Domain (EMD) as part of your overall search engine optimization strategy.

In this blog post, let’s consider why EMD domain names are generally good for your SEO strategy and when they might possibly be a bad move for SEO.

Exact Match Domain names are just that–domain names that contain an exact match of a keyword or keyword phrase. So, an example of an exact match domain name would be “books.com” or “travel.com” or even Keyword1Keyword2.com where “keyword1″ is one word and “keyword2″ is another keyword. It’s widely known in the SEO industry that having one of these keyword-rich Exact Match Domain names will astronomically increase the chances that the site will show up on the first page of the search results for a keyword search that contains those keywords or keyword phrase. Currently, this “additional ranking benefit” is only valid for .COM domain names that do NOT contain hyphens. The only other caveat is that the domain name must actually be a live website on the same topic as the keyword. Ideally, the home page should be about the topic of the keyword and it should be “optimized” for that keyword phrase. Just purchasing an Exact Match Domain name is not enough.

An Exact Match Domain name can be an asset for your search engine optimization efforts. It can truly give you the unique edge that you may need in order to increase your web site’s search engine rankings and bring targeted traffic to your web site. Certainly if you have a web site on that domain name, visitors will know what to expect when they get there. And it can give you an edge over your competitors. After all, there is only one Exact Match Domain name for every keyword phrase.

Value of Domain Names
When considering the value of a domain name, and purchasing a domain name, there are several factors to consider. Just like real estate, you’ll want to get a good idea of “comps,”what similar domain names have recently sold for in the past. You can search the domain name sales using DNSalePrice.com, which lists domain name prices when that data is available publicly. In some cases, you may even find the domain name you want if it was sold before.

The value of a domain name can be estimated, although really is ultimately determined on how much someone is willing to pay for it. There are a few online tools available to determine value, including Estibot.com and http://appraise.epik.com. Sites that do an automated valuation tend to use a combination of the amount of searches per month (if it contains a keyword) and the average CPC (cost per click) for that keyword. The higher the average CPC and the more people search for a keyword, the higher value an EMD will have.

Why EMD Domain Names are Bad for SEO?
By using an Exact Match Domain name for your website, you’re ultimately putting a limit on possible future expansion of your business. As you promote your website on other sites, as you get links, send out press releases, or get mentioned, other websites are going to use the name of your website and will link to your site using your keyword. You will be “known” and your overall reputation will be around that keyword, the one you’re using in your Exact Match Domain Name. Although you can get a good lift in search engine rankings, it may be limiting. I do believe that it will potentially limit your web site’s potential expansion for additional keywords and additional content beyond your main topic.

For example, if you are using something like “books.com” as your domain name, it may be tough to start selling music on the website. Certainly you could do it, but there is not going to be a very good chance that you could rank well in the search engines for “music” being that the website would traditionally be about books.

Another reason may be the location factor. If you own a local business and you’re targeting certain keyword phrases, or one keyword phrase in particular such as “cityname keyword” then an Exact Match Domain name might be just what you need. However, if you open up another location in another city, then the original “cityname keyword” domain name might not be appropriate.

Is an Exact Match Domain Name Right for You?
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you currently spending a significant amount of money on certain keywords in Google AdWords? If so, some of that budget could be diverted into acquiring an Exact Match Domain Name and building a website. Over the long-term, it may be cheaper to rank well for that keyword phrase in the natural search results–so you can spend less (or spend nothing) on that keyword phrase in the future.
  2. Is your business primarily described by one major keyword or keyword phrase? Do you have a product or service (as a part of your business) that can be described by one major keyword or keyword phrase?
  3. Is that one major keyword phrase available for registration in the .COM TLD? If so, you should register it immediately, even if you have no plans for using it. Owning it will stop your competitors from using it.
  4. Can you acquire that keyword phrase in the .COM TLD? Is it available for sale at a reasonable price?

When it comes to search engine optimization, keep in mind that it’s only a EMD in the .COM TLD that’s going to make any difference and the domain name must contain a website. Weigh the cost of acquiring an EMD and the potential SEO benefit (better natural search engine rankings) with what you’re currently spending on Pay Per Click. And, if you just want to rank well for that keyword phrase–go ahead and purchase that EMD.

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22 Responses to Why Exact Match Domain Names are Good (or Bad) for SEO

  1. Dave says:

    Dear Bill:I’ve seen lots of discussion on keywords in the domain name but no examples. As noted above, I am just starting out so I’ll have no “referral” links and need page 1 SEO presence ASAP. Which format would best suit me with “mustang” and “lover” as my keywords:
    1)mustang-lover (I made the dash using the lower-case option on the key next to the “0 )” key. Is this the hyphen I’m supposed to avoid per your article’s discussion to implement EMD?).
    2)mustang_lover (upper-case option, same key/underscore)
    Your attention will be immensely appreciated. Thanks, Dave

  2. Bill Hartzer says:

    Dave, you will want to make sure that you don’t have any characters such as hyphens in your domain name. Underscores are not allowed in domain names.

    You may want to add a city name or location name to your name, as it looks like the domain name without a hyphen, the one you mention in your example, is already taken.

    • Dave says:

      Thank you for your response. Are my conclusions stated below true?
      1. mustang-lover is permitted, but not a candidate for EMD because of the “dash” mark?
      2. mustanglover is permitted, a candidate for EMD, but already taken?

  3. Bill Hartzer says:

    Yes, that is correct, Dave.

  4. paul says:

    I dont agree with no hyphens in the domain name. Search engines like hyphens. My own site cute-shoes.com is page 1 (recently page 2 after a website hack), amoung more than 100 million search results, the competition is killing on the keyword phrase : cute shoes. But my hyphen domain does excelent.

  5. Bill Hartzer says:


    Having hyphens in your domain name won’t stop you from ranking well in the search results–but it doesn’t give you any SEO benefits. Your Cute Shoes site is ranking because of the links that it has from other web sites–and the anchor text is most likely going to be “cute shoes” when other sites refer to you.

    It’s not because of the “Exact Match Domain” benefit, your site is ranking because of it’s on-topic content and links. In fact, even sites with domain names that don’t include their keywords can rank well if the site has good content that’s relevant to the search query.

    The problem that I have with domain names that include hyphens is that you’re “giving away” a certain amount of traffic to the domain name that doesn’t have the hyphen. People will visit your site–and when they want to return they’ll end up typing in the non-hyphenated versions of your domain name.

  6. Michael says:

    Bill, I own a medspa in Tucson, AZ (skinCareByDesign.com & .biz. I currently redirect .biz to .com, which is my only website. If I purchase a domain name such as tucsonbotox.com and redirect it to skincarebydesign.com, does that give me any SEO benefit or do I need to replicate my website on each of the domain names? Do .biz, .net, .org domains give any SEO advantage other than denying them to the competition? Thanks, Michael

  7. Bill Hartzer says:

    If you redirect a domain name using a 301 Permanent Redirect, only a part of the “SEO benefits” (such as PageRank, “link juice”, etc.) is passed on to the domain you’re redirecting it to.

    You would, of course, have to have some sort of SEO benefits on the previous domain, as in it would have to have been a live web site previously. Just buying a domain name and redirecting it is not going to work.

    If the domain name is an Exact Match Domain and has type-in traffic or traffic from another source then you will get the benefit from that traffic. But you won’t see any SEO benefits.

    If you acquire an Exact Match Domain then your best bet is to develop it–and have good, on-topic content on that site.

    • deepak says:

      I had bought the domain name FreeVectors.com last year for $7000 and have done good hard-work with original graphics created by me and my designers.

      The largest website of original vectors graphics in whole planet !

      Total Investment – more than $30,000
      After this update my site disappear from page one to nowhere when we type “Free Vectors” in google. HA HA HA(I am crying) : (

  8. Bill Hartzer says:

    deepak, there may be some other issues that are causing your sudden drop in rankings. I would analyze the backlinks to your site and look at the anchor text–that is one place to start.

  9. Mike says:

    Hello Bill! Please help me. Im confused about EMD. Im planning to buy new domain and I want to make sure before buying.

    What will you choose:

    [keyword][keyword][keyword].net – 720 global monthly searches – high competition

    [keyword][myuniqueword][keyword].com – (Is this still be considered EMD?)

    [keyword][keyword].com – low competition and 40 global monthly searches only.

    Please help.

    Thank you!

  10. marathi matrimony says:

    i have a question for particular keyword if i buy .org domain name what will chances of its come in google 1st page

  11. Kendall Oberto says:

    Understanding I will not get any SEO benefit, is there any disadvantage to doing 301 redirects from a number of EMDs that I own to my primary site (companyname.com). I know I won’t get any link, SEO or PageRank benefit, but the EMDs I own have keyword rich names that may actually have some type-in value. I just want to make sure with the Google EMD penalties, I am not shooting myself in the foot. Thanks so much for your advice.

  12. Jagabandhu says:

    means i don’t have any keyword in my domain name what can i do to improve its seo ranking?? Its upon autos and the domain name is infagalaxo.com

  13. internet marketing Blog says:

    Greetings! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find
    a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this
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  14. Brandon says:

    I disagree that only the EMD’s that are .com TLD’s are any good. It helps but if you have a quality site with quality backlinks a lot of other TLD’s will work too. Nice post.

  15. beauty treatments uk says:

    There’s certainly a great deal to find out about this subject.
    I really like all of the points you made.

  16. Pingback: The Exact Match Domain Playbook: A Guide and Best Practices for EMDs « MindCorp | Newsfeed

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    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people for this subject, but yyou seem like you know
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  18. facebook marketing online says:

    Facebook interaction will play a huge role for online entrepreneurs. your Why Exact Match Domain Names are Good (or Bad) for SEO post is interesting.

  19. johnny says:

    If you were say an insurance agent and wanted to buy a domain with the city name to direct traffic to your site would you buy insurancetempe.com or would you do better with tempeinsurance.com? I image both would be effective both are gone but for my area they are not, but which one would be best? Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

  20. http://www.seowin.pl says:

    I savour, cause I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for.
    You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man.
    Have a nice day. Bye

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