What’s the best practice for building an exact match domain website?

Right, yesterday I looked at the concept of “exact match domains“, and today I’m going to outline how to build one. If you have access to a web-savvy young marketing assistant, it’s a brilliant project for them. What we’re going to do is to set up a new web site, aimed at providing information on a specific technical subject, and scoring highly in Google for searches on that subject. An example of the site I’m talking about is this one on Feed-in Tariffs, which the team here at BMON produced a few years ago. There’s no reason why you couldn’t have a site just like this for any of your technologies.

The first thing to do is to research the term you want to rank highly for. There’s no point in targeting “blue widgets” if you’re already top for “blue widgets”. Equally, it’ll be a hopeless exercise if there are hundreds of suppliers trying to get to the top of Google for “blue widgets”, many who may have been around for years. But supposing you deal in an up-and-coming technology called “narrow section blue widgets” which returns a mixture of results in Google, none of them that great (and none featuring your main website)? That might be an ideal target. Alternatively, there might be a term which you know people type into Google, but which you’re uncomfortable including on your main website. An example would be “cheap blue widgets”.

You can’t spend too long researching the term you’re going to target. Use something like Google’s Keyword Tool to see if there are actually many searches for the ideas you come up with. There don’t need to be thousands every month (indeed, if there are, there’s little chance of you waltzing onto the first results page). Perform Google searches for your ideas and see if you get results that you’d find useful if you were one of your company’s prospects. The more disappointing the current results, the better.

Timing can be everything. The Feed-in Tariffs site mentioned above is a classic example. Another EMD site, which was of a similar quality, already existed, and was one of the few results for the target search. But in the couple of months that our EMD site took to research and build, the topic exploded in the national media. As the main reference resource, the first site found itself getting lots of top-quality links, and firmly cemented its place at the top of the Google results. The second site couldn’t compete with that, and indeed couldn’t compete with the newspaper and government backed sites which also started mentioning the subject while the site was under construction.

Let’s say you decide that “narrow section blue widgets” is an ideal term to target. A Google search for that comes up with a mixture of results, some relevant, but none which would really scream “click on me” to the people you’re after. Now we’re going to set up our exact match domain. Visit the site of any domain name registrar and check the status of the “narrow-section-blue-widgets” and “narrowsectionbluewidgets” domains. If any have already been registered, take a look and see if they’re unused, have been around for a while (use a WHOIS lookup) and are for sale. It’s always possible. Otherwise, you can go ahead and register your domain name. I’d use “.com” if you can, but “.net” and “.org” are fine, as is “.co.uk” if you’re only interested in the UK market. The hyphenated version of your search term looks slightly better in my opinion, but it doesn’t really matter, and certainly don’t have more than two hyphens. I tend to find it easiest to register the domain name with the same company where the website will be hosted, but it depends on how your company likes to do things.

Now we’re going to build a website around your search term. Don’t go overboard on “optimising” the site around the term. Just make it genuinely about the topic, and genuinely useful to people researching the subject. Remember, you’re hoping to get links, so the better the resource, the more likely that’s going to be. Imagine you’re writing the best ever Wikipedia entry on the subject, and ensure that it’s all new material, never recycled stuff from elsewhere. One page is fine, but half a dozen is better. Apart from the technical background, why not interview an expert from your company and include the video (and transcription), write up a case study, or add a bibliography and glossary? And of course you’ll include links to your company’s main website at every opportunity.

There are varying opinions on whether you should make it clear that your company is behind the site, or try to make it seem “independent”. Personally, I think there’s no reason not to reveal all. Indeed, some of the best exact match domain sites I’ve ever seen actually use the website design from their “parent company”, so that when people click through on the links, it just looks like they’re on the same website.

And never forget: once you’re done, start prospecting for those external links to your new site.

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