Exact Match Domains: a 2016 update

It’s three or four years since I wrote in depth about “exact match domains”, and how they were losing their effectiveness. By now they should probably have been consigned to history, but I still hear them mentioned, so it may be worth an update.

What is an exact match domain? Put simply, it’s an attempt to get ranked highly in Google by creating a domain with the targeted search as its domain name. Struggling to compete with other blue widgets suppliers in the Google results for ‘blue widgets’? Set up a new site called blue-widgets.com and Google will love it …or at least that was the thinking. For a few years, this worked. Then Google called time on the practice, and any low content sites which might have been artificially boosted by having search terms as their domain names found they were penalised instead.

Google had determined that what people wanted from searches on ‘blue widgets’ (apart from a definition) was a list of the most familiar suppliers of blue widgets in that locality. They wanted the brands. And don’t forget, Google knows all about brands: people search for them. A lot.

So today it’s all about building up your brand, and associating that brand name with the important searches. If you put all your best blue widget information on a separate website called blue-widgets.com, that’s a whole load of good information on blue widgets which is not associated with your brand.

If blue widgets clearly form an important part of Acme Widgets’ website, and Acme Widgets is a brand which people search for, expect to see Acme Widgets high in the search results for blue widgets.

An exact match domain won’t hurt you in 2016, especially if it’s got a bit of a history. But if you see one heading the Google results, it won’t be down to the site having the keywords in its domain name.

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