Exact Match Domain

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Exact match domain

Exact Match Domain
Figure: Exact Match Domain - Author: Seobility - License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Exact match domains are domain names that contain exclusively the keyword the website is trying to optimize for. Exact match domain names used to be an extremely effective way of ranking for a given keyword, but its use has reduced over the past five to ten years due to reduced effectiveness in SEO.

Examples of exact match domains are seowiki.com if optimizing for the keyword “SEO wiki,” or onlinepowertools.com if trying to rank for the keyword “online power tools.” Although the .com varieties of exact match domains are generally considered best, exact match domain names with other domain extensions also exist.

Exact Match Domain SERP

An example of an exact match domain ranking in the Google SERPs

What they were used for in the past

Keywords in the domain name used to be an important ranking factor in search engine algorithms. In the early 2000s, exact match domains greatly improved a website’s chances of ranking, so they were extremely popular.

In 2012, Google’s exact match domain (EMD) update was made live and greatly reduced the effectiveness that EMDs had on a website’s ability to rank in the SERPs. Although Google didn’t penalize all websites using exact match domains, any exact match domains that were hosting spammy content did see their rankings drop.

Since then, exact match domains have been used far less for their SEO benefit, although there can still be some branding/relevance benefits depending on the domain/target audience.

Their uses today

Exact match domain names are not used much today, although they are still used in black hat SEO. Although they don’t provide much SEO benefit anymore, referencing the topic of a website in the domain name can still be beneficial.

The same goes for partial match domains, which are domain names that contain parts of a keyword or key phrase. However, when a domain name contains the topic that a website is about, it is clear to people who click on a link what the site they are navigating to is about. For example, Seobility.net contains “SEO” which shows potential visitors what topic the site covers. This may benefit the site as it provides people more information on the topic of the site before navigating to it.

In link building, there may also still be some benefits provided by the anchor text used in branded/naked backlinks. This could potentially increase the relevance of your site in the eyes of search engines.

Its relevance to SEO

Although still favored by some black hat SEO practitioners today, exact match domains are generally considered a thing of the past when it comes to their impact on SEO performance. In the past, exact match domains greatly improved a site’s ability to rank in search engines. Today, this is no longer the case.

That being said, there may still be some relevance benefits to implementing the topic of your site into a domain name. However, this is not something that is going to improve a site’s performance in search on its own in the same way that backlinks or improving the user experience could.

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