So, are exact match domains still valuable? In the past, they delivered great rankings and traffic, but how does present-day Google treat them, and should you buy one?
Exact match domains (EMDs) precisely match a search query that will likely drive traffic to your website and historically tended to rank well. Many EMDs were purchased by webmasters, domain squatters, and entrepreneurs looking to make money by selling popular domain names that could potentially rank well for the query because the keyword they were trying to rank for was in the domain name.
In 2012, Matt Cutts (then Google's chief spam fighter) announced an algorithm change that was aimed at reducing the amount of low-quality exact match domains in search results. That meant, if you had a low-quality (or spammy) EMD, the game could be up.
That's not the whole story, though. The author believes that Google likes exact match domains so long as they're not spammy. Hotels.com is a good example of that. It's an exact match domain because the domain exactly matches the keyword [hotels], and it continues to dominate the SERPs for hotel searches year after year, making the domain name a great signal of user intent for those searching for hotels. Hotels.com is now over 27 years old and was purchased for about $11 million.
By the end of 2012, Google realized some valuable exact-match domain holders had been penalized simply for having a catchy EMD. The company issued an update to the algorithm that improved the value of such domains and punished the sites that were low-quality EMDs.
The author says most of the best EMDs are already owned. If you have some money in the bank, be prepared to shell out a lot of it to buy a domain that may be up for sale. Getting an exact match domain can satisfy user intent and help your brand because people know what your site should be about before they go to it. Once end-users land on your site, you provide them with great content and a good user experience, so they purchase your products or services, which this site does a good job at.
If you want to find good EMDs, the author recommends:
- Watching the news or searching Google Trends.
- Going to a domain registrar.
- Using social listening to find the latest buzz words and go to see if the domain is registered. If it's not, secure it, create some high-quality content, build links, get some social love, and make it a brand.