Are We Seeing the End of Exact Match Domain Names (EMDs)?

Last Update: May 17, 2012
For years there was a consensus that Exact-Match Domains were a great way to get a huge boost for the keywords you were looking to target. For instance, if you were looking to rank for the keyword "how to build muscle fast" having the domain name www.howtobuildmusclefast.com would be ideal.

By merely having the exact keyword in your domain name, Google would assume that your website was relevant for the keyword and rank it highly with minimal effort on your part.

And for years this worked. 

Affiliate marketers would build "micro-niche" sites targeting one product, throw up a few backlinks (or several), and get to see ranking fairly easily. I did this a number of times myself and was a big advocate of "micro-niche" sites originally.

This strategy has come up in WA a number of times, with even a few WAbinars being focused around the construction of a "micro-niche" or one-product site.

However, from my own experiences and through a bit of research, this strategy seems no longer effective. I began noticing this especially around March, where my micro-niche sites just weren't able to rank very well. And recently, I'm looking through the SERPS and am seeing less of these micro-niche sites coming up.

And if they are up in the first page, they will be there for only a week or two then be gone for good (it seems).

However, in all honesty, I'm not surprised that Google would be making it harder for these sites to rank. I mean, whenever I see one with an EMD, I automatically assume its an affiliate site and that it is going to be either biased or low quality (and 75% of the time it is both). These types of sites seem spammy to me, so it ultimately doesn't surprise me that Google would eventually clamp down on them.

Should You Still Build Sites With EMDs?

In my opinion, it no longer seems worth it to build these types of sites unless you plan on getting most of your traffic from something other than Google directly (e.g. pinterest, or streetarticles).

They don't rank as well anymore and can be perceived as spammy by both Google and users. Even if they do rank well for a little while, they will eventually fall from the SERPS.

I find myself moving far more towards building authority sites that provide expert information and promote more than one product in a niche. Although they may take a while to rank, once they do they will usually maintain their rankings as long as you add fresh content regularly, don't buy links, and don't over-optimize. Plus the great thing about an authority site is that every new article your publish is much easier to rank right away due to the established authority of your domain.

What Domains To Go For

The domains that I'm going for these days often only have part of a keyword in them. If I have a site based around coffee maker reviews, I might call it thecoffeefreak.com

This does not seem over-optimized to Google, has the word "coffee" in it (thus indicating the topic of the site), and allows me enough room to expand. For instance, if I wanted to add coffee grinder reviews or barista tips to my site, I could. I would not have this same flexibility if my site was: bestcoffeemakersunder50dollars.com or coffeemakerreviews.com

Anyways, I'll think I'll wrap up this blog post here, seeing as its already gone on far longer than I intended! 

Obviously, this is just my opinion based on my own experience with Google, so I understand if some of you out there might disagree. But I think its important to have a discussion about this issue because of how long EMDs were heralded as a ideal in the SEO community. 

Does anyone else have thoughts on EMDs? Do you still seem them as viable today?

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chamaltatis Premium
I also read this somewhere and I guess I agree with you. When I search for reviews online, most of those sites that are appearing in the first page are the authority sites such as cnet, toptenreviews, amazon, etc. I also bought lots of domain names that are rich keywords. But my partner and I planned to build a branded site this june and make it an authority site. It will be a review of many kinds of products. I know it will take longer for it to rank but I agree that it will work for long term use.
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slayton1s Premium
Try not to spread yourself thin. ;) Good luck with that Chamberlane.
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josephthl Premium
The key to an authority site is to have it based around a particular topic or niche. Not only will your site seem like more of an authority in the particular niche, but people will be more inclined to interact with it and like it on facebook/twitter/pinterest/etc.

But yes, an authority is a great long-term asset, and if at the end of the day you want to sell it, it will be worth way more than a single micro-niche site.
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I think it should be content based. You could have an EMD and the content(or most) of it not even related.
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Sielke Premium
This is an interesting post. I honestly see them as viable, to a certain extent. When I start out I think of the user first so I'm not going to get a domain such as howtobuildmyownblogwithwordpress.com or something crazy like that but if something comes up like howtoblog.com is available I'm definitely going to take it (I understand this is not very targeted but just an example). Since, I'm putting quality content on the site anyway I've found I'm able to achieve the rankings I want just as I always have. Of course I attribute this to the content but you have to assume the domain does help a bit.

Still, I agree that building authority sites are the way to go. It's what I've always strived to do rather than target specific products. I've done a few but really it takes too much effort and time and you're at the mercy of that product, if they stop offering or something to that nature you now have a hole in your business.
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slayton1s Premium
True, you can always change authority sites that target 1 specific niche - unless you're like Doctor Oz and have a website like http://www.doctoroz.com/. Then on top of that, you have to buy each .com domain for doing this.... both a waste and an outdated strategy if you ask me.
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SDK347 Premium
"I've done a few but really it takes too much effort and time and you're at the mercy of that product, if they stop offering or something to that nature you now have a hole in your business."

I am in the beginning stages of my campaign and was looking to set up a website dedicated to a certain product, and use the keyword phrase as the domain name. But after reading this blog post and your comment, I am hesitant to continue on this path, since, like you said, I am at the mercy of that product.

What would you recommend I do? Should I continue and dedicate my website to one product? Or try to research more on building a website that can provide similar products in a given niche - like an authourity site (not exactly sure if I am using that term correctly?!)

Also, does it really matter what the domain name is, as long as the website itself provides quality content?

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Sundeep
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slayton1s Premium
If your site didn't have the keyword you were going after, the strategy we're talking about right now wouldn't be considered anyway since that's pretty much what we're discussing about. ;) As for creating an authority site, just make your keyword relevant to what you're talking about, or at least your brand name (like Ivetriedthat.com and whatever else).
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the filbert Premium
Its an interesting topic.... I asked several friends (yes, a small sample size, I know :)) who have no idea about IM, EMD's etc and they said they thought that if the sites name corresponded with the term they were searching for, surely it would be high in the listings.....

what i wonder is : will google "give" their users/searchers what they expect to see?? (assuming the content matches the search query) Isn't google in the business (very successfully) of supplying superior search results?

My question to you would be this : if the site is well constructed, contains good content and offers valuable information to the user, why would google not want to rank it??....or is google simply going to banish it because it is an EMD...to me that makes no sense :)

Or would they banish it if all it was was a straight out advertisement with affiliate links etc??....to me that would make more sense.

My right here, right now experience is : I have an EMD that grew thru the ranks to number 2 on page 1 google (over a period of 8 weeks.....it sat there for 6- 8 weeks and has just moved to number 1 spot in the last 2 weeks...it has taken the number 1 spot from the "creator" of the item in question, who is regarded as the "queen" of the niche!

I guess time will tell.

Any one else care to comment?
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slayton1s Premium
It's probable that he's seeing these types of sites vanish due to there lack of quality content and so forth. These sites were probably made with the mindset of just targeting these keywords within there primary domain, and just shooting up the rankings. I really don't think that your domain name matters much though for real as long as it represents what you're site is about anyway. It's only 1 keyword relevant to what you're talking about....

There are tons of keywords out there you can target, so to me this just goes to show somebody basing everything they're doing around Google, as opposed to all the other awesome mediums found on the worldwide web today. People often limit themselves to there own boundaries they've created within Google, either with the intention of trying to take advantage of the system with the added possibility of not having any effect outside of Google to the full potential it really deserves.
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josephthl Premium
Congratulations on getting your site to the number one spot! And yes I agree that many of these EMD sites that are disappearing are poor quality/overly promotional. With Google there is obviously no exact science and of course there are exceptions.

I think one of the problems inherent to an EMD site is that site owners might tend to overoptimize it. It is very easy just to target the one KW the domain is based on and then get an over-optimization penalty. So perhaps if one avoids these pitfalls it is possible to keep an EMD ranking well.

I will say that I have seen EMDs disappear even if they do everything properly, so people's results will be different, and I suspect this might be related to the industry their site is in. Certain industries seem to be more aggressively "policed" than others.

@ slayton1s I totally agree that we shouldn't base our entire business around Google. Even recently I have been working at this, and with considerable success. For one of my sites (an old micro-niche site), virtually all my traffic is generated through Streetarticles (indirectly through Google I suppose), and I'm making sales on that site nearly everyday. So yes, I would highly recommend looking into other ways of generating traffic.
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slayton1s Premium
I haven't been doing this for 3 years & started out with old strategies like this, but I more or less do what you were talking about in the 2nd part of your blog. I target specific niches, but put products relevant to this specific niche (instead of just 1). I'm glad Google's starting to crack down on spammy stuff like this. It seems I started doing Internet Marketing at a pretty good time (February 2011).
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josephthl Premium
Yes, one of the benefits with starting late is that you don't remain stuck on ways to build websites that don't work anymore.
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