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What are the Pros and Cons of an Exact Match Domain for Your Online Business?

If you’re taking your business online, one thing to consider is what domain name people use to reach your website. It’s your online address and also a way to brand your business. There are many approaches to choosing a domain, but you want the name to be short and memorable. Plus, you want it to convey what your business does.  One approach is to buy an exact match domain. (EMD). But don’t rush out and buy one just yet. There are some disadvantages to doing so.

What is an Exact Match Domain (EMD)?

An exact match domain name is a domain name that is identical to the term you’re trying to rank. For example, if you’re a photographer in the Cleveland area, an exact match domain would be “photographycleveland.com” An EMD is easier to remember than a random string of letters, and it looks more professional, but it’s not always a good idea to buy an EMD. There are pros and cons to using an EMD. First, let’s look at the pros.

The Pros and Cons of Buying an EMD

One of the biggest benefits of using an exact match domain name is it’s easier to remember. This is especially true if the name is short and to the point. If the words are common words, it also reduces the frequency of misspelling. Another advantage to buying an exact match domain name is it includes the terms people are searching for when they need what you’re selling, so they’re more likely to click through.

On the downside, there are far fewer advantages to having an EMD than a decade ago. In fact, it can be a detriment. Before 2012, EMD’s often achieved higher search engine rankings because they contained exact match keywords in their domain. That all changed in 2012 when a Google update penalized exact match domains and these sites dropped in the rankings. The purpose of the update was to penalize EMD domains that posted thin content and content unrelated to the keywords in their domain. Prior to this, people bought EMD’s and posted weak and unrelated content just to get rankings and it worked – at the time.

Exact match domains don’t have the same ranking ability that they did before the Google update, but they can still rank if they have quality content. On the other hand, if you have an exact match domain name, post thin content, and do nothing to optimize it for the search engines, you won’t rank well. In other words, an exact match domain does nothing to boost a website with bad content and may be harmful.

Google also wants to be sure the content of your website matches your domain. If you’re selling houses on sockstore.com, Google can see your content isn’t consistent with your domain name and could penalize you, so your page must correspond to what your site is about.

Exact Match Domains Are More Expensive Too

An exact match domain will almost always be more expensive too. Most of the .com names are already taken and it’s likely someone has already registered the EMD you have in mind. However, the owner may not be using it and may allow you to buy it, at a steep price, of course. A lot of people ask whether getting an exact match domain is worth the money. The answer varies from person to person depending on their needs and goals. If you’re simply looking for a cheap place to host your website, then it will probably be cheaper to just buy a standard domain. If you’re bringing a business online you want to build into something bigger, a brandable domain is an option.

Here’s a Case Where an Exact Match Domain is Helpful

Another reason not to use an exact match domain name is it won’t help you build a brand and that’s what distinguishes you from your competitors. However, it can help if your business name is the same as your exact match domain. For example, if your business name is Cleveland Photography, having the exact match domain “clevelandphotography.com,” is brandable because it’s the name of your business. If you can get such a domain name and post quality content, the EMD can help you build a brand.

How about Partial Match Domains?

An exact match domain contains all the keywords you want to rank for. A partial match domain (PMD) is one that contains part of the keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for in the domain name. For example, if you’re trying to rank for “buy vintage clothing,” a partial match domain might be vintageclothinghut.com. or vintageclothingsite.com It contains some of the keywords you want to rank for but isn’t an exact match.

Although you can get ranked with a partial match domain with good content, you may be at risk with future Google updates. For example, if you have vintage clothing in your domain name and also have it in your metadata and content, Google could see the repetition of the word as keyword stuffing and penalize you. Also, if you’re in high-risk industries, like gambling, and have a partial or exact match domain your risk of a penalty is even higher.

The Bottom Line

An exact match domain or a partial match one can still earn good rankings, but only if you have relevant content and avoid keyword stuffing. A better option might be to choose a brandable domain instead. With a brandable domain, you’re not as limited as you are with an exact match domain. You can branch out into other items or services and aren’t limited by the keywords in your domain. So, think twice before buying an exact match domain when a brandable one may serve you better.

References:

“Comprehensive guide to exact match domains in 2020 ….” 26 Mar. 2020, searchenginewatch.com/2020/03/26/comprehensive-guide-to-exact-match-domains-in-2020/.

“The Secret of EMD: Exact Match Domains Revealed.” 22 Jul. 2013, domainsherpa.com/exact-match-domains/.

“The Rewards And Perils Of Using An Exact Match Domain ….” 28 Sept. 2012, .flagstonesearchmarketing.com/blog/rewards-and-perils-of-exact-match-domains.

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Exact Match Domain

Last Updated in May 2022 by Lukasz Zelezny