Do Exact Match Domains Still Work?


JoyHawkins

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I was doing some research for a client who was trying to decide between an exact-match domain and a branded domain and came across this really useful study. It's from the end of 2014 but I would say it's still accurate (not that much has changed from a year and a half ago). The study had some pretty compelling arguments for keyword-rich domains.

  • Keyword domains rank on average 11% higher than brandable domains
  • Brandable domains needed an average of 40,000 more links to hit #1, and 35,000 more links to reach the Top 10
  • Brandable domains needed 69% higher Domain Authority and 22% higher Page Authority to rank in the Top 10
  • Keyword domains were able to hit #1 with half as much content, and only using the keyword half as frequently
  • Looking at all Ranking Factors, it?s clear that keyword domains rank more easily due to higher Website Relevancy and Website Ext Relevancy scores
 
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Wow, thanks for sharing Joy. That's definitely a good case to go with a branded domain. On the other hand, I know it can be harder to earn links, get recognition, and stay memorable if you have a generic name. What do you think about using a domain name that's different from the brand name, but still keeping the brand name trustworthy and memorable? For a local business owner, I suppose that might mean having 'portlandselfstorage.com' but all the NAP info and website content would of course reflect the real business name. Is that what you're considering? And if you did that, would you 301 a branded domain as well for business cards and so on (not to mention branded email addresses)?
 

mborgelt

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Thanks for providing the hard ans fast facts. Our clients ask us all the time if EMDs still have value and that answer is a resounding "yes." Now we have some numbers to show them to back up our experience.
 

Linda Buquet

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I like to point out "Bellevue Dentist" when someone asks about EMDs.
Half the domains on page one (organic) are PMDs with city + Dental or Dentistry.

So one bad thing is they all tend to blend in. Could cause confusion with pts.
 
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geez, what an ugly search result to dish out. I hope Google nerfs business names at least as a search factor sometime sooner than later, but for the time being it's at least good to know what works.
 

JoyHawkins

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If I was opening a new business, I would absolutely get a keyword-rich domain. I think Andrew Shotland was genius for naming his company Local SEO Guide and grabbing "Apple Maps Marketing" before Apple Maps is a huge deal (I'm sure it will be in the future).
 
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I think it's less about the domain, and more about what you do with it. If you're building micro-sites out of EMD's, but not promoting them effectively then it will do about as well as a branded domain with the same level of effort. It all depends what you put into it. I've played with EMDs for obscure queries with low search volume, and I didn't see immediate gains from the domain alone. I can see EMDs working if they're short, since they would be easy to remember. Their example of "Tahoe Lodging" is a good example, especially because the company is called "Lake Tahoe Lodging Company." As long as your branding is consistent everywhere, then it can work.

Like Linda also mentioned, if you follow the competition with EMDs you might blend in too much. I'd rather find a good brand to use over an EMD.

Another issue with I see with EMDs is they could pigeon-hole you. If you do a specific EMD geared towards a product or service you offer, it would be tough to expand your offering. You're better off creating a memorable brand and market it right.
 

CodyBaird

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I love emd's and pmd's. In fact I just purchased 7 this week. All for local businesses, specifically dental offices and ortho offices. I paid between $2,400 to $3,400 each. They were all exact match service + geo. The creation dates on Whois date back to 1999 on the .coms and 2004 on the .cas

It's not just keyword matching. I buy those domains because they are seasoned, meaning the creation dates in Whois date back 10 to 15 yrs. And when I place them with a 30 yr dental practice something magical happens.

This is from my old school bag of tricks dudes. Consider yourself blessed if you're reading this.
 
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CodyBaird

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Using as primary and 301 the current website to emd

Same thing goes if a business closes. I probably want that old, seasoned URL.

But what if it had a penalty? Don't care. Still want it if it was created in the early 2000's or 90s.
 
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Has that worked with brand new practices? You mentioned you're using this method with established businesses, so maybe there's something to that? I would think that if a practice has been around long enough they would pick up a lot of authority, so that could be a factor why this is working. I'm not necessarily only talking about the website, but all local citations, news/pr, sponsorship opportunities, reviews/social media, unlinked mentions of the business name, etc...etc...

That's a long way of saying i'm interested in hearing whether you've seen a performance difference between new vs established businesses with this strategy.
 

CodyBaird

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It's a no brainier for new business as well. 3 of those mentioned are for brand new practices. And I will be way ahead organically for it.

But the effect is not the same as when you drop that same domain on a business that has been in the gov records for 30 years.
 

CodyBaird

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You don't change the business name to Austin dentist just because you have austindentist.com

Leave the business name as is.
 

CodyBaird

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Click through and Conversions will be slightly better also.

I believe it has something to do with the subconscious. Something people are mostly unaware of.

And others consciously choose to click on emd's because they are rare. We respect rare things. We respect early adopters and leaders. That is what the business that has one looks like. Serious.
 

leadjoint

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I think Andrew Shotland was genius for naming his company Local <acronym title="Search Engine Optimization" style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); border-width: 0px 0px 1px; border-bottom-style: dotted; border-bottom-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); cursor: help; background-color: rgb(250, 250, 250);">SEO</acronym> Guide and grabbing "Apple Maps Marketing" before Apple Maps is a huge deal (I'm sure it will be in the future).


I guess it depends on what your niche is. The lack of a brand name also means you earn more competition than you actually have. If iPhone was named 'Best Smartphone', they not only have Google and Microsoft to fight, but also my lowly tech blog to compete against for space for their main keyword.
 
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You don't change the business name to Austin dentist just because you have austindentist.com

Leave the business name as is.
Completely agree. I wasn't suggesting the business change it's name to a generic name they have in the EMD domain. What I was asking is whether you see the additional boost an established business could have compared to a brand new business. If you take an established company and change the domain to an EMD, do you see similar positive results if you do it for a brand new business?

I definitely get the potential psychology factor behind the EMD domain, but I'm wondering if more people are clicking on the established business because they know the brand much better.

If this is dragging the convo in a different direction, I'd be happy to take this offline. I'm just really interested in learning more how the strategy affects the two types of businesses from a data/analysis point of view.
 
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Great discussion here. I also think EMDs still work like crazy. Here's a trick for businesses that want the benefits of the EMD, but want to keep the old domain active for branding: just clone the site and canonicalize all the pages to the EMD. Here's an example:

Original site: http://drmichaelpetty.com (view source to see the canonical)

EMD: http://www.knoxvillechiropractic.com

Ranks #1 in organic for "Knoxville chiropractor"

Cody, do you always do it with aged domains? Have you seen EMDs have the same positive effect when they're newly registered?
 

CodyBaird

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Awesome example Darren and that is exactly how we will map these domains.

Age of domain is more important than exact match IMO. So taking your example above I would value drmichaelpetty.com more than knoxvillechiropractic.com if drmike was created / registered in 1999 and end.com was created / registered in 2014.

When you add both emd w/ old irk - you have fire. When you add a seasoned / old business from the 90s to emd and the URL is seasoned i.e. Created in 1999 - you have Hiroshima.
 

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