Exact Match Domains (EMDs):  How Valuable Are Keywords In A Domain?

From an SEO perspective, the domain name does, once again, carry a significant amount of ranking effect or impact.  Not as much as it used to, but much more than it did after Penguin when Google cracked down on EMDs (Exact Match Domains). Google made a big deal about deprecating the ranking factor of the domain but through necessity they quietly upped its value again. A lot of genuine sites with EMDs got punished and at the end of the day Google had to assess if it’s actions improved the quality of results it returned to its customers.  (If you are at the domain purchase stage and would like a second opinion from a experts who know how to evaluate domain metrics visit www.thinktankseo.ca/calgary-seo  or feel free to give us a call.)

EMDs are doing very well in the SERPs again:

If you were interested in rankings during Google’s most infamous update, Penguin, you likely were affected positively or negatively.  Google warned it was going after EMDs and made a big deal about it generally.   What Google didn’t make a big deal about was quietly reinstating the value of keywords in the domain.  Google can only impose it’s will so much.  Common sense dictates that a domain like CalgaryRealEstate.ca is going to be about Calgary Real Estate.   Much in the same way as companies name their businesses.  Pete The Plumber, is a plumber.  Creating algorithmic changes that discriminate against a whole class of domains based solely on their keyword rich nature is digital discrimination.  Rankings should be determined by content and the web of links, natural or otherwise, it’s traffic, it’s bounce rate, it mentions in social media, who it links out to, it’s backlink profile etc.

Why Are EMDs Favored?:

I just made a case against discriminating against a site just based on it’s domain name being keyword rich.  But why does Google clearly, once again, give more credit to domains that are keyword rich or keyword matches?

  • How to think like a search engine:  Priority #1, return the best results possible.   Handicap #1:  You can’t visit the site to confirm the sites you offered up are in fact quality, real sites that will impress the searcher.

If you could never visit a site to determine if it actually was a good site AND were charged with the responsibility of returning THE BEST results the internet had to offer, you’d then be in Google’s shoes.

  • Google can manually review sites and manually review it’s results.  What do you think they found when they looked at the data after Penguin?   What do you think current findings would tell you about EMDs?   If my job is offering up the best results without looking at the sites, I would happily add keyword occurrence in the domain as a RELIABLE variable of relevance and quality.  Clearly it’s not a sure thing that CalgaryPlumbers.org is a quality site.  Turns out it’s nothing more than a page designed to get traffic and isn’t within the first 10 pages for it’s namesake.

All things being equal, as a SEO, I want some keywords in a domain, but I’d rather not work on an EMD.

  1. I’ll wager they enjoy a lower click through rate since www.CalgaryPlumber.org sounds generic and even to a non seo I think it must have a bit of fake feel to it compared to an obvious band like www.PeteThePlumber.com.  When I see a brand based domain ranking for a keyword phrase, I have a higher level of trust that it is actually a reputable company deserving of a top ranking on Goolge.
  2. I suffered through Penguin in 2012 and you don’t need a EMD to be the top ranked site.   Why place the most obvious target on your site’s back when you don’t have to.  Don’t get greedy!  Look for a domain that has one or two keywords and then add something  original or creative or “brand” like.  Think Tank SEO is more brand, than keyword optimized.