Google SEO: Exact Match Domain Or Not?

Jul 31, 2012 • 8:53 am | comments (29) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

SEO Exact MatchThere is an interesting WebmasterWorld thread just kicking off on an old topic of should you go with an exact match domain or go with the branded domain?

It is not a new topic, it has been discussed for years. We've probably covered it here a few times before. But since SEO and Google's algorithms change over the years, it is good to revisit the topic.

The question is, if you want to rank for [blue widgets] and you are starting a new site, should you go with a domain name that matches the keyword phrase, i.e. or should you go with a branded domain such as

Of course, it depends on your strategy.

Bill Hartzer commented in the thread said it depends on the length of the domain name you can find. He wrote:

If it is a three keyword phrase, them you are better off with a shorter domain. If it was one or two keywords then I would go for the exact match. is not much better, you might be better if you choose a short brand able word instead.

Netmeg said she'd always go with a branded domain approach:

I don't think it's going to have much bearing on the success of your site in Google. Go with branding, or whatever you think your users will remember.

I agree, it depends on your plans. Is it a short term plan? Is it a long term strategy? What domains are available? What can you work the brand around?

Of course, having a domain with the keywords in it is helpful. People link to you by your domain name. I.e. people link to my business saying RustyBrick because that is my company name and domain name. So it helps with anchor text to have a keyword rich, exact match domain. It does sometimes and often appear that Google likes to rank exact match domain names in the search results - but not always.

What do you think?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to ShutterStock for puzzle pieces

Previous story: UK SEOs Say Possible Google Penguin Refresh


Nick Stamoulis

07/31/2012 01:24 pm

I have always been on the side of branded domains. Exact match domains can get very spammy looking very quickly, plus how brandable is something like You need to think long term and really focus on building a real business, not just a website designed to rank.

Ryan TheSEO

07/31/2012 01:44 pm

I agree Nick. If I see an exact match domain in search results I automatically think it is just a spam or untrustworthy site. I will visit a branded domain name vs. an exact match everytime.

Scott McKirahan

07/31/2012 02:39 pm

Hmmm ... I think the way the SEO World looks at websites may not at all be the same as the way regular "Joe America" looks at things. Where you see "spammy site URL" a typical internet users sees "good price" and couldn't care less about the website's name or URL, if they notice them at all. I try to do a little of both, depending on the keywords - like Every single website I have ever created with the keyword phrase contained within the domain name has always outperformed those without the keywords in terms of SERP position. I'll take a brand new domain with keywords over an aged one without keywords every time (unless, of course, that aged domain is already ranking on page one when I purchase it).

Praveen Sharma

07/31/2012 03:46 pm

Agree here with Nick. Build a website to give your brand a strong online presence which can build trust for your business in your consumers/customers. And if you can get that, search engines will automatically pick you up. So, should avoid websites for search engines, rather build them for users.

Jonathan Verrall

07/31/2012 03:46 pm

I agree with also Nick, but search engines adore exact match domains and it means ranking highly for the key term extremely easily, however it does look spammy. I think it boils down once again to the purpose of the website and how competitive the key term is you're gunning for.

Kevin Mullett

07/31/2012 04:22 pm

Few agree, especially domainers, but I have been in favor of everything left of the gTLD being neutral for years. Do whatever you want in the paths, but the domain should be ZERO signal. My reason is simple, a small mom and pop business should not have to choose between using their business name (brand) and an EMD or spending time or money to outrank someone who has one. If it were neutral, brands like BestBuy would still rank just fine. The argument that "" as a valuable signal is weak as they would have those kw on the site and in the content anyway. Go ahead, let me have it...I maintain it is not a qualitative signal worth the damage caused by gaming it.

07/31/2012 04:54 pm

My main domain has gone down from No.28 to No.40 although 1 of my pages is still on page 1. My main competitor has in the last week gone from No.1 to No.24!


07/31/2012 05:25 pm

I went with YAKEZIE.COM because it is unique, original, and a never before spoken word.

Jaan Kanellis

07/31/2012 09:57 pm

Remember all those completely awful Web 2.0 names and domain names that matched?


08/01/2012 12:26 am

I get the branded domain name brand building quality issue. But until keyword rich domains have equal starting points with non branded domains there will always be domains like hpprintermemory

Brijesh Bhalodia

08/01/2012 04:33 am

Hi Barry, recently I have discussed this topic in SEOmoz Linked In group. I have come up with few different interested answers. Few one have posted some practicals as well. Here is the link of that discussion,


08/01/2012 05:52 am

Out tip: Try to combine both. Like "Shoezilla" or "Shoebidu" - so you can have both, an unique brand name and a search term.

Thomas Renoult

08/01/2012 08:26 am

I agree with @twitter-15784802:disqus. For a regular user (not SEO savvy), there is nothing spammy with an exact match domain. And Google keeps giving a big advantage to exact match domain so... Short terms vision: I will go for it ( if I find the right short exact match domain which is pretty difficult). Long term & more ambitious project where I plan to do marketing (emailing, social media...) I will of course opt for a branded domain or a mixed branded keyword domain!


08/01/2012 10:38 am

Get both with Dot .Me domains like Dating.Me, It makes sense 1-2 words exact match domains ranks higher, and remember keyword domains can also be brands.


08/01/2012 11:24 am

I will go with brand plus keywords . so, we have chosed as a domain name.

Gerasimos Mourelatos

08/01/2012 11:39 am

Even though my client base is very small I know as a fact that my clients like exact match domains(under 3 words) the most while bounce rate and goal achieving stats are at least 20+% and 10+% better against brandable domains. Brandable domains are good for horizontal market approach but vertical market approach is always best to be done with an exact match domain even if its a .me or .tv.

Webstats Art

08/01/2012 11:59 am

If you start right now with exact match for dotcom, you will suck for 6 months or more.. probably more!

William Vicary

08/01/2012 01:55 pm

Only .com/.net/.org get a bonus in the US serps (in the UK you get a bonus on and but you won't get a direct bonus from an exact match domain on .me or .tv - you would find it easier to get anchor text links but thats it.

Roi Alon

08/01/2012 07:46 pm

When it comes to local geo search - service + location. exact match domains appear most of time.

Josef Holm

08/01/2012 08:23 pm

I don't think that exact match domains have a notable ranking advantage over branded domains. It all depends on the market and the long term goals whether to go with a new brand name or a new direct match domains. If you already run a business that has an established brand name I would always go with that.

Travel Center UK

08/02/2012 08:06 am

Yup agree with u


08/02/2012 11:39 am

It's all about balance. If you have a brand already built up, go with that. However if you are starting from scratch, personally, I would go with a domain name which was a branded version of your main keywords. Also look for synonyms, google recognises words as having similar meanings so you can mix it up as well. These are more available and have a less spammy feel than an EMD.

Jeff Bothom

08/02/2012 12:49 pm

I also go with the same. That's why we choose as a domain being engineering company with good reputation in AEC industry.

Sandis Viksna

08/02/2012 08:50 pm

It depends - cashcow or long term business, sometimes it can be both.


08/03/2012 08:20 pm

All goes back to your linking - EMD ranked so well because google believes in linking your brand and according to your domain its your brand. Building lots of links to keyword/emd means you linking your brand and the keyword.. Thats just one way EMD are better but regardless you need to have a diverse link portfolio and diverse text anchors to rank.

Sanket Patel

08/04/2012 09:18 am

I think Long term projects having domain with their keywords reach exact match with appears that Google likes.It much better off with shorter keywords with their domain.Some Seo perfectly valid code with validations.

Patty L.

08/06/2012 04:40 am

If you're trying to establish a great, brand-name site, I think the closest thing to your name is best. If you're setting up a site for forwarding or just for making a little extra cash, then exact matching is often the best bet, even for long tails. I think the really important thing is to try and determine whether that keyword's going to be popular for a long time. If it's not, you might just be wasting your time.

Richard Rutter ツ

08/21/2012 03:50 pm

Interesting topic. Personally now I prefer brand domain names, as I think Google realises that a quality business or brand usually doesnt have multiple product keywords stuffed into its name.

05/01/2013 01:59 pm

yes Exact Match Domain is working i have more then 5 websites they just get top in just one month because of EMD domain...

blog comments powered by Disqus