Do Exact Match Domains Still Work In SEO?

I’ve noticed a handful of threads on social media about exact-match domains and if they still work in 2020, so I figured I would drop my thoughts.

To most SEOs, it’s widely known that the exact-match domain name strategy to try to “game” organic search results in Google was largely ignored by Google beginning back in 2012 after Matt Cutts deemed the practice as spammy. Prior to this change from Google, marketers could register domains with the exact-match text as their keyword target and earn rankings for the keyword rather quickly. Instead of being evaluated for domain name history, content, page speed or any of the things SEO professionals pay attention to today, the exact-match text in the domain allowed websites to rank too easily.

All things considered, the exact-match domain tactic was not bad by any means. It allowed for quick brand visibility and tied a brand directly into a keyword. But like many things of SEO’s past including using the meta keywords tag, it doesn’t work anymore.

What Works Best Today?

While EMD sites stopped earning rankings back in 2012, there are a handful of things any webmaster can do to try to rank for their target keywords.

Focus On Search Intent With Content

Instead of trying to own a domain name of your target keyword, build pages on your site focused on the target keywords. Using tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush and Ahrefs, you can begin to scope out your customers’ search intent. Determine the exact queries customers like yours use to find products and services like you. Create landing pages to support the queries with plenty of copy (I always recommend a minimum of 500 words) and track rankings diligently.

Focus On User Experience

The EMD strategy was one that didn’t emphasize the user’s experience on a website. Businesses ended up with multiple domains trying to target their keyword and ended up with thin content, unbranded content and an overall lackluster experience. Here’s where it is much more beneficial to focus on the user’s experience and put all of your effort into your main site.

Focus On Competitors

Instead of trying a variety of things to rank, spend time thoroughly analyzing competitor sites to best understand how they rank in Google. It could be due to content, which then provides you with plenty of opportunities to revise your content strategy; it may be the technical performance of a website since we know Google prefers the fastest sites available to answer a user’s search; or it could be related to a competitors backlink profile. If a competitor earns a link from a highly credible domain, you’ll need to target equally credible backlinks to try to rank with them.

Other Outdated SEO Tactics

I occasionally hear about other SEOs sharing tactics like keyword stuffing, using the meta keywords tag, spamming alt tags and worst of all, buying low quality links without focusing on quantity. Not only has Google been a lot more public about its updates lately (i.e., the May Core Update), they also have a webmasters’ YouTube channel documenting things website owners can do to improve their SEO.

What are some other outdated SEO tactics you still hear about?


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