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If you’ve been paying attention to the world of search engine optimization this past year, you know that Google brought the hammer down on exact match domains. No longer can someone trying to rank for dog toys simply buy “dogtoys.com” and enjoy front page results…or at least that’s what people are saying. I hear it from people all the time actually, they’re afraid to get a domain that has their targeted keyword in it because they think Google penalizes exact match keywords now. That’s just not true, so I’m going to take a minute here and dispel some of the rumors.
To start, Google DID NOT penalize exact match domains, they jut stopped rewarding them. Sure, losing a reward can FEEL like a penalty when an existing site starts doing worse in the rankings, but it’s not the same thing. If you were to start a website today that used an exact match domain, you would have just as good a shot at ranking as any other domain, so if you want to include your keyword in your site name, then go for it. In fact, not only will it rank as well as any other domain, I think it will still have an edge.
Above, I used the example dogtoys.com. Can you guess why? The top result on Google for “dog toys” is, in fact, dogtoys.com. In the interest of fairness, I wanted to look at a single category of products and test the effectiveness of exact match domains in an admittedly casual and anecdotal fashion. I chose to look at general household goods, and to keep it random, I had my girlfriend yell out some household products for me to check at random. Here’s the first handful we did, in order:
Refrigerators: No exact match domain on the first page, all tried and established brands.
Coffee Table: Coffeetables.com is the first result.
Wall Clocks: No exact match domain on the first page, lots of respected home-goods stores.
Pillowcase: Pillowcases.net halfway down the first page.
Toaster Oven: Thetoasteroven.com halfway down the first page. This is an especially strong example in favor of the exact match domain as this result is a restaurant across the country from where I live, so it wasn’t influenced by geography.
Frying Pan: Fryingpan.com is the first result on the first page. It’s a ship you can tour in North Carolina. Again, not anywhere near me and it’s definitely not a local result.
Food Processor: No EMD on the first page, lots of web retailers.
Griddles: Thegriddle.com and thegriddlecafe.com both on the first page.
Charcoal Grill: Charcoalgrill.com is the second result. Again, a restaurant located across the country from me.
Coffee Pot: A few exact match domains for restaurants around the country. Another strong, strong point in favor of exact match domains lending considerable weight.
As you can see, exact match domains still come into play. If you want to argue with me and say that they don’t give you a better chance to rank, I believe that it’s up for debate, but to say that hurt your chances of ranking is just plain wrong.