Could registering an exact match domain name do wonders for your business?
Historically, an exact match domain (EMD) represented the Holy Grail of website naming. This little-known phenomenon occurs when a company registers a popular search term as a website address, such as www.budgetholidays.com. Before would-be travel agents start trying to secure this particular domain, it’s already been registered and redirected to a UK travel agency. However, there are plenty of other search terms with available domain names that can be turned into exact match domains.
Until a few years ago, EMDs could be used to help sites gain a competitive advantage in search engine results. Sites with an EMD could be newer and less well-written than more worthy rivals and still appear on the first page of ranking results, simply because of their keyword-heavy domain name. However, in September 2012, Google began penalising sites that attempted to circumvent the normal ranking criteria (backlinks, regular updates, traffic, etc). For a while, EMDs were seen as a potential liability, though current opinion suggests they can still offer an advantage over rival websites of comparable quality.
A typical EMD will be two or three words in length, targeting a very specific service or niche, and used by a company that focuses on a single core market or audience. If your second-hand car dealership sells all makes of vehicles, then cheapvolvocars.co.uk would actively deter the majority of customers. On the other hand, a specialist Volvo reseller would find this a very useful exact match domain. The obvious workaround of registering cheap[insertname]cars.co.uk for every marque would fall foul of Google’s current operating guidelines and be downgraded accordingly in future search results.
One increasingly popular use for EMDs involves marketing campaigns. If you purchase the bigfluffyjumper.com domain and then run a campaign encouraging the public to search online for “big fluffy jumper”, this newly-registered domain will clearly be top of the first page results. With a redirect to an official company website, this can help to sustain a long-serving slogan or catchphrase; it’s a particularly popular technique among the UK insurance sector.
Another innovative use for EMDs concerns local markets. Many web searches relate to a particular location, helping to narrow down the target audience and meaning an EMD will have greater appeal to anyone discovering it. In the car dealership example mentioned earlier on in this article, there is no differentiation between people searching in Aberdeen or Aberystwyth. A geographic reference, however, ensures more targeted and localised content. The introduction of regional domain suffixes like .scot can be helpful, so our imaginary car dealership could register cheapvolvocars.scot to indicate its focus lies north of the Border.
Of course, the biggest problem with EMDs concerns the diversity of search terms. Long tail keywords with multiple terms have become far more common than the shorter searches of yesteryear, so choosing the right combination of words is increasingly challenging. There’s also a higher risk of losing visitors who search for alternative terms, while the ongoing revisions to search engine algorithms mean today’s successful techniques won’t necessarily work tomorrow. An EMD shouldn’t form the basis of a website marketing campaign in the way it once could, but it can still distinguish a site from competitors and provide that all important edge in ranking results.