Google Lowering Value on Exact Match Domains?

November 28, 2010 // Internet News, Search Engines

There has been a recent increase in discussion regarding the value of exact match domains. This has primarily been stirred up as Matt Cutt’s was recently referenced at Pubcon as saying Google was looking into the value of exact match domains. For those of you not aware of this technique for a long time now Google has given a heavy increase in weighting to domains that exact match for specific keywords. This method of optimisation is only ever successfull targeting a certain type of keyword, usually medium to low levels of search volume is where it works best.

I for one have used this method for a while and for the last few months have noticed some odd activity on 2 of my extact match websites.

Setting the Scene:

The two websites in question  target keywords that have an average search volume of 2,000 per month so with some well placed on-site optimisation and very little link building they can rank at number 1 for their targets, until a few months back they did this well. Then one day they both dropped out of the search results for the keywords in the domain name, and just these not the additional long tailed keywords that were driving other traffic. You can se an example of this for site 1 below:


 I did no paid links what so ever so I knew this was not a penalty given by Google but had a really hard time finding out what the problem was. Based on experience I often find if you’ve done nothing wrong and there’s no obvious errors then Google should sort it out. Last week I saw site 1 ranking number 1 again for the exact match keyword almost like someone had just switched it back on.

Now if this had just happened for 1 website I would probably just put it down to a “one off”, however as you can see below site 2 also had a sharp drop from just 1 keyword (the same as the domain name) and no longer ranked at all, whereas it had ranked in the top 3.

You can see the initial drop in the first box and then in the second box you can see that for a short period it went back up to the original position. Again this site had no paid links or black hat SEO, so what’s the deal?

There’s a good post on SEOBook about whether or not you should buy exact match domains, I for one think that these kind of sites usually never compete on the scale of actual big brands but can provide useful information for niche subjects, I’ll be interested to see if this activity is a test or not.

Matt Ridout

About the author

My name is Matt Ridout, I've been working in digital marketing for 9 years; worked for agencies and currently Head of SEO at fashion startup called Farfetch. Try to test my own theories.


  1. That’s really strange… Was your host offline for a short time? Have you tried to send your XML Sitemaps to Google?

  2. Very interesting. I for one think it would be good news. The site at the top should be there on merit rather than because somebody was quick enough or savvy enough to nab the exact match domain.

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  4. In my opinion exact matching domains are not that influential or powerful to think about to your marketing strategies. Because exact match only benefits for exact match and when you choose domains with exact match you will miss the chance of spreading your relevance to collection of niche keywords.

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  8. Exact match domains have been kicking butt for years now. I hope Google does not devalue them too much because I have bought about 50 that I need to build out!

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  10. I have tried to use exact matches for a few domains, mainly to experiment with what drives traffic. I’ve found it difficult to to rise in rankings even with an exact match if the search traffic is too high. It seems like the existing sites already have a lot of weight given to them, and you have to overcome that.

    If your exact match is lower volume, it seems much easier to rise to the top.

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