Are exchanged or reciprocal links okay with Google?
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Do exact match domains work more and more?

Do exact match domains work more and more?

Are domains with exact match still valuable?

Previously, these domains provided great rankings and traffic.

But do they work today?

Read on to learn what an exact matching domain is, how Google treats them, whether you should buy one or more.

What is an exact match domain?

Accurate match domains (EMDs) exactly match a search query that is likely to drive traffic to your site and historically have a good ranking.

A lot of EMDs were bought by webmasters, domain squatters and entrepreneurs who were looking to make money by selling popular domain names that could potentially rank well for the query because the keyword they were trying to rank by was in the domain name.

For example, if I wanted to rank for [boat insurance], I would have bought the domain boatinsurance.com.

Now this is a big business with companies like GoDaddy and others offering a marketplace for buying and selling domains.

What did Google do about EMDs?

In 2012, Matt Cutts (then Google’s head of spam-fighter) announced an algorithm change aimed at reducing the amount of low-quality accurate match domains in search results.

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If you had a low quality (or spam) EMD, it might look like this: plumberconnecticut.com.

The owner has probably registered this domain with the hope of selling it quickly to a plumber who wants to rank the keyword [plumber Connecticut].

If only it were that simple.

Screenshot from PlummerConnecticut.com, August 2021

The SERPs are now filled with local results and credible domains that have ratings and reviews from previous customers and listings from popular government domains like Angie’s List, Home Advisor, etc.

Screenshot from search for [connecticut plumber], Google, September 2021

Does Google like domains with exact match?

In my opinion, Google likes accurate match domains as long as they are not spam.

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The Hotels.com domain is a good example of this.

It’s an exact matching domain because the domain exactly matches the keyword [hotels], and it continues to dominate the SERPs for hotel searches year after year.

This domain name is a good signal of user intent for those searching for hotels.

It is now over 27 years old and was purchased for about $ 11 million.

A user would be able to find a hotel room and would go to this site to look for a room near their destination just because it is easy to remember, share and enter.

The Hotels.com domain has more than 61 million links from 127,000 sites, according to Ahrefs.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, September 2021

Now, if the domain was for sale, and if I had the money (which I do not have), I would definitely buy it.

The site also has a domain authority of 87 due to its content, links and age. This is a real domain of authority.

Hotels.com also ranks in position one for the keyword [hotels], which always takes into account your location, as Google locates the results on both mobile and desktop computers.

The company also has the right strategy in ensuring that they are the first in a brand perspective with the paid search lists showing first and ranking the first organic position in the SERPs.

Of course, they can not be ranked by local listings because they do not own the hotels.

Screenshot from search for [hotels], Google, September 2021Google had originally used the EMD update to regulate spam and clean up the SERPs.

By the end of 2012, Google realized that some valuable exact-matching domain owners had been penalized simply for having a catchy EMD.

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They then issued an update to the algorithm that improved the value of these domains and penalized the sites that were low quality EMDs.

Are you going to buy an EMD in 2021 and later?

If you want an exact matching domain, be prepared to do some extensive research to find a good one that is readily available.

Most of the best EMDs are already owned.

If you have some money in the bank, be prepared to pay a lot of them to buy a domain that may be for sale.

With many alternative domain extensions to buy (e.g. .business, .company, .biz, etc.), you may be tempted to grab them to protect your new investment or brand. However, I just do not see too many sites other than .com domains in the competing keyword SERPs.

Getting an exact matching domain can satisfy the user’s intent and help your brand because people know what your site is about before they go for it.

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Let’s say I would rank for [pet food] and I owned the domain petfood.express, which is an exact matching query for [pet food].

According to Ahrefs, this site has a decent number of backlinks, domain authority and organic traffic.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, September 2021

Google knows the intent behind keywords because they have so much end-user data and know what people want.

The petfood.express domain is a strong domain and shows that having an exact matching domain can still work if properly optimized.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, September 2021

The site ranks for thousands of keywords in the United States, including being number two on pet food.

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When end users land on your site, you provide them with great content and user experience so they buy your products or services that this site does a good job at.

Take away

Anchor text optimization is still important if it is mixed between labeled and unlabeled anchor text.

But if you get an exact matching domain and get high quality links from a lot of different referring domains, it will be more natural because it is your brand. And as long as you follow SEO best practices, you should not be penalized.

To find good EMDs, I recommend:

Watch the news or search Google Trends. Go to a domain registrar. Use social listening to find the latest buzz words and see if the domain is registered. If not, secure it, create some high quality content, build links, get some social love and make it a brand.

Putting time, effort and money behind your EMD can give you a competitive edge by building a brand (not just a domain name) that will contain many memories that you can take advantage of later.

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