Exact Match Domains (EMDs): Can They Help Your Website Rank Higher?

Exact Match Domains (EMDs): Can They Help Your Website Rank Higher?

You can’t launch a website without registering a domain. Whether you’re planning to build a blog, an e-commerce store or any other type of website, you’ll need to register a domain for it. Domains reflect the internet addresses of the websites with which they are used.

For higher rankings, though, some webmasters register an exact match domain (EMD). EMDs work like all other domains by defining the internet addresses of websites while subsequently making them accessible to visitors. So, can an EMD really help your website rank higher?

What Is an EMD?

An EMD is a domain consisting entirely of a search engine optimization (SEO) keyword. They can have different extensions, such as .com, .net and .org. Regardless, all EMDs consist of an SEO keyword in its exact spelling.

SEO keywords, are the words and phrases for which you are trying to rank your website. You may have over a dozen SEO keywords identified for your website. A domain consisting of one of these SEO keywords — typically your website’s primary and most important SEO keyword — is an EMD.

A Look Back at the History of EMDs

EMDs have been around for decades. During the internet’s infancy, in fact, they were particularly widespread. Webmasters would register EMDs to rank their websites for SEO keywords. It allowed them to easily achieve high rankings while spending little or no time creating content. As long as a website’s domain contained an SEO keyword in its exact spelling, search engines would respond by ranking it high for that keyword.

Search engines began to take a different approach to EMDs in 2012. In September of that year, Google released a major update to its organic ranking algorithm. Known as the EMD update, it negated the otherwise positive benefits of EMDs.

The EMD update didn’t penalize websites for using an EMD. Rather, it negated rankings attributed to EMDs. Low-quality websites that previously ranked high for an SEO keyword because it was featured in their domain saw their rankings drop after this update. High-quality websites with lots of relevant content, on the other hand, weren’t affected by the EMD update, regardless of whether they used an EMD.

Bing has since adjusted its organic ranking algorithm to devalue EMDs as well. In a January 2014 blog post, Bing confirmed that keyword-rich domains, such as EMDs, worked in the past but are now automatically devalued by its organic ranking algorithm.

According to Bing, EMDs may even be interpreted as spam. If you register an EMD for your website and fail to create relevant content around that SEO keyword, Bing may assume that you are trying to spam its index. Like in all cases of spam, Bing may then lower your website’s rankings or completely drop your site from its index.

How Search Engines Treat EMDs Today

Search engines today treat EMDs differently than they did in the past. They no longer use EMDs as a ranking signal. When they encounter a website with an EMD, search engines will crawl and rank it just like any other website. EMDs don’t have any positive influence on rankings.

In some cases, EMDs can have a negative influence on rankings. Because they are associated with spam, they raise red flags with search engines’ algorithms. If you register an EMD for your website, and your site exhibits other signs of spam, you may struggle to get it ranked.

With that said, an EMD alone shouldn’t cause your website to lose rankings. There are plenty of reputable and high-ranking websites that use an EMD, such as travel.com, boats.com and officechairs.com. An EMD just won’t help your website rank any higher. Search engines now devalue EMDs, so don’t expect an EMD to artificially lift your website’s search rankings.

Alternatives to EMDs

Instead of an EMD, you can register a branded domain for your website. Branded domains are devoid of SEO keywords. They consist of a unique brand name with which your website identifies. If you’ve already come up with a unique brand name for your website, you can use it for your site’s domain.

Branded domains are often better than EMDs for several reasons. For starters, branded domains are easier to register because more of them are available. Millions of common EMDs have already been scooped up by webmasters and domainers. You can still try to register an EMD, but you may discover that domains with all your preferred SEO keywords are taken. You’ll have an easier time registering a branded domain simply because more of them are available.

A branded domain may indirectly help your website rank higher. Visitors, for instance, are more likely to remember a branded domain than an EMD. As your website attracts more returning visitors, search engines will acknowledge it as being popular. Therefore, they may rank it above other, less popular websites that attract fewer returning visitors.

A branded domain can help your website earn more organic backlinks as well. It will make your website look credible. EMDs, unfortunately, have become synonymous with spam. If you register an EMD for your website, other webmasters may perceive your site as spam.

Other webmasters won’t create organic backlinks to your website if they think it’s spam. A branded domain will create a higher level of credibility so that more webmasters create organic backlinks to your website. All of these new organic backlinks may then bump your website higher up the search engine results pages (SERPs).

For your website’s domain, you generally have two options: You can register an EMD, or you can register a branded domain. EMDs are domains that contain an SEO keyword in its exact spelling, whereas branded domains are those that contain a unique brand name. They both reflect internet addresses for websites, but they require different formatting.

Because search engines devalue them, EMDs don’t offer any SEO benefits. A better choice is to register a branded domain for your website. Branded domains are easier to register, attract more returning visitors and can help your website earn more organic backlinks.