What are Exact Match Domains?
Exact match domains (EMDs) are keywords or phrases in the form of a domain name. Let’s say you own a flower shop in Boston. You may register flowershopinboston.com and redirect that to your main site in hopes that someone searches for “flower shop in boston.” In the past Google loved exact match domains so much that it would put them at the top of the search results.
Why can they hurt you?
In September 2012 Google decided that it no longer liked EMDs and penalized people who owned them. Some redirected to the owners main site, others were just spammy one-page sites that didn’t give the searcher what they were looking for. These penalties were great for people whose relevant sites were trumped by EMDs, but wasn’t so great for people who had legitimate sites built around a keyword or phrase.
Should you use them?
Yes, if you do it correctly. Google can easily see how many pages a site has, if it’s updated frequently, etc. This means if you’re going to have an EMD site you need to put some work into it. You should update it more than once a year, have more than one page, and you should make it worth visiting. If you have a blog, maybe this could be the domain for your blog. If you have a product you could put together a micro-site for your product with a lead form. If you’re a real estate agent and you’re registering domains based on towns put a micro-site together for that town and collect leads.
Leads. Leads. Leads.
Notice I mentioned leads more than once? That’s because I think leads are one of the most important things you can generate from your site. This is even more true if you have an EMD that is getting decent traffic. If someone searches for a specific keyword and your site is the #1 result you should have no problem turning that visit into a lead.
What should you do?
If you have an EMD that is an exact clone of your main site, take it down right now. Google hates duplicate content, and it will choose one of your sites to completely ignore and not include in any search results. If you have a one-page micro site that has nothing to do with the keyword other than just linking to your main site, clean it up. Take some time to add another page or two, put a blog on it, and when it’s ready add a lead form and start collecting some leads!