What Is Exact Match Domain? EMD Explained with Examples

An Exact Match Domain is a domain name that is an exact match of the nature of your business. It tells your audience what your business does and what it is all about.

What Is an Exact Match Domain?

An Exact Match Domain or EMD is a domain type that precisely describes the nature of your business and is an exact match of the keyword you’re targeting on Google. E.g., if your website is engaged in selling cars, and you’re targeting the keyword ‘car sales’, CarsSales.com is an exact match domain.

Pros and Cons of Exact Match Domain

Like everything else in life, exact match domains have their benefits as well as their disadvantages. However, the cons of EMD seem to be a lot more with Google’s EMD filter in place. Below are the pros and cons of using an exact match domain.

Pros of exact match domain  

  • EMDs accurately define your product or service. This helps users to easily discern what your brand is about.
  • EMDs can be a great way for startups to quickly gather some early relevant longtail traffic
  • With EMDs, brand mentions and keyword mentions are the same things
  • EMDs make it easier for your brand to get social mentions with just keywords
  • They make it easy to target anchor texts
  • EMDs make it easier for you to dominate a single niche
  • Some targeted industries have limited options when it comes to keywords. In such cases, EMDs are a good approach.
  • They can be effective for local searches. E.g., the search query “Where to buy cars in Hawaii?” may lead to CarsHawaii.com

Cons of exact match domain

  • An EMD may take away the uniqueness of your brand by making it seem generic
  • EMDs make it difficult to pinpoint social mentions of your brand
  • EMDs are limited so they can be difficult to get, depending on your niche. They may also be very expensive.
  • Creating and claiming social media profiles for websites with EMDs may be a difficult task
  • With Google’s frequent updates and filters, EMDs are becoming less and less effective
  • EMDs can limit your future expansion. E.g., you wouln’t sell digital cameras on Laptop.com

Does Google Penalize Exact Match Domains?

Quick answer? Yes. Google does penalize exact match domains. In 2012, Google created a new update in its algorithm to specifically target EMDs. This was to prevent low-quality sites from ranking high on SERPs based solely on the similarity between the domain name and the search query. Recently, this EMD filter has been updated. Here are some reasons a once-high-ranking website with an EMD may now rank low:

Low-Quality SEO

If your entire SEO strategy was dependent on an EMD, then your site’s ranking is going to experience a terrible fall. To boost your ranking, develop a solid SEO strategy. Know your target audience rather than just the search query you want to rank for. Then, write content that will attract your target audience to your site.

Keyword Stuffing

Once upon a time, the more keywords you had in your webpage, the more likely for that page to rank. But not anymore. When a page has too many keywords crammed in, Google sees this as keyword stuffing. Google hates keyword stuffing and if it finds your content guilty, its algorithm will rank your website low. 

Poor Content

Google’s algorithms are aimed at giving users a good experience. This involves showing them web pages that contain captivating, well-written, and high-quality content. Unfortunately, a lot of EMDs focus mostly on selling their products and are known for uploading substandard content.

How to Avoid an Exact Match Domain Penalty

Google’s penalty for having an exact match domain can reduce the ranking of your website by a whole lot. Fortunately, there’s some good news. An exact match domain penalty can be avoided. Here are a few things you can do:

Build Links

By building links to your website, you can significantly increase your authority in the eyes of Google’s algorithm. These links should be both internal (between different webpages in your website) and external (from other websites pointing to yours).

Keep in mind that not all external links are good for your website. If low-quality, disreputable websites link to yours, such links may even reduce your ranking.

One thing you should do is audit your website’s link profile. Once you identify any links from low-trust websites, remove them. To build high-quality backlinks, you could guest blog on reputable sites in your niche or a related niche. Also, you could lookout for opportunities to request blogs in your niche to link back to you.

Write High-Quality Content

This is a very important part of any good SEO strategy. Google reduces ranks of EMDs because they do not want their users reading spammy, low-quality content.

It was once possible to rank high on a SERP even with poor content as long as you had an EMD. But that’s no longer the case. To have high-ranking pages, your content has to be good and useful to readers.

Google loves this and will reward your efforts with higher rankings.

Implement Google’s Quality Review Guidelines

Google has a set of guidelines that give you an in-depth look into what you should and should not include on your site to get on the good side of their ranking algorithms.

This set of guidelines is quite extensive, but taking your time to go through it will do your website ranking a whole lot of good if you apply the instructions in the guideline.

Should I buy an exact match domain?

Yes. You can go ahead and buy an EMD. As long as you build reputable links, provide good content, and follow other SEO best practices, you shouldn’t get penalized by search engines.

Note that even though Google has taken steps that are specifically targeted to filter out EMDs, there are still some benefits of having an EMD, especially if you do it right.

Unfortunately, good EMDs are hard to find. Most of them are already taken. If you find one that is up for sale, you will most likely have to cough up quite a lot of money to secure it. If you’re in a niche that’s not so popular, you may have an easier time getting an EMD.

Once you get an EMD, make sure you follow the tips given above on how to avoid an exact match domain penalty. By doing this, you improve the user experience of your site visitors and increase your chances of ranking high on SERPs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about exact match domains.

1. What is an EMD domain?

EMD or exact match domain is a domain type that accurately describes your site topic and is an exact match of your primary keyword. E.g., if you are providing accounting services, AccountingServices.com is an exact match domain.

2. What is a partial match domain?

A partial match domain is a domain that combines the main keyword with an unrelated word. E.g., if your keyword is ‘sunglasses’, then JohnSunglassess.com is a partial match domain.

3. Does exact match domain still work?

Yes, an exact match domain with 1-3 words works well. To make an EMD rank well, you must focus on creating high-quality content.

4. Is .me domain good for SEO?

Yes. Any domain extension is good for SEO if you take care of other ranking factors. More than the domain name extension, your SEO depends on factors such as content quality, audience time on site, bounce rate, and backlinks.

5. Are domain names still valuable?

Yes, domain names are still valuable. However, domain names do not greatly impact large companies that can set budgets to build brand credibility.  


An exact match domain can sometimes work for your brand but it can also get you in trouble with search engine algorithms. With an EMD, it’s very likely for you to experience an initial moment of quick growth, but you also risk getting penalized by Google. So you have to be careful. Do a lot of research so you aren’t met with any unwelcome surprises. However, the most risk-free way approach to creating a high-ranking online brand is to pick a keyword-free domain name and implement clean SEO best practices.  

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