(Q&A) EMDs – to buy an exact match domain or not?

Exact Match Domains EMDA client of ours – we’ll call him John Smith – wrote to us with this very good question:

“I’m thinking of buying ExpatRemovals.co.uk for my removal service for expats. The chap I am buying it from says that from an SEO point of view, ‘this domain name will drive substantial targeted traffic to your website for years to come as each and every month 1000’s of people type the term ‘Expat Removals’ into Google, making this name an absolute category killer!’

“Would this be a good domain for us and to run landing page traffic? Would it receive a lot of traffic because of the keywords in the domain?”

Hi John,

Certainly ExpatRemovals.co.uk is a nifty-sounding domain, but will it generate more organic (unpaid) traffic because of the name alone? In short, no, but if it’s cheap and you like it, then go for it.

I think your man is a little behind the times.

Here’s why…

In the past, having a domain that contains the same keywords used on your site (exact match domain, EMD) almost guaranteed you a spot on the first page of search engine listings—no matter how poorly optimized the rest of the site was or how little content it had on it.

However, in September 2012, Google released an algorithm update aimed at reducing low-quality EMDs from showing up so high in search engine results. Because of this update, EMDs are no longer nearly as effective as they used to be. Matt Cutts from Google speaks about this as far back as 2011.

If you are planning on building a large site with lots of original content about expat removals then it would probably help to have that domain.

Although Google does not divulge exactly how its algorithm works (so people like us can’t fudge the results) my guess is that a landing page on that domain will do little to shift sites that are already on page 1 of Google.co.uk.

If you clear your cache and search for expat removals on Google.co.uk you’ll see that most of the sites on page 1 do not have EMDs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that an EMD is a bad thing, there are industry insiders which still think EMD rock and others which say don’t bother.

The bottom line is if it’s cheap and you like it and the website will not change it’s focus from expat removals to, say, ‘expat self-drive van hire’, then go for it.

If you brand is likely to diversify into several directions you might be better not becoming bound by a domain.

If Apple had changed its name to iPod they’d be in a bit of a pickle when they launched the iPad, conversely hotels.com has a nice ring to it and does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak.

Further reading:

Why Exact Match Domains Are Still King –  MediaOptions.com

Deconstructing The Google EMD Update – SearchEngineLand.com

Keeping Google Happy after the Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update – joomla.org


As well as a Ninja and all-round nice fellow Alfredo Bloy-Dawson is head of internet marketing at Voodoo erm Internet Marketing..