In-Depth Case Study: Can An Exact Match Domain Kill the Competition?

Last week, I was left with a harsh realization after working for hours, pounding away on Market Samurai for a new keyphrase or a new niche to explore. I must have gone through a dozen keyphrases, some random, some not-so random, until I started discovering something really interesting. I remember reading somewhere that Google loves exact domain names but put it in the back of my stubborn head, not tagging it with much importance. In fact, instead of doing some hard work discovering exact domain names, I’ve always opted for “exact domain names + add-on word” (add-on words including “hq”, “review” etc). Give me advice, that’s great but it probably won’t stick unless you show me something powerful.

With this case study, hopefully we will come to a conclusion regarding the question that brought you here: do exact match domains matter? Does having an exact domain name help rank your website?

A couple of things to keep in mind: for the sake of keeping this case study cohesive, I cannot go into depth about how I found each of these keyphrases or discuss in detail every other factor that helps with site ranking. For all of the keyphrases, the local country is United States and the language is English. Lastly, I realize that the images aren’t the prettiest, but please feel free to open them in a new window/tab to take a closer look.

Let’s begin!

Keyphrase #1: “Gas Motor Scooters”

The keyphrase “gas motor scooters” admittedly does not get a high number of exact searches daily but let’s look at a few other details:

gas_motor_scooters_searches1

A couple of things that really stand out are that the local title competition is a bit high at 22,600 especially when compared to the total local competition at 11,500 especially for a keyphrase that only gets 24 searches a day. But I digress since the case study is really to determine if exact domain names are worth your time or not.

Without confusing anyone, I will only explain that having a low score for the SEOTCR field means low competition for that keyphrase…. and at 163%, that it’s not!

Looking at the top 10 competition analysis for “gas motor scooters” reveals that:
gas_motor_scooters_top_10_analysis

Without any off-page seo (backlinking), the exact domain name gasmotorscooters.org, with a PR 0 (page rank), ranks at #7 just for existing! The site itself is pretty ugly and consists of links only.

If you view sites #2-#4, you will see that they could use some on-page optimization and I strongly believe that if the gasmotorscooters.org owner was to start on a backlinking campaign, the site could easily be in any of the top spots. Optimizing the meta tag as well as optimizing the use of h1 tags could also be beneficial.

In case it didn’t register: the exact match domain is sitting at #7 without any backlinks. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Keyphrase #2: “Portable Grill”

The second keyphrase, “portable grill”, receives a bit more searches on a daily basis:

portable_grill_searches

Immediately, I see that the SEOTCR percentage is on the low side, so I had to do a top 10 competition analysis:

portable_grill_top_10_analysis1

Again, portablegrill.net is almost a replica of gasmotorscooters.org which makes me think that this must be default setup template page that people are using for a basic setup or the same person has a hold on both of them. The site is competing against other sites that have anywhere from 16 to 22,800 baclinks and an even more ridiculous amount of total backlinks to any page on those sites.

Portablegrill.net takes on spot #6 against other competing websites with a PR 0 and no backlinks of any kind. Imagine if the domain owner did a bit of off-page seo work? I knew having the keyphrase in the domain name was suppose to be helpful but I never realized that having an exact match domain could land you in the top ten without any backlinking effort!

Keyphrase #3: “Reclining Office Chair”

This case study is a bit more exciting. After seeing a few examples similar to the above, I started asking myself if I could grab an exact domain as the keyword (.org, .us, .net, .info, .biz) and rank them alongside the other exact domain name matches.

So let’s review a couple things regarding the keyphrase “reclining office chair”:

reclining_office_chair_searches

This keyphrase receives a low amount of searches on a daily basis but you know what else is low? The total competition and the title competition! SEOLC comes in at 3,520 and SEOLTC at 246. But what’s cool to observe is that:

reclining_office_chair_top10_analysis2

In this example, we have two exact domain names ranking! Recliningofficechair.org is dominating this keyphrase at a PR of 1 and 48 backlinks pointing to its main domain page. Recliningofficechair.net comes in at #7 with a PR of 0 and mere 13 backlinks pointing to its main page.

First, for those wondering if .orgs are useless, here’s a small example that trumps that assumption. Often you will hear recommendations to stick only to .com and .net domains but hopefully this example shows you that .org domains are just as powerful. Second, if you have an exact domain name but see that another one is ranking, don’t let that deter you from trying to rank your own exact domain.

I believe that if recliningofficechair.net properly use their meta tag and include the keyphrase in h1, h2 tags and try building some more backlinks, this web property could easily hope up a spot or two, which in turn, will result in more exposure.

Keyphrase #4: “Best Cordless Drill”

Don’t ask me about the randomness of the examples because as you can see, these keywords are all over the place. If you ask me, that’s a really good thing. “Best Cordless Drill” receives 118 daily searches (a lot higher than any other example so far), only 146,000 websites that mention “best cordless drill”, less than 2000 in title competition, and best yet, contains 1% SEOTCR, which means that there exists weak competition:

best_cordless_drill_searches

Now this is more like it. Do I see two exact domains ranking again?

best_cordless_drill_top_10_analysis

Not only are both of the sites using good seo practices like using the keyphrase “best cordless drill” in their headers, titles and exact domain names, but they are ranking in the top 4 search results. In fact, bestcordlessdrill.us with a PR 0 is outranking bestcordlessdrill.net which is PR 1 with significantly more backlinks.

Again, this shows that there are several factors used in the Google search engine ranking algorithm and that having a high page rank does not necessarily translate into a higher rank.

If both sites decide to pursue an aggressive backlinking campaign, I don’t doubt that they can both end up in the #1 and #2 positions.

My last observation is regarding the .us domain: this is another example that trumps the assumption that a .us ending domain will probably not rank well, let alone do better than a .net.

Keyphrase #5: “Best Bluetooth Headsets”

“Best Bluetooth Headsets” has the highest number of searches, low number of total competition as well as the title competition. While the SEOTCR score isn’t the lowest, I’ve seen much worse:

best_bluetooth_headset_searches

And decent competition there definitely is:

best_bluetooth_headset_top_10_analysis1

There it is: an exact match domain that’s a .org, in position #5! The site is search engine optimized, is an exact match domain and has a decent amount of backlinks built. Although it has a couple of PR 0 and PR 6 sites to contend with, there is at least one PR 6 site that is not taking advantage of the url and title.

Perhaps with some more time and backlinks, bestbluetoothheadset.org can climb to #3 or #4. We have seen previously that exact match domain websites with zero or low number of backlinks are easily ranked in the top 10 search engine results.

Is Having An Exact Domain Name the End All, Be All?

Not quite! It seems that where there is low competition, having an exact domain name can be quite the blessing. But as you observed in the last case, the more competitive the competition, the more stops you have to pull out.

In Summary…

I want you to go through your website or blog to make sure that you are utilizing the best on-page and off-page seo practices. For every example that I have given, I am sure that there exist a number of websites that still don’t rank despite having an exact domain name as the keyphrase. Like I mentioned earlier, every case is different. Use your gut instinct and experiment. To learn about other factors that can help rank your websites, please read 7 Factors That Can Make Ranking Your Site Easy Or Pure Hell. I do hope, however, that I have made a case for using exact match domains whenever possible. I have personally seen examples of .info, .com, .net, .us and .org all ranked in the top 10 with an exact match domain.

Note:The software tool used for this in-depth case study was Market Samurai.

What has your experience been with using domain names that match your keyphrase exactly? If you have any questions or comments, please share!

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