Google has been making it more difficult for exact match domains to rank by decreasing the threshold of on-page over-optimization for these domains. It used to be really easy to get exact match domains to rank and our friends at “The Big G” figured out that people doing SEO were buying these domains and doing way too much optimization on-page. Basically, it made them an easy target. With the latest Panda update, they’ve made it even more difficult.
Exact match domains still work. But, you need to make adjustments throughout your page and with off-site search engine optimization (link building) as the threshold of over-optimization is much lower.
What is an exact match domain?
Let’s say you are a realtor in Phoenix who wants to be found for “phoenix real estate”. An exact match domain could be “bestphoenixrealestate.com” or “findphoenixrealestate.com”. Essentially an exact match domain contains the exact keywords you want to be found for.
On-site SEO for exact match domains
You used to be able to have your exact match keyword phrase throughout your title, description, headings and body content of your page. Not any more and that can leave you frustrated like the realtor on the right. You want to avoid having your exact match keyword phrase repeated.
Title tag (Max 60 characters)
Bad: “Phoenix Real Estate, Phoenix MLS Listings, Homes & Condos for Sale
- “Phoenix Real Estate” is in the title matching the domain.
- “Phoenix” is repeated once.
Good: “Vancouver MLS Listings, Real Estate, Homes & Downtown Condos for Sale”
- The exact match phrase is broken up here
Description (Max 155 characters)
Bad: “Phoenix MLS Listings in one place. Phoenix Homes & Condos for sale. Phoenix Real Estate market updates and blog.”
- “Phoenix” is mentioned 3 times.
- “Phoenix Real Estate” is in the description.
Good: “Find Phoenix MLS listings, condos and homes for sale and market updates all in one place from the best Real Estate team in Arizona.”
- Broke the phrase up again but still have “Phoenix” and “real estate” within the description.
Headings – H1, H2, H3, etc.
Bad: “Phoenix Real Estate & Phoenix MLS® Listings”
- “Phoenix” mentioned twice.
- “Phoenix Real Estate” again here.
Good: “The Best Source For Finding MLS® Real Estate Listings in Phoenix, AZ”
- “Phoenix” is only mentioned once
- “Real Estate” is still in the title but split up from “Phoenix”
- Added “Best” and “Finding” so that the site may be found for “Best Phoenix Real Estate” or “Find Phoenix Real Estate”
Bad: “Phoenix MLS® Listings & Phoenix Real Estate for Sale – Search All Listings”
- “Phoenix” is mentioned twice
- It just sounds really spammy. You are better off using a readable sentence.
Good: “Search All Homes for Sale in Phoenix Via MLS®”
- “Phoenix” is only mentioned once
- “Real Estate” is not mentioned here. Google’s algorithm will figure out that “Homes For Sale” means “Real Estate”.
- The site may even be found for “Phoenix Homes for Sale” this way.
Mention “Phoenix Real Estate” once or twice in the body content. Any more than that is unnecessary. You can include phrases like “Phoenix homes for sale”, “real estate listings in Phoenix”, “buy or sell a home in Greater Phoenix”, etc. Mix it up and use synonyms.
Offsite SEO – Link Building
When building links to your site (other sites linking to yours), you also need to be careful with the anchor text you use. Even if your site wasn’t an exact match domain, you still need be careful. But, it’s even more critical to be more careful with an exact match domain for SEO as Google holds them to a higher standard. You don’t want to build dozens or hundreds of links that say “phoenix real estate”. I would even recommend only building one or two links that way. The rest should be things like “phoenix homes for sale”, “home searches in phoenix”, “phoenix mls”, etc. The majority of your links should be branding and naked URLs. Branding would be your company name (eg “ABC Realtors”) and naked URLs are just your domain name (eg. “bestphoenixrealestate.com”).
Think Topics and Not Keywords for Search Engine Optimization Now
Ranking success is now based on topics and not keywords. Google’s algorithm is getting smarter all of the time and can figure out what your page is talking about without repeating your keyword over and over again. Write about your topic to make sense to people reading it and don’t write it for search engines.