Exact Match Domain Names in Google

Search relevancy algorithms are ever changing, but I recently snagged a good example of Google placing significant weight on exact matching domain names. When you search Google for search engine history there are over 20,000 exact phrase match pages and over 90,000,000 matching pages. The #6 result in this screenshot is SearchEngineHistory.com, which is a site that I never really developed. It has no inbound links on Yahoo!, Google, or MSN (as you can see on this screenshot and that one). Also worth noting that SearchEngineHistory.com is a single page site, and with NO link authority it outranks a LifeHacker post that has the exact matching phrase in a page title (and LifeHacker is an extremely authoritative site).

Why could Google trust domain matches so much? Because they are often associated with brands which protect their trademarks more vigilantly than in the past, and there are so many domainers and so much vc money placing premiums on domain names. To get an exact matching domain it is probably going to cost you something (either lots of money or the foresight to be an early believer in a new field), so that in and of itself is some sign of quality. For example, today I tried buying a non-word 5 letter domain for $1,000 and the domainer turned me down stating that he turned down 5x that much last week. About 3 years ago SeoBook.com cost $8, largely because the standard frame of thought in the SEO market was that there was no market for a book or ebook.

Published: September 27, 2006 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


JP Richards
October 3, 2006 - 2:32am

It appears you're not in the top 30 on Google anymore. Weird?

What about domain names with "hyphens"? Have they devalued domain names, such as www.searh-engine-history.com?

October 3, 2006 - 2:36pm


Sorry for my repeated comments yesterday, but they were caused by time-out and page resend.

I apolagyse for any trouble



Charles Martin
October 3, 2006 - 6:36pm

I have never had that much success with exact name matches in Google. I don't understand Google. I rank in the top three for several competitive search terms on just about every search engine but Google. I am not even in the top 100 in Google. If you go to Google and type in one of these terms you get a bunch of .edu and .gov sites. But it seems like they are shooting themselves in the foot ranking these particular sites so high. Click on two of them and you get a redirect page, another 404, and another loads of jargon about some law affecting 1% of specialists in the industry. In the top 5 I can see one site that the majority of people would find useful. I am going to keep playing the game but I wish I could figure out how Google thinks or see them dethroned - i dont like my odds in either case.

October 3, 2006 - 8:36pm

Although Google might be doing this presently I don't think this has any lasting value. Google will change when they figure out that spammers will get on the latest hot keyword but provide no real content related to it. Content will always be king!

October 4, 2006 - 2:24am

What browser plugin or whatever have you got that puts the details like "page rank, age, links etc" under each search result in google - as per your screen captures?

October 4, 2006 - 6:53am

Mike, it's Aaron's own SEO for Firefox extension - you can find it by clicking TOOLS on the menu at the top of this page.

It's good...BUT at the moment it only works for me in Yahoo, not Google. Don't know why.

Have fun!

October 4, 2006 - 12:20pm

it seems the domain's age have more relevancy

October 12, 2006 - 10:36pm

Great term Aaron, I liked it so much i registered exactmatchdomains.com and blogged about it too.


October 4, 2006 - 8:36pm

100% correct article...

I just wrote abut the same toppic in myindustry last month:

June 6, 2007 - 6:29am

I saw this article on http://www.SubliminalMessages.Com and I agree that the better your domain name, the better your location on the net and among search engine results. Location, Location, Location. What part don't you understand, my friend?

October 6, 2006 - 4:57am

Hey Aaron: I just wanted to say that I read your article and all the posts and I saw the following incident...

The domain doesn't come up for "engine history." Though the threadwatch and lifehacker post shows up on the first page. Why not?
Aaron Wall: Because that is not an exact match. That is the whole point of this post.

That guy really further proved your point.

I get very annoyed when many of theses comments responded saying things like: Yes keyword domains in general are favored very much so in google.

The point is not that google favored keyword rich domains such as i.e. seobook.com is favored for the keyword "seo"
but... rather seo.com is favored for the keyword "seo" since this is an exact match.

The point here is that you can achieve nice search results in the search engines if you buy a quality 3 word domain, and rank for those 3 words. The reason why this is such as great idea is because while buying something like seo.com would most likely be way to expensive for most people, on the other hand- buying a keyword rich and high search volume 3 word domain name, is certainly possible to find at a few thousand dollar price range if your search enough. It is the domains like searchenginehistory.com which are perhaps hidden gems.

Think about it:
Look at the opportunity for cash parking entreprenours looking to ranke out good dough by investing in one of those 3 word gems, and putting in a bit of work to have them rank.

One more comment I have:
obviously a 3 word gem is only a gem if it has aged for a few years, otherwise it does not have trust. This should go without saying because otherwise we can all buy searchenginehistory.mobi and achieve killer rankings. That would not be fair.

Certainly adding a domain like searchenginehistory.com to the first page in the results list- adds because it shows a sign of quality. The search engines should respect exact match premium domains, because they are relevant to the keywords involved, and therefor are unique to that term.

Great article.
I am blown away...

October 6, 2006 - 5:29am

hm...i think the domain's age n the domain both also relevancy

October 6, 2006 - 6:29am

I dont know but i think that google shoudl keep it the same way because most of the time exact name domain matches are pretty relevent to what you are serching for.

October 6, 2006 - 7:11am

I definitely agree with your Jared. When your own an exact match domain it is almost as if you own that particular feild.

The exact match domains are definitely offering something to the search results which is why google and other search engines too, such as yahoo, msn/live, and ask all respect them.

So even if searchenginehistory.com is full of b.s. spam links, still becuase if this premium name the site adds something to the search results- and deserves to be listed- sort of speak.

October 7, 2006 - 6:33am

Hello Everyone,

This is the exact idea I had a couple of years ago, but the software only came out in the summer of this year.

Here is a video of David Frey showing how he has done with this tool.


The bottom line is that is works as that is what the search engines want to see if all things are equal.


December 30, 2006 - 5:34pm

Keywords in domain do help a little bit in ranking well in search engines, but it's not the only thing that can ensure high rankings. If the domain has exact keywords in it it would rank somewhere on top but i guess the domain age also plays an important role in that scenario.

October 8, 2006 - 10:52pm

I didn't think Google paid much attention to keywords in domains until I registered a city+ymca.com type domain and then forgot to change the DNS servers to my own. Upon searching for city + ymca in Google #1 is my domain with the hosting company parking page which beat many articles about this particular ymca.

October 9, 2006 - 2:30pm

from y expeirience exact match can work ont only on the domain name but also on sub directories for example : /budgethotels/ can give back high ranking for the keywords budget hotels. It's not as good as the domian name but still good.

September 28, 2006 - 8:25am

Yep, I noticed the same thing and alot of friends noticed it too. Keywords within the domain in any match tend to rank good at the moment.

Google will probably change this soon, because it doesn't work.

September 28, 2006 - 8:30am

Sorry Aaron,

I don't have the same results at google.com, maybe you find your site listed because of your "tweaked" version or because the site is only listed in some countries.

But I agree with you, it looks like that exact keywords can help you listing in the results of Google.

September 28, 2006 - 9:28am

Again sorry to report that I cant find that domain in the first 5 pages of the SERPs. Checking from Ireland.

In fact, this post appears on page 5.

But as with above replies, it does seem that if you hit the exact keyword phrase mapped to domain Google gives you a bump.

September 28, 2006 - 9:52am

This happened for my domain for a while, until someone with the .net version of my domain started getting lots of incoming links... The domain is just my name, which I am not trying to market strongly at all - and that leads me to a question.

You offer a service, and have a domain containing good keywords for that service eg 'ohio plumber.com' (making this up)

You also have your relatively unknown name (just based on your own name) as a domain name.

Both sites point to the same site. Which site do you use as the primary site, and then 301 the other to remove duplication issues?

Do you promote the keyword domain, and just 301 the other domain, or vice versa?

(hope that question made sense)

September 28, 2006 - 10:37am

Aaron, you just confirmed me, what I thought in the past three months too.

Damn it.

Now all spammers will get tens of domains.

September 28, 2006 - 10:51am

the results I get for this query are the same in Google.com and Google.nl, the site rank first place.

October 9, 2006 - 10:55pm

I tried to sift through the entire comments section, so sorry if I missed it, but I don't think anyone mentioned the fact that the external links Aaron has listed on the page link to good resources on the subject. In other words, don't you think the site is acting like a hub?

Also, the site is floating for me. It was there the first time I searched, but has since diappeared.

September 28, 2006 - 11:47am

Hi Aaron

I wouldnt want to comment about Google as most of my sites are too young and Im up against (working on !) the sandbox effect here...as the sites are in an extremely competitive keyword market.

But for MSN search it seems relatively easy in the short term to get good ranking on the search query / domain name exact match.

Within 1 month of launching one site I was at the top of the list on msn.fr (I live in France) for the query "promotion sejour" or "promotion sejours"...and these are 2 highly sought-after keywords in France.

Would you agree here ?

Oh and BTW...if im ranking up there its because I followed the advice on your "SEO hints and tips" on your other site (the one with the photo) !! :o)


September 28, 2006 - 4:59pm

"the foresight to be an early believer in a new field"

Yep, a good domain name can work wonders. podpress.org gets all of its search engine visitors from one SE and for a one word search term ... can you guess what it is?

September 28, 2006 - 5:49pm

I'm not convinced.

First of all, 20,000 exact matches is not all that competitive, compared to say 448,000,000 for "real estate" or 59,900,000 exact matches for "paris hilton."

Second, your threadwatch post outranking searchenginehistory.com should tell you something about how difficult it is to rank for that phrase.

Third, you're ruling out on-page factors. If the page was blank, I'd be less sceptical.



The domain doesn't come up for "engine history." Though the threadwatch and lifehacker post shows up on the first page. Why not?

Cyber Angel
October 10, 2006 - 8:16am

I rank first in a high competitive one word phrase in a non-english website and don´t have the name of the phrase in my domain name, altough it is in the name of the html page. It´s a high quality website, with lots of good content. It´s 6 years old and update the site 3 or 4 times per week with about 60 high quality articles per week provided by users. I verify personally grammar and make sure it´s high quality each article before posting on my website.

But, the domain names wich are in 2 and 3 positions do have the one phrase in its domain.

It means, having the phrase in domain name is useful, altough a website with high quality content, good age and updating regularly like mine overcome this problem. Always focuse on quality and good rankings will come alone.

September 28, 2006 - 5:54pm

Interesting find. I see it #9 here in Canada at google.com.
Where is it linked from (the cache date is sept 16 so it can't be from this post)?

September 28, 2006 - 5:54pm

I'd say the emphasis in trust on keyword domains is a result of a fix that NEEDED to occur because of sites not ranking for their own name.

Sites not ranking for their own name was a sign of poor relevancy that the AVERAGE USER would piss and moan about. The solution - put some more trust on the keyword domain - the unintended side effect - the value of keyword domains rises again for exact match queries.

September 28, 2006 - 6:10pm

Sites not ranking for their own name was a sign of poor relevancy that the AVERAGE USER would piss and moan about.

Totally agree Stunty. This was a way for them to deemphisize and filter anchor text without hurting relevancy too much.

Where is it linked from

Maybe nowhere, or one stray link, but that is the point. I think it may have once had a link and lost it?

Second, your threadwatch post outranking searchenginehistory.com should tell you something about how difficult it is to rank for that phrase.

Who the fuck would expect a single page site with NO LINKS ranking ahead of a fresh page on a PageRank 7 domain with over a hundred thousand backlinks? And yet it does (or at least for a while did) outrank a post on the highly trusted PR7 LifeHacker.

The domain doesn't come up for "engine history." Though the threadwatch and lifehacker post shows up on the first page. Why not?

Because that is not an exact match. That is the whole point of this post.

September 28, 2006 - 7:17pm

I've been enjoying this domain name benefit for awhile now. If you think Google is taking this too far, check MSN (or Live, or whatever they'll call themselves tomorrow)

September 28, 2006 - 7:48pm

Aaron, while I totally agree with this post and I'm seeing that domain matches have been an increasinglypretty significant factor, there are a couple of caveats:

Exact domain name does not equal trust. But, exact domain name plus age does. Your site is 2+ years old and hasn't changed much. Google turned the trust knob up on you.

Penalties, even smaller ones,seem to outweigh this factor. I have a 4 year old non-unique domain (a brandname even) with tens of thousands of IBLs that was penalized last month (and I know why it was too), but not a major violation because I still have a lot of my rankings. However, it was dumped to #33 for a query for the unique brandname/domain.

September 28, 2006 - 8:18pm

Ha, just today I saw this in action for a nice 2 word phrase, site at #2 was keyword-keyword.net and was a hosting placeholder page.

September 28, 2006 - 8:33pm

How old is that search engine history site Aaron? The reason I ask is it might be that when the site was indexed there were very few exact phrases of "search engine history" in the index, yes?

In other words, being there first and filling the slot.

November 7, 2006 - 12:16pm


Came across this linked in a forum as I have been trying to work out why my site has been doing a lot better than I expected at this early stage as I am still working on my site and it is not ready for the public yet even though I have it online. Figured by doing that by the time I was ready that I may of been lucky enough to at least be listed. Aaron, your article explains it.

I snagged 'familybasedimmigration.com' on 24 sept 2006. I was actually quite surprised it was available.

I have been ranking much better than I expected and being new to all of this hadn't even thought of keywords used in this manner.

Just took a look at the stats after downloading Aarons SEO for Firefox extension and did find that other sites are linking me. I am such a newb, I have no idea why???

On a search of 'family based immigration', this is the result...

Google - ranked 14th out of 4,150,000 results
Yahoo - ranked 16th out of 9,560,000 results
MSN - ranked 4th out of 417,232 pages

I would like to be #1 eventually but I think I am going to be hard pressed against the US government site lol

I'm not complaining though.

Thanks for the article Aaron.

September 28, 2006 - 8:54pm

I also noticed this with Yahoo! A site I run (businessplandocs.com) hasn't even been up for a year and has a PR of only 2, but when you search for business plan docs on Yahoo! It is number one.

September 28, 2006 - 11:19pm

All the resources linked to on that page (many of which were about search engine history) were around in 2004, when I put up that page.

September 29, 2006 - 12:17am

I personally don't like the shift into more importance on the domain name. It gives an unfair advantage, and now instead of concentrating on a cool site and content, I have to waste time digging through keyword niches and domains to find some lame version of "myphrase.com".

September 29, 2006 - 3:29am

Hi Guys

I have a theory about ranking based on the timeliness of when your content appears and when the SE indexes it.

My experience leads me to believe that they put a decent weight on sites that produce particular content 1st or in the top 10-20.

Im basing this on a site/business I recently sold which still outranks a large US networking company for some of its products.

Wheneven said company released a new product within a day or so I would go grab all the content from their page, reformat it and put it on my page including all the data sheets, case studies etc (we were actually certified resellers of their products so I dont at all feel bad about this)

For the last 2 years my small Australian business with PR4 ranked above their site for queries on some of their products and in the first 10 results for most of their products we were trying to sell.

We had good links (geniune) and decent PR and a 7 year old domain (our main domain was not keyword related to the networking company) and great on page SEO work.

My belief was that we got all the above stuff right but so did our competitors, but due to the fact that we always had the new content indexed within a few days of the product being announced we got brownie points for this.

Hope this adds something to the discussion, I also owned about 5-6 domain names with their brand names which were pointed at the individual pages, but dont feel this made much difference.


Jason Fetko
October 10, 2006 - 10:40pm

Is it just as effective having keyword rich domain names and using them as domain aliases or should they be separate websites that link to your main domain, or even a redirect. What say you?

October 10, 2006 - 11:43pm

I've actually pulled a number one position out of the hat in less than 2 weeks, using a brand new domain name, and one web page - and NO incoming links (although that has changed now)

My Niche keyword doesn't have many search results, but still, as a new entrant, and with nothing more than the keyword in the title of the page, and about 300 words of text, I was able to land the number one position.

The domain name I am using is a keyword. I think in more competitive markets, this wouldn't have been as possible, but it was really easy to snap a number one position quickly just using the keyword in the domain.

BTW - still looking for a comment on whether it is better to redirect a keyword domain to a branded domain, or go the other way around.

My thoughts are if you use the keyword domain as your primary domain, when people want to link to it, they'll grab the url from the address bar, which will contain the keyword domain. What are your thoughts?

September 29, 2006 - 3:50pm

Jim said: "Ha, just today I saw this in action for a nice 2 word phrase, site at #2 was keyword-keyword.net and was a hosting placeholder page."

...and I had just about the exact same thing happen for a very nice phrase, only there was no hyphen in the domain and it in fact ranked #1, ahead of a site with a ton of trust at #2. Now this site (#1) did have a decent number of backlinks. Nowhere near the #2 site's number, but as the #1 site was a GoDaddy placeholder page I assumed it was an expired domain someone grabbed up.

September 30, 2006 - 1:18am

"All the resources linked to on that page (many of which were about search engine history) were around in 2004, when I put up that page."

If I had put up a single page title search-engine-history.html in 2004 it would also outrank entire new websites.

September 30, 2006 - 3:02am

Too bad you didn't put that theory to test.

September 30, 2006 - 6:54am

You are in luck, I watched my sage feed reader closely and blogged about "Fresher Query Stats" yesterday and guess what? I am currently #2 in Google for that phrase, why? I blogged it first. Your old domain domained it first. It's the same for all words and the combinations of...no reason to complicate the obvious.

July 2, 2007 - 11:38pm

hi greetings ,

@ 'the very moment
hktime around 05:30 3th july 2007 , from
hk[hongkong] ,
searchenginehistory.com's trick makes it again ,
even op top o'[of] wikipedia

Resultaten 1 - 100 van circa 76.700.000 voor search engine history (0,16 seconden)

Tip: Alleen in het Nederlands zoeken. U kunt uw zoektaal bepalen in Voorkeuren

Search Engine History.com
A comprehensive overview of the history of search engine technology companies. Read about search's origin in 1945 and innovation through 2007.
www.searchenginehistory.com/ - 97k - In cache - Gelijkwaardige pagina's - Noteren

Search engine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
a b "Internet History - Search Engines" (from Search Engine Watch), Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands, September 2001, web: LeidenU-Archie. ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engines - 68k - In cache - Gelijkwaardige pagina's - Noteren

October 1, 2006 - 12:20am

Hey there,

I love your site, and read it regularly, but keep on forgetting about it because your RSS feeds are basic summaries! I would love for you to syndicate fullfeeds ( see http://www.fullfeeds.com/ )

btw, I have known about this trick for a long time :)

October 1, 2006 - 5:11am

How does your test prove that the first one to write a phrase ranks for it? That may be some component of the algorithm, but certainly couldn't be given the most weight given that old content is old (and in some cases that means it is irrelevant), many sites discuss a topic over and over again only to have some newer pages rank ahead of older pages about the same topic, and scraper sites and automated content generation tools would get a huge boost if just by being the first to use some specific phrase you got a huge relevancy boost.

October 1, 2006 - 7:13pm

yes, i agree 100% that google does still give alot of importance to exact domain names which match the keywords people are searching for.

October 1, 2006 - 8:56pm

I've run into that exact situation in my industry. We're buying up domain names for some upcoming changes.

October 2, 2006 - 2:30am


Any idea if this Google love will continue if you 301 the domain name to another site? It's one thing if we need to maintain a unique site for each the particular phrase, quite another if we can get that kind of SERP boost by buying keyword specific domains and redirecting them.

October 2, 2006 - 5:29am

The results I am getting for a non-SEO'd client domain seem to back up what Aaron is theorising.

www.beesnees.com.au ranks #1 for 'beesnees' and #2 for 'bees nees'

The domain is quite new and has only a few inlinks.

October 2, 2006 - 1:14pm

If I make the same search today (2nd October) on Google in Portugal, I don't have anymore the exact domain match and your blog now appear on 1st page.


October 2, 2006 - 1:16pm

If I make the same search today (2nd October) on Google in Portugal, I don't have anymore the exact domain match and your blog now appear on 1st page.


October 2, 2006 - 1:16pm

If I make the same search today (2nd October) on Google in Portugal, I don't have anymore the exact domain match and your blog now appear on 1st page.


October 2, 2006 - 1:18pm

If I make the same search today (2nd October) on Google in Portugal, I don't have anymore the exact domain match and your blog now appear on 1st page.


Eric Shannon
December 26, 2008 - 10:13pm

hi Aaron, i've also blogged about 'exact match' in the past but have noticed the exact match phenomenon doesn't apply to .us domains at Google. Have a look at http://www.internetinc.com/the-dot-US-domain-handicap ... what would you do personally if you wanted to see this changed?

just read your profile page, great stuff, love your tell all style!


December 27, 2008 - 6:49am

For most people I don't think you can force the search engines to change...you are better off doing what they like and reward.

Eric Shannon
December 28, 2008 - 2:26pm

wise advice Aaron concerning .us, thanks!

by the way, i've been following your 'make it real' theme this year with great interest. we're on the same wavelength.

it's not that i look for experts that say what i want to hear, but rather it helps to hear others say out loud what i'm seeing and feeling. it was just enough to push me into action.

have a happy, prosperous, peaceful and healthy 2009!

December 28, 2008 - 8:06pm

You too Eric :)

March 20, 2010 - 6:07pm

I created a website using the domain name AcousticGuitarCD.com and it did help me move up the ranks- (currently at the top of page 2 and nudging page one on Google).

I was wondering if an exact keyword domain would work differently on Yahoo- anybody know?

March 21, 2010 - 9:28am

Well Yahoo! Search will likely be gone in the next 6 months anyhow. They may provide some exact match bonus...but if they do, I wouldn't say it is anywhere near as strong as what one typically sees in Bing or Google.

If you are looking longterm though Google and Bing are where it is at. And even outside of any exact match bonus, domain names still help influence link anchor text.

June 7, 2010 - 9:16am

Hi Aaron & Readers,

Was just wondering if anybody has noticed a drop in rankings for .org exact match keyphrases.

I have seen a drop in many of my .org exact match domains after the latest Goog update.

Probably wouldn't surprise me since some well known guru IMers let the cat out the bag about the power of exact match domains (especially .org's) in Google about 2 months ago which would have resulted in a big spike in .org purchases. This would have raised a bit of a red flag at Google I reckon.

I haven't noticed a change with the exact match .com's so yeah, i'm still skeptical.

June 7, 2010 - 9:55am

Most the IMers guru types cater toward customers who simply can't afford aftermarket domains. After the customer spends $1,997 maxing out their credit card on the hyped launch product there is no money left for investing into growing a real business.

So its not like those guys would cause Google to change the algorithms much by teaching a bunch of desperate newbs something that has been common knowledge for coming on 4 to 5 years now.

SEO Professionals
July 31, 2011 - 7:43pm

If you use exact match domain name, then it can have negative impact on your website too as it only allows you to target one keyword which narrows your search for the users. For you, it is essential to know that it might not give you much of SEO advantage and will affect the applications like brand building. Are you planning to build a unique brand? Then exact match domain name is not the right option for you.

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