To EMD, or not to EMD, that is the question. You will hear arguments for both sides of the argument, but I am going to tell you why I almost never go with an exact match domain name.
For those of you wondering what an EMD, or exact match domain, is it is a domain name that is exactly the keyword that you are trying to rank for. So if you were trying to rank for the search term crazy blue tigers, your domain name would be crazybluetigers.com.
For a long time, exact match domains were the quickest and easiest way to rank for a keyword. If you had the EMD, it would take significantly less SEO to make it rank. But, of course, Google noticed that something was working altogether too well and made some changes to their algorithm.
In the last couple of updates Google changed the way that anchor text affects rankings. Years ago, you wanted all of your anchor text to be your exact keyword. Then you wanted do diversify your anchor text, which meant that you wanted less than 30%-50% of your anchor text to be your exact keyword. Then, no more than 25%. Now, it seems that you have to keep your anchor text below about 10%.
This is where having an EMD can throw a monkey wrench into your SEO. One of the main ways that you can diversify your anchor text is to use naked url links. For example, in the above example, the anchor text of the link would be crazybluetigers.com. The problem is that each time you link using a naked url link, Google sees it as using your keyword in the anchor text which can run you into huge problems with the Penguin.
So What Works Now?
In three words, branded authority sites.
If you’ve been paying attention to the search engine results recently, you will have noticed a whole lot less exact match domains and a whole lot more authority sites (not including local search terms like Orange County plumber).
What’s a Branded Authority Site?
A branded authority site has two parts. First, it is an authority site – duh! It can have a lot of related content, or content in lots of categories, but it has a lot of content. Wikipedia is a huge authority site. Ask.com is a huge authority site. Espn.com is a huge authority site. To build your site into an authority site, you will need lots of regularly added, quality content.
Second, these sites are branded. They have a unique name that people will use to link to it. Think espn.com has a lot of links with the anchor text ESPN? Of course! Does that have anything to do with sports? Not really. Think Wikipedia has a lot of links with the anchor text Wikipedia? Again, of course. And again, that doesn’t have anything to do with any of the subjects that Wikipedia covers.
What’s the difference between a branded authority site and a non branded authority site? Consider a non branded authority site on weight loss. As an example, this authority site might have a url like weightlossinfo.com. Not very brandable and it has your keyword in the domain name. This makes it much more difficult to get your anchor text varied enough to get the rankings that you want.
If you want to get long-term, sustainable organic results, I highly recommend a branded authority site. Pick a fun name for your site (or better yet, buy an expired domain with lots of branded links coming in!) and enjoy yourself with it. You might find that you like what you are doing more, it is easier to get branded links, and you will get the results and the money that you are looking for.