What Should I Do With Exact Match Domains I Own?

By Mike Munter on November 29, 2012  

A client of ours came to us with an interesting situation.  Recently, he launched a brand new website, using an exact match keyword domain (EMD).  The site is doing well and despite rumblings about Google’s EMD Update, is ranking #1 for his target 2-word keyword phrase.

For privacy’s sake, lets say the new site he purchased and launched is called:

            tinywebsite.com

Now, in a wise attempt to block his competitors and corner the “tiny website” market, our client also bought:

            smallwebsite.com

            littlewebsite.com

His question for us was:  What should I do with these other exact match domains, if anything?

Great question.  There are four options.

Option #1 – Do nothing.  You own the domains and no one else can get them.  If someone actually types “smallwebsite.com” into their browser, they will just receive an error.  No risk, no reward.

Option #2 – Perform a 301 redirect with the registrar where the domains were purchased.

            smallwebsite.com >> tinywebsite.com

            littlewebsite.com >> tinywebsite.com

RISK:  None.

REWARD:  Minimal.  If, on the off chance that someone actually typed smallwebsite.com in their browser (instead of a normal search engine search), they would be redirected to your site at tinywebsite.com.  The chances of this happening are slim, as most people perform searches in search engines, not their browser.  However, the time and/or cost to do this is also minimal, so you might as well do it.

Option #3 – Create a full blown website with unique content in the same niche as your parent site.  If you’re a local business, this won’t be a good option because it may be confusing to Google as to why there are two unique sites, each with all of the same contact information.  Naturally, you could change your contact information or just leave it off, but that’s pretty risky.  Your site might not rank at all if no one knows how to reach you.

With a global business brand, such as an e-commerce site, it might be worthwhile to setup a completely new site.  You’ll have to consider the time and expense you’ve put into your first site to see whether you think it makes sense.  Personally, I would not do this unless you had a very lucrative exact match domain name and a lot of money to invest.

If you do decide to setup an entirely new site, I’d recommend making sure the site is hosted in a unique C-class IP address.  That way, you’re assured that your new site appears as if its in a different geographic to search engine robots.

RISK:  A lot of time and money with no guarantee of ranking for your keyword.  Possible Google algorithm updates may hurt your rankings.

REWARD:  If you’ve setup a legitimate site with quality content, you should be immune to Google EMD algorithm changes affecting your site’s rankings.  With a high traffic keyword, you may easily generate a lot of new leads for your business.

Option #4  Create a simple 1 to 5 page static site that serves as a standalone lead generating tool.

There has been a lot of debate (and complaint) recently over “exact match domains” and Google even released an algorithm change to address it.  Its results don’t seem to be shocking yet, as there are still EMD websites with minimal content in competitive niches outranking other, more quality sites. (If you contact us, we’ll share a specific example).

So, this is a way for you to invest minimal time and money to see whether or not the new site is productive.  Using our example above, what we recommended to our client was to “dip your toe in the water” and try setting up a simple 4 page site for the domain smallwebsite.com and see what happens.

Don’t list your address or contact information – just create a contact form for anyone that’s interested in reaching you or getting more information.  Make sure your content is unique, so that you have a good chance to rank for your target keyword phrase.  Good practice would be to internally link the pages of your new site, too.  This will help them all get crawled and improve the chances that someone spends time on the site.

As with the example in option #3, it’d be a good idea to host the site on a 100% unique C-class IP.

RISK:  No guarantee your site will rank or produce any leads, particularly with minimal content.  Sites with 1-5 pages of unique content are pretty easy and inexpensive to setup.

REWARD:  Your new “landing” site might rank #1 right out of the gate and produce some leads for you.  Plus, you’ll be clogging up the SERPs, holding down valuable spots your competitors would otherwise occupy.

Our Recommendation

In our client’s case, we checked two things prior to making our recommendation.

First, we wanted to make sure his parent site was not already ranking for the other keywords.  We checked this by doing a Google search for “small website” to see if his site was appearing in the top 50 results.  It wasn’t.

While doing the search, we also confirmed that Google is not recognizing “tiny” and “small” as synonyms.  Since Googlebot doesn’t know – for now – that those two words are synonymous, the chances of our client’s parent site “tinywebsite.com” ranking for the search term “small website” is pretty low.

The second thing we did was to check traffic counts using Google’s keyword tool.  This is a hypothetical situation, but let’s say we found the following traffic counts:

Keyword                     Traffic (broad match)

tiny website                140 searches per month

small website              46 searches per month

little website               <10 searches per month

We decided to confirm potential traffic counts by getting some real data.  We ran an adwords campaign for a month which told us there were 39 impressions for “small website” and 11  impressions for “little website”.  Each keyword was valued at $4 per click.

In our client’s case, they run a local business and had purchased over 15 different exact match domains, so we recommended they begin by testing two of the sites using Option #4 above.

Conclusion

Strategically, it’s a great move to purchase domain names that are synonyms of your exact match keywords.  You’ll be blocking anyone else who tries to get them and setting yourself up for potential future lead generation tools.

At the end of the day, this is a marketing question and most marketing questions don’t have solid answers.  In order to get the answers, you need to jump in and give it a try, using whatever data you have, combined with your best judgment.

We’re available to discuss your situation and can help you think through the various options you may have with your exact match domains.


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