Using Exact Match Domain Names for SEM

An exact match domain is where a domain name matches a targeted search term exactly. For example, for someone selling blue widgets in New Zealand the exact match domain would be These type of domain names have frequently been used in SEO strategies as having the EMD gave a huge boost to rankings for the target keyword, although recently this SEO tactic has been devalued.

Despite being devalued for SEO, exact match domain names are still valuable if used in the right way. Search Engine Marketing is predominantly done through Google Adwords and is fast becoming a competitive (and expensive) marketing option with the average cost per clicks rising as more advertisers move online. Google Adwords have a complicated algorithm that they use to decide which ad goes in which order (otherwise known as ad rank). The order is almost entirely based on which ads are most likely to make Google the most money, which in simple terms is the following formula:

  • Ad Rank = Maximum Cost per Click Bid x Click Through Rate

To improve the position of your adverts and maximise the volume of clicks you receive from these keywords there are essentially two options: increasing the CPC bids or improving the click through rate (ie. number of times your ad is clicked vs the number of time it is shown).


An exact match domain with greater prominence than other adverts.

There have been a number of studies done on whether using an EMD in your search advertising increases click through rate, with a resounding number indicating that it does. One of the main reasons for this is likely the trust it conveys as owning the ‘exact’ domain is seen as expensive and something that is only done by the industry leader. Another reason is that when part of an ad matches the search term, Google and other search engines make the text bold which stands out from other competitors with unrelated domain names.

One study compared identical advertisements with the domain name used being the only difference. The results showed that the exact match domain improved CTR by 37% and 56% when compared to the other ads. This CTR increase also extended to keywords which were similar to the domain name but not identical. The study also looked at whether it was better to buy the exact domain name or if you could just use one which was similar and had most of the target keywords in it. The result was that the exact match name was the best performing.


Using an Exact Match Domain Vastly Improved CTR

While this is a useful strategy it is important to decide when to use an Exact Match Domain for SEM as a lot of the time the effort and extra registration costs required will be more than the savings. As a general rule you should only consider this strategy on keywords that have an average CPC of over $5.50 and an average monthly search volume of over 600.

Duncan Jones

About The Author - Duncan Jones

I am a growth marketing specialist from New Zealand and im passionate about growing businesses through creative and performance focused digital marketing. I insist on tracking everything, follow proven growth processes and I still love the thrill of getting a first conversion then optimising & scaling the campaigns for clients across a huge range of industries. You can find me on LinkedIn here, find out how to hire me here or you can contact me here.

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