Exact-match domains are names that exactly match a specific search query. For over fifteen years, domain name investors (often called “domainers”), have been using these names to generate revenue in a variety of ways.
Initially, investors focused on monetizing the type-in traffic coming to the domain names. Just think, if you own a domain like BuyCars.com you will get a reasonable level of type-in traffic to your domain for people who simply enter “buycars” in the URL bar of their browser. Domainers use parking services to quickly generate pages full of PPC links to monetize traffic coming to their names.
The problem with parked domain names is that while they may get a stream of type-in traffic, the services rarely rank in the search engines. Another problem with domain parking is that the type-in traffic usually only exists on .com domains leaving .net, .org, and other top-level domain (“TLD”) holders with little traffic and revenue. As premium domain name owners started looking for ways to increase their revenue, the concept of organic traffic became more appealing.
Domainers quickly learned that they received a noticeable bonus in Google and Bing for having a domain name that exactly matched a user’s search query. For less competitive terms having an exact-match domain allowed domain name owners to simply focus on building-out content, rather than running complex link-building campaigns.
Unlike parking, which only provided significant revenue to .com domains, the SEO benefit of an exact-match domain is the same regardless of TLD. This means that the owner of BuyCar.net has the exact same chance of ranking well as the owner of BuyCar.com, based on the exact-match bonus, since Google and Bing will ignore the TLD. Of course, other factors, like domain age, can impact ranking, but this is unrelated to the keywords in the domain name.
To enjoy the best of both worlds, owning an exact-match .com domain name can generate a steady stream of direct traffic, while also providing a nice benefit in the search engines. You can estimate how much type-in traffic a domain name will get by looking at the search volume using a tool like the Google Traffic Estimator and taking 10% of the global search volume.
Couple direct traffic with a first-page ranking in the search engines and it’s easy to see why exact-match .com domains can be so valuable.
So how can you find great exact-match domains?
Since most of the great .com’s are already registered, expired domains offer the best opportunity. As parking revenue has declined, many domainers are dropping some excellent exact-match domains, which can usually be purchased for under $100.
You can even search for specific characteristics that are meaningful to search engines, like domain age and DMOZ listing, to further increase the SEO value of the exact-match domain that you buy. Couple this with a good landing page and unique content and you’ll enjoy the benefits of both direct traffic and better search engine placement.