Case Study on Building Phrase Match Domains

By Sergio Aicardi on December 1, 2015

Since Google announced that a recent update to their algorithm would penalize exact match domains (EMDs), webmasters have been looking for a “Plan B” to keep their sites performing well in searches.

Exact match urls are those which have the exact keyword(s) in their url. Those sites that should be most concerned are those that don’t deliver on the promise that their url gives. In other words, if your url is, and there’s little free or frothy about the site, you’re gonna get knocked down a few (pardon the pun).

As mentioned above, we understand that Search Engines are looking to produce the most valuable results to their end users when they are delivering search results.  So, Even if your site is quality, the concern is valid, and you might want to consider Phrase Match urls. These urls contain variations on the theme, adding words to differentiate them slightly, but not so much that a search won’t find them.

Let’s take a look at two cases using Miami SEO and Texas SEO as keywords. Exact match websites and technically should appear prominently in the results if their sites have quality content.

Typing “Miami SEO” into Google

Typing in a search for “Miami SEO” in Google produces two other companies at the very top of the page, at least on this particular day. and Swell-marketing. Both used Google Ads to get there, and obviously don’t have Miami SEO in their url.  Three additional sites follow in the directory listing below The Miami SEO Company, webris and firstpagehq which ironically is an internet marketing service that lists no website.

Miami SEO search results


Our quest did reveal the site as the first listing after the paid postings. Click on that, and we see that we’ll land on the home page and after further review of the total website we’ll notice that it’s a very valid listing.  This website is full of information about SEO, Internet Marketing and Pay Per Click Advertising.  The overall theme of the website continually informs consumers about it’s products and services within the digital space.  In addition to that, their are ton’s on tips, tutorials and the latest happening’s within the search engine world on their blog

On one hand, it’s still the first unpaid listing and remains on the valuable real estate of the first page of a Google search. (We’ve heard rumors of a second page, but as no one reportedly ventures that far, they remain thus.) So, hasn’t suffered too greatly, probably because their overall content is solid in providing SEO services.

Other relevant searches that use “Miami SEO” in the string also bring up prominently. We get similar results when we type in “Miami SEO services” “Miami SEO Firm”, etc. This site url is phrase matched, and gives us plenty of valuable content to inform the visitor.  As we look at the other results we don’t see any exact match urls dominating the first listing in Google.  Why is that?  The main reason is that it redirects to a site called advanity and has ZERO content about the site.  Instead it simply just lists the a company name and a phone # from Nevada.


Texas SEO

Here too a search using these keywords gave us as well as in the top three unpaid rankings on the first page of Google. The phrase matched url was third, edged out by as well as a well-indexed page from the same site of /dallas-seo/.

Search Results for texas


Two different companies – actually named as their urls suggest TexaSeo and The Texas SEO Company respectively – using slightly different strategies, but results are still favorable. Again, it bears repeating that if your site uses either strategy, it will come down to content on the pages.  In this case an exact match domain did get the top result but, we are seeing a much different situation as compared to the Miami seo search.  What we see hear is texasseo has alot of great content on all the different aspects of SEO.  It covers the topic thoroughly and continues to deliver user fresh content on the subject.


Google has also defended its decision to kill exact match, saying that the new algorithm, which places greater importance on the concept of “close variant,” will result in better matches. The concept is that search queries aren’t always exact because we humans aren’t perfect, misspelling what we’re looking for.


What can we take away from this? Whether Google really has laid down the law or not, and a blog from Moz recorded the dramatic downfall of 41 EMDs, there are more important things to pay attention to for your site. We’ve mentioned content, but what does that mean?


  • Optimization of your landing pages – use keywords and other variations to help searchers find you. This includes a solid headline, secondary headline and use of keywords within the copy. Of course a strong call to action and a great client review can seal the deal.
  • Backlinks – there is more than one way to your website, and you should be paving the way to it through your other channels like social media
  • Updates – sites that remain fresh, and provide strong content through blogs, will do well in a Google search, no matter what the algorithm favors
  • Google loves Google – and if you aren’t putting a presence on Google Plus (Facebook’s quieter but smarter little brother) or YouTube, you’re missing out on Google’s other properties that they love to rank higher than competitors.
  • Maybe it really is you – understand what Google’s definition is for low quality content – Shout Me Loud has a pretty comprehensive blog on how to clean up and much of it won’t require outside help.

Our Final Thoughts

What we are finding and what we see hear is that exact match domains are not necessarily guaranteeing the first spot, or the top five spots, in Google Search Results.  Instead Google is preferring websites that are authorities on that topic.  Now in certain cases such as the Texas site’s case it is true BUT, in that case the overall intention is the same.  Provide quality content and be an authority within your subject matter and Google recognizes it as valuable to their end users.

About The Author

Sergio Aicardi
Sergio Aicardi /

Search engine marketing is what I am passionate about and enjoy doing. I feed off of the knowledge and the fact that SEO is always and will always be changing. Remember, when it comes to SEO, always think like a search engine and you will succeed.