I have heard that “you have to have an exact match domain to be number one in Google” so many times that I now cringe when I hear it. I know of some people that refuse to invest time in a website unless it does have an exact match domain, especially people that work in affiliate marketing.
I will be the first to admit that I am happy when I get an exact match domain to own or work with. Yes they do have an advantage, but not as much as they used to have. What is much more important is having relevant content and a good SEO strategy in place based on a sound platform (good onsite SEO).
Having good onsite SEO, relevant content, lots of high quality backlinks and a strong brand, your website can outperform a website with an exact match domain (EMD). What people forget is that you can also have the keywords in the URL path if that floats your boat giving you keywords and a brand if you opt for a brand URL.
In some cases I have seen websites with exact match domains end up losing their race to the top because the site owner has assumed that their exact match domain was all they needed to take the crown and they have neglected to put much effort in elsewhere.
If people ask me whether they should buy an exact match domain my reply will generally be that if you can get it from a registrar for a standard price then yeah go for it. If you can buy it for a pretty small price and you don’t have a brand domain already then yeah I guess it’s worth it if you are not expecting miracles.
If you ask me if you should spend £5000 (or other random silly figure) on an exact match domain I will generally say no. Because that £5000 could be spent much more efficiently on an SEO campaign, whether it is funding the procuring of links to your website, funding better advertising or even thinking about improving the website’s content.
If you search for car insurance on Google (.co.uk) there isn’t an exact match domain in sight until the bottom of page 3. The first page of search results is all brand URLs. What I do notice though is that of the 10 results on the 1st page 5 contain all or part of the search phrase in the URL. All 10 mention the search phrase in the Meta title and all 10 mention it in their Meta description.
Of course in other niche’s exact match domains are reigning top, but if one is ranking above you don’t worry, all is not lost. Just roll up your sleeves and work harder.
Here is a video by Matt Cutts discussing exact match domains and keywords in domains.