Case Study: Moving Website from Partial Match to Exact Match Domain

In this case study, I’m going to be testing how much better (if at all) switching a RANKING authoritative website that’s getting thousands of impressions a day to a new Exact Match Domain doing a 301 redirect.

The Case Study Introduction

I’m taking my brandable Partial Match Domain name (which is about 12 years old and had an existing site in the niche for 6 or 7 years with lots of links to it) and doing a 301 redirect to an Exact Match Domain.

This EMD domain is the keyword I am specifically targeting in this niche, and it’s the keyword that most of the content I’ve put up over the past year is focused on. It’s also a keyword that I don’t rank for directly, though I bring in thousands of long tails related to it.

History of the Domain

  • domain created in 1998
  • A partial match domain (PDM) with the keyword + something else. It’s a two word .com domain and in the entertainment niche.
  • had a large authority site on it from 1998 until 2010. The site had almost 1000 posts.
  • at the peak, the site was getting nearly 900,000 visitors a month.
  • after 2010, it was abandoned until the end of 2013 with no website loading.
  • I bought this expired domain in 2012 on an namejet auction and put up a version of the original site I ripped from waybackmachine.org. The link structure was all fucked up though since the previous site was on some drupal site and I could only copy the content itself; the titles and posts were not t all seo friendly. The site was getting under 100 people a day after a few months but did NOT get any more traffic until a couple years later when I actually start to put new content on it.
  • 2014, I put NEW content on the site around March or April 2014. Each content post was over 5000 words each.
  • 2015, I migrated the old content into a wordpress blog and fixed the old url links. Added more content. There are now 13 new massive posts.
  • Current: doing a 301 redirect to an Exact Match Domain (EDM), adding more content, creating a proper design on the site. The new EDM is a two word domain and a .org.

The Domain Now

  • Gets about 2000 impressions a day
  • Has 12/13 5000 word posts on it + 700 to 1000 of the old pages of content I migrated to a wordpress blog.
  • Not (YET) monetized
  • Site design is not finalized — it’s on an old custom static template that I’m rebuilding into a custom dynamic one. There is a wordpress blog on it with the existing content that I will fix up as well and better organize.

The Site Stats

Let’s look at the stats from the past couple years.

Here’s the total traffic history, broken up by months since the beginning of 2013.

Note: I was getting trickle traffic for the most part until the beginning of 2015 which is when I finally put on NEW content (end of 2014). I also fixed some of the URL structures with the pre-existing content that was on the site (the urls were not SEO friendly, pages did not have actual titles, no meta title or tag information). I fixed the old content by migrating it to an actual wordpress blog and manually setting the titles in the 1000 or so posts.

 

by_year

More traffic stats by month:

by_month

Noteit was only after three or four months of putting up NEW content (I had existing content I ripped from the old, decommissioned site via waybackmachine.org) that there was a spike in traffic.

I find it’s usually about 2-4 months before you start seeing real benefits in traffic from the search engine, AFTER you post it — even on sites with existing authority and ranking, though this can be shorter if the niche has less competition.

Now here are some of the current stats from last couple months:

last_month

So, for this case study, I’ll be switching to an EXACT domain and see what happens with the traffic, rankings, and CTR rate for the ranking terms in Google.

So WHY would I want to do this case study and risk a great domain name that now gets almost 2000 impressions a day?

Because, I want to see what will happen of course. And I think the exact match domain WILL make a difference in this situation, as the entire site content and the exiting searches are directly related to that exact keyword.

Possible Benefits of Switching from Partial Match to Exact Match Domain

Possibly Gain More Targeted Anchor Links

I call this passive SEO. Because your domain name IS your target keyword, any (new) links to your site may have better targeted anchor text links (assuming the links have your domain name in them or your domain name keywords). In the case of this case study, this passive SEO boost would only apply to NEW existing links to the site over the long term, so I don’t feel this will have any immediate effect.

 Possibly Gain a Ranking Boost

Now I know, SEO-wise, there’s not much of a benefit to the switching from a Partial Match Domain to an exact match. As of 2012, Google’s EMD update killed many of the benefits given to EMD’s. But if you have a solid site, with great content, good links from related sites, and lots of age, it could be having an EMD could have some ranking benefit, all other factors considered. I don’t know for sure if this is the case – but we may be able to see through this test.

Possibly Gain Higher Traffic 

One area I can specifically test using Google Webmaster Tools is the search engine CTR rate. There’s a number of studies that show having the keyword a searcher types into the search in your domain name will result in the user being more biased to click on YOUR domain over the other results that don’t have the keyword in the domain.

This effect, should we see it, could result in a higher ctr click rate for the ranking keywords which could result in more traffic for the exact same ranking.

I can test this two ways:

  1. comparing the CTR for a set of terms in Webmaster Tools over 1 month with the partial match domain. Then change to the EMD and record the data over a couple months with the exact match domain for the same set of terms. Assuming we don’t’ see a fluctuation in ranking for the terms, we can look at the CTR percentage and see if it goes up or down.
  2. looking at the overall traffic — does it increase?

Possible Negatives of Switching from Partial Match Domain to Exact Match Domain

Loss of (Some) Ranking

Doing a 301 redirect always loses a bit of link juice I’ve found. I’m of the mind it’s always better to build out the original domain, but this is one case that I don’t mind trying a domain switch. I’ve landed the perfect exact domain, I haven’t tried to monetize the site, and I’m still building it up, so there’s really nothing to lose here.

To Be Continued in a few months

I’ll post a follow up in a few months with that’s happening. I don’t have the site tracked with google webmaster tools just yet, so I want to link it up and get some solid traffic stats (CTR with the search clicks on the search terms) with the old domain for 30 days before I switch to the new one so I have something to compare.

So, i’ll be posting more on this in about a month or so.

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