Google's exact match domain SEO boost is well publicised (including in a recent Stack Exchange podcast). But is there any evidence that an "exact match subdomain" gets any kind of boost?

I'm talking about the difference between word.example.com vs wordexample.com (and maybe word.com/example) in a search for "word example".

(Note: I'm not actually considering using this technique, I just heard someone mention it and am interested if there is any evidence for it.)

  • I think people are interpreting too much into "exact match domain names," at least with regards to Google. Linked form blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/07/se-podcast-12 is seoptimise.com/blog/2011/06/… which even mentions "Exact match domains – (...) The good times seem to be over, however; branding gets more important, and even an exact match generic keyword domain is no guarantee of ranking these days." – John Mueller Oct 31 '11 at 10:42

I tried exact match sub-domains from 2002 until 2010. It was on a site that had local information about products. So most of our URLs were like:


but we tried a handful of cities that got sub-domains:


Those "exact match sub-domains" ran for years but never ranked better than similar cities, even for the exact terms.

It did cause a lot of development headaches:

  • Much harder to set up test environments
  • Since we had cites with both styles of URL we had to have special case code for generating the URLs in those cases. Sometimes developers bypassed it and ended up generating the wrong style, so we had to have tests in place for that and redirect rules to clean up mistakes.
  • relative URLs in the site header don't work the same way on a sub-domain vs on the main domain. All the common files on the site had to be specially crafted to know which domain they were on if they wanted to use relative links.
  • Issues with "same origin" policy for JavaScript that sometimes broke the site just for those cities.

Because of these issues, we ended up retiring the sub-domains and redirecting the URLs back to the normal format.

Recently Google has announced that they are trying to tone down any ranking boosts that exact match domains get. I've never seen a ranking boost for exact match sub-domains, and I wouldn't expect one any time soon given that Google is also cracking down on exact match domains.

  • Thanks for the answer! I'd forgotten this question never got a proper answer. – DisgruntledGoat Nov 19 '13 at 14:22

exact match domains are powerful because they have certain KEYWORDS in them.

so if you have a site shoe.com

and want to target red shoes...

shoe.com/red red.shoe.com

would both work. You do not necessarily need a subdomain.

  • Do you have any evidence/research to back this up? – DisgruntledGoat Oct 11 '11 at 10:13

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