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The Impact of Google’s Exact Match Domain Update

Laura Phillips

by Laura Phillips on 7th November 2012

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Laura. I’m a Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai, and I just want to talk to you briefly about exact match domains. Now Google have recently rolled out an algorithm update with regards to exact match domains, and I want to tell you a bit more about what that means.

An exact match domain, for example, would be if you own a car hire company in Bournemouth, and it had the domain name BournemouthCarHire.co.uk. An example of something else, a non-exact match domain would be something like Yahoo, Google, Zynga, all these companies where what they do isn’t in their title.

It became quite easy for people to rank higher if they had an exact match domain, and this meant quite often that lower quality sites, that didn’t really have very much to offer, were placing above better quality sites purely on the basis of this exact match domain name. People were using loads and loads of keywords with hyphens and just creating these horrible URLs that didn’t really take you to what you were probably looking for. This is what Google are trying to get away from.

They first applied for the patent in 2003, and it was granted in 2011. In September this year, 2012, Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that this update should affect about 0.6% in English US searches.

It looks like it might have affected a little bit more than that. A few people are actually reporting a positive response. Their exact match domains are actually placing slightly higher, which probably needs looking into a little bit. Some people have suffered from it. Some people have dropped right out. Some people aren’t really seeing that much of a change.

Now the people who are seeing a benefit or not much of a change are most likely those who have a good quality site offering exactly what it says on the tin anyway. The ones who would suffer are the people who were using the exact match domain name to place higher when they didn’t really have an awful lot to say.

Responses have been mixed. Age definitely seems to have come across as a factor. So if your site is under a year old, you are more likely to be affected by this. If your site is older, hopefully you’ll be okay as long as you are following good practice, offering all the right things, and are, like I say, doing what you say on the tin and offering the service that people are actually looking for when they click on your site.

Now there are a lot of things you can do if you have been hit, and they are essentially just good SEO practice. Know who your brand is. Know what you’re aiming for and work around that. Build a community. Be social. Be responsive to people who come to your site. You can offer your knowledge on forums and niche sites. You can network. Use email marketing. Just generally build a good brand and build a good impression. You really don’t need exact match domains to do that. You just need a good business and good business practice.

This update is going to be run periodically. So to get an exact match domain now after the event won’t actually do you any good. It’s not going to hold any benefit anymore. What the update was designed to do was essentially not penalize exact match domains, but turn down the volume on the advantage that they had. So now it will be far more balanced, whether you go for a brand name which doesn’t have any keywords in it or an exact match domain is not going to make a lot of difference. So if that’s what you want to go for, you can still do it, but it won’t hold any particular advantage.

As I say, follow good practice and you should be fine. If you would like any more information on this, you can go to www.Koozai.com or visit the social profiles below. Thanks.

Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips

Laura has experience of SEO, PPC and Social Media both in-house and within an agency environment. Having worked across a variety of industries from travel to law, and retail to education she is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the search and social visibility of her clients across various platforms.


  • Alexander 7th November 2012

    I made an emd site week ago, now it’s #4 in Google USA for mid-competition keyword. Seems emd still rules, in some niches at least.

    Reply to this comment

    • Laura Phillips

      Laura Phillips 7th November 2012

      Hi Alexander

      Congrats on ranking so well so quick for a mid competition term, that’s great. I think we need to look more into what exactly EMD can mean post-change, but I’d hazard a guess that you built a pretty good site with some high quality content?

      Reply to this comment

  • Brian Cormell 12th November 2012

    Thanks for the Video. I was ranking quite well for a number of individual products on my website http://www.telephone-store.co.uk but since the update, google seem to have decided to basically remove me from anything within the top 200 on the search engines. I wouldnt exact class my domain as exact match but the timing seemed too perfect to justify it being anything else but EMD. I try to build good content and have a good site I feel so I wrote to google to complain and of course no response.

    Reply to this comment

    • Laura Phillips

      Laura Phillips 13th November 2012

      Hi Brian

      Thanks for commenting. You know, the original EMD update came out around the same time as some others, if you want to check which is most likely to have affected you there’s a great free tool from Barracuda which you can find here which accesses your Analytics and overlays the updates so you can really see which had an effect. I hope this helps detemine which update affected you as you don’t seem to quite fit the EMD profile, would you mind letting us know how you get on?

      Reply to this comment

  • Brian Cormell 14th November 2012

    Hi Laura, I used your tool and yes, the traffic dropped off around the 1st of the month where your tool showed a couple of Google updates. What people in my position really need to know is how to improve things again? I also thought I wouldnt come under the EMD update as my site is very generic in what it does but again, I have seen a slip of over 6k during October in Sales compared to September so it cant just be a coincidence can it ? Any advice would be great.

    Reply to this comment

  • Laura Phillips

    Laura Phillips 14th November 2012

    Hi Brian

    As per the video, having an EMD won’t hurt you in anyway, it merely has less advantage now which means you need to work on other areas such as your on page, link profile, content etc. This means a well optimised site with an EMD will be fine, you just need to review and refine your optimisation. A very quick look at your link profile shows you have a low number of links to your site and a large number of the ones you have are sitewide links, this would be a good place to start.

    To get things moving have a look at the guide from SEOMoz which you can find here.

    I hope this helps! Will you let us know how you get on?

    Reply to this comment

  • Toyota Hilux Dealer 23rd February 2013

    Just ran into your site. My site http://toyota-hilux-vigo.com used to be number 1 for all Toyota Hilux Vigo related searches so yes I was getting an EMD boost but after the update I have been thrown on the third page and beyond. This is my best selling vehicle so losing this ranking has affected the business. The funny thing is that my SERPs on all other keywords have not been affected. Had my site been spammy all of these searches would have been affected as well. As a result of EMD I rewrote the first page to minimize the use of term “Toyota Hilux Vigo” as was suggested on SEOChat but has made no difference. Do you have any suggestions on how I might recover as I really do need to recover on this particular search term. Before being hit we used to sell 10 Hilux Vigo for every pickup X so you can see its importance.

    Reply to this comment

    • Conrad 27th February 2013

      Deoptimize for that phrase – not just rewrite one paragraph. Roll up your sleeves, friend.

      And what’s with that title? :-)

      Reply to this comment

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