Google’s Exact Match Domain Name Update
A couple of tweets by Matt Cutts today suggests that Google’s at it again. As they make another algorithm update, be prepared for the outcry from SEOs around the world, and the clients that have followed their advice. Matt first tweeted:
“Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results”
Soon followed by:
“New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.”
What is an exact match domain name?
An exact match domain name is when somebody is targeting the keywords “blue widgets” and they have www.bluewidgets.com.au as their domain name. I’m sure you’ve all seen that a few times in the search results?
People have been abusing the power of exact match domain names in SEO to rank for keywords for a while now, and yes (unfortunately) they’ve worked very well.
However, when I’ve been asked by clients and associates in the past about exact match domain names, I’ve always told people to be very cautious with them, warning that the strategy won’t work in the long-term.
Why did I predict that Exact Match Domain Names would soon be targeted?
While I knew exact match domain names have worked well, I never recommended it to my clients, as I like to stick to long-term SEO strategies.
I’ve always felt that it’s another form of spam – I would be more likely to click through to a brand name URL than an E.M.D. The strategy has been abused and often goes hand in hand with website over-optimisation, so they’ve left a bad taste in my mouth.
Most good marketers will tell you we should be trying to emphasise our brand names and make them more memorable. So it doesn’t make any sense to move away from your brand name. I feel brand name URLs are a much better signal of trust.
Now what do we already know about Google? They hate spam! They’re doing all they can to slowly stamp out spam and make the search results more natural. This is a great thing for searchers, and as a frequent Google searcher myself, I don’t want my search results filled with rubbish. So for a long time myself, and other SEOs knew that the exact match domain name strategy wouldn’t last forever.
Complications of eliminating exact match domain names from search results
Of course, like targeting any form of spam, search engines have to be very careful that they don’t leave a heap of high-quality websites in their wake.
For example, there are a lot of cases where the EMDs really do match the brand, and it’s not done specifically to target these keywords. Sometimes it is by coincidence that a brand name matches people’s keywords, and some brands really are built up around that name.
They can’t go changing this. How Google will look after these sites I’m not sure, but let’s hope their band of merry geeks have figured something out.
What should you do if you’re already using an EMD?
It’s early days, so it’s a bit hard to be sure exactly how Google are going to target the EMDs. I think it will be a slow rollout, and something that will need to be continually updated as they strive to get the algorithm right.
If I had an exact match domain name, I’d be making sure I follow Google’s webspam guidelines to the tee! If that’s you, you might want to read Glen Gabe’s article about the Google Over-Optimisation penalty and exact-match domain names. For example he suggests that Google might look at: number of domains per company, cross-linking of domains using rich anchor text, doorway pages, and thin content.
If you’re worried about your site, don’t wait around to see what happens. Take action now!
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