In late September, Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s web spam team) warned of an impending update to their algorithm that would affect low-quality exact match domains (EMD’s). This article will explain the theory behind EMD’s, what constitutes a low quality domain and the impact the change has had on certain sites.
An Exact Match Domain is a domain name that matches a set of keywords someone may type in to search for a particular product/service. For example, plastic-shoes.com could be a business named Plastic Shoes. However, it could be a website that has no useful content, with a low-quality inbound link profile that has been specifically created to host a string of advertisements. What Google are attempting to do with their latest update is eradicate the low-quality EMD’s from their search listings, although this is easier said than done.
Exact match domains have always been a contentious issue among SEOs. Exact Match Domains have traditionally brought a competitive advantage for companies who understood the benefits in using them. The early days of SEO didn’t recognise relevance algorithms, instead many companies used to adopt so called “double dashed” domains because they were cheap, and relatively easy to rank. To this day, plenty of search results pages have contained low-quality EMD’s like best-shoe-company.org, which is how this change came about.
Google are increasingly focussing their algorithm updates on identifying good quality websites. In the past a website with an EMD may have been ranked highly despite having little content and providing a poor user experience to visitors. For this reason, Exact Match Domains have always been considered an over emphasised SEO boost. However, the recent update has actually seen good quality EMD websites caught in the crossfire.
Can we expect Google to get it right with every update?
The answer is no. Obviously Google will aim to provide accurate search results for every search query imaginable, but in reality they constantly have to tweak the rules by rolling out regular iterations to their algorithm. For the time being, this will inevitably prove an unbearable nuisance to many companies who have been punished unfairly, because they’re logically using EMD’s matching their brand name.
For those of you that own a website affected by the update, I would advise you to take heed of Google’s recent focus on quality websites. Google’s algorithm has the long term plan of ranking the highest quality websites at the top of the search results, so you should have a long term plan that ensures youre website is producing quality content on a regular basis in order to rank highly in your industry.
What Causes an Exact Match Penalty
There has been plenty of comment and speculation over the past week or so about what may cause a website to be penalised by the EMD algorithm update. As I mentioned, there have been a number of quality websites caught in the crossfire of this update and at this stage we can’t comment conclusively as to what exactly has caused websites to be penalised. What we have seen so far is that the age of the EMD websites seems to play a part, and anything under 1 year old will most likely have seen a drop in rankings as a result of the update.
Of course, there is always the option of submitting a reconsideration request to Google if you’re legitimately utilising an Exact Match Domain. Although I’d only advise submitting a request if you’re certain that your website has been unfairly hit by the update.
We’d love to hear what you think about the recent update in the comments section, but if you’ve felt the impact of this update then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for help and advice.