Google officially announced on Friday they are now targeting exact match domains (EMDs) and partial match domain names. The official message via Matt Cutt’s Twitter account:
“Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results.”
“New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.” https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/251789327691042816
This has been confirmed to have a significant impact on some users sites:
“According to what I see, this update is not exactly after EDM . Not only keyword.com has been penalized, but also prefix-keyword.com and keywordsuffix.com” – Jessica Smith – http://searchengineland.com/low-quality-exact-match-domains-are-googles-next-target-134889
“Well, it would appear this update completely eliminated my personal blog (with MY name) from the SERPS. I have done no marketing, nothing underhanded, but search terms it was ranking well for yesterday (including my name) are now no where to be found – even image results. I wonder how many legitimate sites have been sent to pasture with this… It appears I have no recourse other than to give up…” – Michael Corder – http://searchengineland.com/low-quality-exact-match-domains-are-googles-next-target-134889
“Two exact domain name match sites of mine are gone. Both top editorial quality, top content, one has excellent links – in their chosen area they are the best. They definitely did NOT deserve to disappear. ” – nomis5 – http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4501349-2-30.htm
What is an EMD?
An EMD, or in other words an “exact match domain” is a domain name that is targeting a specific keyword people are searching for. For example a site with a domain “bluewidgets.com” which is selling a product called “blue widgets”, while the companies name would be something completely different – such as “xyz company”. Google has favoured EMDs for quite some time, and as a result webmasters could get quicker rankings than usual using an EMD.
What is a PMD?
A PMD, is a “partial match domain” which is similar to an EMD, except that it does not match exactly the phrase aimed at getting traffic for. It contains something before or after the keyword, for example “xyzbluewidgets.com” is targeting selling “blue widgets”. Just like EMDs, Google has favoured such domains, with it being easier to rank for the phrase.
Who will this impact? Will this impact me?
This means any sites that are using exact or partial match domains might see their sites drop rankings. Google is saying that its only “low quality” sites being impacted, however there have been reports of sites being impacted that do have claimed quality content. Some are saying that it could be to do with branding keywords, and whether exact/partial match domain is not the same as the brand name and Google may be picking this up. I’m sure we’ll find out more over time.
If you haven’t selected a domain for your site yet, you may want to reconsider using an EMD/PMD until it’s clear the full impact of doing so.
If you buy and sell domain names targeting EMD/PMDs – there may be an impact there. The perceived value of these domains is likely to go down in a purely SEO sense.
Google’s Definition of “Low Quality”:
Google’s definition of “low quality” may differ greatly from everyone else. Many users are reporting that their sites have great quality content, low bounce rates, and great back links – all of which Google usually considers high quality – yet their sites have been impacted by this recent change.
What can I do if my site has been impacted?
It’s hard to tell right now what the options are, until the dust settles. It’s recommended that you first wait a few days/weeks to see the exact impact the changes make. There can be a bit of “Google dance” where sites rankings will go up and down for days until the algorithm change has fully rolled out.
- Wait till the next update from Google on EMDs – usually Google doesn’t just make one change, they will usually updated and tweak their algorithms. So an update may result in your site gaining rankings back, or could result in you losing further rankings.
- Setup a new domain and start from scratch – although this is a lot of work!
- Submit a Google reconsideration request – although as this is an algorithmic change (as opposed to a manual penalty), it’s unlikely you will have any luck with this.
What my opinion on the change?
This has been a change a long time in the coming, and I’m surprised Google took so long to push this change out. EMD/PMDs have always been a weak spot, and a quick and easy way to get a ranking for a keyword. I’ve seen plenty of times brand new EMDs rank on page 1 with little or no SEO, while other sites established for years have trouble ranking!
I think this change is a good change, and will get rid of a lot of spammy sites out there abusing this flaw in Google. It will likely impact innocent users at the same time, but unfortunately that’s the case with changes such as this. Google is making a big effort to close up all the holes that have allowed webmasters to rank easily and quickly above sites that deserve rankings above them. Good on you Google for finally making this change!
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