Google Takes Aim at Exact Match Domain Names (EMDs)

Google Takes Aim at Exact Match Domain Names (EMDs)

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.”

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 has been penalized, but also and” – Jessica Smith –

“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 –

“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 –

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 “” 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 “” 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!

  • Google is smart enough to roll out it on a weekend evening. Most of the webmasters was not able to see the impact as they may relate it to week end drop. But it will affect lot’s of niches. It will be a killer for affiliate sites minor sites.

  • Helene

    There is only one reason for the changes of the past 20-25 months that I can see so far, because Google search results have gone down the drain because of it, and I now have to use Bing search engine to find any genuine information sites when I search.

    Look at why we used EMD names… to get free organic SERP traffic to our sites and web2 properties and book sales sites.

    Now that every possible avenue of SEO to get free organic traffic has been shattered, there is only one way for webmasters to get traffic to their sites.

    What is that… oh yeah? remember a little something called Google PPC that we used to have to spend thousands of dollars a month on, before we worked out how to do SEO and get free traffic?

    There is no doubt this whole exercise, which has been throwing the baby out with the bathwater for the past couple of years, is purely driven by the desire to drive up their Google PPC income.

    Personally, I don’t give a damn any more, I just build the sites and pages that I want, using what keywords I see have a reasonable demand with lowest competition, and build informative pages. Over time the cream will rise.

    And Google will go the way all internet bullies eventually go… we just need to keep an eye out for, and support, the bright new SE’s that rise from the ashes of this insanity by google.

  • Helene, I can’t say I agree with all the changes that Google makes – and it definitely is hard to keep track of all of them! However I completely understand why they are making the changes, and agree that it is necessary.

    At the end of the day Google wants to display quality results to users, not give companies cheap free traffic. The latest changes help improve the SERPs, and means I don’t have to worry about someone buying and EMD and easily ranking higher than our more established, trusted, authoritative site than a brand new EMD. From my understanding the changes are to target sites with little to no useful content, or sites that are just using the EMD to get traffic instead of branding their site with the EMD name.

    With regards to Google PPC, how is Google making more money by changing the order sites rank? There are still the same number of sites in the SERPs, and the same a finite real estate of space to display them. Someone is always going to lose and have to use Google PPC at the end of the day, and one may even argue that the bigger more trusted brand sites would actually have more to spend on PPC than a more EMD site. This means if EMDs are ranking above the non-EMD sites, Google may make more money on PPC from the non-EMD company.

    There are still plenty of ways to gain rankings, although harder with Google. Link bait, good content, social, etc. Google has been quite reactive with their updates, and usually puts out updates due to SEOs finding ways to game Google. Google has no choice really but to make these changes!