Why Should I Change My Exact Match Domain?

Nov 12, 2012 • 8:21 am | comments (15) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google EMDThere is a fun thread at Google Webmaster Help where a site owner is asking why should he change his exact match domain to something else when the exact match domain is the official name of his business.

Remember, Google launched an exact match domain algorithm in September of this year to target domains with low value trying to rank solely on the domain name.

The site owner asked:

I have an EMD and have been clearly penalised for that. I am now getting feedback from my webmaster that I should change it, as it is the quickest and cheapest way to get my business back on track.

Our EMD as a registered business and it is Trademarked.

In which, an SEO named Stevie responded, where Google's John Mueller vouched for by marking it a "best answer."

Bottom line, a legit business that happens to have an EMD is not going to be penalized or loose the value of their domain matching the query..... so back up your claim. Let us examine it. And if you are correct then one of the TCs will escalate the findings for Google to evaluate and potentially modify their algorithm.

Google won't let official and legit EMDs take a hit. Or would they?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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11/12/2012 01:28 pm

We were hit for a lot of our legitimate exact match domains. It seems that Google unfairly punished one word EMD's. If you have a site on a single keyword domain and your site is about what the keyword describes it is incredibly difficult not to get punished. By punished - I do not mean losing rankings for just the exact match - I mean NUKED out of the search engines (not in top 100 for 90% of long tail as well). This happened across a number of our EMD's - all built differently and most without any link building. They all had good user metrics as well which is what baffles me the most.


11/12/2012 04:35 pm

There are TONS of EMDs (one word or otherwise) still ranking at or near the very top of the Google SERPs, so I really think the word "penalty" is a complete misnomer. Don't believe me? Type in "nascar" or "bowling" and see what happens. They decreased the weight given to EMDs so that just the simple act of having one would not automatically cause you to leapfrog other websites that might have content that, according to their algorithm, is better than the content on an EMD that was formerly getting a boost solely because it was an EMD. You say there was no link building but that they have good "user metrics" which just goes to show that user metrics mean little to nothing until a page is already ranking well (the past is the past). They MAY factor in click through rates, time on site and page views but probably not nearly as much as they still value good old fashioned related links (preferably from related high authority websites) and exceptional content. Links are still the #1 thing that influences their results but only high quality links that are related are carrying any real weight. The other thing that appears to be having an influence (at least for now) is constantly updated fresh content. The "social signals" that everyone seems to be going after might very well be a completely unrelated coincidence. It makes much more sense that the social networks are leading to the creation of natural related backlinks by real people than the fact that something as easily manipulated as number of "likes" or "follows" would have anything at all to do with page rank or SERP position. This is all subjective and I'm sure there are those that swear their websites are better than ones that are ranking. Without the related authority links; though, you're invisible.


11/12/2012 04:55 pm

ScottMack - We have quite a large sample with around $500K+ tied up in just premium UK one word domains. The results are pretty easy to gauge = Any of our sites doing 10k + uniques daily were grandfathered and not hit - hence your examples of Nascar , Bowling etc. Any of the newer sites doing less than 5k uniques were penalized - not devalued but penalized (not ranking in the top 100 for 90% long tail and exact match queries). Social signals did not help.


11/12/2012 05:12 pm

So, I guess you are saying that something other than just EMD is playing a role here. And, like I said, I've never believed social signals carry any weight at all.

Andy Francos

11/12/2012 05:45 pm

Legitimate domains will definitely have been caught up in this, no question. The usual collateral damage from Google no doubt. I'm based in the UK and I put together the following study on EMD/PMD, which clearly shows that Google were fixing a problem they made themselves: http://www.intelligentpositioning.com/blog/2012/10/google-emd-and-pmd-decline-over-time/ Across so many sectors we saw a jump in 2010/2011 for EMD/PMD (check the Gucci example out), which was then 'rectified' in 2012, although my legitimate testing EMD (three word) domain was hit and is yet to return in the fix. Will keep you posted.

Michael Martinez

11/12/2012 07:17 pm

I have exact match domains that are doing just fine. Google didn't go after EMDs so much as they went after the bad practices that accompany the choices of using EMDs to chase keywords.


11/12/2012 07:58 pm

I not will change my emd domains because of any search engines, including google. That what google doing for emd now - it clear sign for us, google is mad now about money.


11/12/2012 08:31 pm

Ditto here. Just a question. Did you have a domain with a lot of dashes or a free-flowing domain name? I'm seeing more sites with dashes (-) being hit than those without. Just random thoughts...

Scott Hendison

11/12/2012 11:35 pm

Ditto ditto - I have an EMD doing fine - I think the key to remember is to "not have an EMD that sucks" - better yet, (don't have a website that sucks no matter what your domain is ;)

Andrew Agnello

11/12/2012 11:36 pm

I still see many EMD (both just the keyword as well as keyword+something) still ranking in the top 3 across many different verticals. Doesn't look like they have been penalized, as they have way less links and authority than other high players. The inclusion of the keyword in the EMD seems to the saving grace for keeping such sites ranking so well. However, I have seen significantly fewer EMD with hyphens than in the past. Hyphenated domains usually look like attempts to get that EMD magic but smell of desperation.

Michael Martinez

11/13/2012 09:02 am

One of my better performing EMDs has 2 dashes in the domain name. It's no big deal as long as you're creating legitimate content.

Tammy Emineth

11/13/2012 09:15 pm

I certainly hope not since ours is the exact situation above. We haven't seen any loss so far.

Jason Diller

11/14/2012 09:39 pm

this is kinda tricky...


11/29/2012 07:11 pm

Mr Michael, you are a top dog when it comes to SEO so saying your EMD site excaped doesn't help us...the little guy! So how can we get our rankings back?

Rick Somers

01/31/2013 02:27 am

Seems all the comments here are old, but I'm just learning about this because I'm being sued. As described above, my business name, domain and registered trademark and primary keywords were all the same. The site was profiting $50k+/mo, and I sold the company on September 15th. On 29th (2 weeks later) the traffic plummeted to 5-10 uniques a day, where it remains to this day. The new owner believes I sabotaged it after the sale. But I learned today it was this damn EMD thing. Everything I've read says to improve content and inbound links, but the site is a PR4 and has about 1000 inbound relevant links, thousands of twitter and facebook followers, and was having hundreds of pages shared per month. So I'm dumbfounded. Seems all I can tell him is write longer descriptions for all 500+ products. But that seems retarded, it's a retail site not a blog. Any suggestions?

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