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Google To Devalue Exact Match Domains Again
Back in 2012 Google released a new algorithm to combat exact match domains which they felt skewed search results and received an unfair ranking boost as opposed to sites that follow SEO best practise. It was set to only affect 0.6% of English search results and according to Google did its' job of eliminating this spammy old school practice. However 4 years later it's either being updated, re-run or re-implemented according to tweets by Gary Illyes of Google.
What is an exact match domain (EMD)?
An EMD is a domain name that matches a search query that will likely drive traffic to your website. For instance, if you call your website buycheapcarsonline.com simply because you feel or know users interested in your services would use that query in search engines. The search query ‘buy cheap cars’ is a lucrative search term, and if you call your website this then you might assume this is a shortcut to the top of a search engine results page (SERP).
It's an old-school SEO technique and was deemed obsolete along with meta keywords and keyword stuffing a long time ago. EMDs, while they may work in the short-term, you may want to avoid doing it or change going forward depending on your use of the EMD.
What is the problem with EMDs?
Firstly, EMDs have been long thought of as having an unfair advantage. It is a shortcut used by spammy or lazy webmasters trying to solicit users from search by having a generic search term in their URL and having high amount keyword mentions of that search term exactly in the URL. This is seen as a manipulation of search, only if you're not driving the value for the consumer and if you're outranking sites who have a superior offering, deemed so by search engines.
Outranking websites that rise to the top of Google through quality content, solid architecture, trusted backlinks and assorted white hat best practices, would not bode well for Google. While Exact Match Domains can just rise to the top by shoe-horning in a few tasty keywords. EMDs may only affect less than 1% of English search results, it's still a practice that needs to be muzzled.
What will happen to EMDs?
We're not sure when the new algorithm will take effect, or what the exact specifications would be for flagging and devaluing EMDs there are steps you can take to make sure you're site isn't hit. Take the example of cheapflights.com.
It uses an EMD but does this by being a legitimate non-spammy operation and that’s really what you need to worry about. If you currently own an EMD and would like to prevent penalties, safeguard your site or see your traffic dropping, let us know about it in the comments below.
If you want to know more about exact match domains don’t be shy we’re happy to assist. Simply contact us here