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URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-ranking Exact-match Domains

This guest post is by Rob Henry of K2L Marketing.

Regular Google users will know that one of the easiest ways to get a good ranking in its search results is for your web address to exactly match the search query.

Get it spot-on and, until recently, you’ve been almost assured of a position close to the top, and often in the number-one slot on page one of the SERPs.

But Google’s continuing mission to put right what once went wrong in their algorithms is now targeting what Matt Cutts calls “low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains”.

This adds to the work done by the Panda update, which filtered out poor-quality web pages, and Penguin, which tackled spammy pages.

According to a Cutts’ tweet on September 28th, 0.6% of English-US queries will be noticeably affected.

This might not sound like many searches in the grand scheme of things. However, the latest comScore figures show that Google sites were responsible for 11.3 billion individual search queries in the US alone in August 2012, meaning that 0.6% of queries amounts to almost 68 million searches per month.

What they said

Cutts’ full announcement of this update on Twitter read as follows:

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.

The immediate response was positive, with one Twitter user simply replying with “Yippeeee!,” and another joking “I suspect that won’t be a ‘minor’ weather report to the vast majority of affiliate marketers.”

Moving on from EMDs

So just what does this mean for online marketing and SEO? Well, it goes considerably further than simply meaning that EMDs won’t be so prevalent in the search results, because it opens up that top spot to other websites that are able to compete using the remaining “acceptable” methods of SEO not yet targeted for penalisation by Google.

There are as many webmasters out there who are frustrated by always ranking second to an EMD as there are site owners who will be negatively affected by this change. So it’s the perfect opportunity for us to re-optimize any of our pages that could use a bit of attention.

Poor quality content is already a no-no, as are paid links or those created by spamming blog comments and discussion forums. Now EMDs are out too. So renew your focus on legitimate PPC platforms and the remaining on-page SEO opportunities.

Where to focus for better position

Good-quality content will always be favoured by Google, and they’ve never stopped saying that well-placed on-page keywords are a good thing, as long as they don’t damage the overall quality and grammar of the page they’re placed on.

Look to your best-performing pages for inspiration, and you can’t go wrong: you’re likely to find a strong structure with keywords and phrases repeated a couple of times in appropriate places on the page, possibly helped further by your choice of anchor text for hyperlinks on the page, text used in image captions, and so on.

With these Google-approved locations for keywords, you can make sure your pages are viewed in the best possible light by the search robots, even if they’re hosted on an EMD. Hopefully, you’ll be able to snag yourself that top spot in the search results once the dust settles.

This blog was written by Rob Henry, marketing specialist at K2L. K2L Marketing is a full service marketing agency offering a unique approach to your marketing needs.

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Comments

  1. Salman Ahmad says:

    This is not good !
    I’m going to change the Links of every Post !

  2. Carlin Stanton, the East Texas Google Guy says:

    Great article, Rob. Seems like Google always said the URL did not affect position in SERP’s, but it really did didn’t it?

  3. Nice tip you got there Rob. My blog was badly hit with that update and I think I could use your advice and see if it will work out with me.

  4. Rahul says:

    I have a iPad blog with exact match domain. My content is so useful that I cannot handle Skype requests cause everyone is dying to get help. And Google just slapped my yesterday. I am hit badly. On the contrary Adsense earning has increased. I am confused.

    • When you said Google slapped you, what do you mean? Ranking, search terms that were good suddenly aren’t, traffic drop?

    • John Judd says:

      Are you sure you were slapped?

      It’s quite common to see a downturn in rankings/searches/visitors when Google change their algorithm only to see them return to normal a few days or weeks later. This can be frustrating, and not a little scary when it happens. Just wait for a week or two to see if everything returns to normal.

  5. Clara says:

    Nice post Rob! I have analysed that Google policies are always in the favour of common visitors. It is their right to get quality content. Though it is hard to follow the guidelines at once but in the long run it is beneficial for web masters also. Though search query matters but originality has its own value.

  6. Jenni K says:

    This was bound to happen. With people making EMDs left and right, it was about time google cut back on these kinds of domains. In the end, people searching for something they really need, should be getting high quality search results, not fake reviews or services that are not real.

    • Rahul says:

      So basically a blog that is mentioned by iOS App Studios like Vivid Games, Gameloft etc. according to Google is not a useful site? What happens to those who have EMD and are aimed at producing high quality content.

  7. Trevor says:

    I don’t think I’ll have to worry about this. When I google my domain name, my blog doesn’t show up at all . . . at least not within the first 50 pages (yeah, I checked through 50). I’m SEO ignorant so I don’t mess around with it. I’d probably just do more harm than good anyways.

    Cheers!

  8. Justin says:

    That’s good news for me. When I started my blog I had no idea of the value of naming your blog using your keywords or EMD. My blog’s name has nothing to do with my niche. So, I thought I messed up when I named my blog but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore.

  9. Kent says:

    Sites with thin content are the prime targets to be hit, Google is smart they just don’t like people trying to game their system.

  10. Truth be told, there is a lot of garbage that ranks well and shouldn’t, so I’m not mad at this one bit. However, it’s still a better deal to try to get close to what it is you’re doing rather than selecting a domain name that’s not even close.

  11. Jatin Sharma says:

    Google has done the right thing as nobody wants SPAM.

    “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

    Well, that’s the thing I always tell my readers to write quality content as Google is getting smarter and smarter and is making life of newbie bloggers harder and harder.

    Thanks for the post. :D

  12. Rob says:

    To be fair Google hit EMD’s in October, in short with Panda, Penguin and EMD they ruined many small business owners lives.

    Google owe webmasters nothing, they can play with their algorithm as much as they like that’s their prerogative but they need to recognize their corporate responsibility extends beyond their shareholders.

    A company this powerful needs to understand that they lulled thousands of genuine people into a trap, not every site hit was low quality or spam. I agree that thin sites brought nothing to the party and deserved to be penalized but what about genuine business that simply followed Google’s advice, did they deserve to get hit?

    I have long said that you can’t rely on Google to pay your mortgage, while the money was rolling in for very little effort people laughed, strangely not now!

    Build your business properly, market yourself properly and build relationships with your visitors/customers, then and only then will Google and others be a welcome bonus rather than a master!

  13. Robert Palmer says:

    Interesting, but IMO this whole thing makes me sick. Robots cannot determine good content. Robots have no emotion, therefore they only can do what they are told to do.

    I believe this is about money, and the only people’s sites that will survive are the ones that spend thousands of dollars in PPC.

  14. Adam says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for this, I’m sure some people might have missed it, although if they did then chances are it didn’t affect them much.

    It’s been a while since the EMD update, feels like a very long time to me so things have had time to settle (a little bit at least)… yet I’m still seeing EMD’s with poor content ranking while high quality EMD’s have tanked.

    Google results seem to be getting worse and worse as time goes on; it’s getting to the point where they are actually destroying businesses and have the potential to shake up the economies of small countries – maybe only a matter of time till governments step in?

  15. Timothy says:

    Unfortunately, these google algo updates often affect several innocent websites. Perhaps it is unavoidable collateral damage, but the impact on the affected businesses is huge. Many owners of exact-match-domains also put a lot of effort to ensure that the content is relevant to the keyword in the EMD. Obviously, there are several low-quality EMDs out there too, and these should not rank well. But from my observation, the recent EMD update was a bit too aggressive, almost to an extent of almost disadvantaging any domain with exact keywords. But as another writer has noted elsewhere in this blog, google should never constitute more than 50% of your traffic sources, or you’ll be at the mercy of their algorithms.

  16. Tom says:

    I check Google often to see where I rank. I got one blog to number one within az year and now I’m working on blog two.

  17. Daniel says:

    To be fair this is old news, Rob.

    Though, you are right in that the Google hitting EMD Domains is going to make people think twice about purchasing one…..

    Though, many people still include their chosen keywords, only not in the exact match format….

    How much of an overall affect the EMD penalty really has, is hard to tell…as many sites including many mega sites, have exact match domain names……

    The main issue I am guessing Google has(had) is that “ultra thin” new born baby exact match sites were cramming up page one in the Google search results, for a number of keyword search terms(many quality –competitive terms)…….

    The EMD was one of the fastest ranking tools…..

    A high traffic(high cpc) EMD would have been like having a little gold mine at your disposal…then it just required that work was done to improve the site by adding lot’s of quality content and backlinks……though, the hard yards(the actual getting up there) would have already been done with far less effort than many non EMD sites would have required…..

  18. Lemuel says:

    Great article. Glad to have read this update. Good content is always a winner but is it heavily based on readers’ comments?

  19. Shalu Sharma says:

    You are saying “focus on legitimate PPC platforms” which seems more like an attempt to increase revenue for their PPC programme. The only solution is not to rely on one search engine and diversify.

  20. Ferb says:

    I don’t really rely on search engine and just focus on getting more friends because you’d know if a content is quality or not by the number of people spreading the article around the world. And if rely on search engine we will find really hard to get more quality content out to the community. But Content is King.

  21. Lawyer James says:

    I guess it’s true. What was first will now be last and what was last will now be first. It’s all about putting content first it seems, right?

  22. Constantine says:

    The update was not targeting all EMD but poor quality EMD. That is what Matt Cutts said. EMDs still work if you combine them with excellent content.

  23. Sudarshan says:

    This is not necessarily a bad move, maybe for those who’ve been squatting on domains and maintaining websites just for the sake of backlinks. At the end of the day, we want websites with the highest quality of content to rise to the top, this is one move in the right direction.

  24. John says:

    well, That is quite old update. Google had done this because most of the blog owners are ranking keywords with buying exact match domains !
    Thank you

  25. Tom Clark says:

    The whole topic of EMDs interests me a lot. I run yourguitartutor.co.uk and do wonder how it affects my results for common searches like “brighton guitar tutor”. Interesting stuff :D

  26. Richard says:

    Traffic for one of my site has started declining sharply and I think it is basically because I have stopped building backlinks or their are more blogs that provide interesting content than mine. Thanks for the tips. I will follow them and hope my blog will gain its lost traffic soon.

  27. Nick Simard says:

    Well this is great no competition for ranking will Solly depend on the quality of work and links. Those who were taking advantage of only EMD are nowhere in competition anymore..

  28. Omar Habib says:

    I can see there is a update in search engine. Google now show results from only high PR site that means low PR site is getting down.

  29. The Blogger says:

    Solid stuff Rob. Did you see my domains post here? Sadly there will always be Google tricksters but the hayday is well behind us.

    If anything, now I find that one site remains stubbornly atop Google search for certain queries, because they have totally exhaustive posts. They’re often not an EMD site.

  30. Worli says:

    The EMD update is suppose to target lower quality “exact-match” domains in the Serp’ but unfortunately there were many high quality sites which were also affected.

  31. Nando says:

    According to the edm will lose value only if their content is classified as poor by Google. In Italy still has not arrived, but if you will clean up the serp by a large amount of dirt.

  32. This will be interesting to see what happens on a view serps I track… Might be an opportunity for those with good content.