Exact Match Domain Penalty Added to Google Algorithm


Google rolled out a new algorithm update in which they will penalize low-quality exact match domains (EMD penalty). Many Webmasters who are into micro niche blogging, for the exact match domain penalty seems like one of the worse updates.

As announced by Matt Cutts on Twitter:

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This new algorithm change will affect “Exact-match” domains with low-quality content. Earlier, exact match domains are priceless as they have the advantage of the keyword in the URL and exact monthly searches for the Keyword, which used to drive extra traffic.

Also, using exact match domain used to give an extra advantage to the search engine and you could easily rank with low-quality content. According to the report, many “exact match” domains already slipped out of first 10 ranking, and many sites missed the first 100 spot.

What exactly is exact match domains?

We all know having Keyword in our domain name gives us extra SEO advantage and that’s why people prefer to use Keywords when buying domains. Now, having a domain name like makemoneyonline.com, toplaptops.com, will help you to rank faster and higher. Where as using a domain name like tech geek, laptop guy are considered as partial match domain names.

Over the time, many Webmasters used to buy exact match domain names and rank higher in search even with low-quality content.  This new algorithm update is aimed to target those Websites with low quality who are ranking higher in searches because of keyword advantage in the domain name.

Exact Match domain Penalty
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One thing is clear that Google is following a pattern to penalize obvious SEO spamming. Earlier, Google algorithm took down private blog networks, which used to game the system with backlinks, and now Google taking down exact match domain SEOs.  Now, penalizing a site by name is right or wrong is a point of debate, as instead of penalizing they could simply reward other high-quality sites or work more on adding ranking signal based on content and other data. Can you express your view about the same?

How to recover from Exact match domain (EMD) Penalty?

Now, many of you who are into IM and work on seasonal stuff like Black Friday, New year based on exact match domains, you might like to replan your strategy.

As mentioned above, instead of targeting exact keyword matching domain name, go for partial match domain names. Add Prefix or suffix in your domain names and you can use service like Bustaname to get more domain name ideas.

For existing webmasters, who got penalized by this new algorithm change your read to recovery is going to be time-consuming as if your penalty is more on domain level and it’s different from Panda and Penguin, so you need to work more on content and branding your domain. Domain authority is one thing which will create a major difference here.

If you have low-quality content, you can hire writers from freelance writing websites and get your content re-written again with more quality.

Here you can read about 12 ways to judge high-quality content.

Another pattern which I have noticed among exact match domain ranking is, they let all their pages indexed in Google. Which includes tags, categories, Archives pages also. It’s better to let Google index only quality and useful pages from your domain. Add noindex to WordPress categories and tags pages, and here you can learn more about what Google meant by low-quality content.

Social signals are one big SEO factor. You should work on integrating social bookmarking and sharing icons around your blog post. Also set up your blog social media presence footprint by creating Youtube channel, Pinterest profile, Twitter profile, and Facebook fan page.

Read my guide on four things which I did to increase Google search CTR and implement it on your blog and see if it helps or not. Or you can simply buy a partial match domain name and do a 301 redirection from old to the new domain.

We can’t deny the fact that many good sites might get penalized with this exact match domain penalty and it’s better to start working on Partial match domain names. Though, since the low quality content is the major criteria for such penalty, you might get an extra advantage with high-quality content on the exact matching domain name.

Do share your experience with this new algorithm? Have you seen any traffic change or update after this new domain level penalty rolled out?

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

19 thoughts on “Exact Match Domain Penalty Added to Google Algorithm”

  1. George

    I think it is a very bad idea because the spam would likely be higher since it is ok to just make a keyword out of your pages instead of ranking the exact domain match(emd) which is only one in a specific tld compared to all website that can participate making lots of spam keyword on any of their pages just to rank for that exact match keyword.

  2. chase

    “instead of targeting exact keyword matching domain name, go for partial match domain names”.. No, get an exact match domain with good quality content. If you have poor quality content then you shouldn’t have a website to begin with. But as long as you have high quality content an edm is still gold!

  3. sean

    I have emd domain. I also have page that i use for the same keyword i.e. domainname.com/domain-name.htm. When i search domain name on google, the page appears instead of the homepage. I changed the keyword on domain with another keyword. Does it become a problem? Or I have to change to partial keyword on domain. Because I have built its domain authority and page authority on this old domain, I still update it. But I noticed from last updated google algo, the serp dropped. Only one keyword of the page remained still.

  4. Julian

    Great article Harsh! Im going to follow Matt Cutts on Twitter. I didn’t know he was active on twitter about news like that.

  5. MD Aslam Hasib

    We have two domains. Devitems.com and devitems.org. We keep both site live for different purpose. One for item and another for Customer support and doc. Will it create any problem.

  6. Prabin Padhy

    Nice Dear Harsh Sir!

    My doubt regarding the EMD update is cleared now.
    greatly informative post.

  7. Ravinder Dande

    Hi Harsh,

    I am also thinking to make blog with EMD what ever confustion i had now is cleared but have some question like how much EMD effect on ranking of blog on Google.

  8. Rizwan Mirza

    Hello Harsh,

    Thanks for replying on my question about the .html. I am having another issue with my site URL. I saw in the search engines my post URLs are getting indexed as http://abc.com/guides and not as http://abc.com/all-about-abc.html . This issue i am facing from the day i started my site. How to resolve this.?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      I checked your site in Google & that is happening because of breadcrumbs. It’s good for SEO though. If you wish to remove it, you can disable Breadcrumbs from the theme or plugin that you are using.

  9. Sagar Gholap

    This update has probably affected a lot many webmasters since choosing a domain name with exact keyword was the only thing that everyone definitely used to do year or two ago for building up niche sites. For me it was a temporary revenue source but now its reduced significantly. My bad!

  10. Sachin

    Yes….this algo is already rolled out a month ago …I guess. I got few ‘Exact Match Domain’ sites which rank better in Google, out of which one was competing with another exact match domain for my targeted keyword since last 3-4 month but since last few weeks that website (was having very low quality content,was not having facebook and Google Plus pages) thrown away by Google.
    Writing quality Content is the only way to survive now:-)

  11. Klookl

    I didn’t hear this was a penalty. I thought they just removed the ‘boost’ that EMDs used to get. Either way I can’t say I am hurting too bad. I never bought any of those domains anyway. Sorry for people who lost their traffic though 🙁

  12. John

    I had site that fell off the face of Google where the content was written by a highly sought after, extremely expensive expert in the field. It is not about quality content at this point.

    I’m sure they got rid of some junk but countless high quality sites were effected as well. At this point all it looks like is a penalty against all exact match domains.

    If you haven’t been effected yet… brace yourself as you will be next. Because Google has no f’ing idea how to fix it’s index.

  13. Ammar Ali

    I don’t know what is happening. but from last few days I am seeing big increase in SE Traffic! 🙂
    I just love it…

    1. Neha Singh

      You are seeing big changes because Google has blindly penalized all the exact domain sites. Accept those sites that updates regularly, mostly micro sites and blogs that are not very active or low quality.

      Blogs and microsites with exact domain went down and those site which were in queue, popups on first page and traffic increased for them.

      I think this is your story, congrats.

    2. Avi Jit (@skyhitblog)

      Same here bro. Continuously increase in traffic after this update… 🙂

  14. Neha

    Hi, harsh: I’m regular reader of your blog and I really accept everything that you have to say in your blog.

    I have very important question to ask and expecting some advice.
    I have exact match domain with 12100 exact local monthly and global monthly searches, I never cared just kept on posting rough content and get penalized on 28th of previous month.

    Contents are pretty bad written, deleted couple of hundreds but still nothing is good. I made new strategy of content writing and link building and want to get of my old blog.
    I think I should pass on to naked domain without putting redirection of www. This way good will considered my naked domain a new domain or different and I can start new blogging journey with my precious domain.

    Please give some suggestion.

  15. Gouri

    Hopefully we will have some ‘adjustment’ updates soon to bring back quality EMDs that disappeared and remove the most obvious low quality EMDs that are still ranking.

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