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Google recently rolled out yet another algorithm update aimed at providing users with better search results and user experience. It comes on the heels of Google’s major algorithm updates dubbed Penguin and Panda. This newest update is focused on “exact match” domains or EMD (also known as keyword rich domains). The EMD update targets spammy or low quality domains that are simply chosen to get high rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) – related to keywords. This SEO tactic has become increasing popular in Canada over the past number of years. Unfortunately, it has been implemented by many SEOs and agencies driven by ranking results. In case you are wondering, WebFuel has never done this on behalf of any of our clients.

What does an Exact Match Domain look like?

Here is a perfect example:

Note: The above domains use the keywords that exactly match the user search query. In other words, if I am searching for electric scooters in Ottawa, Canada, the two listings above appear in Google. Both sites are designed to get rankings for the keywords found in the domain.

Here are some EMD variations:

Note: The generic terms (known as non-branded keywords) and location keywords are in the domains. All of the above websites are targeting people searching for a dentist in downtown Ottawa (Canada).

The worst of the worst are in the SEO industry (sad but true). Simply do a search in Google on “search engine optimization services ” or “SEO companies” and include location keywords. There are literally thousands of EMD in the SERPs.

Google Exact Match Domain Penalty

It is still not clear how the Search Engine will determine exactly which domains should be penalized and which should not. It will likely take Google some time to tweak its algorithm to sort the bad sites from the good ones. We do know however that the search giant also takes on-page and off-page components into consideration. So what does that mean? Good content and inbound links from authority websites matter. This has always been an integral part of the foundation of a solid SEO campaign.

There is also more possible damage to consider…

Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords

All of the above examples target non-branded keywords (generic terms). If a Google searcher knows you by name (Company ABC), the question is… will you get found? Did you know that branded keyword searches result in higher conversions?

Whats next?

Like all things SEO, we predict that these outdated tactics and bad SEO strategies will likely be around for a long time. This will  hold true whether implemented in-house or outsourced to agencies. Not only is this a huge waste of resources; but it can also do much more harm than good.

Remember that Google’s goal is, and always will be, to display relevant and high-quality results in their SERPs.

WebFuel recommends prevention (don’t get in trouble with Google); especially since the EMD penalty recovery process will be a lengthy and most likely costly one.

Are you implementing safe SEO?