Exact Match Domain Update: Cracking Down On Low-Quality EMDs

Acquiring exact-match domains or EMDs used to be a surefire way to get to the top of the SERPs especially for high-volume search terms. However, Google spotted this black hat tactic and rolled out this update to address the issue. If you run a Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia, examples of an EMD is mexicanrestaurantphiladelphia.com or mexicanrestaurantphilly.com.

What’s It For

Exact Match Domain Update 1

The algorithmic change was implemented in September 2012 and improved how the search engine handled EMDs especially low-quality ones. The update evaluated URLs and determined whether exact domain matches deserved to rank high in the results pages or didn’t. A website may be tagged as an EMD if the URL matches a generic search term and doesn’t offer unique content or anything of value to visitors.

What Were Its Effects

The EMD update had a significant impact and resulted in massive devaluation. There were noticeable changes in the SERPs. In a report by Moz, 41 pages were removed from the Top 10 or first displayed results pages with five new ones added at the time, from the 1000 SERPs they monitored. This led to a net change of 36 websites. Examples of EMDs that lost their high positions were playscrabble.net and purses.org. According to Google, though, the change affected 0.6 percent of searches based on volume.

Additionally, it’s crucial to note that the Panda #20 overlapped the rollout of the EMD update. This fact raised questions in the webmaster community as to which one led to some sites’ loss in ranking. The Panda algorithmic change reportedly influenced 2.4 percent of queries.

What It Means for You

Today, while it’s still essential to put thought into the domain name you’ll use for your brand, it only contributes a very slight advantage for your rankings. Google has over 200 ranking factors that work together to determine if your website deserves to be displayed on the first page of the search results.

Of course, you can still obtain an EMD as long as you make sure that you don’t use it for spam. An excellent example is Hotels.com which ranks high because the URL is easy to remember and it provides a valuable service to users. More than being a booking website, it also offers travel guides which can help visitors create their itinerary at the destination of their choice.

These are the primary factors you should focus on to improve your rankings in the SERPs:

  • Keywords – Always do keyword research to learn what your target market is searching for and potential queries they might make. Stifle the urge to stuff your content with keywords since it will only lead to penalties from Google.
  • Security Certificate – The search engine also prioritizes websites that protect user transactions by getting a security protocol that encrypts data sent to and from the domain. It’s easy to get a security certificate, so get one for your site.
  • Mobile-Friendliness – A majority of consumers are looking up things on-the-go, so it makes sense that you should optimize your website to be viewable on any screen size.
  • Schema Markup – Schema.org has a collection of HTML tags for site operators to markup pages in their domain according to the standards of Google, Bing, and Yahoo. These schemas make it easier for search bots to understand your content; resulting in your pages’ inclusion in the results for a particular query.
  • Content Quality and Length – Google has always been adamant in providing only the most relevant results for a user’s search. Producing high-quality content that explains a specific topic or subject matter in-depth will help elevate your site’s authority and its rank in the SERPs.
  • Site Speed – User experience is at the top of Google’s list. That’s why a fast-loading website is encouraged to give readers the information that they want instantaneously. Boost your speed through image compression, browser caching, and minifying CSS elements.
  • Backlinks Quality – Link building is still an essential practice today. Getting high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites can improve your credibility as a source of information. Thus, people will continue to visit your site to learn more about what you have to say and lead to your domain climbing up the SERPs.
  • Image Optimization – Search bots won’t understand the relevance of images in your page if you don’t provide counterpart text descriptions for them. You should optimize the elements involved in the pictures you upload for your blog posts such as alt tags, captions, file names, and title tags.
  • Domain Age – Domain age pertains to how long your site has been in Google’s index. It’s a ranking factor because the assumption is that older websites have accumulated enough quality content and is a useful source of information for users.