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Exact-Match Domains (EMD), Panda and Penguin: Latest SEO Updates

Google's algorithm that determines the order of search rankings changes all the time and it's the job of the SEO team to stay on top of these changes to ensure clients' websites and online presence continues to perform as best as they can.

Within the past month there have been three significant updates to Google's algorithm. These are summarised as follows:-

  • Panda update on 27 September 2012
  • Exact-Match Domain (EMD) update on 28 September 2012
  • Penguin update on 5 October 2012

The Panda and Penguin updates were themselves significant (read this SEO Chat post for a useful overview). But the Exact-Match Domain update was arguably the most significant of all three. We thought it would be useful in this blog post to focus on the EMD update:-

Exact-Match Domains (EMD) Update

Google’s Matt Cutts tweeted the following on 28 September:

emd-google-update

As the name suggests, Exact-Match Domains are those domain names that try to match certain keywords. For example, www.teethwhitening.com is an exact-match domain. In the past Google gave a relatively small boost to such domains in search rankings. So, for instance, www.lawfirminlondonandleeds.com may appear higher in search for certain terms such as 'law firm in london' than another domain with similar quality. Now, Google has changed things so that such domains – if they are not of good quality – will no longer rank as well for certain keywords. But those that are of good quality, with useful content and strong online presence, should not suffer and indeed could do even better through this update.

One of the world’s leadings SEOs, Danny Sullivan, explains this as follows:- “plenty of people have purchased exact match domains in  hopes of a ranking boost and have also put in the time and effort to populate these sites with quality content...EMD domains aren't being targeted; EMD domains with bad content are.”

As SEOmoz notes, the influence of EMDs has fallen from 3.58% to 3.21%. This might not seem significant but if your website has been affected, the drop in search rankings for certain key phrases could be significant. SEOmoz reports that across their data set of 1000 SERPs, 41 EMDs fell out of the top 10 in Google. Some fell out of the top 100.

While there doesn’t appear to be a set pattern to the size of drops in rankings, one thing is clear – if you have an Exact-Match Domain, you must ensure that it has a high quality of content and a strong presence throughout the web. If it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t provide any value for readers, chances are that rankings may not be as good as they once were, until the quality improves.   

But on the positive side of things, if your site does have good quality content and does provide value for readers, chances are that your website will have jumped above some of your competitors in the past month if they have been utilising low quality exact-match domain strategies.

If you’d like to discuss your SEO strategy or rankings in more detail please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0845 620 5664 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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