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Exact Match Domains Getting Nuked

by Jeremy Schoemaker on December 27, 2012 · 36 comments

There are very few basic knowns about what factors have an effect on your keyword ranking. Put your keyword in the title of your page,  in your page, and in the url of your page that you want to rank for that keyword.

But the gold standard for ranking for a keyword was to register the exact match domain.  For example if you wanted to rank for Lincoln Dentist,  registering secured your spot in #1.

I have known affiliates and companies that have invested millions of dollars in exact match domains for high paying niches.

Recently,  Google’s spam fighting face Matt Cutts responded to the shuffling results saying they were taking action against “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.

Sounds like no big deal right?  I mean its only 0.6% of all searches that will be effective.  But here is the thing.  This is something very specific.   Since its exact match for something like “lincoln dentist” how much of Google’s over all searches is that?  Umm like .000000000000000000000000001% ?

So in reality searches effected is something like 80% (total guess).

It should be noted though that a TON of these sites that are low quality come from type in traffic in the browsers.  But since Chrome and Firefox no longer take you directly to domains when you search for keyword matches this will become a factor as well.

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.”

This is good and bad news.  Mostly bad for people that invested tons of money in exact keyword domains…  Just hoping the power of the exact match would work.

Also since all of these are manually reviewed (I doubt it,  seems more like a programatic thing).  I am guessing there will be a lot of false positives.  After all Google is hiring thousands of people to manually review search results to determine if its good content or not for the keyword.

Unlike the old days of churn and burn on domains people have made a VERY sizeable investment in these exact match domains…. and the ones who also invested in quality content I hope they don’t get burnt.

full disclosure

About the author...

– who has written 2895 posts on

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of the ShoeMoney Blog, Elite Retreat Internet Conference, & the PAR Program. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 Amazon Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. Jeremy currently lives in Lincoln Nebraska with his wife and 2 daughters.

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1 Matt

I have an exact match domain for low competition keywords. Got completely nuked (whitehat SEO only) and now my FB and Google+ pages rank higher. I went from #1 to #3 (it varied) to #50+. Irrelevant, low quality webpages now rank higher. I’m thinking it might actually be better to take all my content and start fresh on a new domain.

2 Meg Geddes

Yea well. If you got socked by the EMD updates, the problem isn’t your domain, it’s your content. All my personal sites have EMDs; all my client sites have EMDs; none of them got hit. The bottom dropped out of domain parking long ago (just about the time I was trying it, ork ork) – an EMD won’t sink your site unless you don’t have the content to support it.

3 Kirby

that really hurts affiliate marketing, and for all the people who over paid for generic domain names!

4 Freeman

just find another way to beat the system

5 Faustino

Well Im glad they did it! Sick of spammy websites that trying to steal all my money and information!

6 Shane

so these are all sites with keyword domains that have no content?

7 Barry

googles taking over the world!!!!

8 Robin

I think its fair…I hate sifting through 10 shitty websites to find 1 good one.

9 Morris

those people should just put some content on their site, or sell it to the people that actually have good content for it for lots of $$$$$

10 Rudolf

68 million searches? wowzers

11 Kyle

people that spent millions on buying domain sites….yikes. money down the drain

12 Clay

Lots of people going to be up in arms

Shoemoney 13 Ron Swanson

HAHA when I read this I thought of this

14 Jamey

great article. intrigued by this

15 Ramon

I have an EMD and got nuked completely too… from top 3 to 500+ ….. and i am offering exactly what the visitor is lookong has a very low bouncerate also

it is definitely a program thing…. fucked up tho

16 Pasquale

I get better quality news from here then i do CNN and Fox put together.

17 Aurelio

I like this. Does the sorting out of shitting spammy sites for me

18 Sherman

that sucks…for a lot of people

19 Cyrus

Interesting. A follow Matt Cutts and I missed this tweet.

20 Pasquale

I get better quality news from here then i do CNN and Fox put together.

21 Sam

I have 2 emd sites – they make me $60k a month with adsense.

I’ve been seeing changes – certain terms dropping down from #1 to #3 — but so far **touch wood** my sites are still doing well.

I just want to know how google is ranking sites now if the content on the emds is good or bad.

Are they still using pagerank – are they going on visitor count (they know this know by using your adsense/analytics data!)

Ohhhhhhhh google – I both love you and fear you. It’s like being married to a axe murderer.

22 adrian keys

Well done with that 60k!

23 Malik

While this won’t effect people in the grand scheme of things as much, it will really hurt a select few.. pretty bad, but hey, thats life i guess.

24 Darnell Jackson

…uh huh. Just underscores the importance of building your email list. Who can predict what the Google animals will do next?

What’s next, Google Parrot?

It’s like keeping up with facebook changes who knows what’s coming next?

What’ I’ve learned? Don’t trust search traffic long term.

25 James

Luckily, I sold some of my exact match domains/sites before the storm hit. It will be interesting to see how this impacts GoDaddy and other registrars. I don’t know about anyone else, but the number of domains I own has dropped by about 50% so far.

I’m just taking a guess here, but it seems like the most valuable thing you can have is a mailing list. But… what if most of your subscribers use Gmail?

Yes… eventually Google will figure a way to f**k you on that too.

26 myrna

I don’t believe that you will secure a top spot if your target keyword will be your domain..?

example… if you search “make money online” keyword on Google .. the was not ranked number on on google…

Try to search it…ok

27 faisal

Its good to know Search is getting better, but its also scary to see changes which you are not entirely aware off.

28 Haydee

I don’t like the girls you are posting with your logo shirts.
They are giving a kind of nasty pornographic tone to your site. I think you don’t need that to attract visitors since
your information is enough for those looking to make some $$ online. I feel like not returning to your site every time I see one of them.

29 Chris

It sounds like the solution is to build content for visitors/people and not just try to optimize for SEO. Nothing drives me nuts more than when I see the same words in a website repeated over and over and over again in an obvious attempt to get some love from the search engines :)

30 Guy

Building quality sites with quality content is the only way to build a long term business. The way google is changing the past years, it no longer pays of the put all your money on the loopholes, because they will eventually be fixed and then your income will be gone!

31 Nate

I own over 40 exact match domains and as far as I can tell none of them were hit by this update.


i own several matched domain names so i was intrested in your post i am glad i read it. it didnt change my life ( yet ) but it was a good read and maid me think about the web sites i am buiding today witch are matched name domains. so thanks i guess.

33 Jacob

Should commentors would like to gain links then they should at least have the integrity to post a structured and readable reply. All comment spam does is potentially negatively impact your backlinking efforts and creates useless links. The only way to make money online is to befriend fellow bloggers who have blogs of a similar subject matter and generate totally targeted traffic by posting a well thought reply. Maybe future commenters might even give this some thought before replying below me, Thank you.

34 Mike

Well, this was food for thought…not that there will be much food on the table of those with EMDs. I do feel sorry for those that, quite sensibly bought an EMD and created a quality website or blog. As is often in life, a few people, who took the lazy way out (creating low quality sites with their EMDs) spoilt it for the rest of us.

I notice another commenter has suggested we “find another way to beat the system” but let’s face it – shortcuts just don’t work in the long run.

Content is king, and there are no pretenders to the throne that will get away with it for any sustained period of time…

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