Low quality exact match domains (EMDs) and their websites seems to be the target of Google’s latest algorithm update rolling out. The first version rolled out in USA and UK a few days ago and a second update penalizing low grade might go live soon. If you never bought or created websites on any exact match domains, here comes a short background leading to Google changing their algorithm and possible words and prepositions which the popular search engine might target.
Background to penalties for low quality exact match domains
By owning an exact match domain and creating a simple website, website owners have historically been able to benefit without all too much hard work. For keywords with relatively low competition, a website built on an exact match domain with 5-10 subpages would only require a few backlinks a few years ago to rank well in Google for those specific keywords (and a few related keywords in the best case).
However, Google constantly improve their algorithm and they are well aware of possible benefits and risks with giving exact match domains better ranking. If giving all too low benefit to exact match between domain names and the keywords inside, people will struggle or at least spend longer time finding the website they are looking for. It’s therefore a balance where Google want people to find what they are looking for without having webmasters taking advantage of the situation.
During one Google’s latest major algo updates called Penguin, exact match domains with unnatural backlink profiles were hit especially hard. It appears that Google’s improved way of tackling obvious search engine spam (unnatural backlinks) and lazy webmasters trying to benefit without doing all too much hit exact match domain owners rather hard.
But some people (who don’t own exact match domains) continue to complain, probably rightly so in some cases, that certain low quality exact match domains benefit too much. That’s why we have this recent algorithm update which already rolled out in some countries and are likely to continue to other European countries within the next months.
Webmasters with bad intent (to create a poor website with crap content, hoping to benefit from affiliate incomes or link selling) have often bought 3 or 4 word exact match domain names mostly for the purpose of ranking well in Google. Often, these exact match names are rather long (over 15 characters without extension) and contain prepositions such as ‘in’ or ‘to’ in combination with commercial keywords. Continue below to discover more about words that either are already included in the exact match penalty or are likely to become included in the near future.
Possible words and prepositions to be penalized
In the crackdown on low quality exact match domains, Google are likely to give less benefit to domains based around at least 3 commercial keywords which at the same time also contain a preposition such as ‘for’, ‘in’, ‘to’.
Some examples include:
These examples look rather ugly as domain names, are not natural in any way and will not interfere with that many real company names. There are of course many worse examples, even longer domain names and with even more words included and they might get even less benefit.
Other examples that are likely to get less benefit or no benefit at all include commercial additions such as ‘buy’, ‘sell’, ‘purchase’, ‘online’ in front or after a commercial keyword. Here are some examples:
After all, Google been giving benefits to exact match domains because they believe users want to find ‘exactly that site’. If that’s not the case – the site/domain should not have any benefits. By applying various additional filters, Google can probably sort out the golden path for exact match domain benefits even better. At the moment, it seems like some exact match domains are being penalized compared to other domains rather than just not having any benefits any longer. For more info about what Google might view as commercial, read this patent Google been granted related to commercial keywords.
Two examples from the patent document include ‘buy-credit-cards-online.com’ and ‘online-credit-cards.bank.com’.
Other possible factors in Google’s EMD algo update
In order to tackle the EMDs Google can further filter out domains based on, such as:
-Amount of trusted links: Which anchor texts are most common to the exact match domain? Are there mostly trusted backlins or mainly low quality backlinks?
-Amount of links from unique websites: How many unique websites link back to the exact match domain?
-New content: Are the content on the site up-to-date? When did the exact match domain get new content?
After all, I wouldn’t mind calling this the ‘lazy keyword owner update’ because that is kind of what Google are trying to do: Force people to make good websites, continuously create new content and get new backlinks. To only relay on a low quality keyword domain name with a little content and a few backlinks is simply not enough, and should never been. My advice to webmasters with plenty of low quality exact matches domains; get rid of them and focus on a few websites instead. Rather spend a few grand on one good domain rather than buying 100′s of low quality ones.
Now, we are only waiting for Bing to follow suit. How much longer will exact match domains be KING in Bing?