Google's Gary Illyes Targets Spammy EMDs

Nov 28, 2016
3 min read
Google Algorithm Update

Google webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, said Friday that he is actively hunting for Exact Match Domains, or EMDs, that are ranking higher than they should in the Google Search Engine Ranking Pages.

Webmasters and SEO specialists have regularly used exact Match Domains, to try to increase their ranking in the search engine. This is because they are a Ranking Factor and act as a signal to Google that the keyword is highly relevant to your website.

The problem quickly became endemic, with spammers buying hundreds of exact match domains, adding a few pages of low-quality content, and subsequently ranking for that term, often to the detriment of higher quality websites. For example, if you run a website selling “left-handed plastic forks,” your domain might be

In September 2012, Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, announced that a new Google update would soon be explicitly launched targeting Exact Match Domains:

The target of this update was “low quality” websites with an EMD, with the operative word being low quality.

As such, websites with poor quality content and an EMD would suffer lower rankings. Conversely, if a site were hit by an EMD and increased the quality of content on their website, then their rankings would increase. This was a relatively successful update, with around 0.6 percent of English-US queries affected.

We will look at the comments made by Illyes shortly, but suffice to say, nothing has really changed with regards to the EMD update. EMDs, coupled with low-quality content, are still penalized. That being said, Illyes appears to indicate that they want to tighten-up or improve the algorithm by identifying cases that may have slipped through the net.

Here is what Illyes had to say:

Illyes clarified that if your content is high-quality, there is no penalty for using an EMD:

It seems that Illyes is having some difficulty located examples of EMDs that are ranking higher than they should, and has asked for webmasters to contact him if they have any examples.