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.
Exact Match Domains have always been used by webmasters, or SEO specialists to try to increase their ranking in the search engine as it acts as a Ranking Factor or 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 ran a website selling “left-handed plastic forks”, your domain might be lefthandedplasticforks.com.
In September 2012, Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, announced that a new Google update would soon be launched specifically targeting Exact Match Domains:
Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
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 website was 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:
It's funny you say that! I was hunting for (bad) EMDs for the past two weeks without much luck :)— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) November 25, 2016
OK, I'll go public (already asked a bunch of folk in private): if you see spammy EMDs, send them my way.— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) November 25, 2016
Illyes clarified that if your content is high-quality, there is no penalty for using an EMD:
there is no inherent problem with EMDs. The problem is when it's combined with other spam tactics— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) November 25, 2016
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.
Jonathan Griffin Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.