Google Penalised Exact Match Domains

Exact Match Domain Update 2012

Well, Google are at it again, they have now penalised exact match domains in the SERP’s. For the last few years people have been asking me if this is a “trick” which works for quick SEO gains, The answer has always been “Yes, it does at the moment, however it’s a very easy thing to do so I expect Google will change that at some point in the future, it could be next week or next year but it will happen at some point”, as it turns out they did it at the end of last week. To be quite honest I am amazed that it’s taken them this long! If you see something like the image below in your web stats for the end of last week it’s quite possible you have been affected:


Although if you have an exact match domain name (a domain which is your exact target keyword) all may not be lost, it appears that the penalty has only been applied to low quality sites, so this is undoubtedly part of Googles crack down on spammers.

Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts had to say about it on the 28th September 2012 on Twitter:

“Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo’ change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results.”

The Affected Sites

So who will be affected by it? To be perfectly honest, it’s a little too early to say for sure, but the three areas which are bound to be impacted are the typical 5-10 page sites with low quality content and are focused around a single keyword phrase which matches the domain name. This type of site rarely serves any purpose other than to attract visitors and encourage clicks on adverts or affiliate links, so really serves no real purpose on the internet, other than to make money for the publisher, who likely has numerous similar sites.

The next type of website likely to be taking a hit is similar to those mentioned above, except it’s probably for a legitimate business, but they are likely to have multiple small sites all targeting a particular niche or geographic region, an example being a taxi firm with several sites such as “”, “”, “” etc. It’s very unlikely that each site differs from the next significantly, so if they haven’t already been caught out by the Penguin or Panda updates, this one probably will.

The last area to likely be affected, and I say area as it’s not a specific type of website, are the domainers (people who buy up exact match domain names, then sell them on at a profit to businesses who could use them). I very much doubt that this will eliminate the industry, more likely reduce it somewhat. If a company wants a good domain name they will still pay for it, however it will prevent people from buying up huge numbers of them, I see this as a good thing as it means there will be more domains available for everyone else, after all, if there’s no or little profit to be had from them, the domainers are likely to let them drop and just hold on to the few best ones.

All is not lost though!

Remember, this only seems to be affecting low quality sites, so if you have an exact match domain and didn’t see a significant drop around a week ago, you should be OK, although what Google do next is any-ones guess. If you need to know more about this I would see the SEO press from the likes of the Search Engine Round Table, SEOMoz and Search Engine Land, they will undoubtedly be researching this further during the coming days and weeks.

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8 thoughts on “Google Penalised Exact Match Domains

  1. Sunil says:

    It about time they change this, it is a bad trick which should never work, good thing

  2. Johnny says:

    I wish they would stop changing things, I have a good site which has had a much more serious drop than the one in your graphic. The site has good unique content and was pulling in around 50 visitors every day, some of them converting to leads, now we have dropped off the radar and are lucky to see 5 visits in a day, what can be done?

    • Steve says:

      Hi Johnny,

      Firstly check the date your drop happened as there was another Penguin update shortly before this one. That will identify which one was the most likely culprit. If it was the 28th/29th Sept it was the EMD update.

  3. SEO Pro says:

    This is certainly interesting, but how do Google decide what site is low quality exact match compared to a good quality one. There must be many signals they consider when they decide.

    • Steve says:


      Yes, they must take several signals, I would guess that link quality is a significant one along with the quality of content on the site, but at the moment that’s just a guess.

  4. Mike Hopkins says:

    Hi all,

    As with the vast majority of updates Google has run during the last 2 years, it appears that this one has again impacted as many sites which did not deserve it, as those which do. There are also numerous searches which still return the low quality exact match domains, some with few pages, a bunch of low quality links and poor content.

    It’s unfortunate but I firmly believe that the algorithm is now so complex that they are unable to do something which, on the face if it, should be very simple. Perhaps it’s time they started again from scratch.

    • Steve says:

      Hi Mike,

      I’d been wondering the same thing about the algorithm for a while now too.

  5. Amanda says:

    I’m very pleased about this change. I’m fed up with seeing crappy sites up above mine just because they spent more money on buying the domain name!

    A x

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