A couple of years ago having an exact match domain was SEO gold. We saw sites holding the top spot in SERPs for little more than an exact match domain and some basic on-page optimization.
However, much like the old meta keywords tag, spammers have abused the exact match domain (EMD) and exploited it’s usefulness for some time.
With the Penguin update, Google made it clear that low quality EMD’s were among the sites and ranking factors targeted in the algorithm update. At the end of September, Matt Cutt’s (head of Google’s webspam team)confirmed that changes were coming, stating:
“Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact match” domains in search results.”
The good folks at SEOmoz, who’ve created the MozCast released this post on Friday: which further shows how sites in their data sample were negatively impacted by this most recent algo update.
So does this mean it’s time to ditch the exact match domain name?
I’ve always been a big proponent of using your brand in your URL, not a generic keyword phrase that you know generates good search volume. I’ve also been a big proponent of buying up those exact match domains so that your competitors don’t get them.
That said, I don’t think having an EMD is necessarily going to get your site pulled from the SERPs. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you have an EMD and are concerned about the recent algorithm updates:
1. Does your EMD accurately match what you do?
2. Is your site compliant or are you over-optimizing for the keyword phrase in your EMD throughout your site?
3. Has your site been updated regularly with fresh content?
4. Have your link building techniques been ethical or have there been some sketchy links built or bought(it doesn’t matter how long ago)?
5. Has your site traffic remained constant or improved this year?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, or if you generally have a feeling that you could be penalized, it’s probably time to reconsider your EMD.
So what should you do instead?
If you’ve got an exact match domain that you feel could be penalized, then I’d suggest finding a domain based on your brand–your company name. If your brand name is taken, then look for brand-based domains that accurately reflect what you do. You’ll need to contact your webmaster about transferring your site to the new domain.
More importantly, provide a great user experience for your visitors and stop any spammy techniques. If you’ve been keyword stuffing and building crappy links, you should remove the excessive keywords and contact the webmaster from any spammy or low quality sites that link to you.
Google has been aggressively targeting low-quality SEO tactics in 2011 and 2012. The only safe bet: don’t do anything that you wouldn’t be proud to show your clients, prospects, or peers.