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Google’s Exact Match Domain Update Explained

An Exact Match Domain (EMD) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply a domain name that is identical—or nearly identical—to a search phrase entered into Google. While EMDs aren’t inherently bad for SEO, in the past, site builders took advantage of EMDs to rank high with Google without putting forth any effort into content production or site creation. That is until the Exact Match Domain update rolled out and held all sites accountable for what they were producing, including those with an EMD.

 Launch Date: September 27, 2012

What Google’s Exact Match Domain Update Impacted

While EMDs were once the kings of the SERPs, this update has weeded out those sites Google deems low quality. There’s nothing unique about downranked EMDs; they simply aren’t following Google’s webmaster guidelines. Below are a few reasons why your site with an EMD might have a lower ranking than before:

Poor SEO

What’s your SEO strategy look like? Do you have one? Sites are constantly evolving and changing to better match their target audience. If you’ve got bad or no SEO, you’ll lose your ranking rather quickly.

Bad Content

EMDs notoriously have had terrible content quality. Because Google wants the very best for its users, your content has to prove that you’re legitimate and authoritative in your area.

Keyword Stuffing

Google hates keyword stuffing in general. But EMDs have a bad reputation for keyword stuffing. One might make the claim that the domain name itself is an attempt at keyword stuffing. Know that Google values strategically placed keywords over a bunch of keywords crammed onto a page. 

How The EMD Update Works

For a long time, EMDs ranked really well in Google’s SERPs simply due to the fact that their domain name exactly matched the user query. Despite their site’s quality, content, or SEO strategies, EMDs could benefit from Google’s automatic rankings boost.

But the Exact Match Domain update has put an end to that. What was once a cheap and easy loophole to get more organic traffic is now nothing more than a simple domain name that describes what you offer. The Exact Match Domain update takes away the free ride that EMDs were enjoying. Now, more than just the domain name is taken into account when Google is ranking sites on their SERPs. Google’s crawlers now evaluate a site against their Quality Guidelines regardless of its domain name and if it matches query phrases entered by Google’s users.

How to Adjust Your SEO Strategy

To be clear, just because your site has an EMD, you aren’t going to necessarily lose your ranking. If you’re building quality sites and practicing good SEO, you have nothing to worry about. The most important way to ensure your EMD site sees higher rankings is by doing the same thing you should do from your site’s creation: practice excellent SEO.

Improve Your Content

One of the most notorious mistakes of EMDs of the past is creating a site with bad content. The thought was that builders didn’t have to put much effort into their content creation because the site would rank high regardless of the domain name. Now, that’s no longer true. You’ve got to create great content that satisfies your users and that Google will recognize and reward with higher rankings.

Build Links

An incredibly effective way to showcase your site authority is by building both internal and external links. But these links need to be relevant and, if external links, they need to be from respected and legitimate sites.

Review Google’s Quality Guidelines

Google doesn’t give you a to-do list explaining step-by-step how to rank at the top of their SERPs. However, they do have a pretty extensive set of guidelines that detail the things you need to include or not include on your site in order to appeal to their crawlers.

Take time to review what it is that Google’s webmasters are looking for. This will save you a ton of time and heartache if you can build your site with these factors in mind. If your site is already built with an EMD and you’re simply trying to restructure to regain your ranking, don’t fret. Google’s goal is to provide an exceptional user experience. There are many ways you can make this happen, even if you haven’t done this in the past. Regaining momentum after a downrank because might seem insurmountable, but Google gives you everything you need to know to do it.


If you’ve got an EMD, there’s no need for you to go through the hassle of rebranding or changing your domain name. It’s not the EMD itself that is causing your rankings to drop, and it never will. The bottom line is that Google wants to see excellence from all of the sites they index. The ones that are the best rank high, and those that don’t, well, you know the rest. Simply practice great SEO—or hire the pros to do it for you—and you’ll see great rankings regardless of whether or not you’ve got an Exact Match Domain. If you need help with your enterprise SEO or local SEO feel free to reach out.