Exact Match Domains, or EMDs, have had a pretty bad press over the last year or so. So much so that there was even an update to Google’s algorithm that appeared to be specifically designed to target their rankings. So why did EMDs get such a bad reputation and attract the ire of the big G, and is that reputation still valid today? We spoke to one of the leading SEO agencies in London, Grapefruit Marketing (www.TheGrapefruit.co.uk) to see what they thought about EMDs, and how the changing impressions of these types of sites of recent months has affected the various services they provide.
What are EMDs?
We’ve looked at Exact Match Domains in detail in the past (see this article here), but essentially, EMDs are pretty much what you would expect – domain names that exactly match the keywords the webmaster might be looking to target, to gain the top rankings in Google so as to benefit from the traffic that would bring from the people who search for the term that matches the domain. So, using an example we’ve previously used, if you wanted to rank for the term Dentist in Denver, you might acquire the EMD www.dentistindenver.com
So Why the Problem?
The problems started when Webmasters and SEOs realised that having a keyword in the domain could significantly improve the chances of the site ranking for that term, and started to take advantage of this. Very soon the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Pages) became littered with poor quality sites that were ranking almost solely on the basis of their Exact Match Domain, with content that was aimed more often than not at making the site owner money, rather than providing the searchers with the kind of useful content Google wanted them to find. The problem became so widespread that Google decide to take action – hence the ‘EMD update’.
Are EMDs Still ‘Bad’?
The short answer is probably yes and no – a lot depends on what you do with your Exact Match Domain. To explain that in more detail, let’s look at two very different examples, which are likely to have two very different outcomes.
Imagine if you were keen to build a business around a particular term – a term that is likely to be used by potential customers who would be searching for the service or product you were offering. In this instance, where the term in your EMD was effectively your ‘brand’ and you were building your business and website around it, it could be quite possible that your site would rank well – although there would be other factors that would need to be taken into account.
On the other hand, if you had no intention of building a proper business, but simply setting up the kind of ‘churn and burn’ affiliate site that caused the issue with EMDs, which you then proceeded to spam with a wide range of links aimed solely at helping the site rank for the term that you were trying to target, you’d probably find it hard to get anywhere – particularly after the Google update that specifically targeted this type of situation.
So it seems that it’s pretty much like anything else when it comes to SEO – if you over-optimise, then this is when you are likely to have problems. If you’re sensible and balanced in your approach, or if you genuinely want to build a brand around an exact match term and its associated brand, its still possible for these sites to rank well in the major search engines.