In 2012, Google released the EMD algorithm update. The EMD Update stands for “Exact Match Domain” and is essentially a web filter Google launched to prevent poor quality sites from ranking, well merely, because they use words that match search terms in their domains. So if you were trying to rank for the keyword, sell my car, you would name your domain and business sellmycar.dot (relevant TLD )
When SEO’s and marketers first discovered that they were able to rank on the top of search results when using highly searched keywords as domain or brand names, it caused an epidemic. This, of course, led to an uproar amongst established brands, who had invested millions into establishing their online presence over the years. Traditional industry leaders were now outranked by overnight competitors, affiliates and microsites. As a result, a great deal of organic traffic and leads were lost, and affiliates made a killing selling these leads back to advertisers.
Some brands quickly adapted, and setup legitimate business and websites, using the same tactics. Since most of them had bigger budgets, they were able to hire SEO agencies and experts to optimise their websites back to the top of search results.
How It Works
Find the most valuable keywords within the relevant industry.
Find out which of these high traffic keywords are registered as domains. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that this domain is still available.
Implement a keyword strategy revolving the keyword “buy a car” – you will need to use the keyword as much as possible. This includes using it in the copy, H1’s, Metadata and internal linking structure.
You will also need to build some links to your domain, using that exact match anchor text. One of the advantages of using a keyword as your business name or domain name, is you can argue that you are naturally using your brand name when Google threatens to penalise your website, for spamming web results. Whether or not they will believe you is another story.
What Does Google Say About EMD’s in 2017?
As former Google Head of Spam stated below, this was only a small scale update. Their focus was predominantly set on “low-quality” and reducing their visibility in search results.
When a fresh EMD Update happens, sites that have improved their content may regain good rankings. New sites with poor content or those previously missed by EMD, may get caught.
So What’s The Verdict ?
It appears as if Google are not entirely focused on eradicating search results associated with exact match domains. They are merely trying to reduce low-quality content, which spammers use as a tactic to secure traffic to their websites.
Using an EMD is like using performance enhancing drugs – you might get there faster but you still need to put in the hard work. And if you are involved in a recognized sport, you will be held accountable if one of the drugs you are taking is on the banned list. Google does achieve its due diligence with EMDs from time to time, and I have personally seen thousands of businesses disappear from search results over the years. The true question here is, how much of a risk is it to you?
George Ian Wyngaardt
SEO Manager at CarZar.co.za