Google Changes its Mind—Again / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Remember when the exact match domain was the most powerful metric to rank for particular keywords?

Remember when the exact match domain was the most powerful metric to rank for particular keywords?

Back in 2012 Google started making little changes that took the feet out from under the once powerful exact match domain. Million-dollar URLs suddenly became useless because their EMDs were shunned by Google. 

Related ArticleGoogle Analytics Tips to Optimize Your Marketing Efforts

If you follow the all-mighty Matt Cutts on Twitter, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that exact match domain was about to experience some changes. 

Here is the drop in rankings from EMD after that first bout of “minor weather.”

And that was nothing compared to the sweeping changes we’ve seen in the last few years with exact match domains.

At the end of 2012 Google decided to take further action with brands that used the exact match domain tactic. Here’s what Matt Cutts said:

“[This is very bad for companies that effectively used this strategy for years. This is yet another attempt at Google going after people trying to manipulate their ranking algorithm.]”

Exact Match Domains in 2014

While Google shut down EMD, there’s no question they still have some serious authority in Yahoo and Bing. It remains to be seen if they choose to follow in Google’s footprints and minimize the value of this metric.

As far as Google goes, there’s been talk of an actual penalty being placed on sites with EMDs. Since the spring of 2014, there is a sharp drop for sites with exact match domains indicating a penalty.

If You’ve Been Hit with an EMD Penalty or Other Google Updates

If you find yourself in an exact match domain pickle, you’re not the only one. But as penalties go, this is one that demands some pretty big changes. You need to make a serious change in your strategy. Here are some ideas.

Related ArticleGetting Out of the Google Penalty Box

1. Start over with new domain

This is the best option for websites that are locked down with low rankings in Google. Once you find a penalty, you can’t get rid of it.

Many companies have spent tens of thousands to get rid of the penalty—to no avail—they never get back to where they were. Only about l% of companies that go with this strategy regain their footing.

Getting started with a new domain is going to require a monumental effort. If you have an established brand, you might want to redirect your best content over via 302on a page-by-page basis instead of starting completely over.

Even though this can cost a significant amount of money and time, it is usually the best move for small to mid-level brands.

2. Bump up your paid advertising

Organically recovering isn’t the only option. If you already have quality content and a well-known name it is possible to overcome the penalty with paid advertising.

Select a network for paid advertising that reflects your target market. If you are B2B, LinkedIn is a good fit. If you are B2C try Facebook and Instagram.

Having great landing page design and a strong value proposition as part of your quality content is a core part of a successful paid strategy. Take your time to build the collateral users are going to want to consume.

3. Save your current domain with inbound marketing

There are very few brands that have been able to make it back to their pre-penalized organic position after taking the Google hit. It requires consistent effort and super high-quality workmanship.

Moving forward with a high-quality inbound marketing campaign is a good way to repair your penalized site. Let Google know you deserve top ranking by using online marketing techniques that they recommend.


It looks like the end has arrived for exact match domains. Inspect your strategy and reroute if necessary. If you are already suffering, prepare yourself to make some big changes. Align your strategy with Google’s new direction and you’ll have solid tactics that will eliminate penalties in the future.

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