The Exact Match Domain Update Hardly Hurts

by Thomas Ballantyne October 4th, 2012 

Google announced and passed yet another update.

Matt went on to say:

Reactions have varied from "It's about time." to "wwwaaaahhhh wwwaaahhhhh.. <sniffle>".

How Big Was Google's Exact Match Algorithm Change?

Dr. Pete with SEOmoz went on to say that of 1000 terms that they monitor there was a net of 36 domains that fell out of the top 10. That would be a 3.6% change. So there are those that are calling Matt Cutts a liar, claiming this a huge upset. And the Mozcast graph looks pretty convincing. If you look at the 90 day swing on Mozcast the movement is even more noticeable.

But this shift isn't just affecting exact match domains. This shift is hitting partial match domains as well, per the weather report.

Interesting to note that the shift on partial match domains has been in a downward trend for the past 90 days. Perhaps Matt's 2nd comment is a little more telling in that the exact match update is 0.6% unrelated to Panda and Penguin. Therefore, exact match domains could be falling as a result of a Panda or Penguin update not related to their exact match domain. Any site deemed "low quality" is in danger of falling, and an exact match domain alone won't save it. "Quality" websites will win. Give Google all the right signals and you will rise, with or without an EMD.

As with every algorithm update there are winners and losers. Perhaps this is what I find most disturbing about the EMD update.

Who Are The Winners?

The forecast seems to be projecting a lot more of Wikipedia in the search results. And why not? Shouldn't Wikipedia be listed number 2 with page links for "teeth whitening" over a site like who is selling advertising and maybe even leads from their website? Perhaps it's not the "dentist approved"'s fault that there is some brand confusion between their .com and and the affiliate marketing .org resulting in neither site being listed in the top 10. What we do know is that Google's Adwords Tool rate's this keyword as very competitive. And Google is saying "If you want to compete then you must provide more than a keyword stuffed domain name."


Now begins the Exact Match Domain Survival guide.

Yes, you read that correctly. Despite all the fancy charts above and the dips in the exact match signal, Rob Woods is saying that it hasn't had much of an impact. Let's rework those charts.

The fluctuation is on a percentage base. Above is a 1-100 scale. The peaks and valleys of the recent EMD update per SEOmoz's scale is exactly 0.37%. Understandably, if your mega site falls in that .0037 then this update is painful. And I would be a little upset to see a Wikipedia page take my place for my keyword rank that gives customers the "pest control" they are searching for. But in the big picture, this update is very minor. A good exact match domain will still rank. And if all things are equal, an exact match domain will out rank a non exact match domain for that "Exact Keyword". Over simplification, because we cannot find a scenario with all things equal.

In the end, the exact match update has adjusted the signal for keywords in the domain, but as this is only one of many signals, the impact my not be as significant as some SEO's are screaming.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy How To Work With Exact Match Domains Post-Penguin

Thomas Ballantyne

Don't mind me, I'm just the Pest Control Guy. Thomas Ballantyne

Bulwark Exterminating

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7 Responses to “The Exact Match Domain Update Hardly Hurts”

  1. Robert Tyson says:

    Interesting data, thanks. Though I suspect that one constituency that IS hit is small local businesses, who not infrequently have exact match domains and what Google would seemingly consider 'poor quality' websites.

    Of course, what makes a website 'quality' is a value judgment. How much 'quality content' is it actually appropriate for your local dry cleaner to place on their website?

  2. Rob Woods says:

    As a bit of a follow-up, my EMD for my name that has VERY few links and where I VERY rarely add content dropped about 8 spots for the query for my name. I've yet to hear of an example where an EMD that had all the other fundamentals in good shape dropped completely off the radar. They may be out there but I've heard no concrete examples. I still suspect that it's EMD + some other factor that caused the dip but we don't have enough data yet to diagnose that.

    • @rob –

      It is always hard to face a "quality" check on one's own website objectively. I don't have any examples to share of a well established domain taking a hit. Dr. Pete shared the story. I may know somebody that has some examples of EMDs that picked up a few spots, but doesn't really care to have those under the microscope. All in all, hardly a game changer.

  3. Jay says:

    This time I quite agree with big G, content should be more important than EMD…
    I like this change!

  4. Sarena Costa says:

    I hope it is minor but it seems like it will be hard for niche sites and will reward bigger authority sites. If niche marketing is a main business focus, I doubt it is minor for them.

    I do think quality should rise to the top though. Hopefully this will encourage quality niche sites instead of junk.

  5. Dr. Pete says:

    One of the challenges in putting out this data is that someone will always over-interpret (and our industry loves a good panic). In the scheme of things, the rate of change in rankings even with no algo updates is startling, and separating the signal from the noise is incredibly difficult. I think of MozCast as a scientific instrument – it's tuned to detect and even exaggerate change. What that means for any given site, though, varies wildly.

    Look at it this way. The day-over-day drop in EMD influence was just over 10%, which is pretty significant. It's a bit like unemployment though – it's around 8%, which we all agree is less than ideal. For any given person, though, you either have a job or don't have a job. That aggregate statistic is kind of irrelevant to your personal life.

    What we're basically trying to do is validate what Google is saying (or not validate it, as the case may be) and add a layer of transparency. Beyond that, the impact of any change on any one of us is something we each have to measure and understand ourselves.

  6. Thanks Dr. Pete. I agree that every change is an important change, and I love the Mozcast tool. Perhaps I was a bit hypocritical in overreacting to those that were overreacting. =)