We all remember back in early days in Google up to about 2012 when the exact match domain was the most powerful metric to rank for particular keywords.

Google started making small changes in 2012 that took away a lot of the weight that came from having this type of strategy. Overnight, companies that had paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for what they believed were extremely valuable URLs saw huge drops in market share.

Below are a few examples of exact match domains that took a serious organic kick to the junk. This isn’t talking about the terms after the .com. Instead, it is talking about the root phrase with no spaces in the domain.


–       SEO.com was truly one of the largest, premium level SEO agencies. Because of their exact match domain, they were able to depend on their direct channel for most of their new business.

–       SEO.com saw a massive drop in organic traffic. They moved from 1st online marketing agency when typing “SEO” to 3rd or 4th page.

–       You know these guys weren’t very happy about these changes, and have never recovered from where they were at before the algorithm modifications.


–       This company had used their exact match domain and locally focused landing pages to rank for a very wide range of terms.

–       When Google modified exact match domain, they lost almost all rankings.

–       This took them out of the lead generation game almost over night.


–       This company was ranking for a very wide range of dental terms. It was ranking in the top 3 spots for 7 years.

–       After the exact match update, the site lost all rankings. This was a killer for their brand, and they have never come close to recover

2011 Early Announcement on Twitter by Mr. Matt Cutts 

If you follow the all-mighty Matt Cutts on Twitter, it shouldn’t have been a surprise the exact match domain was about to experience some changes He said “Google will be implementing a small algorithm change that will reduce low-quality exact-match domains from showing up so highly in the search results.”

Here is the drop in rankings from EMD after this first update.

According to this tweet it looks like Google would be lowing the overall authority of the exact match domain. This said nothing about the sweeping changes we’ve seen in the last few years.

End of 2012 Announcement about EMD

At the end of 2012 Google decided to take further action with brands that had decided to use the exact match domain tactic. Below is a quote straight from Matt Cutts.

Again, this was very bad for companies that effectively used this strategy for years. This was yet another attempt at Google going after people trying to manipulate their ranking algorithm.

2014 Information about Using Exact Match Domains

There’s no question the EMD still have some serious authority in Yahoo and Bing. It will be very interesting if they choose to copy Google with minimizing the value from this metric.

As far as Google goes, there’s been talk of an actual penalty being placed on sites with EMDs. I’ve really only noticed this the last 3 to 4 months.

Options if you’ve Been Hit with EMD or Penguin Update

A very wide range of websites are dealing with exact match domain or linking problems. If you find yourself in this situation there are a few different options. The absolute truth of the matter is you’ve got to make an adjustment.

As much as you don’t want to hear this, just sticking with the same agency or internal marketing team is not going to produce any different results.

You need to decide on a serious change in strategy. Below are the most relevant and easily implemented options.

1. Start over with new domain

A lot of times this is the best option for websites that are locked down with low rankings in Google. If you look in your Webmaster Tools, and it says you and a manual penalty, you are pretty much stuck.

I have seen hundreds of situations where companies have tried to get rid of the organic penalty. This means they invest tens of thousands of dollars a year to try to get back to where they were. The unfortunate thing is only l{e108bb21be762fc6fa6f79a68ef8277ec5dd508afc1fd385a5d42c82a88a4204} or less of companies that decide to go with this strategy end up being successful.

Getting started with a new domain is going to require attention to detail and a significant amount of resources. If you have an established brand, you might want to 302 redirect all content over on a page-by-page basis.

Even where this can cost a significant amount of resources, it is usually the best move for most mid to small level brands.

2. Get started on content & paid advertising

Organic really isn’t the only game in town. If you’ve built a trusted name in the industry and some high quality content, it is possible to be effective with paid advertising.

The network you use depends on if your brand is B to B or B to C. If you are selling directly to other companies, LinkedIn is going to be your best bet. If normal consumers are your target demographic, Facebook and Instagram are going to be right.

Having great landing pages and a strong value proposition are a core part of a successful paid strategy. We highly recommend taking your time to build collateral users are going to want to consume.

3. Try to save current domain with inbound marketing

There are a very few brands who have been able to make it back to their pre-penalized organic position. This is extremely difficult to accomplish and requires consistent effort and super high quality workmanship.

Moving forward with a high quality inbound marketing campaign is your best chance to repairing your brand in Google. Essentially, you need to show them you deserve top placement and will never do the stupid things you did at first to get in trouble.


Having a domain where you can rank well in Google and start to build real, user trust is extremely important to your overall effectiveness. We would love to hear from you about your corporate, domain experiences.

Digital Flavor is all about inbound marketing. Please let us know if you’d like a free consultation on how we can get you back in good standing in Google. Fill out our free audit form to get started today.