While there is still a lot unknown about what factors have an effect on your keyword ranking in Google, SEOs do know a few tricks to get sites ranking for a particular keyword. You can include the keyword in the title and url of your page and in the content throughout it. And until now, one of the most well-known ways to rank for a keyword was to register to the exact match domain. For example, if you wish to rank for “Miami yoga,” registering miamiyoga.com pretty much secured your spot at number one.
Some affiliates and companies have spent millions of dollars on exact match domains for high paying niches, and now they may be disappointed to learn that this is not enough for their site to rank.
Back on September 28, Matt Cutts tweeted that there was an upcoming Google algorithm change that would reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results. He said that it was unrelated to the Panda and Penguin updates and that it would affect 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree.
This may not sound like a lot of searches, but the latest comScore figures reveal that Google sites were responsible for 11.3 billion individual search queries in the U.S. alone in August 2012. If you do the math, you will realize that 0.6% of queries equals almost 68 million searches per month.
This still may not seem like a big deal. After all, it’s only 0.6% of all searches that will be effective. However, Jeremy “Shoemoney” Schoemaker has pointed out something crazy: Since an exact match for a keyword like “Miami yoga” is something like .000000000000000000001% of Google’s overall searches, he guesses that in reality, searches affected are something like 80%. Now that’s a big deal.
This comes as good news to those who have seen low-quality websites rank higher than their own just because of an exact match domain. The response to Cutts’ tweets was mostly positive, with one Twitter user simply replying “awesome!” and another saying “I’m really happy to see this finally get pushed.”
As for the people who were trying to use exact match domains for ranking their pages higher on Google (especially those who spent millions of dollars on them) only to see them get nuked, I’m sure they are not thrilled. But Google has not been shy about wanting unique quality content, especially in the last two years. The search engine spends hundreds of millions of dollars trying to enhance the user experience and target low quality sites, and now they’re hiring thousands of people to manually review search results to determine whether it’s quality content or not for the keyword.
This change doesn’t mean that all sites with keywords they hope to rank for in their domain names are now doomed. But if you have a low quality site that may be riding on the basis of exact matching, you could have something to worry about.
Has your site been affected? Let us know in a comment.