Google Penalises Exact Match Domains

Google’s has announced an algorithm change meant to reduce the amount of low quality exact match domains in search results which it sees as spam. Exact match domains contain keywords that try to exactly match a search query. Google’s Matt Cutts announced on his Twitter page what he called “A minor weather report”:

small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results. See: https://twitter.com/mattcutts

In a patent application by Google they describe the exact match domain problem in the following terms:

…a company may attempt to “trick” the search engine into listing the company’s web site more highly. For example, if the search engine gives greater weight in ranking results to words used in the domain name associated with web sites, a company may attempt to trick the search engine into ranking the company’s listing more highly by including desirable search terms in the domain name associated with the company’s listing.

Google were concerned that that their algorithm is giving too much weight for keywords in domains and so have made changes that, given two different domains, it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain based around keywords.

If you have seen a downward trend in your site traffic and you use a keyword rich domain name, it is possible that Google now considers your site low quality. If so, maybe it’s time to think about a change of domain. Obviously you don’t just want to swap your domain without a considered plan. Many sites tend to use both, also having registered their company name. You can use Google’s Webmaster Tools to do a safe redirect from the keyword rich domain to the branded domain.