Exact Match Domain Penalty Hits Home

Exact Match Domain Penalty

The Google exact match domain penalty hits a cluster of terms

Google’s exact match domain penalty is hitting home rather hard in these parts. It seems at least one of our clients – with a partial match domain – has taken a tumble from its previously rock solid number 1 ranking.

The client’s website climbed steadily from February 2011, to finally reach number 1 for the largest volume term in it market category in the spring of 2012. It also held top 3 rankings for almost all of the other top 10 volume terms in its market. Early last week it began to slip recording several 2 to 3 places. Yesterday the fall was greater. With almost all of the top ten rankings showing losses of 4 to 6 places.¬† See the image of rankings changes on the left. The former number ranking for the top term has been reduced to a ranking of number 10 and the campaign no longer has any key terms with a top 3 ranking.

The Google exact match domain penalty was mentioned by Matt Cutts in a Tweet on 28th September. My own experienced, based across a number of exact match and partial match domains, is that Google have been experimenting in this area for several months. I’ve seen falls from both exact and partial match domains and gains by semantic or synonym match domains.

The activity of the last week is just the ultimate conclusion of the programme of removing the advantage partial match and exact match domains have enjoyed over a number of years. I mention partial match domains because, in the example I give my client is the only website on the first page of Google with an exact match in terms of the destination. The other, competing, partial matches are now on pages 2 and 3.

In my opinion, Google Panda, Google Penguin and the exact match domain updates are all part of a wider programme to level the playing field within SEO. But where does this leave the owners of exact match and partial match domains? Simply, for them, SEO is now going to to get a lot tougher. Whereas in the partial owning an exact or partial match domain conferred some form of advantage. Now its a level field their SEO activities will have to get much sharper. Secondly, as mentioned above, semantic match and synonym match domains appear to be amongst the websites that have gained. After all, if someone goes down, then someone else must go up. If you have access to other domains, and, after all, domains are cheap, why not consider shifting your SEO efforts to less keyword related domains.


  • I think the penalties does not come immediately, but they rolled out in batches… One of my sites with exact matched domain was hit bad shortly after. But what is puzzling to me is the fact that sites that has far less quality or single page sites are now ranking above me. I’ve found many pages that are ranking does not even have any content what so ever. I think this update is really disrupting many businesses. Hopefully we will see some positive changes in the coming updates.