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Exact Match Domain Best Practices

Last year’s Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update is one of Google’s most misunderstood algo updates yet. While the update does punish low-quality EMDs, it didn’t kill the practice entirely.

In a recent SEOMoz blog titled, The Exact Match Domain Playbook: A Guide and Best Practices for EMDs, by Todd Malicoat laid out some strategies for maintaining EMD’s in the post-update world. Here are a few of his best EMD tips and tricks.

EMDs That Still Work

One of the biggest reasons for the EMD crackdown was widespread abuse by webmasters. Google end-users never appreciated multi-hyphenated domain names that led to low quality sites. Malicoat makes a very convincing point that hyphenated domain names just aren’t worth the trouble.

That doesn’t mean that keyword loaded domains are all bad. In the .com space, Malicoat suggests limiting your domain to three keywords, four keywords at the most. If you’re on a .net or .org, he recommends limiting them to two keywords.

EMDs and Branding

One of the challenges with EMDs, and a good reason for avoiding them, is they can sometime be a little too generic. SEOs stand a better chance of maintaining a high page ranking when they’ve targeted their domains with a good keyword, and backed it up relevant content, you stand a better chance.

This practice falls a little more in line with what Google is looking for these days and should yield better, long-term results. (After all, Google is clearly not in love with EMDs.)


The key to staying ahead of EMD trouble is also the key to staying out of any kind of Google trouble; relevance. EMD sites are, for better or worse, held to a higher standard of relevance than other sites.

If you’re running a poker-related EMD, you need to be extra vigilant about staying on topic.

De-Optimizing EMDs

Beside staying on topic, Malicoat recommends that EMD sites engage in very conservative SEO practices. Some sites may even need to de-optimize, or dial back their SEO efforts a bit just to stay ahead of Google updates.

EMD’s Not Dead

Malicoat’s main point is that EMDs aren’t dead, and they’re not the Page Rank poison that some forum posters make them out to be. With a short, keyword-focused EMD; relevant content; and light touch on the SEO, EMDs are still very relevant.

Were you impacted by the EMD Update? Share your experiences in the comments section below.