Back on September 28, Google dropped another algorithmic bombshell, this time targeting exact-match domains. In many ways, this update was even more damaging than the PANDA or Penguin updates over the past year.

If you’re not aware of the term “exact match domain,” it refers to a domain name that exactly matches a given search phrase. For example, atlantacosmeticsurgery.com. In the past, many medical practices would look to buy a domain name with a heavily searched keyword phrase in it in order to rank highly. This created a saturated market for domain name re-sellers who would spam everyone they could to try to sell their hot domain for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. This strategy worked, until Google decided to step in.

The update had no effect on almost all of Turbo’s client’s websites, but a few were hit particularly hard. The reason being was that their domain age was relatively young (less than a year), and the sites had yet to build up enough content on them to avoid the penalty. That’s the key here, Google’s move was to simply try to level the playing field and not give as much credence to exact match domains that lack age, content, or are entirely static. With Turbo’s sites that were affected it seemed to be an issue of bad timing.

I have mixed feelings about the update by Google. I understand what Google’s Matt Cutts was saying when he described the change:

“We have looked at the rankings and weights that we give to keyword domains and some people have complained that we’re giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains. And so we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a little bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm so that given two different domains, it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain with a bunch of keywords in it.”

My only concern is a website’s ability to bounce back. I’ve seen this start to happen a little bit with the few sites that were affected by the update, but time will tell. The update in general seemed like a bit of an overreaction on Google’s part. The reason I feel that way is because Google simply punished new sites with keyword-rich domains without taking into account their level of blogging or social media integration. A new domain name shouldn’t just be penalized simply for being new.

So how do you avoid the Google slap or help your domain name recover?

These are actually two different, yet related, questions. First, avoiding the penalty entirely applies to people looking to build new websites. I would suggest you not take any chances and simply use your practice name or the doctor’s name. However, if your practice name contains a major keyword you’re trying to rank for then I wouldn’t avoid it out of fear of backlash from Google. In theory, it should be obvious to Google that the keyword is your practice’s name based on your Google+ Places page, Facebook page and other business listings.

There are some SEO experts out there suggesting that you should not buy domains with multiple hyphens or more than 4 keywords. I’ve also seem some suggest that buying a .org or .net domain is better. While there’s some credence to these suggestions, the bigger issue is the content you’re posting and the optimization strategy you’re undertaking.

To avoid Google’s penalty you’ll want to:

  • Continuously post quality, unique content (2-4+ blog articles per month).
  • Do not over-do internal, or on-page, SEO. Keyword stuffing the site is a good way to signify that you’re spamming
  • Externally, build high quality links that go to inside pages and blog articles AND do not use the same anchor text for each backlink (they need to look as natural as possible)

Does this latest move by Google signify the end of the aftermarket domain names? Not exactly. The key here is domain age and content. If you can find a domain name that has had content on it for years and it’s not overly spammy looking, such as detroit-michigan-plastic-surgeon.info, then you may have something worth investing in. Just make sure that with any domain name that you purchase, new or old, you implement a consistent strategy of building up quality content and quality backlinks.

If you have any questions about Google’s latest algorithm change please leave Turbo a message here or call us directly at 877-673-7096 x2.