Google is constantly working on its algorithms. They slightly tweak the weight of certain ranking factors, they add new ones and then carefully examine the results of the data refresh.
But even with these highly sophisticated algorithms there are still many low-quality websites that rank very well by manipulating certain ranking factors.
One that has been plaguing Google for a while is the unusually high ranking of exact match websites for certain specific keywords. The problem is that in the Google’s attempt to try and understand what a user wants when they input a search term, they often can’t make the distinction between a keyword that’s looking for a domain and a domain name that’s looking for a keyword.
Limited Effect on Search Results
An exact match domain is an instance where a search query matches the name of a website directly. For example, if a person types in ‘florists South Africa’ as a search term then the domain called ‘www.floristssouthafrica.com’ will rank highly. This is regardless of whether or not the website weighs high with other ranking factors.
Not all exact match domains will be impacted by the update. After all, when a person types in a search query, they often are looking for a specific website. Rather this algorithm update will be targeting low quality websites that are ranking well because they have popular keywords as their domain name.
As such, the update will only be affecting 0.6% of Google’s daily search queries (based on US search volumes). Although even such a small percentage can mean quite a lot when you consider that Google serves for over 3 billion search queries each day.
On the down side, that also means that new domains with exact match domain names may be unfairly affected. A new domain usually won’t have the credibility to protect it from the appearance of low quality, and may not have built up sufficiently authoritative content yet for example.
Not Part of Regular Algorithms
Google added that the update to the algorithm was not part of the much publicised Panda and Penguin algorithms, which have been known to really shake up the rankings whenever they’re updated. Even though the update does have to do with website quality, Matt Cutts (head of the webspam team at Google), has said that it forms a separate project for Google, apart from regular spamming.
It’s been almost 2 years since Google announced that it was investigating the issue and this algorithm update marks the first real move toward eliminating low quality exact match domains from the 1st page of the results.
Webmasters and SEOs can only wait and hope that Google hasn’t over-corrected with their efforts.