For a long time, businesses could be successful by buying a domain name that exactly matched the keywords of what they did. For example, if you owned a keyboard sanitizing service, you would buy something like

Without any extra work, you could occupy a top 5 ranking on Google, easy peasy, thanks to the Exact Match Domain (EMD) loophole in the Google search algorithm.

However, in the last few weeks, Google has closed that particular loophole, which has many search engine optimization pros wailing, gnashing their teeth, and rending their garments.

Of course, this has also caused concern for the people working on their personal brand, and have bought, or are thinking about buying, their own name as a URL. Is this even a viable strategy? Will Google’s “penalizing” of the EMD hurt their chances?

What Google’s Exact Match Domain Update Means for Personal Branding

First of all — and this is important — Google is not penalizing anyone for having an EMD. They don’t give you negative points for having an EMD.

What they’ve done is made the EMD value-less; it has no value whatsoever. It doesn’t help to have one, it doesn’t hurt. Basically, you used to get a bonus from it, and now you don’t.

Here’s where it does help:

  • An EMD for your name makes it easier to remember your website. If people know your name, they know how to find you.
  • Even if you don’t put up a site, it keeps people from squatting on your identity. Or keeps someone with the same name from taking it.
  • It still helps with your SEO. Remember, SEO is just about Google being able to index a website properly. So keywords, titles, meta descriptions, and tags all have their use. You may not get a ranking boost from it, but Google will know what your site is about. And so will your readers.
  • If you follow proper SEO tactics — good content, plenty of photos and videos, high-quality backlinks — the site can still rank high, but for reasons other than your domain name.

EMDs are not the plague of SEO. They’re not a black hat tactic. They had their value, and now that value is gone. But that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. It means you need to choose them wisely, and you need to focus more on the company’s brand, and not the keywords. Make the company name, and everything you stand for, valuable and memorable, rather than trying to trick people to look at the site.

This is also true for your personal brand and website. Make sure your site is actually valuable and interesting to people who are looking for you. Professional speakers need videos and lists of past talks. Writers need to demonstrate their writing ability and knowledge. And job seekers need a portfolio of past accomplishments.

EMDs may have stopped being useful for companies selling a particular product, but you need to ensure people know who you are. The URL is only an address of a location. It’s your actions and your content that get people there.


Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. And yes, he used the rel=”author” in this bio.