Nov 16, 2023

Was Penquin and Hummingbird the Death of Lawyer EMD’s?

In dozens of cases I have witnessed the exact match domain getting crushed in the SERPs as a direct result of the most recent Google Update, Penguin 2.1.

Instead of the homepage ranking, a relevant inner page ranks somewhere deep in the Google results pages.

Also worth noting that the best fit inner page is usually not the one ranking highest. For example, let’s say we are trying to rank for Lawyer SEO. The page ranking highest (albeit on page 9) is www.lawyer-seo-firm.com/law-firm-website-design… while http://lawyer-seo-firm.com/lawyer-seo is no where to be found.

Regardless of what is ranking, the homepages of many exact match domains are not ranking on page one anymore. In fact they are not found at all and are now being replaced by the lower ranking of some inner page on the site for the same keyword.

What does this tell us?

Google is moving towards ranking the inner pages of Authority Websites.

Exact Match Domain, or EMD, is a tactic that got over-used and has now been deemed less effective.

What can you do about it?

Stick to the fundamentals.

Never rely on one SEO tactic, diversify. It does not matter if the tactic is considered White Hat or Black Hat. Once it gets abused, you can count on Google discrediting it.

One tactic that comes to mind that Google has warned about is guest posting. Very effective right now but like every other tactic, it won’t be as effective in the future.

What works today may not work tomorrow.

Build an authority website.

On page SEO, and proper website structure, is more important than it used to be… as important as quality of backlinks right now.


I can here you now, “Nick, you are full of it!” (Maybe you even cursed… I am trying to keep it clean here).

You have a legal website that happens to have a keyword in the name and it’s still on page one?

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule.

So, which EMDs survived Penguin 2.1?

From our research it looks like sites that are properly structured and have a good amount of relevant content on them, were not harmed.

Like I said above, proper website structure is as important as quality of backlinks right now. Furthermore, if your website is properly structured, the fact that the keyword is in the domain, was overlooked.

Penguin 2.1 was more about the structure and usability of your website than anything else.

I should also add that any OVER-optimization will get you nowhere.  And I am not just talking about anchor text.  Everyone knows that anchor text over-optimization will get you slapped.

(Most people see a slap as a severe penalty brought down on their website by the Google Police.  It is much more effective to think of Google as a filter.  Over-optimization of anchor text, as an example, will simply not get you through the filter that the user is entering into the search bar.)

In addition to anchor text, meta titles and meta descriptions (you know the listing information that visitors see in Google results) must also be crafted with care.  Put your target keyword there over and over and that too will get your website caught in the sifter.

How do you pass through the filter to the promised land?

  • Use synonyms
  • Never use the same exact phrase more than once (within reason)
  • Focus on using the words of your target phrase in different order
  • Focus primarily on getting the reader to notice your headline (meta title) and then curious enough to click your listing after reading the description.  Click-through and user behavior is becoming increasingly important to Google.
  • H1 and H2 tags still tell Google what terms are important on your page.  Just keep the previous points in mind when crafting them.

Have you seen your Lawyer Exact Match Domain take a nose dive in the Google rankings?

Tell us about it.

You don’t have to tell us the domain name. Just let me know I’m not crazy and my eyes are not deceiving me.

Or if you see something different happening and you think I am way off here, please let me know that too.

Have a great day!

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