An EMD is a domain name that is an exact match with a popular search query.
Typically, the name will contain a highly-searched keyword or phrase, such as “buy Nike shoes”. In the past, simply having a URL that contained highly-targeted keywords would boost you to the top of Google’s search results pages for that keyword phrase, regardless of whether the website had quality content or not. Unfortunately, spammers were using this tactic to their advantage, and Google’s search results were displaying low quality, spammy websites at the top of the lists because of the sole fact that they were EMDs, while the legitimate, high quality ones were pushed down the list.
Today, it’s not so easy anymore. Google has implemented an algorithm change that affects exact match domains with low-quality content. It’s aimed at targeting sites that were ranking simply because of the keyword advantage in the domain name. Google wants websites to appear at the top of Google searches because they adhere to “white hat” practices, have solid website design, and quality content that is relevant.
That’s not to say that a website that uses an EMD can’t rank well.
Google doesn’t penalize all EMDs. If you are a legitimate website that uses solid Internet practices, then you should be fine. Cheapflights.com is a prime example of an EMD that ranks well and remains high on search results pages. But this is because they are a legitimate business, they don’t use shady SEO tactics, and it’s not a spammy site.
The only aspect that is worrisome about having an EMD (when it comes to legitimate non-spamming purposes) is that it can leave you feeling as though you’re walking on eggshells with Google. What if you included a few too many keywords on some of your pages with no ill intentions? Or your website was hacked and now contains malware? This, in combination with having an EMD, will paint you as a spammy website, and as a result your ranking will crumble. So, make sure to keep all these things in mind if you want to use an EMD.