What is the future of EMD sites?
What are the value of exact match domain names (EMDN) given the rumors that Google is devaluing them as they show a high percentage of exact match keyword anchored back links?
There are a couple of factors that still give exact match domains an advantage over the competition.
The first thing you have to do is forget about G and the search engines when deciding on a domain name. In any business it’s a good idea to include your primary business in your name – people looking for a particular product or service tend to select those that use what they are looking for in the company name. (Ignore the highly branded names like Nike who don’t add “shoes”, “golf equipment” etc to their brand name).
I’m talking about Bob’s Electric – would it make sense for Bob to just call his company “Bobs”? Or “Bob’s Company”? No. People looking for an electrician while searching in a phone book or online are going to use the term electrician in their search. When a list of candidates appear they are going to pick the companies that have “electric” or “electrician” in their name over a vague entry named “Bobs”.
This is simple marketing common sense – online or off.
From G’s point of view they can hardly start penalizing people for choosing to use keywords in their domain names when it makes perfect sense from a marketing point of view. They are in the business of providing a “good user experience” and providing a list of sites that don’t use the users keyword in the name or url is not a “good user experience”. How long would you use Google if you typed in “dog grooming service” and they returned a serp list of breeders, pet stores, products etc and not a single site that said “Dog Grooming”? Not long.
As a user you expect that there is probably a site called doggrooming.com and when you query G – because you are too lazy to type it in your browser address bar, or you want some options, or you don’t know you can type a url into your browser – you expect to see a site or list of sites that all say dog grooming somewhere in their serp listing. Those that have the term highlighted in their site Title and URL tend to get your attention and you are pretty sure they are offering what you are looking for. In contrast you may see a wikipedia article on “Dog Grooming” and avoid it as you know they are not offering the service or a NYT article on the subject and ignore it as well. You aren’t looking for a “history” of dog grooming – you are looking for a dog groomer. G has to know your intent and the algo decides this based on the keywords you type in and your search history.
From G’s point of view it probably makes sense that a site called “Dog Grooming” using doggrooming.com as a domain name is probably a site catering to dog grooming. And listing it will result in a good user experience. It’s obvious that the site is probably related to what the user is looking for. And yes it probably has a lot of exact match backlink anchors – it should given its name.
And this is a problem for G in trying to eliminate sites that have an unnatural linking profile. Exact match domains have a natural link profile full of exact match keyword backlinks. They can’t disregard the links as they make perfect sense so they have to rely on the trust factor and relevance of the sites linking in and look at the rest of the link profile – the brand links.
Keep in mind that all the good two and three word EMDN’s were snatched up long ago – they have age and for the most part are valid sites that provide the kind of info contained in their domain names. They aren’t a problem for G.
People who name their site “my-dog-grooming-site-woof-woof.com” are a problem as they are new and tend to have a link profile using an over abundance of exact match keyword anchors from a variety of unrelated and low trust sources. And they tend to lack branded links. Pretty easy for the algo to spot and ignore. This is why you don’t see over hyphenated urls on top of the serps much these days and why the rumors abound that G is penalizing EMDNs. They aren’t – they are penalizing sites with unnatural link profiles. Maybe its better to think in terms of rewards rather than penalties. In most cases a site isn’t penalized – it’s just ranked where it should be. It hasn’t been rewarded high ranking because it hasn’t achieved the necessary criteria. Age, Trust, Relevant links, Internal structure etc. The stuff your high ranking competition has achieved.
Now having said that EMDNs have an uphill battle if you choose to use them. They will continue to have an advantage over non EMDNs but only if you are smart in your linking profiles. I mentioned this in the comments on the last post – EMDNs have a natural variety of anchors too – not just keyword anchors.
The doggrooming.com site should have a mix of links
“grooming your dog website”
long tails like “my dog gets groomed at Bob’s place”
“bob’s dog grooming”
If the EMD has nothing but “Dog Grooming” links or an over abundance of them then it will suffer in the serps. There are many ways to send brand links and a natural link profile will have a good variety of them along with the exact match keyword links.
So. Should you use EMDNs if available? My answer is simply yes but be smart. If you have to hyphenate the crap out of them to include your keywords – don’t. Find a related term or use an add-on before bastardizing your url.
Don’t use “my-dog-grooming-site-woof-woof.com”
or use a different TLD like .net, .org, .ca (your country TLD)
The point is that you will achieve better results using a primary keyword or related keyword in your domain name than without one. Users will look more favorably at your site in the serps compared to the “petservices.com” site because you use “dog” or “grooming” in your Title and Domain name and you will have a natural advantage when people link to you naturally – they are likely to add a relevant keyword in the link. Don’t always think search engine and gaming G. I want a related site that decides to link to me to use my keyword in the link for traffic purposes. If a pet store links to me then I don’t want them to just use “pet care” in the link. I’ll get more targeted traffic from the pet store site if they use the term “Dog Groomer” in the link.
If you are building legit sites (and you should be) then do what makes sense from a business point of view. Your site should be built around what you provide and not using your keywords because a search engine may penalize you is silly. If your site is legit and you don’t try and manipulate your rankings (everyone does to some degree – just don’t be overt about it) then your search rankings will develop naturally and take care of itself.
I have a site that is six years old and I first built it on a completely unrelated domain. Lets call the site Albatross Lovers (it’s Title) and I used the domain name “nosepickersoftheworld.com”. It’s a static site and at the time I built it prior to finding an appropriate domain name. I loaded it onto the nosepicker domain just to see how bad my HTML coding was. (bad bad bad) Unfortunately I left the pages up as I kept building new ones and suddenly G was sending traffic to it – the buggers indexed it. At the time I was afraid to pull it off and move the work onto a properly targeted domain as it was already indexed and ranking for several terms. So I left it. Within six months the site was ranking number 2 in the serps for just about every keyword I targeted. It has been number 2 for six years now – 1 position higher than wikipedia – but nothing I have done and no amount of legit links (wikipedia even links to it) has been able to unseat the number 1 site (who ironically also links to my site). Guess what the number 1 site’s domain name is? You got it – “Albatross.com”. It’s a legit site. Mine is a legit site. We share a lot of backlinks from the same trusted sources. Mine actually has more trusted links than the number 1 site but in the end the algo has determined that the EMDN site should rank number 1. I have no doubt that had I used at least one keyword anchor in the domain I would be number 1… but I didn’t. Do I know for sure? No but I rank well in multiple domains for many terms not used in my domain and have seen a pattern where I reach almost the top of the serps but never position one. That spot is almost always occupied by an EMDN or a mega trust site – (wikipedia, about.com etc.)
Now my last point – if you are still building thin affiliate sites or made for adsense sites then you are the ones who started the rumor that EMDNs are being penalized by G. And they are.
If you are building typical warrior forum member sites, IM niche sites, Loan sites, Weight Loss sites etc or otherwise high spam niches targeted by all the beginner marketers then you will not do well with EMDNs. Real sites in niches outside the spam niches do just fine. If you are still pissing around with spam niches and affiliate sites then time to move on. Selling IM crap to IMers is a huge waste of your time and any success will likely be temporary. Google does not consider your site “a1weight—loss-over—-night.com” site to be a good user experience compared to “weightwatchers.com”. Hard to believe but get over it. Time to stop playing and start building sites that serve a real purpose other than serving ads or selling affiliate products. There are ways to generate income from a site like “timbuktufurnacereplacement.com” – either because you actually replace furnaces or you sell leads to those who do or provide ad spots to service suppliers. The point is this – expand your horizons and leave the IM niche behind.