Are Exact Match Domains done for ?
Unless this is your first week in internet marketing and search engine optimization, you probably already know “Exact Match Domains” (EMDs) are a popular way to gain solid rankings in the SERPs. It’s a cheap and easy trick, especially if the key phrase you’re trying to rank for is available as an exact match domain.
The technique became popular, and most search engine marketers felt it was the easiest way to gain a first place ranking. But earlier this year, at the end of September, Google unleashed another Panda algorithm update that jeopardized EMDs as a viable strategy.
On both Warriorforum.com and Wickedfire.com there are dozens of posts and threads about the topic. Hundreds of IMers lost their first place rankings after the algorithm update.
SEOMoz maintains a data set that consists of the top 100 results for 1,000 different search terms. Here’s what they found:
1. 41 EMDs lost their previously held position after the algorithm update
2. No single EMD ranking in first place was effected
You can see a great example of an EMD if you search for “Miami Fishing.” It’s a site owned and maintained by one of the writers at SEOMoz. If you visit the site, what you’ll notice is that it isn’t your normal, low-quality, quickly-slapped-together, wordpress website that you’re used to.
It’s an actual site, with a real design, real value, and a real brand.
So, with so many people’s EMD sites dropping from the ranks, why does Miami Fishing still rank in first place? The key to understanding the reason is in recognizing that it’s a “real brand.”
The Typical EMD
Most people who take advantage of the EMD technique slap together a five page site. Each page is optimized for several keywords, the design is never even changed from the default wordpress theme, and the whole site just looks cheap and tacky.
A few basic back linking techniques are implemented, and since the terms aren’t terribly competitive the site begins ranking after a few weeks. If you’re terribly unlucky it might take a few months.
The problem with this technique is that most EMD sites aren’t just sleazy junk, but so are all of the techniques used for building back links. They tend to include the standard garbage:
1. Spun content submitted to terrible article directories
2. Forum and profile links
3. Blog comments
4. Over optimized internal links
The Panda algorithm updates have all been designed to help eliminate all of the garbage that plagues the SERPs. So, when you have a technique that’s known to be used by spammers, and you have all of the signals that indicate a site is intentionally manipulating the SERPs, what do you expect will happen?
I’m not saying that these techniques don’t have their place. But when you abuse them there’s going to be a price to pay, and that price is having your site devalued and maybe even deindexed.
The EMD as a Brand
Take another look at the Miami Fishing website. It’s a real website. You can see that real work has been put into it, and that it really does provide some serious value to anyone looking to learn more about fishing in Miami.
Do you think that the SEO campaign relies on risky techniques? Does the site seem to be over optimized? Does it seem, to you, that “Miami Fishing” might actually be more than an EMD, and an actual brand?
For years we could easily prove that anchor text had a direct influence on rankings in the SERPs. All you had to do was search for “click here,” and you could see that Adobe ranked in first place – every site on the web had a link to it that said “click here to download Adobe reader.”
Not too long ago this internet marketing genius came along and designed a brand called “Click Here.” The site is absolutely awful, but it is a real brand. They now rank in first place for that term, and there is just no way that they have more back links than the adobe reader download page.
Google places a priority on brands. They penalize spam. So if you’re thinking about using an EMD to help boost your rankings in the SERPs, you have to switch your focus from spammy techniques to actual branding.
Is it easy and cheap? Well, that depends on you – your own skills, and your ability to find and hire great freelancers to handle everything for you.
The fact is, the EMD is here to stay for those who know how to turn their EMD sites into real brands.