Tag Archive | "Exact"

SearchCap: Google PageSpeed Insights update, exact match PPC & account analytics

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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SearchCap: Google’s exact match close variants, EU copyright, Google goofs on hurricane Florence & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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How to Schedule Time for an Imaginative Process, Rather Than an Exact Task

I’m pretty happy with my current writing process. Once you’ve accepted that you don’t need to convince anyone that your creative job is actually work, you’re free to focus on optimizing the processes that allow you to produce creativity on demand. And that’s exactly what I’m up to right now … although my creative process
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The post How to Schedule Time for an Imaginative Process, Rather Than an Exact Task appeared first on Copyblogger.


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SearchCap: DMOZ officially closes, Google dilutes Exact Match in AdWords & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: DMOZ officially closes, Google dilutes Exact Match in AdWords & more appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Google to further dilute exact match in AdWords; will ignore word order & function words

Not just for plurals anymore, close variants will extend to include word ordering and function words in inexact match keywords.

The post Google to further dilute exact match in AdWords; will ignore word order & function words appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Keyword Research and Targeting Without Exact Match – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Whatever the motives behind Google’s recent removal of exact-match keyword targeting from AdWords, the resulting uncertainty makes keyword research that much more difficult. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about the implications of the change, and offers tips for the most effective research going forward.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about keyword research and the challenge that’s being presented with the loss of exact match bidding capabilities inside of Google’s AdWords platform.

AdWords has sort of become a keyword research and opportunity tool of choice for SEO and, of course, PPC folks for a decade now. We’ve always had some optionality around how we choose keywords inside of AdWords.

Say I was selling groceries online. Maybe I’m selling Asian groceries online and, specifically, fish sauce, and I want to do some modifications to which terms and phrases I bid on. So I could use things like these brackets to say exact match only, bid on keywords that are precisely fish sauce, no modifiers, no changes, not fishes sauce, not fish sauces, not Vietnamese fish sauce. I just want the word fish sauce. Or I could go with a partial phrase match, meaning no modifications to this part of the phrase, but yes if it’s Vietnamese fish sauce or fish sauce recipes, that’s fine. Or I could go fish sauce broad match and then let Google sort of extrapolate out and add all sorts of things on there.

Now, as of September of 2014, Google AdWords is making a change to their policy. All campaigns and keywords that you employ inside campaigns must use close variance. Essentially, they’re removing the exact match and saying, “Hey, we don’t think this power tool is useful, and that control is going to be lost to folks.”

There are two ways to look at this. One is Google took down their plaque on the wall that said “Do no evil” and put up a plaque that said “Be kind of evil when it makes us more money.” That is one perspective.

As many folks have pointed out, including Larry Kim from WordStream, many, many campaigns, in fact a vast majority of campaigns that are integrated with WordStream he noted, don’t even actually use exact match in this format. So maybe they’re not losing all that much, and Google is just saying, “Hey, this is a very tight feature, and we’re worried about how small businesses and people who are bidding might be employing it. Not all the users who are using it are power users. People are getting confused. So we’re taking away that functionality.”

My guess is the truth is probably somewhere in between. This will almost certainly lead to a considerable amount of more revenue for Google, because a lot more people will be bidding on terms and phrases that perhaps they should be bidding on and really want and perhaps they didn’t intend to bid on and don’t particularly want.

In any case, it loses some of that fine control. That’s very frustrating for PPC folks, but it can also be frustrating for us SEO folks. Now, we honestly don’t know. We don’t have data. It’ll be pretty interesting to see whether in September this changes.

If you go to Google’s Keyword Planner today inside of AdWords — which is free by the way, you just need to sign in with a Google account — you can do a search term like “fish sauce” and it’ll return a bunch of things. I did a search for fish sauce, and it returned for me things like fish sauce, average monthly searches 22,200, competition low. This is not competition for SEO, by the way. You can get that from something like Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Score. This is competition in AdWords itself — how many people are bidding, how aggressively they’re bidding, that sort of thing.

Then, it suggests other things like Thai fish sauce, fish sauce substitute, vegan fish sauce — I don’t think that’s going to work — sauces for fish. Sauces for fish? Are you kidding me? I understand that technically has the words sauce and fish in it, but that has an entirely different meaning. It’s sort of odd that they’re showing that to me. Then, they give me the search volume for all these and this kind of thing.

What we don’t know is whether these are exact, partial, phrase match, broad match. My guess is they’re broad match, whether they include those close variance or don’t include them, the number.

It’s been kind of tough. It’ll be very interesting to see if, when this shift happens in September, a lot of these numbers change dramatically, and we’re seeing like oh, yeah, Google was showing me more specific exact data previously for these terms, and now they’re showing broader numbers for each of these, or whether that’s already the case today. I suspect it’s actually already the case today, and it’s been a while, a couple of years, since Google actually offered truer, closer to reality numbers around what these are.

I think these numbers probably include a lot of close variance and potentially even some broad case matches. For example, fish sauce, this 22,000 number might actually include sauces for fish right in there. This makes keyword research really tough, really hard.

For us in SEO, the lost ability makes it a lot more difficult. The bidding situation in AdWords makes it a lot more difficult to determine keyword performance, and keyword performance is something that’s critical to us. That tells us when someone searches for “Thai fish sauce,” they’re much more likely to buy from us, or when they search for a particular brand of fish sauce they’re much more likely to buy from us, versus the broad phrase

“fish sauce.”

That’s pretty frustrating, because we often use AdWords data, PPC data to say, “Hey, this is a super valuable keyword. SEO team, let’s go get this search term and try and rank for it organically, because when we rank for it in paid search, we get a lot of ROI from that.” That’s going to make it harder, absolutely.

Potentially, it means more noise in these keyword research numbers. That noise could come from the inclusion of more close variance in the data. We’ll see how that happens. That potentially muddies the research and prioritization process for us. It might be the case that this is already happening though.

What Can We Do?

There are a few things we can do. We’re not powerless. We do have some ability to influence this. First off, any time you’re doing keyword research I now suggest that you just can’t rely on AdWords alone. It’s not good enough. You’ve got to be using at the very least something like Google Suggest. I love the tool SEMrush. I love keywordtool.io. I think those are both excellent.

1) Google Suggest

Google Suggest, for example, when I start typing “fish sauce,” knowing that I’m in Seattle if I am geo located, it’ll show me some things. It did show me fish sauce Seattle, fish sauce Portland. Portland, I think, was actually higher than Seattle. I guess we’re looking for fish sauce from Portland more so. It showed me fish sauce chicken wings, which is particularly popular around here and delicious. It showed me fish sauce uses, nutrition, fish sauce versus oyster sauce.

These were not things that I got on my suggested list. Granted, I didn’t go through all 800 or so suggested keywords, but a few of these were very different from what I saw over here. I think AdWords tends to be very focused on commercial intent terms, things that they know people are trying to buy or do some sort of commercial activity around. So it is valuable for advertisers.

A lot of this is more informational searches, which is huge for content marketers, huge for bloggers, big for anyone who’s doing SEO to try and attract awareness, brand attention, links to their site, those kinds of things. So you can’t ignore these keywords.

The other thing that’s very nice is if you do these, you can do them geo modified or non-geo modified, and if you do them, they tend to be in popularity order. That means I know that “fish sauce chicken wings” is probably a more popular search term in Seattle right now than “fish sauce uses.” Also fascinating useful information. I can rank some of that stuff against the numbers that I’m seeing over here and try and compare and contrast.

It’s not always perfect, by the way. Sometimes they over geo modify, or people in your search area are searching a little differently from how the rest of the world is searching, whatever the case may be. There are a lot of temporal factors going on here. So if all of a sudden there’s a fish sauce food truck that opens up in Seattle, that might get super popular in the search terms even though it’s not very popular anywhere else.

2) Google Analytics/Adwords

A second thing you can do is follow up directly inside of your Google Analytics or AdWords to see which specific, unique exact terms sent traffic and how that performed. Unlike organic search, where Google’s taken away 95%, 97% of all keyword referral data, that referral data does still exist in GA and in AdWords. It doesn’t appear that this change will mean that Google will take sauces for fish and report it as fish sauce in your campaign. It looks like they’ll still be reporting the actual keyword that sent traffic, and so you can infer from that this prioritization importance process.

3) Bing/Yahoo! Referrals

Number three, you can actually use Bing and Yahoo or any search engine that is still reporting referral data. Approximately 5% of Google’s keyword data is still being reported. You can use those referrals to help infer relative quantities and relative performance on a per keyword basis at least for your most important keywords. For stuff in the long tail and the chunky middle, it’s going to be harder, maybe even impossible in the long tail. But at the head of the demand curve at least you can say, “Yes, Thai fish sauce doesn’t perform quite as well as Vietnamese fish sauce for us. It turns out Vietnamese fish sauce really gets us the great quality traffic that we’re looking for. We’ll focus on that one first.”

4) Broaden Your Keyword Targeting

I think because of all of this keyword data removal, just in general we have to almost become more like Google Hummingbird, the update, around how we do keyword and intent matching, a little less towards the exact phrase, exact match keyword targeting, and a little more towards the intent of the searcher and all of their potential interests and intent around that. We need to serve a wider set of potential search visitors with the actual content on our pages.

That’s going to be a challenge too. But basically we can say, “Hey, how can we group this stuff into content for SEO that’s going to make for a meaningful, useful searcher experience and potentially has that ability to rank for all of these different combinations of terms that are closely aligned in intent?” That’s kind of where we’re going broadly with search, keywords, and keyword research and targeting.

All right, everyone, I apologize that Google keeps taking more and more useful and functional data and power tools away from us. I wish there were more that I could do to stop them from doing that, but it’s not my place. Hopefully, this will help out your processes.

I’m sure there’ll be some great comments and suggestions in the comments around other things people are doing and can do. We should all get ready for this change. I hope we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Why we now only report on Exact Match Google volumes

Author (displayed on the page): 

The Google data we provide comes from the Google Keywords tool. This tool is designed for use for PPC but it has been widely commandeered by the SEO community.

The Google Keywords tool tells you how many people searched for a given keyword (the ‘search volume’). And it generates a number of associated keywords and their search volumes. This lets PPC advertisers know how many people will see their ads when they bid against certain keywords.

Sounds simple, but there are different ways to associate a keyword with an ad. These are called Match Types, and there are three of them.

  • Broad: Shows total volume for all searches which contain any part of the term or synonyms
  • Phrase: Shows total volume for all searches that contain all of the term
  • Exact: Shows volume for searches only on that term

Lets look at an example term, say wooden spoon. The different Match Types could match against:

Broad: wooden boats, silver spoon, wooden fireplace
Phrase: big wooden spoon, oak wooden spoon, wooden spoon engraving
Exact: wooden spoon

Relating this to SEO, Exact Match gives you the most accurate idea of how many people are searching for a given keyword. Broad or Phrase Match types will lead to an inflated figure that has little relation to the actual search volume.

But all keyword search volumes that Google gives you, exact or otherwise, are only an estimation. If you look within the tool you will see that Google search volumes tend to be grouped together. Lots of keywords have the same search volume. This is because Google estimates search volumes by looking at a small sample then extrapolating upwards. Eg, it might look at 1% of searches, see that there were 50 searches for pens, then multiply by 100 to say that there were 5,000 searches for pens across the whole population.

This data is valuable if you look at its relative size when compared to other keywords. But it won’t tell you the exact number of visits that each keyword will drive to your site. How many clicks you actually get will depend on a large number of factors. Here are just a few:

  • How you rank
  • The type of search result generated
  • Your search result
  • The other search results’ influence
  • Etc etc

All these factors can change. For instance, how you rank varies from user to user, due to the effects of personalized search.

Importantly though, search volumes will tell you which of the keywords you are choosing between are the most popular. This is the key information.

The Google Keywords tool also misses out one other major factor, competition. It does have a competition column, but this is for PPC advertisers. PPC is an auction system, so the level of competition they face will be affected by the people who are bidding on their chosen keywords. This will have no relevance on your SEO though, so it won’t help you.

Let’s look at an example for some keywords: facebook, apple, boats and gyms.

Google search results

So Google is telling me that terms such as gyms and apple have low and medium levels of competition. This is true for PPC because not many people will be bidding on those terms. But it’s not the case for SEO. We can see this with when we look at the Wordtracker tool:

Wordtracker search results

The level of competition is given on a 0 – 100 scale, with 100 being high. Within the Wordtracker Keywords tool you can see a far more realistic picture of competition for SEO.

But there are some more tweaks we do to make the data we show as meaningful as possible.

When we show Google data this is now taken from searches across the Google Search Network.

This means it includes searches from all Google properties, such as Google Maps, Google Shopping, Google Images, etc. We think this gives a much more balanced idea of how popular a keyword is, so once again you are getting data which more closely matches the searches that are really happening.

So there it is, why you shouldn’t use the AdWords tool and why Exact Match is the only match that matters.

If you want any more help or support please do get in touch with support@wordtracker.com

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The Exact Match Domain Playbook: A Guide and Best Practices for EMDs

Posted by stuntdubl

Exact match domains have always been the source of a lot of contention among SEOs. For quite some time, EMD’s have offered a competitive advantage for SEO’s who understood how to use them. In the early days of search when relevance algorithms were rather weak, many folks used “double dashed” domains because they were cheap to buy, and easy to rank. $ 6 to rank for a 3 word phrase. Sold. However, when you see best-online-seo-company.biz in your search result, you start to question the weighting of relevance factors. This is, in large part, how EMD’s got a bad rep to start with.

Despite the debate and obvious abuse, EMD’s represent what SEO’s do best – Seize Every Opportunity!

seize every opportunity - sincerely stuntdubl

I’ve always been a pretty big fan of EMD’s, and I agree with Elliot Silver that  EMD domains can be brands. High value keyword domains have been a commodity since the internet became a commercial marketplace. 

Matt Cutts (esteemed Google engineer) has made this comment in the past (about 2 years ago):

"We have looked at the rankings and weights that we give to keyword domains and some people have complained that we’re giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains. And so we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a little bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm so that given two different domains, it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain with a bunch of keywords in it."



Types of EMD’s

Exact match domain best practices

I think it’s important firstly to qualify the different types of EMD. The major factors in identifying quality domains, to me, includes:

  • TLD extension (.com/.net/.org/.other)
  • Number of keywords
  • Dashed or non-dashed
  • Domains with “stop words” only qualify as “partial match domains”

Let’s start with dashed domains. It has been proven statistically that domains with more than a single dash are very likely to be spam. Multiple dashes in a domain was an early spammer trick because of the low barrier to entry with cost. This rules these out.  Don’t bother with a double dash domain. 

It is very common to see domain names that include a single hyphen, but when two, three, or more hyphens are present, this is often an indication that these domain names are associated with companies that are attempting to trick search engines into ranking their web pages more highly.

From this amazing patent post by Bill Slawski regarding EMD's and detecting commercial queries.

Even though there is plenty of evidence that a single dash domain can rank just fine, I would avoid this technique as well. Many of the single dash EMD’s that rank are old existing domains. It is my opinion that a single dash EMD still really provides very little advantage over a non-keyword domain with all things considered. Skip the dashed domains as well.

The next question is how many keywords in a URL is too many. I would answer 2-3 for a .net/.org and 3-4 for a .com. BestBusinessCreditCards.com may be long, but I think it is still effective and too the point. Four words is pushing it, but I think you can still make a valid argument for a 4 word .com domain in certain spaces where most all the domains are taken, and there are some very niche commercial products worth targeting specifically. While .net/.org domains are still very credible, there are more of them available, so I think you have to reduce by a word. 4 words max for .com, 3 words max for .net/.org.  3 word .com or 2 word .net/.org is the best idea.

.net/.org keyword domains have proven to be very effective as a tool for bootstrapping a website. I think this is valid strategy. Instead of flickr.com, start with onlinephotos.net or even onlinephotogallery.org. I understand the value of a brand, but I think there’s also value in embracing “bootstrapper traffic.” There's definitely a lot of value to a startup in some highly relevant long tail traffic from your targeted keyword phrase set.  .net/.org domains are generally priced at about 10% of the value of a .com domain. This can be of great value in competitive verticals where most of the domains have been registered for many years. 

Find the BEST two-word .net/.org within your category, and buy it in the aftermarket if it is available. For buying your EMD – see the advice below. This can be great for your mainsite, microsite, or just to keep your competitor from getting it. At worst, think of it as a defensive strategy for your most important phrases. Just don’t think you’re going to dominate the SERPS spending less than three or four times what you paid for the domain in the first place. A crappy microsite  that costs half of what you paid for the domain will get you a one way ticket to Nowhereville these days.

Search engine filters - SERP Nowheresville

Stop words in keyword domains

Domains that include stopwords don’t truly qualify as an EMD, but can be mildly effective. It probably wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you can get theDetroitRoofer.com for $ 6, it will probably be a decent bet you’ll have some decent signals at your advantage in ranking for your targeted term for the relatively reasonable future. There is the potential for some brand confusion here though if someone owns detroitroofer.com

The most significant benefit of an exact match domain is that it makes it much more easy to develop targeted keyword anchor text from authority sites. Anchor text as an SEO tool is in decline, but it has always been a very significant factor, and will likely remain this way to some extent. It’s much easier to get someone to link to your site with the domain name, than it is to tell them “link to me with these keywords." This is probably the major competitive advantage over non-EMD domains. 

Offsite optimization is more than just links these days with the increasing importance of social mentions. Smart money speculation says it will be easier to get keyword rich social mentions for an EMD than for other types of domains as well.

So with all the talk of EMD’s, what the people really want to know is: what should we do? For those of you in this camp, let me offer you my best practices with keyword domain names. Unfortunately, I can make no guarantees to the amount of time these will hold true in the ever shifting tides of SEO change, but this is where I think we're at as of the time of posting:

EMD and domain best practices

  1. Always be willing to spend 10-15% of your overall budget on the BEST domain name you can get. It will make a big difference in both the short and long run. Dive into the aftermarket, and send some emails.
  2. Skip the second level TLD’s – .mobi / .travel / .info isn’t worth it.
  3. No more than one dash in your domain (better to just skip dash domains altogether)
  4. 3-4 words max for .com EMD’s
  5. 2-3 words max for .net/.org EMD’s
  6. Best to build a Brand site on a keyword domain so you get both brand mentions and generic intent keywords (see Toys.com owned by ToysRus.com and associates)
  7. Geo-local EMD’s are great to own, and offer lower barriers to entry
  8. You're going to have to focus some efforts on "de-optimization"

Marauder Sport Fishing

As the proud owner of MiamiFishing.com (no, I’m not a retired fisherman, but thanks for asking) and other exact match domains, I can say that there are both pros and cons to EMD's. I saw a few sites of my own pay the price for “over optimization” during Penguin. It's hard to always know how aggressive to be, and how far G is going to turn the "filter knobs," In a time where disavowing, delinking, and de-optimization seem to be the valid strategies, it's safe to say you should probably take a more conservative approach to your organic ranking strategy.

SEO factors aside, there's something valuable about having your domain name "say on the box" exactly what you do when you put it on a hat, t-shirt, or sign. There's a lot of implied credibility in a .com EMD (and even to some extent .net and .org).

After years of being an SEO, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain a TAGFEE mentality and put my own site up on the chopping block for public criticism, but it’s a site I’m also very proud of, and I think really stands up to the other websites in the vertical in delivering value to our users. Please be gentle.  I do believe the Moz has great tenants, but it can be very frightening to put your site up in the crosshairs for people to take aim and fire at, especially when you haven't accomplished everything you'd like to do with it sometimes. Being optimized or optimal means getting the most you can from the resources at your disposal, and sometimes this isn't always enough to create the perfect website (I have others that aren't nearly as pretty).

EMD’s do have their advantages, but they have some disadvantages as well.

Pros of an EMD

  • Great for a startup to gather some relevant longtail traffic
  • Easier to get targeted anchor text
  • Easier to get social mentions with keywords
  • Can dominate a single niche (IE: “Category Killer”)
  • Good for targeting variations in the long tail keyword phrase set
  • Brand mentions and keyword mentions become one in the same
  • They can be very effective for generic commercial intent queries
  • They can be very effective in local search
  • Great way to build startup “bootstrapper” traction
  • Can be an effective strategy with a well built microsite to target a single niche.
  • Some businesses have very limited keyword sets – this is a decent approach in these areas.

Cons of an EMD

  • Limits future brand expansion
  • Can create “brand confusion”
  • You don’t get the same “credit” for brand mentions.
  • Your brand can come off as “generic”
  • It can be harder to claim social media profiles
  • It can be more difficult to associate mentions with your brand
  • Hatorade on your site quality if you outrank competitors
  • More chance of “over-optimization” (seriously, does anyone else hate this phrase as much as I do?)
  • There are a limited amount of them
  • They can be very expensive
  • The effectiveness of the advantages are slowly being neutralized

EMD's and Brand Confusion

One of the main problems facing EMD's is the brand confusion that can come with a keyword domain. It’s HARD to own a very sought after generic commercial intent keyword. Google really doesn't want someone to own a keyword, and for good reason.

Keywords are the new brand. Someone in every vertical is trying to own their generic commercial keywords. Think about the big brands Staples and Office Max; do they really DESERVE to rank better than a well built OfficeChairs.com or OfficeFurnitureOnline.com ?

Generic commercial intent keywords are hard to come by; there’s really not a ton of them around, and they are VERY sought after when you start looking at the search demand curve. It doesn't make sense to for a SE to allow only one advertiser own the keyword when several can compete to drive prices to a point of maximum profit for G and diminishing returns for advertisers. There will always be competition to be the brand associated with the generic commercial intent keyword. Logic follows that value in the associated domains should stay pretty strong as well.  

This is probably beyond the scope of this post, so I may leave this discussion of "branding" keyword domains for another day, but it is at the crux of the EMD debate. I’ll leave the solutions to the commenters ;) . We all know that G is expecting much more out of a website to allow it to remain on their first page these days.

Think there’s a lot of keywords with generic commercial intent? Consider the main ones in each of these categories where G makes the majority of their ad revenues.  The list might not be as long as you think. I'm willing to bet most consultants and agencies here in the Moz community have at least a client or two in each of these major verticals.

So what was the “solution” to the EMD relevance “problem?”

Google engineers have always attempted to “level the playing field” for webmasters. They do a great job in many cases, and provide lots of fantastic tools these days with Google Webmaster Tools. Unfortunately, I don’t really think EMD’s are inherently a bad thing. They were just too large of a competitive advantage for some competitive niches where it was difficult to get targeted keyword anchor text. It's still going to remain difficult to get targeted anchor text in these niches (though it's now much less valuable to do so). EMD’s became a goldrush landgrab for optimizers and domainers when they saw the advantages they provide, and the tactics got used and abused and started to create some relevance problems.

As with all landgrabs, people got greedy. Speculators starting creating sites that gave EMD’s a pretty bad rap.Competitors start reporting these websites go Google as S.P.A.M (sites positioned above mine), and users start to complain that the SERPs suck. Speculators started putting up 1 page garbage microsites and ranking for large 2 and 3 word phrases with 3 crappy directory links and a page of outsourced content. The EMD's started to look like those old double dashed sites, even though the barriers to entry for top search rankings were a bit higher. Those barriers continue to get raised.

You can’t cry about your rankings when you didn’t deserve them in the first place, and honestly you never deserve rankings. You earn rankings, and often lose them. It’s part of the love, joy, and pain that is SEO.  As John Andrews says in “You’re Free to Go Home”  "That’s alot like SEO. You win, you get traffic. You don’t win, you don’t get traffic. It doesn’t matter how you play."

The real issue with EMDs

The main issue originally posed by suffering relevance was not EMD’s, but the amount of influence that keyword anchor text wielded over the search relevance algorithm. EMD’s just benefitted disproportionately from advantages with targeted anchor text. Anchor text carried too much influence without that added benefit. It’s a whole lot easier to get a link that says “Real Estate” when you’re RealEstate.com than it is to get one when you’re  Zillow.com. The same can be said right down to Buy-my-crappy-spyware-cleaner-software.com.

It was much more important to fix the overall issues associated with the anchor text relevancy problems, than it was to fix the EMD “problem,” and that’s why we saw the anchor text issues being remedied first with Panda and Penguin (which fixed a slew of other issues as well), before directly fixing EMD issues. There is a lot of potential collateral damage that can occur when making the decision of if a keyword domain has enough "brand signals" or "quality factors" to be near the top of the search results for a phrase, so I imagine it's a pretty difficult search relevance area to tackle. The simple fact is many EMD's ARE good valuable sites that deliver a quality experience to their end users. Can you really take a way all their advantage that they were wise enough to gain from paying top dollar for a great domain?

As with most important signals, optimizers found a way to take full advantage of benefits that inbound keyword anchor text provided. As with the rest of the history of SEO, we’ve seen a major shift in the importance of anchor text that has sent a lot of SEO’s reeling. If you didn’t see the writing on the wall, you either didn’t pay attention, or didn’t care. Either way, SEO’s who ignored the impending anchor text over-optimization warning bells are now paying the price, and trying to fix mistakes.

Panda and Penguin cured most of the major EMD relevance issues by forcing EMD websites to earn their rankings through achieving acceptable engagement metrics. Think of Panda as a beast that eats sites who don’t give their users what they want. If you don’t hold up the the “relative engagement metrics” within your SERPs, your site gets eaten.

If I were to play “if I were a search relevance engineer” (one of my favorite games), I think would just set the barriers to entry higher for EMD’s to rank in the short and medium tail keyphrases. I would also validate with user metrics the fact that they deserve to be there. Long ago (in 2005), Google introduced the “sandbox” (or trustbox) The “trustbox” made new websites “guilty until proven innocent” with regards to their page authority unless they demonstrated sufficient signals to be let into the index. 

The principles and ideas associated with the trustbox are still very much in effect today. Value to your users creates trust and credibility verifying engagement metrics like high time on site, multiple page views, low bounce rate, repeat visits, and new websites are let into the index more quickly, but the barriers to entry for commercial intent high dollar short and medium tale queries are much higher. Essentially, your user engagement metrics must validate your rankings. 

mom's spaghetti

Yes, that was an “Eminememe”, and as Eminem says: “you get one shot, never miss your chance to blow.” When you get your “audition phase” in the top of the search results, your site needs to perform well against other sites in that keyphrase set. Make sure you pass your “audition” instead of puking on your visitors sweater and telling them it’s value. Positive engagement metrics during your audition phase is equivalent to the importance of quality score in you PPC campaigns; it can really have an effect on the outcome of your webpage's success.

Positive engagement metrics

  • High time on site
  • Multiple page view
  • Repeat visits
  • Low bounce Rates

Not every industry requires 10 minute time on site, and 50% repeat visitors, but some do. These metrics reflect brands and brand signals, which is what G has repeatedly mentioned as their priority for providing quality and relevant sites to users in the search results.   

What are the solutions to my exact match problem?

It’s obviously a bit troubling times for EMD owners. No one likes to be at the center of an SEO witch hunt. It’s all fine and good to do spam reports, until it hits your site, or targets your niche or competitive advantage. One of the best competitive advantages has always been the ability to stay under the radar and keep your mouth shut (though I sometimes fail to fail at what I preach).

The solutions are the same as to many of the problems with Panda and Penguin. It’s a tough time to be a site owner, and admit that you were “over-optimized” and start back peddling a bit, but it’s G’s world – we just play in it. How many times has Google said it? Focus on the user. You may have always scoffed at doing “what’s good for the user,” but with engagement metrics that suggestion has turned into a requirement. We'll continue to focus on both how to make our websites better for users and Google with more actionable execution taking advantage of how user's interact with our sites via search engines. 

There’s still plenty of advantages to EMD’s, and we should continue to see instances of their success, but it’s hard to build a generic commercial intent keyword brand. You gotta have the chops to back it up!

We all know ranking for generic commercial intent phrases is valuable, or we wouldn’t be targeting them.  In order to stand up to the scrutiny, you’re going to have choose your favorite EMD’s, and let those other pipe-dream microsites die their slow painful death. It’s important to know when to pull the plug on a losing web property. Any good web entrepreneur has plenty of failures on their resume.

A few things to consider for solving problems with EMD sites:

  1. Disavow all public knowledge of SEO
  2. De-optimize
  3. De-link
  4. Prioritize your SEO efforts – you can’t win the battle on all fronts anymore
  5. Focus on quality of quantity (with site indexation)
  6. Redesign and Rebrand (maybe it’s time to get a mascot for your .org)
  7. Innovate ways to improve user engagement metrics
  8. Develop a social presence and improve your social mentions
  9. Diversify your backlink profile
  10. Diversify your anchor text
  11. Okay – I’m (kind of) kidding on rule #1 – #3

no such thing as seo

You know who hates on good EMD's most? The people who don't own them. You know why? Because they've always carried an advantage with them. While this advantage is diminishing, there is still a tactical advantage in spending some money up front for a great exact match domain name that describes exactly what you do and acknowledges the generic commercial intent of your visitor.

seo hatorade

 EMD's will always receive lots of hatorade because the majority of people don't own them. Toolman at webmasterworld said it best: S.P.A.M = Sites Positioned Above Mine. There’s plenty of SEO’s who could make Silky Johnson look like Tony Robbins. Don't participate in the hate, and don't feed the trolls.

silky - seo hater

Very few people are going to come out of the woodwork, and “extol the virtues” of an exact match domain, and put their website under the ever scrutinous eyes of search engineers, and a community that often prefers to focus on failure instead of offering opinion for improvement. As usual, I enjoy being the exception to the rule, and figured I’d pitch in my two cents. 

How to find and buy an EMD (and avoid being a hater)

  1. Type in whois.sc/yourkeyword.com/.net./org (this will redirect you to domaintools whois search for the targeted phrase)
  2. Identify if the domain is owned by a domainer or owner and do some further research
  3. If there is no established website – Write an email and ask if the domain is for sale.
  4. If you get a response – offer approximately 40% of the asking price, or propose one high enough to not offend the seller.
  5. Meet in the middle if .com is worth it.  if .net/.org offer 2-10% of your .com price
  6. If there is an established site, check the other metrics, and be prepared to pay much more.
  7. After EMD “death” be prepared to pay more for domains in the aftermarket after their “rebirth”

For more on domaining, check out the domainer myths.

Take my opinion on EMD’s with a grain of salt. No, I didn't test my theories like Pete. This is just my experience. I have bought a fair share of them thinking they were a great buy for future projects, or just to invest in and sell in the aftermarket at a later date. We’ve been warned of the “death of EMD’s” for a long time. I just hope EMD's continue to suffer the same type of death that SEO constantly battles with: one that is curable with creativity, innovation, and execution.


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