Not too long ago, people just searched for an EMD (exact match domain) for a site they planned on building and bought the closest thing to that, even if they had to use hyphens, numbers or a suffix to get those keywords in the domain (phrase match domain or PMD). This has led to a lot of pretty crappy domains being registered, IMHO. Google has changed the game now on EMDs. Before, getting an EMD was almost a guarantee to get higher ranking in the serps, just based on domain name only. While Google is not penalizing all EMDs, they are no longer giving the EMD an unfair advantage in the serps. In order for an EMD to rank high now, they have to have the quality content that Google wants. EMDs with little or poor quality content are not likely to rank in any position that would be easily found.
Does that mean that all EMDs and PMDs are up a creek without a paddle? No, that’s not what it means. It means that if you have an EMD or PMD that is thin on content or has low quality content, is over-optimized for keywords (keyword stuffing), has low-authority, or engages in spammy link-building, etc., it’s likely that you will lose your rankings and the bulk of your Google traffic. Instead of just riding on an EMD, you’ll have to earn the organic Google traffic with high quality, relevant content.
This algo change is not new. It was announced months ago and I’ve seen numerous threads in the Warrior Forum with people complaining that their EMDs have disappeared from the serps and are no longer getting any traffic from Google. I also still see a lot of domain related questions that completely ignore this algo change, such as, “If I can’t register the EMD, will it be alright to use hyphens?” or “Can I just add a word onto an EMD to get ranked in Google?” Answer of course is that the EMD or PMD is not going to give you an advantage in and of itself any longer, so why bother. There are so many great branded domains to go after that will get you the same results provided that you have great content and don’t use spammy SEO techniques to rank.
Branded Domain Names
Since the EMD algo change, I’ve registered mostly branded domain names over EMDs. I actually prefer them and feel that they have more value, especially when flipping a site and now that the EMD advantage is gone, I don’t see any good reason to register them, and I think Google agrees:
“Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.” ~Google CEO Eric Schmidt
“We actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side. Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam at Google
There’s plenty of evidence that Google is giving preference to brands in the serps and that is primarily because users prefer brands over spammy, over-optimized, low quality EMDs. Users are more likely to continue to visit and link to and share content from brands.
So, how do you make the switch and build an online brand? It starts with the domain. Here are some factors to consider:
- You want a domain name that is easy for people to remember.
- It should also be unique. Which would you be more likely to remember: MP3.com or mymusicsite.com?
- Choose a branded domain name that is relevant to the industry or niche you are in. Again, the above example shows a relevant branded domain name vs a generic partial match domain name. Which one are going to take more seriously as a visitor?
- Extensions matter. Say that you register one of the newer extensions like .co or one of the older ones like .ws. It’s natural for people to type in .com when they are going directly to a site, so if you have a domain like domain.co or domain.ws, you are likely to lose traffic when people, without even thinking, type in domain.com. I’ve done it myself with my own .co domains. Just automatically typed in the .com. It’s the reason that I don’t register .co anymore.
- Less is More. A shorter domain name (15 characters or less) is preferable to a long domain name. It’s easier to remember and easier to type in. Limit your domain names to no more than two words.
- Avoid hyphens. Hyphenated domain names are less desirable for flipping. Buyers prefer to buy domain names without hyphens. They are easier to remember and type in and there’s some suggestion that Google treats hyphens negatively, especially for domain names with more than one hyphen.
- Like hyphens, it’s a good idea to avoid numbers unless you can really brand it and it’s relevant to the domain name. These are not real examples, but a good example of a branded domain with numbers could be 6flags.com or 6feetunder.com, although in real life, those sites use the word “six” rather than the number. An example of a brand that does use a number rather than the word for that number is 7 for all Mankind (7forallmankind.com).
- Stick to the top level domain extensions, like .com, .org and .net. Google treats .co the same as any other top level domain extension, but there’s the type in problem I mentioned above. I’ve also used quite a few .info domains, but would not consider them when building a brand. An exception to this would be if you want to target, say the UK market. It would be appropriate then to register a good .co.uk domain (or other country extension).
- People used to and probably still do register misspelled domains to get type in traffic for the user that accidentally misspells the domain that they are looking for. Not a good idea for a branded domain.
- The practice of registering domain names with known trademarks has been far too common. Savvy buyers avoid trademark domains like the plague, so their resell value is diminished by those who know better. Do you really want to spend time building a site only to have that domain name yanked from your portfolio by the trademark owner?
So that’s some of the basics of registering great domain names post “Google EMD Update”. It’s up to you whether or not you want to build a brand or go with an EMD, but just remember that you will need to build a site with quality content for either one. You’re not going to get an automatic boost any longer just by registering an exact match domain name.