One of my favourite future algo change predictions of the last couple of years finally came true at the tail end of September; namely the dialing back of Exact Match Domains’ importance.
The update was announced by Matt Cutts on the 28th of September, and it’s been covered in some detail by Barry Schwartz on these very pages, so I won’t go over old ground again. Instead I’d like to focus on the implications of this update on multinational search, which are in fact pretty profound.
The EMD Update’s Effect On Channels & Countries
Dialling back the importance of exact match domains, despite only effecting 0.6% US English search terms, will still have a strong impact in the Retail, Travel, Gambling and Finance verticals.
This is simply due to a higher proportion of exact match domains with sufficient supporting SEO having strong visibility in these channels. Why? They are the most competitive channels for SEO in the Americas (and much of Europe and APAC, to be fair).
As a legacy of older-school SEO, exact match domains have often had strong single keyphrase rankings for high value generics in each of these verticals. In many cases, the domain gets consolidated into a traditional big brand’s SEO strategy.
In some cases it becomes the heart of the strategy: consider B&Q (a UK based hardware store) which operates entirely on diy.com (although, their handling of the domain is very poor: visit http://www.diy.com/ today and you’ll receive a 302 to a unique landing page, very bad for SEO, and a fundamental building block of basic SEO that’s missing from their strategy).
Regardless of their slightly shaky SEO foundations, B&Q can expect to see a hit taken across a number of top level generics from the DIY stem that will be responsible for a significant chunk of their non-brand generic traffic (although they may internally consider DIY to be a brand term).
Despite being an extreme example, B&Q’s story will be repeated for many thousands of exact match domain, ultimately, in every conceivable language (including, of course, Klingon) across the globe.
The impact of that re-ranking, for big brands, across the key verticals will be significant.
Big Brands To Benefit From Google Update (Again)?
Largely, exact match domains tend to be held by independent operators.
Either affiliates, professional SEOs operating entrepreneurial online-only brands, or domainers who have opted to maximise the value of their domain holding through content creation strategies (many of whom, of course, have been crippled by Penguin).
Into the spaces held by these ‘lower value’ EMDs will come the more established brands. Many will represent bricks and mortar businesses which have already seen an uplift thanks to the Venice Google update.
I’m not normally a vocal apologist for Google, but although this update could easily be classified as yet another update which promotes big brands at the expense of startups or local businesses, in this instance I feel that would be a major misunderstanding.
In the case of the EMD update, Google will provide a significant quality improvement by weeding out lower value SERPs dominated by EMDs which offer little to no original value.
These SERPs undermine the efforts of the ethical SEO to promote working with Google to gain SEO improvement. By dialing back the dominant value given to EMDs, Google’s taken a positive step in the right direction (there are many more to take, of course!) to improve rankings for the user, and is validating the ethics it asks us white hat SEOs to stand up for in public.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.