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Exact Match Domains Can Be Brands

I was reading Aaron Wall’s SEOBook.com article discussing the embedded  video from Google’s Matt Cutts regarding keyword domain names and the rankings they achieve in Google. Aaron is one of the more forward-thinking SEOs, and it’s a good article for domain investors to read.

Firstly, I think Aaron should note that there is a BIG difference between “keyword domain names” discussed by Matt Cutts and exact match domain names (EMD) discussed by Aaron. To me, keyword domain names are names like BestCarInsuranceQuotes.com or WatchMovieTrailersOnline.com, and exact match domain names would be names like SkiHelmets.com or SoccerCleats.com. Anyway, more on that below.

At the conclusion of the article, Aaron posed the question, “What happens to the value of domain names if EMD bonus goes away & Google keeps adding other data sources?

From my perspective, strong descriptive domain names will still have the same value before and after because those domain names can be brands on their own. I think long tail keyword names, ugly keyword names with lots of hyphens, non .com, and nonsensical keyword domain names could take a hit in value, assuming they had any intrinsic value prior to the algo change.

Let me explain what I mean for a minute.

Domain names like Hotels.com, Ski.com, Golf.com, Cars.com, Insurance.com, and even my own DogWalker.com**, have become brands after development and marketing. Even Aaron Wall’s own domain name (SEOBook.com) is an example of a EMD, “SEO Book,” turned into a brand. These domain names say what they are and people bypass Google to visit those sites because they know what they’ll get.

Similar but yet to be developed domain names like Cats.com, or thousands of other EMDs can be bought and built into self-branded companies that have similar brand recognition as a branded company like Catster. If a local pet shop with big aspirations buys Cats.com and invests significant time and expense into building a helpful portal that people benefit from visiting, wouldn’t Google want to reward its efforts with a strong ranking, allowing it to compete with larger brands like Petco or PetSmart? Isn’t that one of the best things about the Internet?

Many domain investors (like myself) purchase and value domain names based on the potential for brand development, weighing that higher than current traffic / revenue. I didn’t buy DogWalker.com because I thought I could game a search engine, but rather because it’s easy to remember and I saw the potential it had to become a brand in and of itself.

As I mentioned, I do think that longer tail and nonsensical domain names with keywords will suffer. For instance, a name like Best-Car-Insurance-Quotes.info, which wouldn’t make for a good brand, shouldn’t get ranked higher in Google simply because the owner bought a name with keywords in it. Similarly, a nonsensical domain name like QuotesInsuranceCar.com should not get any EMD bonus simply because the name has a random assortment of meaningful keywords.

I do think Google’s algorithm change impacting keyword domain names will be felt by some. From my perspective, it’s likely that the biggest impact will be felt by domain registrars, since there will be far less incentive for someone to register long tail and nonsensical keyword domain names.

I happen to think that EMDs can be easily made into brands and that there is quite a bit of difference between a EMD and a keyword domain name, and Google is smart enough to know the difference.

**For my DogWalker.com site, it received around 100 visits/month before development about 16 months ago.  Today, traffic is around 10,000 visits a month with 20-25% of it being direct navigation. To me, this indicates that people have learned about the brand and visit DogWalker.com in lieu of a search engine.


Please help me raise funds for the  Ronald McDonald House

Lunch with Bruce Clay


In addition to domain conferences, I’ve also been to a number of Internet business conferences like SES and Ad:Tech. One speaker I’ve heard at these various conferences is Bruce Clay, a preeminent search engine optimization consultant.

Mr. Clay is a highly regarded speaker on SEO, and his panels and keynotes are usually some of the most well-attended. I’ve learned a good amount of actionable SEO tactics from hearing him speak, and I’ve always come away with something new.

This afternoon at DomainFest, I saw that Mr. Clay was eating lunch and there was only one person sitting at his 8-top table. I sat down with fellow domain investor Bob Olea, and we had a great conversation with Mr. Clay. I was able to ask questions, and I received answers that will surely help with my websites.

One of the best things about DomainFest is that you can meet experts in various fields, including search engine optimization.  I think the advice he gave me was worth the cost of admission.

Using Demand Media & eHow for SEO Tips


DMDShares of Demand Media traded on the New York Stock Exchange today for the first time.

In addition to its domain name assets (like Enom and NameJet), DMD generates revenue with Adsense and advertising on its eHow.com website. The company has a proprietary algorithm that can figure out what people are searching for on Google, and it then sources out articles on those topics to its huge team of independent writers. There are either hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of articles.

Pundits have opined that some of the content is bad, while others have speculated that Demand could be impacted if Google changes it’s algorithm to push down the allegedly “spammy” articles. I don’t own stock in DMD and most of the eHow articles aren’t really that competitive to my sites, so that stuff doesn’t really interest me much.

However, I do think there’s a way that domain investors / web developers can tap into Demand Media’s vast knowledge about the wants and needs of Google searches. If we search eHow for articles related to our own topical websites, we can learn what Demand thinks people are looking for, and we can then write better articles or source out better articles.

Here’s an example for you.

I own a dog walking service directory, and in addition to the paid directory listings, I also have a lot of articles that might interest dog walkers or people looking to hire dog walkers. By searching eHow, I can make the assumption that its related articles are things that people are searching for, and my exact match domain name may have more authority if I write more in depth and/or interesting articles. It’s important that you write articles differently than the eHow articles and that they are completely custom.

For instance, it looks like these topics should be covered on my site (in addition to many others):

  • How to Start a  Dog  Walking and Pet Sitting Service
  • How to Start a Dog Walking Service
  • How to Become a Dog Walker
  • How to Walk a Dog in Winter
  • How to Walk a Dog in the Snow
  • How to Exercise with Dog Walking
  • How to Hire a Dog Walker
  • How to Interview a Dog Walker
  • Many, many more…

Mind you, I already have a number of these articles covered on my site in various forms, but the information provided by eHow can be beneficial to website owners. Maybe you should take a look at eHow and see what information you can glean for your own website.

Great to Work With a SEO Expert Like Bill Hartzer

I’ve always been reluctant to work with a search engine optimization expert. I’ve basically stuck with the free SEO analysis tools found throughout the web, which has been helpful to a degree, but it’s certainly not the best way to have the best possible SEO on my websites.

The primary reason I’ve been hesitant is because I am concerned that the advice and recommendations that are given would be too complex for me to understand, or they would be far too expensive to implement, especially when considering the potential reward for doing them. It doesn’t make sense to pay for a professional SEO review if you can’t do what’s needed to help your website.

I’ve known that Bill Hartzer has been a SEO expert for quite some time, and I’ve even used his help on a small project in the past. However, I recently worked with him on one of my websites, and I was very happy when he gave me some good recommendations and SEO tips that were understandable and actionable. He was thorough and thoughtful in his replies to me, and I knew he wasn’t simply cutting and pasting advice given over and over. I really felt that he took the time to look through my site and see where it was lacking.

Bill is also a domain investor, and he knows how domain investors tend to think and act. His help has been very appreciated, and if you need to consult with an expert SEO guru, Bill’s your guy.

PS: This is NOT a paid post. From time to time, I like to write articles about people who have been helpful to me and may be helpful to you.

Alexa Site Audit – Is It Worth It?


A friend of mine recently suggested that I put my higher performing websites through an Alexa Site Audit to see if there are any changes I could/should make with regards to site structure, links, meta tags, SEM, SEO, and more. I looked through the site, and it does look like the report is comprehensive, but at $199 per website, it looks like it might be a bit on the expensive side if it’s used on several websites.

I am curious to know if anyone has ever purchased a Site Audit from Alexa, and if so, was the report worth the money? Similarly, was the report actionable for you?   In other words, if you aren’t really a developer/programmer/coder, could you understand the recommendations that were made and were you able to make changes to your site to leverage those recommendations? Things like broken links should be easy to fix, but recommendations about getting more inbound links from authority websites might be more difficult and aren’t easily actionable.

Whether you have experience with this report from Alexa or not, are there other companies that offer similar reports and services that can be helpful? I am sure everyone else gets those spammy emails and form submissions that say something like this:

“I’ve helped hundreds of companies increase their traffic and I’d love to show you what my service can do for you. I don’t promise the world, I’m straight forward and to the point … I deliver rankings. My rates are completely affordable and I don’t want to oversell you either, I start small and have my clients begging for more. I won’t take on your site unless I know I can deliver rankings. Reply to this e-mail if you have the slightest interest … you’ll never see rankings the same way again.”

I’d love to know what you’ve used that actually works and has been helpful to your business. From my perspective, there are a whole lot of services offered out there promising the world, but that makes it difficult for website owners to find someone/something that can actually deliver.

How WhyPark is Saving Me Money on My Google Adwords Campaign


A few weeks ago, I wrote about using WhyPark in a SEO play, and I want to share how this is working and how it’s saving me money. I bought several City DogWalker.com, City DogWalkers.com, and City DogWalking.com domain names and put them on WhyPark. I added a couple of links and on a few of the sites, I added a unique article. That’s all I did, and in total, it took somewhere around an hour to set up about 17 websites.

The purpose of this test was more for search engine optimization purposes, but I noticed another benefit that might have an even more valuable pay off.

I was going through my stats on DogWalker.com, and I saw that one of the city WhyPark websites has referred 13 unique visitors in the last 3 weeks. The site is in the top 10 results in Google for “city dog walking” and “dog walking city” and it ranks higher than the main website for that search. I know 8 visitors isn’t much in the whole scheme of things, but I want to share why I think it’s something you should find interesting.

At the moment, I am running a Google Adwords campaign, and I am paying between $.75 and $1.50 per click. The domain name cost me $8.00 and it wasn’t too expensive to open an upgraded WhyPark account. The 8 visitors would have cost me around the $8 registration fee.   Should this domain name refer 8 visitors a month on an ongoing basis, the click value alone is just under $100 in a year. I think the domain names would also be valuable to a local dog walker, but why would I sell it if it’s providing value to one of my websites?

I am not sure whether this is an anomaly or a sign of things to come, but it’s interesting to see. I have different inbound links for each of these “mini sites,” and they are placed in different areas on the sites. In a few months, I will do a more thorough analysis of the traffic, click throughs, and referrals, but it’s something I am tracking and it’s a good sign. A number of the other sites are also sending some traffic, but it’s just one or two visits per site.

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