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.
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