Guest Post: The Future of Exact Match Domains In Search

This is a guest post by Mark Collier who describes himself as  an SEO expert turned domainer.

I recently completed a significant correlation study of Google’s algorithm and noticed the continued decline since 2010 of the power of Exact Match Domains (EMDs).

After Matt Cutts’ announcement that Google latest algorithm  update would target “low-quality” exact match domains, domainers were left feeling that the last 3 years have been nothing less than a pummeling by the search giant.

In 2010 SEOMoz’s correlation study showed a 0.38 correlation between a .com EMD and ranking #1 in Google, just a year later it was 0.22 and my own 2012 study showed a 0.18 correlation.

This sustained set of blows to the raw SEO power of EMDs has left many in the domaining industry, including myself, pondering the future of EMDs.

Now we all know EMDs hold branding and memorability value, but what’s the likely value of EMDs in 2014, 2015, etc.

It may help to look at what the future of search engines will be in 2014 onwards to make this determination.

We know due to the continued decline of webmaster controlled factors (particularly on page factors) that Google are moving away from using factors that can be influenced easily or significantly by the owner of the website it benefits.

Essentially Google want to be harder to manipulate, not because they don’t like webmasters but because they believe and probably rightly so that being open to manipulation leads to poorer search results for users.

So in recognizing this, we could say that as EMDs are controlled solely by the webmaster that they are destined to continued decline and ultimate failure, but that of course would be nonsense, I’m not a doomsdayer and EMDs are most certainly not dead.

If Google’s goal is to provide the best search results for users then they must take into account the fact that users often search for the domains they could type directly into the search bar and the fact that often the EMD for a search result actually provides the most relevant content for a query.

What’s evident here is that Google will strive to recognize when users are searching for a particular domain or brand and when the EMD actually provides the most relevant content and only then will webmasters see the value of their EMD translated into search engine traffic.

The recent update targeted “low-quality” EMDs, translation:

irrelevant or poor quality content e.g. parked domains.

And the recent addition of a EMD patent to detect commercial queries (brands) is further evidence of this seismic shift.

This is the future of EMDs, webmasters will have to either create brands out of their EMDs or develop a site of substantial quality to benefit from the SEO power of EMDs.

Exact match domains are no longer powerful for the same reasons they were five years ago, but they are still extremely valuable for SEO purposes, but only when used in the right ways. Domainers must recognise this and adjust both their purchasing and developing decisions accordingly.

Mark Collier is a 17 year old, maths, stats and computer nerd who has “developed a revolutionary Dropday/Freshdrop alternative, which gathers the data domainers need to analyze dropping domains (including exact match search volume!).”

You can sign-up for free, early beta tester access.

This post was submitted by Mark Collier.

Comments

  1. Jon Schultz says

    I don’t know a lot about SEO but this article doesn’t seem to be saying anything more than that Google gives less weight to domain names than they used to, which many people have previously said. In any case Google is still messed up. A search on “payday loans” still shows, among the top-ranked sites, one with a domain just registered October 1st. And a search on “payday loan” highly ranks a site which has nothing to do with loans.

    In any event, as the Web becomes more videocentric how are search engines going to determine if video content is relevant to the search phrase? If they are going to show relevant results they will have to give significant weight to the domain name, I would think, as text on many sites will take a backseat to video.

  2. says

    “After Matt Cutts’ announcement that Google latest algorithm update would target “low-quality” exact match domains, domainers were left feeling that the last 3 years have been nothing less than a pummeling by the search giant.”

    Certainly Matt meant “Low quality – websites – using EMD ” …

    Otherwise define: “Low quality Exact match domains”
    almost an oxymoron.

  3. says

    Google is going to end up doing a 180 on this in the not too distant future. You can’t discount EMD and then apply for all of these new TLD’s which are essentially EMD to an even greater level. I think we are going to be seeing a lot of changes in Google’s philosophy on search in the next 18 months.

  4. says

    Sean Sullivan wrote:

    =======================================
    Google is going to end up doing a 180 on this in the not too distant future. You can’t discount EMD and then apply for all of these new TLD’s which are essentially EMD to an even greater level. I think we are going to be seeing a lot of changes in Google’s philosophy on search in the next 18 months.
    =======================================

    Sean, thank you for this insight. Furthermore, I hope that you are right. I own several EMD’s that will likely become relevant and ripe in about 18 months’ time.

    On a related matter, I would like to ask a few questions. Are you related to _Danny_ Sullivan, founder of SearchEngineLand.com and one of the best search engine analysts on the planet? If so, do you have knowledge of these matters from Danny, and could you please share that knowledge with us?

    – Paul D. Bain
    PaulBain@PObox.com

  5. says

    When you mention Exact Match Domains [EMD] , I have a question.
    Is a hyphenated domain regarded as “exact match” ? Possibly not.

    Yet take a couple of my web-sites.
    If one enters the search term “Visit Qatar” into Google UK, one finds my web-site Visit-Qatar.com TOP out of 148 million results.

    If one enters it into the international Google.com, then my Visit-Qatar.com is 2nd to QatarTourism.gov.qa , the expensive Qatar Government site.

    I’m also pleased that if one enters Visit Qatar as a search on “Google Qatar”, that my site is 3rd behind QatarTourism and Qatarvisits.com.

    Not bad !

    Then , if one enters “Visit Dubai” as a search into Google UK, we are again top , with Visit-Dubai.co.uk , so the hyphen has not held this back, either.That is for 144 million results.

    If one puts the same into Google.com , my site is TOP out of 135 million results…….and one ABOVE the official Dubai tourism site, DubaiTourism.ae .
    ae is the the web ending of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai forms part.

    What do you think?

    America is biased against hyphenated domain names.Yet the hyphen has not stopped Visit-Qatar.com and Visit-Dubai.co.uk from reaching the top.

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