Tag Archives: exact match domains

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Your Guide to Google’s Exact Match Domain Algorithm Update by @BrianHarnish

Google’s EMD algorithm update focused on ridding the SERPs of spammy or low-quality exact match domains.

The post Your Guide to Google’s Exact Match Domain Algorithm Update by @BrianHarnish appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

There have been a number of debates over the years about the SEO value of having keywords in your domain URL.

In a 2009 Google Webmaster video, Google’s then-head of web spam Matt Cutts confirmed that from a pure ranking standpoint, “it does help a little bit to have keywords in the URL”.

More recently, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller stated in a Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout that keywords in URLs are a “really small ranking factor”. But small can still make a difference in the grand scheme of things, and there are also compelling reasons from a usability standpoint to include keywords where they are relevant.

A new study by HigherVisibility.com, whose findings were shared exclusively with Search Engine Watch, set out to investigate the relationship between the top ranked websites in various industries and the inclusion of keywords in their URLs.

It found that nearly two thirds of top-ranking websites use keywords in their URLs – but this can vary significantly from industry to industry. So what can we learn from the findings about the importance of having keywords in your domain URL?

Key findings

The study looked at the top 10 keywords across 10 major industries: business, credit cards, debt, email software, food and beverage, government and trade, hotel, plumbing, software and weight loss. It then analysed the top page results for these keywords and their URLs, to find out how often keywords were used, and in what form.

Overall, 63% of the top ranking sites for each industry – nearly two thirds – included keywords in their domain URL. Of the industries analysed, the debt industry had the highest incidence of keywords in their domain URLs, with 76% of URLs in the debt industry using a keyword.

As an industry, email software was the least likely to use keywords in its domain URL, with less than half – 47% – of sites in the email software industry using keywords in their URLs.

Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

Among the top ranking websites for each industry, seven out of ten sites used a keyword in their URLs, two included a partial keyword – for example ‘tp’ for ‘trade policy’ – and only one site included no keyword at all. This was the top ranking site for the weight loss industry, although it included the word ‘diet’ instead.

The debt industry: keywords galore

The debt industry had a high level of keyword usage in its domain URLs across various search terms. Out of the top 10 ranked websites for the word ‘debt’, 100% of sites used the keyword in their URLs.

Similarly, all top ranking sites for the keyword ‘debt equity’ used the term in their URLs, while 95% of the top ranked sites for ‘debt finance’ used the keyword in their domain URLs.

The keywords least likely to appear in domain URLs for the debt industry were ‘debt equity loans’ and ‘credit debt loans’, with 55% of top ranking sites using these keywords in their URLs. This could be because these keywords are longer, making it less likely that they would be used in their entirety.

Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

Email software: less is more

The industry with the lowest incidence of keyword usage in its URLs was email software, although it’s interesting to note that this was also the industry with the longest keywords, with all keywords having at least two words, and some having four or five.

No set of websites rose above 60% keyword usage in their URLs, and the least-used keyword – ‘bulk email software buy’ – appeared in just 35% of URLs for the top ranked sites. ‘Newsletter email software’ and ‘best email software’ were the keywords most likely to appear in URLs, with both keywords appearing in 60% of top ranking URLs.

Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

Hotel keywords: regional differences

The hotel industry had 62% usage of keywords in URLs overall, with seven out of the 10 top ranked sites for the term ‘hotel’ including the keyword in their domain URLs.

Popular booking sites like Travelocity have made it to the top of the SERP without needing to include the keyword (although the word ‘travel’ could arguably be considered a related keyword). Another of the top ranked websites was www.otel.com, which although it doesn’t contain the keyword in its entirety, has all except one letter!

Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

‘Region-specific’ keywords such as ‘san hotel’ (i.e. San Francisco or San Diego) or ‘york hotel’ were more likely to appear in URLs, appearing in 100% and 80% of URLs for their respective keywords.

At the lower end of the spectrum, ‘hotel discount’ and ‘reservations hotel’ were the keywords least likely to appear in URLs, appearing in 35% and 25% of URLs, respectively.

How can URL keywords help you rank higher?

It’s clear that there is a link between the websites which rank highly for a certain keyword and whether or not that keyword appears in its URL. However, this is unlikely to be the only factor that determines whether or not a site can rank well.

As those of us in the industry know, countless other things can contribute to good SEO, and the study by HigherVisibility.com was focused on one aspect. But does this mean that you shouldn’t bother with keywords in your URLs? Not at all.

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, published ‘15 SEO best practices for structuring URLs‘ in which he argued that “using the keywords you’re targeting for rankings in your URLs is a solid idea”. Firstly from a readability and usability perspective, having relevant keywords in your URL lets users know exactly what they’re getting.

Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

Image: Moz

Google’s SEO Starter Guide also states that, “If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than an ID or oddly named parameter would.” In other words, including keywords – or at least clear and direct information – in your URL is a best practice.

Secondly, Fishkin points out, URLs are frequently copied and pasted, and when no anchor text is used in a link, the URL itself will serve as anchor text – a powerful ranking input. However, he also cautions against keyword-stuffing your URLs or using keyword repetition:

“Google and Bing have moved far beyond algorithms that positively reward a keyword appearing multiple times in the URL string. Don’t hurt your chances of earning a click (which CAN impact your rankings) by overdoing keyword matching/repetition in your URLs.”

Study: How valuable is it to have keywords in your domain URL?

Fiskin also cites research from the International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining which demonstrated that the URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when deciding which site to click on.

Again, having clear and relevant information in your URL helps you to earn clicks – and while click-through rate is still hotly debated as a possible ranking factor, once you do manage to rank for a particular keyword, it’s no good if no-one clicks through to your site.

What about Exact Match Domains?

Exact Match Domains (EMDs) – when the domain of a site exactly matches the keyword that you want to target – can also be a means of ranking well for your keyword, but use them wisely.

Most brands will derive their domain from the name of their brand, which might also contain a keyword – such as glassesdirect.com. But Exact Match Domains are often a sign of a spammy website, and one which Google is on the lookout for.

On the other hand, EMDs are often memorable, which is good from a usability standpoint – a user searching for cheap flights will have no trouble remembering the URL ‘cheapflights.com’, and there can be no mistake as to what the website is for.

If you have a legitimate reason for using an EMD and aren’t combining it with any other spammy tactics, then you should be fine.

In conclusion: usability first!

The bottom line of all of this is to consider the user experience first and foremost. As we’ve seen, a clear, direct URL is the best route to take in order to ensure that users know what they’re getting from your website and are prepared to click on it. In many cases, this can also help your ranking as an added bonus.

Many of the top websites in various industries thus use keywords in their URLs, but others which don’t are still able to rank highly. Much as we now know that writing quality content is better than stuffing it with keywords, the same applies to creating quality URLs. In the end, it comes down to what makes sense for your brand and website.

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Five most important search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, we’ve got key trends in content marketing for 2017; why social media is the preferred channel for product launches; and how to use an Exact Match Domain (EMD) without being penalised for spam by Google. And in probably unsurprising news, John Lewis’ annual heartwarming Christmas ad is this year’s best performing yet.

The eight most important content marketing trends in 2017

It’s December already, and you know what that means – every publication you follow will be winding down for the end of the year by reviewing the highlights of 2016, while simultaneously gearing up for next year by making predictions for 2017.

Tereza Litsa has given us an early start on Search Engine Watch’s sister site ClickZ with a round-up of the eight most important content marketing trends we’re likely to see in 2017. From personalisation to ephemeral content, VR and AI, she’s listed the key trends and practices that will make content marketing in 2017 easier and more effective. Follow the link to read more, and decide whether or not you agree!

Marketers are turning to social media for product launches

A new study by marketing communications firm Five by Five has found that nearly three-quarters of marketers (74%) consider social media to be the highest-priority medium for promoting new products.

The study polled over 700 marketers in the US, the UK and Australia to find which marketing channels they consider to be the most important for product launches. Behind social media, sales promotions and email were the second- and third-most popular promotional channels, respectively.

Al Roberts took a look at the study’s findings for Search Engine Watch and delved into why social is the top choice for marketers looking to promote a new product – and whether it’s enough to generate buzz.

Five most important search marketing news stories of the week

What is an Exact Match Domain (EMD), and how can you safely use one?

Exact Match Domains, or EMDs, can be a tempting way to try and boost your website to the top of search rankings. An EMD is a domain name which exactly matches a keyword or search term you’re hoping to target – such as “watchmoviesfreeonline.com“.

But EMDs, more often than not, tend to be employed by spammy websites, harming the quality of search results and running the risk of incurring a penalty by Google for their practices. As Christopher Ratcliff wrote for Search Engine Watch,

“EMDs have been long thought of as having an unfair advantage.

As opposed to websites that rise to the top of Google through quality content, solid architecture, trusted backlinks and assorted other white hat best practices, Exact Match Domains can just rise to the top by shoe-horning in a few tasty keywords.”

Is there a way to use an EMD safely, or is it another black hat technique that self-respecting SEOs should avoid? Christopher takes a look at the pros and cons of EMDs, and how EMD users can stay on the right side of Google.

Everything you need to know about changes to the local press

The regional press has come under enormous pressure in recent years from the twin challenges of falling advertising sales and the growth of online news. Yet local news outlets are still a highly trusted form of media, and attract the most effective response to adverts.

What this means for the world of marketing is that while PRs should never underestimate the importance of the regional press, the challenges mentioned above have given rise to drastic changes in the way the local papers now look and work.

Andrew Brookes has written a thorough breakdown for Search Engine Watch of how these titles have changed, how the changes affect your marketing efforts, and the best way to adapt to them in order to ensure a good response.

Five most important search marketing news stories of the week

Buster the Boxer tops the most shared ads of 2016

The annual John Lewis Christmas ad is an institution, managing every year to become one of the most memorable adverts on TV, and creating a formula that many other advertisers have sought to emulate.

This year’s ‘#BustertheBoxer’ ad is no exception – and has managed to beat even John Lewis’ own records. Christopher Ratcliff reported on Search Engine Watch’s sister site, ClickZ, that the ad has topped the list of Unruly’s Top 20 Global Video Ads to become the most shared ad of 2016, with close to 2 million shares. Since its launch on 9th November, #BustertheBoxer has become the 5th most shared Christmas ad of all time, and the most shared John Lewis ad ever.

In his article for ClickZ, Christopher runs down the other top charting ads this year, and takes a look at the methodology used in Unruly’s rankings. And if you haven’t seen #BustertheBoxer yet, give it a watch below – it’s a good’un.

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What is an exact match domain (EMD) and how can you safely use one?

In which we describe what an exact match domain (EMD) looks like, how they can manipulate search rankings and why it might be best to avoid them.

What is an exact match domain (EMD)?

An EMD is a domain name that precisely matches a search query that will likely drive traffic to your website. For instance, if you call your website BuyCheapJeansOnline.com.

The search query ‘buy cheap jeans’ is a lucrative search term, and if you call your website this then you might assume this is a short cut to the top of a search engine results page (SERP).

But as you’ll learn, even if this works in the short term, you may want to avoid doing it.

What’s the problem with EMDs?

First of all, it could be considered a sign of a spammy website if its URL exactly matches a search term. Just think of all those ‘watch movies for free’ websites that proliferate SERPs when you search for that phrase.

Even if you remove the word ‘free’ and search for ‘watch movies online’, the SERP is a wild west town full of unsavoury characters.

What is an exact match domain (EMD) and how can you safely use one?

You have to scroll halfway down the page before you get to legitimate streaming companies like Crackle or Hulu. And Netflix barely makes a dent.

Most domains from legitimate companies will take its name from the brand name itself, with perhaps a single keyword they may hope to rank for. As long as its in the brand name. To use Graham Charlton’s example: glassesdirect.com.

EMDs have been long thought of as having an unfair advantage.

As opposed to websites that rise to the top of Google through quality content, solid architecture, trusted backlinks and assorted other white hat best practices, Exact Match Domains can just rise to the top by shoe-horning in a few tasty keywords.

Bill Slawski wrote in 2011:

“A company may attempt to “trick” the search engine into listing the company’s website more highly. For example, if the search engine gives greater weight in ranking results to words used in the domain name associated with websites, a company may attempt to trick the search engine into ranking the company’s listing more highly by including desirable search terms in the domain name associated with the company’s listing.”

It’s basically unfair to the legitimate companies, and risky for the user.

A paid-for film streaming service offering the best possible user experience and security is surely preferable to one that will download malware to your hard-drive and take you through all sorts of unsavoury black hat practices.

But as you can see from the examples above, Google hasn’t quite got it right just yet.

What is Google doing about EMDs?

In 2012, Google’s then Head of Webspam Matt Cutts announced an algorithm change meant to reduce the amount of low quality exact match domains in search results.

What is an exact match domain (EMD) and how can you safely use one?

Cutts also tweeted, “New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.”

However things went a bit quiet on the EMD front post 2012, until this past weekend when Search Engine Roundtable reported a few interesting tweets sent Google’s Gary Illyes on Friday.

It seems Illyes is on the hunt for spammy EMDs once again…

And is asking for assistance too…

How do I stay on the right side of Google?

There are plenty of examples of EMDs that manage to stay high on the SERPs without fear of penalty – cheapflights.com being one of the more high profile examples.

It does this by being a legitimate non-spammy operation.

And that’s really all you need to worry about. As Illyes also stated on Friday…

If you’re a low quality site, with an EMD and you’re engaging in spammy tactics – then you should definitely worry.

If you’re a solid, genuine business that just happens to have a brand name that also looks like an exact match domain, but is otherwise a bastion of trustworthy internet practices – then you should be fine.