Local Exact Match Domains Still Rank - Google Algo Update


Linda Buquet

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Friday afternoon Matt Cutts tweeted: "Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results."

All weekend the forums and blogs were atwitter with the news and lots of webmasters have reported getting hit by the algo change. Here are posts at Search Engine Land, SEOmoz and over at WebmasterWorld the discussion is up to 15 pages so far.

I was involved in a few of those conversations, plus others, trying to determine the impact on local and have not seen evidence of it. If you have a GOOD LOCAL SITE on an exact match domain, I think you should be OK. Spammy local EMD domains may be a dfferent story because again this algo is designed to hit low quality sites. Which is GREAT news for the honest businesses that were lucky enough to score an EMD in their city.

I did quite a bit of research over the weekend and here are just a few of the local EMDs I found still sitting in top spots.

#1 Houston Injury Attorney - injuryattorney.com (blended)

#1 Beverly Hills Dentist - beverlyhillsdentist.com (organic)

#1 Beverly Hills Cosmetic Dentist - beverlyhillscosmeticdentist.com (organic)

#2 Beverly Hills plumber - beverlyhillsplumber.net (organic)

#1 Irving Dentist - irvingdentist.net (organic)

#1 Huntington Beach Chiropractor - huntingtonbeachchiropractor.com (organic)

Keep in mind with any algo change there are losers AND winners.
If this knocked some spammy sites out, that allowed legit sites to move up.

So do you or any of your clients have City + Keyword EMDs?
How did you fare???
 
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Great topic, Linda! For me, the main question for all us Local SEOs is...if you get a new client with no website and are advising them as to the purchase of a domain, at this point, would you recommend:

sandiegolandscaping.com

or

bobjoneslandscaping.com

Once upon a time, I would have recommended choice 1 if it was available, but these days, I believe the writing is on the wall trending towards naturalness over keyword-y-ness, so today, I believe I would recommend choice number 2. Algos will change, but your business name is here to stay.

What do you all think? What would you recommend?
 
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This is a great topic. I was just having this discussion recently, and wasn't sure what to advise the client.
 

Linda Buquet

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Great topic, Linda! For me, the main question for all us Local SEOs is...if you get a new client with no website and are advising them as to the purchase of a domain, at this point, would you recommend:

sandiegolandscaping.com

or

bobjoneslandscaping.com

Once upon a time, I would have recommended choice 1 if it was available, but these days, I believe the writing is on the wall trending towards naturalness over keyword-y-ness, so today, I believe I would recommend choice number 2. Algos will change, but your business name is here to stay.

What do you all think? What would you recommend?
You know that's a GREAT question Miriam!!!

I guess last week I'd go with domain 1. And this week I maybe would go with #2. Not ONLY due to this particular also change but like you said due to the emphasis by Google on nice and natural as opposed to more aggressive SEO practices.
 

Andrew

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I'd stick with EMD's, instead of branded ones for local. First, I've not seen the new algo affecting any of my clients EMD's. Secondly, If you do a decent job on your citation building and anyone searches you out by your brand, you should have no problem showing on the first page of SERPS, probably multiple times, in fact. I like to think of the EMD's as a replacement for Yellow Pages (discovery.) And branded domains like the White Pages (customer already knows the business they're looking for.) If you're really on the fence about it why not buy both?
 
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That is another good question.

Why not buy both? And if the client does buy both, do you redirect the brand to the EMD? Or is that frowned upon as well?
 

Nick.SEOSpark

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I think it's very very long over overdue for EMDs to be devalued, and I really think it will make the web landscape better. Let's not forget that it's easy for people to buy up these domains and hold onto them. I also think it's more creative for businesses to have a more brandable name and not just trying to get one step ahead.
 
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Hi Rampup,
You wrote:

Why not buy both? And if the client does buy both, do you redirect the brand to the EMD? Or is that frowned upon as well?
That's a really good question. These days, I'd be inclined not to do this, because of the growing trend towards naturalness. It might end up looking like manipulation is the intent. So, personally, I'd pass on that idea.

On a similar note, the one thing about the EMD issue that stood out to me was that it made me recall local business owners who have phoned me after working with others. These not-so-super SEOs had advised them to purchase domains like this:

sanfranciscolandscaping.com
sanjoselandscaping.com
oaklandlandscaping.com
berkeleylandscaping.com
etc.

They then put up essentially the same thin content on every site, obviously, hoping to make use of the advantage Google historically gave to EMDs. I thought this was a ridiculous, spammy strategy and shuddered at what I had seen. I've never ended up actually taking on a client like this, so I can't say what has happened to them as of the new algo tweak, but I would not complain if it devalued websites built on this sketchy tactic.
 

Andrew

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@should you redirect the branded domain to the EMD?
Good question. Is it frowned upon? If the content is similar and not misleading, I'd say that would probably be alright. Perhaps others could chime in on this one, I personally don't use redirects this way. You might consider different objectives for the landing page of each.

If you you know that most people are finding your branded site because they're explicitly searching for you in this way, it probably suggests some familiarity with your business (brand.) Tailor your landing page in this case to that type of persona. For your EMD, you might rightly assume that the person searching doesn't have prior experience with you. You might craft this landing page for folks that are in the discovery phase of the purchasing cycle.

It's like PPC advertising. You have to make some assumptions about the kind of person searching based on their queries. Remember, every keyword or key phrase represents a distinct market. Put yourself in the mind of the searcher and give them what they're looking for.
 
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Another game-changer for many, especially after reading the pages and pages of comments at the links you provided.

How many of us have used the Google query 'allinurl:domainname.com' or SEO tools that incorporate EMD when trying to survey the landscape for how the competition might be optimized for certain key phrases?

Also, many of the Yodle / SuperMedia / LocalEdge, type companies often try to grab EMD's, both for tracking and to get the exact match edge in the URL. Wonder what their sales pitch will be now? Have an example of one that is still showing up in the Google pack, if you search on "hvac contractors nashua" but I did notice (Linda...maybe you want to verify on your end for other instances) where in the past Google used to switch out the title and have it be "HVAC Contractors Nashua" or something like that and now I don't see that happening.)

And, yes, what about those thin microsites that many SEO's were pushing as part of their package....finally gone? We can only hope.

Wonder what this might do to using keyword-rich subdomains like subdomain.example.com what if it was something like stumpgrinding.citynametreeservice.com (with citynametreeservice actually being the legal name of the company.) Guess you might not be offering the use of a subdomain for use in G+L anymore?

Still seeing EMD's at #1, even in 7-packs on my end here. I've got one client that also seems to have survived for the time being, with an EMD. And, my website is sort of an EMD and that still seems to be listed and intact. So who knows how long this storm will last, or how long it will take to pass, or if what was going to happen already did and no other changes should be seen.

Linda, remember my rollercoaster analogy for Local Search? Wouldn't it be funny if the next time some company decided to build the world's biggest rollercoaster they decided to forego names like "Mad Devil" "Sure to Throw Up" "Poltergeist" "Vertical Velocity", etc and just named it "GOOGLEALGO" (pronounced GOO-GLEAL-GO to avoid any possible thoughts that someone has infringed on Larry and Sergey's own beast...but us "in the know" will truly understand.)

Should be interesting to watch.
 

Linda Buquet

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"GOOGLEALGO" LOL Don!

I really don't think EMDs are going away. I think G was giving them too much credit and too many thin or spammy sites that had nothing going for them but a KW domain were ranking too high. So I think she just dialed it back as a ranking signal so if the EMD is all you have going for you, you'll drop. But a high quality site that's been around for years will still be fine on an EMD.

However, while I don't see EMD's totally going away, I'm not sure I'd advise an SMB just starting out to buy and build on one and have their entire presence riding on it.
 
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I would advise my client to pick a domain he's going to be comfortable with forever. In other words, what domain do you want to build your presence on and keep for the life of your business? I don't think the domain name has ANY bearing on your ability to rank. This EMD algo was all about weeding out the junk sites on EMDs. I also believe the algo was Google's way of correcting it's mistake of automatically giving preference to EMDs (regardless of the junk content on them).

Remember back when everyone said you can't rank with a .info or a .net? I still see plenty of .info and .nets ranking just fine. I don't think Google cares what your domain is. Google just wants to see quality content, quality backlinks, and quality social sharing - period.

A legit company practicing white hat SEO and white hat social marketing should be able to rank with any domain they want to use. I don't care if it's ABC123.info or ExactKeyword.com or MyBusinessName.com.

Just pick a domain you're comfortable with and be smart about your SEO and social marketing and you'll do just fine.

Travis Van Slooten
 

Andrew

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I think some EMD's can serve branding purposes as well. What's wrong with being known as PizzaBuffalo.com. This might be easier to remember than your actual business name and score some SEO points. Think of it as a secondary branding for your business. "Craving pizza Buffalo? Think Pizza Buffalo.com." I see nothing wrong with still recommending this strategy. While some "experts" may consider this spammy, I consider it clever, sorry for this dissenting opinion but EMD's are still important, especially for Local SEO.
 

Linda Buquet

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While some "experts" may consider this spammy, I consider it clever, sorry for this dissenting opinion but EMD's are still important, especially for Local SEO.
I quite agree with your viewpoint as well Andrew and like I said I don't think good EMDs with good content were affected and I think it can be a smart play for local AND like you said good for branding. Done the right way.

A domain name is like other tools. As in the hammer analogy, it can be used for good - to build OR in the wrong hands can be used the wrong way as well.

So we can't say EMDs are bad, it's partly in how you use them and more importantly what you build on top that counts! :p
 

Linda Buquet

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Good to know Tyson. Hard to know if there was an algo change or competitors leapfrogged or they did a site re-design or did something that knocked them down.
 

sergiuliano

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@Linda - Thanks for the topic!

The EMDs still have a strong impact on rankings, specially on Local Rankings.

The thing is that many of those websites have also a nice design and a good onsite SEO. They also seems to be brand names with lot of local awareness, so the website name was not choose for SEO spam.

Here are few examples

Code:
pizzachicago.com
pizzacalifornia.com
la-rentacar.com
...
I am curios to see if the new Google Algo update will affect only the low quality EMDs or also directories using subdomains like

Code:
chicago.eat24hours.com/pizza
From my POV, those directories structure are very close to SEO spam, by listing on all pages a high number of links using as anchor text location name for increasing the local seo authority for the targeted page, which usually contains the keyword ( "pizza in my example" ) in the URL also.

eat24hrs com manage to outrank yelp or yellowpages with this strategy in many US cities.

I will monitor their rankings and come back with a feedback in the following days regarding their trend.
 

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