Exact match domains have always had the added advantage of direct-type in traffic, giving them certain immunity to algorithm updates. Once an EMD is linked to a website, the webmaster’s behavior has more to do with rankings. Penguin sought out sites with too many exact match anchor text links, but the outcome had more to do with who can get away with it and to what extent. For EMDs, exact anchor text makes up part of the natural link profile.
Brand based anchor text is natural, i.e. www.brandname.com, brandname.com and brand name. When your brand is your exact match domain name, your website is not going to set off those same red flags for your exact match keywords. But, what you’ve done with your link profile beyond that is what does come in to play with Penguin. Is the rest of your link profile diversified with partial anchor text, long tail, and a nice mix of click here, visit this site and straight http: links? That’s most likely what sets apart the ones who were impacted by Penguin and those that were not.
Tier 2 pages
What have the exact match sites done with their tier 2 pages? Chances are, most have targeted different keywords for those pages and not focused on as many brand anchor text links. Natural links to tier 2 pages often contain the title tag. Take a look at your back link profile and look how others linked to those pages. That’s a good indicator of what natural linking to those pages looks like.
Another issue any site could run in to is over-optimized title tags. So, if you repeated your keywords in your title tag in a spammy way, i.e. red shoes, cheap red shoes, not only does that page come across as spammy because of the title tag existing on it, but if a user linked to your site with the title tag, that appears spammy, too.
Keep in mind, if you keep on playing with your title tags, you set off a spam alert. If your title tag is webmaster tools compliant, don’t tweak it. Spammers will often watch if their title tag adjustments results in higher or lower rankings and if they drop, they will go back and revert the changes. This is when you get in to trouble. Your server records the file date every time you make a change and Google uses that data to make an evaluation.
Many exact match domains do continue to rank well in Google post Penguin, but no site is immune to future updates. Moving forward, don’t assume that because your website was not affected that it won’t be. We’ll always be left guessing what the next problematic issue will be.
Theresa Happe works with Buy Domains, a leading source of domains for sale, including available and exact match domains.
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