If you are at all familiar with the concept of classical conditioning, then you should understand why roughly half the webmasters in the world wince every time Matt Cutts (Google’s head of search) mentioned a change to their algorithms. We’ve been burned too many times by the likes of Penguin, Panda and the fold algorithm and as such most of us treat his announcements a little bit like we treat a trip to the dentist – with a lot of trepidation.
Well if your website is called ‘www.oompadoo.com’ then you can breathe a sigh of relief – this time Cutts is overlooking you and giving you a bit more time to lick your wounds. This time Google is interested in targeting the owners of ‘www.buycheapfuronline.com’ and ‘www.bestbodybuildingarticles.com’. That’s right – ‘exact name domains’ or ‘exact match domains’ that have URLs designed to precisely mimic the phrases people are searching for. According to a tweet from Cutts this will only affect 0.6% of English queries – though sometimes as we know these low sounding statistics can leave fairly devastating shockwaves.
Of course the reason for this change is that many sites that use ENDs do so in lieu of actual good content. This is an easy way for a site to get to the top of the SERPs and so in many cases the quality content simply isn’t there to back it up. At the same time this strategy lends itself to sites that don’t have very diverse content but rather simply focus on answering a single question in order to get AdSense revenue.
In fact this is something that has been on Google’s agenda for a while now, and not so long ago a foreboding announcement came that Google would be favouring websites that focussed on building a brand for themselves with a recognizable name and image rather than one-hit wonders. Of course this direction wouldn’t favour ENDs.
It’s worth noting that Cutts’ tweet also stated that the change was targeting low quality exact match domains – but of course there is likely to be some collateral damage and some perfectly good sites are likely to see their rankings drop too. Some sites of course use ENDs simply because they were there, and some business names happen to be great keyphrases.
That said this will likely call a stop to people buying up keyword domains and selling them on and it might level the playing field for those sites do have more obscure and original URLs (that said ENDs will still have some value due to direct traffic which Google can’t control). For every person who will be angry at the changes there will be a new opportunity created for webmasters to jump in and fill a void at the top of the SERPs. Whatever else you say about Panda and Penguin they do seem to have reduced the amount of spam sites that come up and this does make for a better browsing experience…
So looks like this time ENDs haven’t made the most recent Cutts. But the real question still lingers… could bad puns be next? (Then I’m in trouble…)