all of your old, terrible SEO domains...


well shit.

hello again!

I did an experiment to see if having a crippling back injury for three months helps with productivity ESPECIALLY around sending emails.

it doesn't.

been pretty busy though (check out the announcement below).

thanks for sticking with me.

here's 2000+ words of SEO bullshit:

News and Updates

You know, you love it, it's the (used to be) weekly meme content so you can click through and still look like an active, engaged subscriber even if you block spying in your inbox (like me):

Click To Get The Memes

~

In other new: I ACQUIRED AN AGENCY!

It's... maybe not quite an agency? It's called SEO Back Office--it's more like a services company?

It was run by my bud David and does great work, especially around content briefs and content optimization (maybe you'd call it revitalization?). Also has a solid team around outreach/link building.

In addition to sprucing up some of our offerings I'm also working on a KILLER rebrand. This isn't public yet, so I'm only sharing with you for now...

I acquired the domain Ranks.com, and I'm going ALL IN on this brand. All in. Everything in.

I'm so fucking excited for that--I will for sure be giving updates here, so stay subscribed to follow my journey in trying to build out this brand.

In the meantime, help your favorite newsletter writer out and buy some SEO shit would you? I made a coupon for new customers--10% off, just use this code at checkout:

RT10

(It's kind of annoying, you have to make an SPP account to buy anything, but it's what the project is run on, and really it only takes like 35 seconds... I know we're all about laziness in this newsletter but if you're truly interested in trying this out and supporting me and my dumb ideas, please take a sec to sign up). :)

Once you're in the backend you can see sample work, get more details about the deliverables etc.

OK! I'll shut up now, please go and check it out.

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Look up a website before you build a link, so you know if it's already been "passed around" and potentially on Google's radar (which... is a bad thing, if you're wondering).

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Let's Talk About Exact Match Domains

This is something I'm a little bit obsessed with lately.

In the old days, you could spin up an absolutely nauseating domain like best-organic-cbd-oil.net and cash in on that EMD POWAH.

But then Google was like, okay, no, this is actually ass (and it was), and made some big proclamations that they no longer gave a boost to EMDs.

So people stopped buying names like best-car-insurance-portland.org for a quick ranking win and people started gravitating toward building a brand instead.

This is, on the whole, a good thing.

But one thing people started saying with VIGOR and PURPOSE is this:

EXACT MATCH DOMAINS DON'T WORK ANYMORE.

But don't they?

The above statement requires a bit of nuance.

If you just take that Mozcon talk at face value, where someone is presenting a thing they heard from a talk last year that THAT person read on a blog comment from a few years ago... bruh.

MY opinion on the matter is this:

You don't get a bump to your shitty, dash-filled janky not-building-a-brand domain that's going after one little 400 searches-per-month keyword. The recent Google leak had a little something something called "ExactMatchDomainDemotion" but it didn't really provide a lot of context as to HOW or WHY this works.

Actually, for funzies, here's the old Matt Cutts tweet on demoting exact match domains:

See, it's the "low quality" part of that tweet that I feel like everyone ignored.

So do you get a bump if you've got a premium domain that's the same as your main keyword that the anchor text and some big, authoritative links are giving a bit vote of confidence to, like Calm.com?

*I* think so.

I'm going to discuss a few examples, but like with everything related to SEO, this is more complicated and nuanced than just a sexy one-off declaration, so the following discussion comes with a side of I KNOW IT'S COMPLICATED BUT WE'RE DOING OUR BEST.

Let's look at a few examples

Solo401k.com

Not a super powered-up domain @ DR 31 but not bad!

This one ranks #5 for "solo 401k."

Is it because of a killer link profile? I don't think so, there's a lot of fairly obvious "just-built-for-SEO-link-building-purposes" sites filling this link profile (a few heavy hitters and esp. relevant sites, but not the most impressive profile ever).

Is it because the anchor text is SUPER relevant to the main KW?

Could be... those first two anchor text spots are highly relevant AND the exact domain/brand -- so... I mean that's part of the charm of an EMD, right? Getting that really prime anchor text spread to be part of the keyword BUT NOT in an overtly spammy way (because it's just hitting the URL/brand, not just pumping the keyword).

But ugh, look at how unnatural the rest of that anchor text is--40+ links going to each page where the anchor text is the entire URL that is unnatural af...

Anyway.

All things considered here, I'd say the EMD of it all is a helpful part of why they're ranking.

Canary.is

This one is interesting. A ring competitor I guess? The .is is from Iceland, so it's interesting to see an exact match non-.com ranking at NUMBER ONE.

It has a dope link profile:

It's in the SERPs THREE FUCKING TIMES!!!

That is massive. Three different pages (homepage, /cameras, /pro)--which is wild for a 54,000 searches/mo KD 79 keyword.

Now, a couple of things to unpack:

  • this is a PRETTY GENERIC term, canary.
  • some of the other pages ranking are wikipedia and dictionary pages
  • there are other canary-branded things (marketing, pets, mail, hotel, etc)

I have no actual insight into this, but I would bet money this is more of a case of click-data winning out on a single brand vs. anything else. Similar web says the site gets about 150k visits/mo, so it's a fairly popular site. It gets 23% of its traffic from search and 70% of its traffic direct, so I'd bet that Google has some big data via Chrome about just which canary site people want when they type "canary" into the search bar...

So in this particular case it's hard to argue that the SLD (the word on the left of the dot in the domain name) is contributing a ton to its ranking, but maybe it's helping SOME--mostly it's just cool to see a .is dominating for an English keyword.

Interestingly, here are four other .xyz and .is domains that rank on page one for their single-domain keyword if you want to explore this some:

  • Manifold.xyz (5th)
  • Engine.is (2)
  • Single.xyz (8th)
  • Swell.is (4th)

Last example for now:

GoldPrice.org

This thing is ranking #1 for the highly valuable keyword Gold Price (617k searches/mo, KD 89)

...riiiiight below a big Google price chart lol

Thanks Google, you fucking bitch.

Anyway, let's dig into this site:

Strong, authoritative.

Backlink profile? Dope on dope on dope:

AND, it has come through the recent gauntlet of brutal updates beautifully:

This domain is authoritative as hell, so it's really hard to say what kind of boost its exact-matchness is contributing.

That's the whole point though, it's really hard to tell. I'll expand on my thoughts below, but one thing I looked at was goldprice.org vs. silverprice.org (both owned by the same co).

GoldPrice.org is DR 75, 14.6k RD, ranks 1st.

SilverPrice.org is DR 57, 2k RD, ranks 12th

This is weird, but: the "silver price" SERPs are ranking the silverprice.org page on the history of silver, not the homepage that contains the price of silver which... is odd. Maybe it's not a fully mature SERP or something and Google is receiving mixed signals from people about what they want when searching for that query?

Okay WTF Is The Point Of All This

If I included all the examples it would take to build a proper study that had ANY kind of shot at being objective and data based (my prediction is it would be inconclusive anyway), it'd take studying 10,000 domains and this would be so long you'd immediately throw-up upon seeing it in your inbox and you would stick a rotting tomato in an envelope and send it to me with a note that says "please throw this into your face, idiot."

So I won't do that. Anyway, the ADHD is too strong.

But I would like to blather on at you about EMDs and share my thoughts in general.

1 - The Quality Of The Keyword Matters

"Best Hairdryer Review" is a low quality keyword.

"Miami SEO" is a much better keyword. I don't know what metric Google could internally use to say "this keyword is ass" but there's got to be a way they do this.

SEO.com has GOT to get a boost. VPN.com the same.

BestVPNProviders.com has to not (excluding how easy it would be to discount EMDs that use "best" in the URL--sorry Best Buy).

Here's what Eric Lanchres (big fan) said about this in a post actually just published today (timely!)

"Exact match domain demotion" which was likely introduced to prevent sites like: best-drone-reviews.com from ranking. The act of registering exact match domains for ranking purposes was quite popular back a decade ago...

I think adopting a strong .com (or alternate extension as you've seen) as your brand, for a keyword that is the best version of a keyword within your niche, is a very strong branding move, DOES NOT put you on the "demotion list," and DOES give you a little boost.

2 - When SERPs Matter

This is more about building a brand than anything, but what else is going on in the SERPs plays an important role in how you rank and what's POSSIBLE to rank.

Looking at "canary" we've got:

  • canary.is (DR 70)
  • canary wikipedia entry
  • canarytechnologies.com (DR 58)
  • "Things To Know" accordian
  • canary.is again
  • Omlet.us (DR 51) — guide to canary pets
  • Google Shopping double row
  • canarymail.io (DR 62)
  • Video Block
  • canary definition (webster)
  • Image Block
  • canaryfoundation.org (DR 38) cancer detection
  • workwithcanary.com (DR 35) employee relief grants
  • canary.is again again

You can see it's all over the place. It's such a broad keyword with so many different meanings, but canary.is has CLEARLY established it is the dominant brand in this keyword space (usually a .com accomplishes this) but in this case, the dot is is dot killing it.

I think these SERPs where its so generic there's a webster's fricken dictionary entry and a wiki page and a bunch of other unfocused shit is the ideal vacuum for a solid brand with a gorgeous exact-match name to come in and say

yes.

this is me.

this is us, give over all the brand traffic.

If you want to see the opposite of this kind of SERP just do a search for "VPN."

3 - Medical SERPs is No-Go EMD-land

And then do a search for CBD

And then testosterone

And etc.

There's gotta be something in place (obviously) that limits EMDs in the YL part of YMYL.

I did a search for bones: it was the TV show and songs or whatever.

I did a search for bone: it was all medical shit, nothing exact-matchy.

I did a search for bone broth: it was a mix of products and recipes and etc., including barebonesbroth.com (DR 44, 714 RD) and brutusbroth.com (DR 42, 401 RD) -- both of which are products (which Google wants to rank for that page) and BOTH of which were outranking much stronger pages.

So is their PARTIAL match (which we didn't even talk about!!!) helping here?

IDK! lol

But probably.

At the very least you can be assured: it's not HURTING them--barbonesbroth is 3rd. ($$$$$$$$$$$$$)

Why Do I Care So Much?

Because I'm dumb and doing so much, I have several different projects where the brand and the .com are very slick, beautiful one-word .coms.

One is a 17,000 s/m keyword and, like canary, is a pretty broad SERP I am confident I can rank #1 for in time as I build the brand--side now: god damn it is expensive to build a brand.

One is 150,000+ keyword and, building on a domain with lots and lots of relevant juice + age, we're already on page 1-2 for the main term with minimal effort. This is a SERP with mixed info + commercial intent--I think it'll be a tough road to get to #1 for the EMD, but it's totally possible.

So it's something I'm super interested in for MYSELF. But also: you already know I'm obsessed with domain names and branding. I want to understand how this works so I can help people (esp. my clients) acquire amazing domains and build super strong brands.

Before I wrap this up, I have a request:

I want to gather a BUNCH of data on this--do you know of some good EMDs ranking for interesting keywords? Please hit reply and share them with me. I'll do a big post on my site sharing them all (unless you say not to--still send me them so I can see).

Send me all the EMDs 🙏🏻

Work With Me

Buy stuff from my SEO services thing I talked about acquiring by going here.

I still have my SEO consulting thing--we've been helping 7, 8, and 9 figure SaaS/Ecom businesses get their SEO shit together (really!) and if you are a 7, 8, and 9 figure SaaS/Ecom that needs helping getting your SEO shit together, hit reply.

~

fuck.

i hate that it took so long to get this thing out, but sometimes you gotta meet life where it is.

been to the ER once for myself, once for my dog, and once for my cat, TWO big dental procedures (for dog and cat respectively), puncture wound + tetanus shot for my wife AND ALSO THERE WAS A BAT IN MY ROOM WHILE I WAS SLEEPING AND MY CAT (different cat) KILLED IT AND WE HAD TO GIVE THE BAT TO THE RANGER SO THEY COULD TEST THE BAT FOR RABIES BECAUSE YOU DO NOT FUCK AROUND WITH RABIES but the test came back negative, so at least I did not have to get a rabies shot but my cat did.

anyway, sometimes you got plans for things but a bunch of crazy shit happens and also you acquire a new business and a killer domain and go all in on that...

hope your shit was calmer and more awesome...

as always, please hit reply and tell me if you like my newsletter, it helps!

did you miss it during the hibernation?

do you love Ranks.com the domain/brand?

did you like the memes?

do you have examples of EMDs to share?

hit reply for any of those

until next time (whenever the fuck THAT might be),

sean

[rank theory] SEO Newsletter

the world's grumpiest SEO lifts you up each week with inspiring SEO content. Rank Theory is a twice-weekly newsletter containing emerging theories, illuminating experiments, and occasional sh*tposting, as well as a special weekly domain-focused Friday edition.

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