How To Work With Exact Match Domains Post-Penguin

by Jon Cooper July 16th, 2012 


I personally hate talking about "post penguin" topics -- because the reality is that few websites were even hit and the advice we've been giving as a community hasn't changed -- but the topic of exact match domains (EMDs) needs to be addressed.

Since Penguin I've taken a slightly new approach to how I build links for EMDs. It mainly focuses around anchor text.

Anchor Text

There's a certain percentage of your links that you want to be branded and exact. For EMD owners the anchors would be the same, so one would think the real amount of anchor text you can get away with is branded + exact for normal websites. That's why EMDs can get away with having a lot of exact anchors.

But with Penguin that changed. You can no longer pass off exact as branded; you really have to start mixing it up. Sure, you can get away with more exact match anchors than non EMDs but the extent to which you can has decreased noticeably.

Here are some examples of the anchors that I've been using since Penguin that have shown results:

  • MySite
  • Jon Cooper
  • Jon Cooper's site
  • This site
  • This website
  • My site
  • My website

Obviously, substitute Jon Cooper for your name. I even suggest using multiple names.

Does Anchor Text Still Matter?

I think it's complete BS nonsense to say stop going for anchor text. At the same time, continuing to actively go for exact match is playing with fire. Go for exact match anchors in moderation.

Just as you try and get links from as many Linking Root Domains as possible, try and get as many links with different anchors as possible. If you analyze a post that got a ton of natural links, you'll see that just like the long tail, there are a ton of anchors that are used only once or twice.

So don't try & mix it up with 6 or 7 different anchors. Mix it up with as many as possible. I don't have hard evidence that this is a true factor but have been putting this into practice in the last month and seeing great results.

Black hat tip: When buying links, don't go for anchor text at all. I've found that a couple of my sites have gotten away with super obvious sidebar links for the sole reason the anchors were natural, such as "Jon Cooper's site" (I don't actually use my real name for these though). I know you buy links & do automation for anchor text, but meet me half way and you'll see a lot more sustainability from these links than you normally would.

Internal Linking

Luckily, I had the chance to hear Greg Boser from BlueGlass speak at a meetup in Tampa. He said something that can be applied to all websites but because of EMDs and the habit to use anchor text when internally linking, this a perfect place to talk about it.

Greg said that you're going to see more & more sites getting hit that use exact match anchors in their website's navigation. His evidence is that Google has been testing this out in the Travel niche.

So don't be the one who found out the hard way when this becomes the next Penguin update. Use the most user-friendly anchors as possible.

Final Thoughts

If you're ranking 1st with your EMD, your job is far from done because at any time you might see Google start devaluing the strength of EMDs. I say this because the amount of a boost an EMD gives is insane and I think it's only a matter of time until this changes.

It's based off only theory, but I honestly think we might see the power of EMDs fluctuate based on the query. If it's branded, then the boost will be the same. If it's generic, then it will be devalued to some extent, because from what I have seen, the ratio of black hat sites is much higher for EMDs than non-keyword domains.

Again, I have no evidence that this will happen, but seeing that this probably would yield better search results, it remains a possibility.

Now it's time to hear from you. What do you think? Is my analysis of exact match anchors spot on or way off the mark? Do you see EMDs continuing to yield the kind of power they currently do?

(If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Go For Perfect Anchor Text Distribution By Baking A Chocolate Cake )

Jon Cooper

Jon Cooper is an SEO consultant who specializes in link building. Check out his blog Point Blank SEO for more information.

Point Blank SEO

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7 Responses to “How To Work With Exact Match Domains Post-Penguin”

  1. Shawn says:

    My two cents in regards to exact match anchor text link is that I think the idea of getting penalized for this is not the right way for Google to approach the situation. Why should I have to use a variety of different anchor text if I'm using an exact match to what my visitor wants more information on?

    If a site is obviously trying to abuse one keyword by linking it everywhere within their site, Google should have a different way of picking that up.

  2. Nice post Jon. A few websites that I saw had unwanted internal links on almost all pages. I have come to realize that tag-based linking is much more effective and natural. Any points on this?

  3. Hmmm.

    Got any proof that Keyworded DomainNames have the same threshold as non KDNs?
    I would have thoguht that G had accoutned for such things,
    and find it a little odd that the all sites posses the same cap/limit – despite the DomainName/Brand etc.

    Now, I'll admit, I don't know the answer to this one – but I will try to find out. Yet whilst I'm doing that, I'd love to see some stats/figures that prove that EMD/KWDNs are being treated no differently.

  4. The EMD value has alreadt depreciated in teh past – and will likely continue to do so – within certain bounds.
    It won't be based solely on "brand" either.
    It will include things like locality/geo, and trust.

    Further – you will likely see G making adjustments based on the age of the site.
    Thus a new site with a KDN/EMD will get only a slight benefit, where as a site after a year will likely see more.
    The logic is simple enough – within a set timeframe, G will be able to ascertain with the site is legit or spammy. Only after it has acquired a degree of trust will G treat the DN as more influential (no different than it does the content).

  5. Marcus says:

    Hey Jon

    We have seen this with a few penguin casualties with what on first glance looks like a fairly okay anchor text distribution. Mostly with sites with a two keyword exact match domain so…


    Where the most popular anchor was 'my keyword' then we are still seeing huge drops in traffic on this keyword and variants after penguin.

    This is fairly easy to diagnose in google analytics

    – set the time period for the two weeks after penguin (24th April for round 1)

    – set the compare against date as the two weeks before

    – view Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic

    Now, view the differences and you will most likely find the keyword (my keyword) at the top showing at big drop in organic referrals. If you don't have analytics you can do the same thing in Google webmaster tools and look at the specific keyword over the date ranges and the traffic drop easy enough.

    So… exact match is fair game for penguin and these linking strategies in this post are a really strong suggestion.

    Good article. :)

  6. Jason says:

    Interesting article I found just after the minro weather reoprt from Matt Cutts: Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.

    My big issue with this is if a site gains natural links, which is what googles looking for then those that link to a site will use the sites domain name.

    One of my sites hit by penguin has lots of links I havent asked for that have the homepage KW within the anchor text because its the domain name. Most sites will also link to the homepage giving credit to my site again with the domain name even though the article does not relate to the homepage.

    To dilute this i would need to gather links as you have mentioned above with different anchor text. This is when i would be trying to manipulate search engines which makes it impossible to please google.

    Maybe I should change my domain name although I love it?

    Thanks for the article.