These “exact match domains” (or EMD’s) had their ranking effect downgraded a few months ago by Google, meaning that you could no longer rely upon the strength of the domain alone to get people to find your website.
With the recent Penguin update aiming to tackle “webspam” it has raised the interesting and important question of how much weight there is in optimising for keywords and phrases using traditional SEO, and how much relevance brand identity, or brand optimisation now plays as a ranking factor.
Of course on the face of it using brand signals to identify legitimate websites makes perfect sense, especially if the “spammy” websites rely heavily on keyword optimisation and also on building backlinks focusing predominantly on having those keywords as anchors.
If it were so simple to identify all “good” and “bad” sites then it would be a master stroke by Google, but alas a great many genuine businesses have also followed the route of optimising for keywords and building relevant backlinks, simply because that was the way everyone did SEO, and of course because it worked.
So now there is the situation where legitimate businesses have lost their rankings and their income, and I’m sure many of you will have seen the same old spammy junk sites still ranking in the SERP’s as well.
While that is the situation now there seems to be little doubt that Google will refine their algorithm over time, and since there seems to be a much heavier interest in showing brands in the results, then it makes perfect sense to aim to brand your business and your website as effectively as possible.
After all, even if branding isn’t a major part of the algorithm in the future, there is absolutely no harm to your business is you create a brand and become recognised for being one of the leading suppliers of whatever goods or services you provide.
It is logically quite the opposite, the branding exercise should also spill over into the “real” world, and should lead to new, non-search reliant sales as a result.
It is for this reason that perhaps search engine optimisation needs to be renamed, or at least encompass a new area of optimisation that revolves around branding – in other words a new online marketing arena concentrating on brand optimisation.
So how might you go about branding your website?
In the past most SEO companies would have told you, for example, that it wasn’t really necessary to have your company name in the meta title of each page, purely from a ranking perspective, but today we would advise you to make sure that you do prominently display your brand identity in the meta title of at least your home page and main section pages on your website.
They aren’t obsessing with jamming the meta title full of just the product name, etc, but rather they want people to know whose site they are on, and where they will be buying from.
The name or brand of the business is critically important in terms of customer confidence, and this is true for a good reason – because they are great, trustworthy, and well known companies.
It is this kind of mentality that you need to adopt, this kind of trust and authority that you need to nurture, and this kind of brand optimisation that you need to incorporate into your website, and you will almost certainly find that as people become more aware of your business as a brand, that they will link to your site more frequently using the kinds of naturally occurring anchors that Google expects to see in those links.
So really focusing on optimising your business and website for your brand will be a win-win proposition.
The irony of course is that if you can develop a brand successfully then eventually you won’t be so reliant on search engine traffic, which can only be a good thing in the longer term.
Of course there are many other ways to brand your website, and no doubt Google will look for many of these signals, the bottom line is that branding has become far more important and looks like it will become even more so in future Google updates, so it’s something that you need to get to grips with if you want your online and offline business to continue to perform.