White hat SEORemember when we could buy domains with great key words and point them toward our “real” domain?

It looked like this: tuttifruiti.com represents the business name. Tutti Fruiti sells ice cream. So, why not make a second domain name (e.g., best-ice-cream-in-toledo.com) and redirect it to your “real” web site?

Perfectly legal, according to Google, for many years.

This practice has been black hat for years now.

“Best-ice-cream-in-toledo.com” is considered an exact match domain (EMD) — a domain that strategically employs your key words. In the past, you could set up that exact match domain and ask it to redirect to your web site.

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen Google start to devalue this practice. For instance, if you use hyphens or double hyphens (e.g., “www.americas–best–ice–cream”), your placement in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is likely to be downgraded.

But it’s not all about the hyphens, although these exact match domains have been top offenders.

It’s no longer Google-legal to point your keyword-stuffed URL to your “real” URL at ALL unless that  keyword URL is a functioning web site (even if it’s only one page)

This recent development reminds me of the old “black hat” SEO practice of creating “doorway” (aka, “gateway”) pages. Gateway pages often tricked users into thinking they were heading toward some particular content, but when the user actually reached the doorway page the page would refresh, redirecting the unaware user, and finally resolve to a new domain.

Some doorway pages are “classier” in the sense that they do not automatically re-direct, but simply use keywords in a natural way with some design. You may not even know that you’re on a doorway page.

So what makes a doorway page different from a landing page? Doorway pages are almost always “one way” — once you click off of them, you don’t have a way (except for your back button) to get back to a doorway page. This has always seemed scammy to Google. Doorway pages bring people in to an environment they usually don’t anticipate.

Landing pages, however, are filled with rich content and are never “one-way doors.”

But I digress.

The big news is this:

  1. No more hyphenated EMDs
  2. No EMDs that are not stand-alone web pages

You will be penalized by Google — we just don’t know how much.

Exact match domains: white hat is now black hat?

by susan time to read: 2 min
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