Domain Names Will Become Less Relevant (to Search Engines)

Apr 2nd

Currently domain names carry significant weight in Google's relevancy algorithms if they match the search query, but that is a signal destined to lose value. As more people get into automated and cheap content to turn park pages into automated low cost community driven sites, search engines are going to learn that it doesn't make sense to give a matching domain default status in a category. Frank Schilling, a well known domainer, recently blogged about how to unseat Google, and is using wiki content to seed community driven sites on generic domains. Two ways Google is fighting off the automated content generation that domainers will explore is through duplicate content detection and minimum PageRank requirements on a per URL basis.

Domain names are trusted because they are an expensive commodity largely controlled by a few people, and most of those people are not developing the names. Once those people start turning parking pages into content sites I think search engines are going to need to look for other relevancy signals. Many VCs and domainers have been looking at automated or low cost development ever since Paul Sloan's 2005 article Masters of their Domains, but a search engine full of sites like eHow, WeHow, and WikiHow is not a search engine that is useful to searchers.

Published: April 2, 2007

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Comments

April 4, 2007 - 8:12pm

The problem is that as soon as Google does that, it will mean that some company websites will no longer rank first for their company name.

There was a very short period of time where it seemed like Google made domain names less important in their algorithm and some company's didn't rank high for their name (at least I know of one company in particular at the time that didn't). My wife complained that she couldn't find said company's website by searching for it's name in Google, but it showed up first in Yahoo. My guess is that some people complained (including the companies) and Google applied more weight to the domain name. A week later said company was ranked first for it's name in Google.

I guess they could manually ensure this, but that would have to cost a lot of money to do. I think it is going to take a lot of work for any Search Engine to solve this problem, but I could certainly be wrong.

John
April 6, 2007 - 10:56am

I am still trying to figure out the whole concept of blogs, it seems like something kids would do until they graduated (I don't know, there is alot more to do these days as a teenager then when I was growing up). And now SpamBlogs? I don't like real Spam or the other Spam but I hardly get any Spam anymore and I haven't changed my main ISP account name in 4 years (I get maybe 2 a day). I think people should just figure it out that the Internet is pretty much like TV, a bunch of ads all the time. I guess someone could make another Internet with no ads but that isn't going to happen. I will say however that doing a search is alot more time consuming as I usually click on to a page that has little to do with what I want, just a bunch of ads. And when Blogs become unpopular something else will take it's place.

And figure out a different word then Spam, it probably has a hundred different meanings by now, I thing GarbageBlogs and GarbageSites would be more appropiate.

John

April 2, 2007 - 10:33pm

I think Google is to blame for this- MFA trend. And the problem is that once they approve your "submitted" site for Adsense, they will then let you put the same adsene on any other site you may own without approval. This leads to people creating spammy sites just to try and generate adsense revenue (same probably goes for other ad networks too).

The health wiki that was created by Frank Schilling doesn't seem to be spammy at all, and in fact seems to be a real resource. Not to mention I couldn't find a single ad on the site (maybe I didn't look hard enough).

Blogging is the biggest problem now, where the majority of blogs seem to be splogs (spam blogs) designed to attract organic search traffic and generate adsense or affiliate revenues.

The other problem is that Google is making a lot of money from these spammy sites, so its not in their best interest to eliminate them - until or unless they start to damage their reputation as being an efficient search engine (which may happen).

As google adjusts their algorythem, so will the spammers. So all it does is create a cat and mouse game that never ends.

April 3, 2007 - 12:14am

All great points.... Google as well as all other search engines have a long way to go to create the perfect search engine.

As we have seen in the recent algo updates from Google things are changing.

"Cat and Mouse" is a great example of what is happening.

I agree it will continue if a quick buck is to be made someone will be able to figure out the algorithm's weakness and break it.

Domains had a moment in time just as many other elements did it work some will say "Yes" and other will say "No"

Bottom line is we all develop sites for the end user to help our customer find what they are looking for and the search engine are a tool to get them our sites.

If we build a quality site with value then what exactly are we afraid of?

April 3, 2007 - 12:20am

Hi Aaron,

Think about what Google is: One site with a search box where you can enter any subject and get relevant results.

Imagine Google in reverse: A domain name for each possible topic, with relevant content at each.

Most SEO folks think about how to get 'traffic' from the Search Engine's platform. I think about how do I go 'around' the Search Engine's platform to get that traffic. That's what a good type-in traffic domain name does.

Its how the internet used to work before Google ;)

PS I like your blog layout better than mine.

April 3, 2007 - 12:38am

Hi Aaron, it seems like the never ending game. Google changing its algorithm once they find it's being gamed by spammers, and the story continues on and on and on.

April 3, 2007 - 1:31am

Aaron,

I definitely agree the 'exact match' domains will lose some ranking power. I still like them from the type in traffic standpoint though. I don't think domainers will go out of business any time soon.

- Brian

April 3, 2007 - 1:56am

"search engines are going to learn that it doesn't make sense to give a matching domain default status in a category"

How long do you think this will take, and will there be a ripple effect shortly after wherein another factor is inadvertently boosted in relevance?

April 3, 2007 - 2:07am

Hi Louis
I think it depends on how quickly and how aggressively the quality signal is noised up.

Hi Frank
Thanks for the comment. I think the key to thinking of Google's perspective is to think of them as benchmarking relevancy quality, and having an information bias to what they consider quality.

April 3, 2007 - 2:20am

If, as many domainers assert, generic parked domains are a great alternative to Google, then the best alternative to Google is simply a search engine that only serves PPC ads. Think about that.

Also, the flipside to "type-in" or "direct navigation" or whatever you call it these days, is that people now use Google (or other search engines) as a tool for direct navigation. If I were a domainer, I'd run some PPC experiments and would buy my domain name as an exact match. I'd be curious to check the impressions and see how much traffic the domain is losing to Google (or Yahoo). I'd track the trend, too.

April 3, 2007 - 2:53am

I like your idea Richard. I wonder if a PPC search engine would work and generate the traffic? I think it would definately return relevant results given that it would essentailly be a human built search engine (the webmaster clients build it rather than the owner of the search engine).

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