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A New Domain Authority Is Coming Soon: What’s Changing, When, & Why

Posted by rjonesx.

Howdy Moz readers,

I’m Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist at Moz, and I am excited to announce a fantastic upgrade coming next month to one of the most important metrics Moz offers: Domain Authority.

Domain Authority has become the industry standard for measuring the strength of a domain relative to ranking. We recognize that stability plays an important role in making Domain Authority valuable to our customers, so we wanted to make sure that the new Domain Authority brought meaningful changes to the table.

Learn more about the new DA

What’s changing?

What follows is an account of some of the technical changes behind the new Domain Authority and why they matter.

The training set:

Historically, we’ve relied on training Domain Authority against an unmanipulated, large set of search results. In fact, this has been the standard methodology across our industry. But we have found a way to improve upon it that fundamentally, from the ground up, makes Domain Authority more reliable.

The training algorithm:

Rather than relying on a complex linear model, we’ve made the switch to a neural network. This offers several benefits including a much more nuanced model which can detect link manipulation.

The model factors:

We have greatly improved upon the ranking factors behind Domain Authority. In addition to looking at link counts, we’ve now been able to integrate our proprietary Spam Score and complex distributions of links based on quality and traffic, along with a bevy of other factors.

The backbone:

At the heart of Domain Authority is the industry’s leading link index, our new Moz Link Explorer. With over 35 trillion links, our exceptional data turns the brilliant statistical work by Neil Martinsen-Burrell, Chas Williams, and so many more amazing Mozzers into a true industry standard.

What does this mean?

These fundamental improvements to Domain Authority will deliver a better, more trustworthy metric than ever before. We can remove spam, improve correlations, and, most importantly, update Domain Authority relative to all the changes that Google makes.

It means that you will see some changes to Domain Authority when the launch occurs. We staked the model to our existing Domain Authority which minimizes changes, but with all the improvements there will no doubt be some fluctuation in Domain Authority scores across the board.

What should we do?

Use DA as a relative metric, not an absolute one.

First, make sure that you use Domain Authority as a relative metric. Domain Authority is meaningless when it isn’t compared to other sites. What matters isn’t whether your site drops or increases — it’s whether it drops or increases relative to your competitors. When we roll out the new Domain Authority, make sure you check your competitors’ scores as well as your own, as they will likely fluctuate in a similar direction.

Know how to communicate changes with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders

Second, be prepared to communicate with your clients or webmasters about the changes and improvements to Domain Authority. While change is always disruptive, the new Domain Authority is better than ever and will allow them to make smarter decisions about search engine optimization strategies going forward.

Expect DA to keep pace with Google

Finally, expect that we will be continuing to improve Domain Authority. Just like Google makes hundreds of changes to their algorithm every year, we intend to make Domain Authority much more responsive to Google’s changes. Even when Google makes fundamental algorithm updates like Penguin or Panda, you can feel confident that Moz’s Domain Authority will be as relevant and useful as ever.

When is it happening?

We plan on rolling out the new Domain Authority on March 5th, 2019. We will have several more communications between now and then to help you and your clients best respond to the new Domain Authority, including a webinar on February 21st. We hope you’re as excited as we are and look forward to continuing to bring you the most reliable, cutting-edge metrics our industry has to offer.


Be sure to check out the resources we’ve prepared to help you acclimate to the change, including an educational whitepaper and a presentation you can download to share with your clients, team, and stakeholders:

Explore more resources here

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The Goal-Based Approach to Domain Selection – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Choosing a domain is a big deal, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Even with everything that goes into determining your URL, there are two essential questions to ask that ought to guide your decision-making: what are my goals, and what’s best for my users? In today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, we’re beyond delighted to welcome Kameron Jenkins, our SEO Wordsmith, to the show to teach us all about how to select a domain that aligns with and supports your business goals.

Goal-based Approach to Domain Selection

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Video Transcription

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and I am the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today we’re going to be talking about a goals-based approach to choosing a domain type or a domain selection.

There are a lot of questions in the SEO industry right now, and as an agency, I used to work at an agency, and a lot of times our clients would ask us, “Should I do a microsite? Should I do a subdomain? Should I consolidate all my sites?” There is a lot of confusion about the SEO impact of all of these different types of domain choices, and there certainly are SEO ramifications for each type, but today we’re going to be taking a slightly different approach and focusing on goals first. What are your business goals? What are your goals for your website? What are your goals for your users? And then choosing a domain that matches those goals. By the end, instead of what’s better for SEO, we’re going to hopefully have answered, “What best suits my unique goals?”

Before we start…define!

Before we start, let’s launch into some quick definitions just so we all kind of know what we’re talking about and why all the different terminology we’re going to be using.

Main domain

Main domain, this is often called a root domain in some cases. That’s anything that precedes your dot com or other TLD. So YourSite.com, it lives right before that.

Subdomain

A subdomain is a third-level domain name for your domain. So example, Blog.YourSite.com, that would be a subdomain.

Subfolder

A subfolder, or some people call this subdirectory, those are folders trailing the dot com. An example would be YourSite.com/blog. That /blog is the folder. That’s a subfolder.


Microsite

A microsite, there’s a lot of different terminology around this type of domain selection, but it’s just a completely separate domain from your main domain. The focus is usually a little bit more niche than the topic of your main website.

That would be YourSite1.com and YourSite2.com. They’re two totally, completely separate domains.

Business goals that can impact domain structure

Next we’re going to start talking about business goals that can impact domain structure. There are a lot of different business goals. You want to grow revenue. You want more customers. But we’re specifically here going to be talking about the types of business goals that can impact domain selection.

1. Expand locations/products/services

The first one here that we’re going to talk about is the business wants to expand their locations, their products, or their services. They want to grow. They want to expand in some way. An example I like to use is say this clothing store has two locations. They have two storefronts. They have one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth.

So they launch two websites — CoolClothesDallas.com and CoolClothesFortWorth.com. But the problem with that is if you want to grow, you’re going to open stores in Austin, Houston, etc. You’ve set the precedent that you’re going to have a different domain for every single location, which is not really future-proof. It’s hard to scale. Every time you launch a brand-new website, that’s a lot of work to launch it, a lot of work to maintain it.

So if you plan on growing and getting into new locations or products or services or whatever it might be, just make sure you select a domain structure that’s going to accommodate that. In particular, I would say a main root domain with subfolders for the different products or services you have is probably the best bet for that situation. So you have YourSite.com/Product1, /Product2, and you talk about it in that sense because it’s all related. It’s all the same topic. It’s more future-proof. It’s easier to add a page than it is to launch a whole new domain.

2. Set apart distinct facets of business

So another business goal that can affect your domain structure would be that the business wants to set apart distinct facets within their business. An example I found that was actually kind of helpful is Apple.com has a subdomain for Trailers.Apple.com.

Now, I’m not Apple. I don’t really know exactly why they do this, but I have to imagine that it was because there are very different intents and uses for those different types of content that live on the subdomain versus the main site. So Trailers has movie trailers, lots of different content, and Apple.com is talking more about their consumer products, more about that type of thing.

So the audiences are slightly different. The intents are very different. In that situation, if you have a situation like that and that matches what your business is encountering, you want to set it apart, it has a different audience, you might want to consider a subdomain or maybe even a microsite. Just keep in mind that it takes effort to maintain each domain that you launch.

So make sure you have the resources to do this. You could, if you didn’t have the resources, put it all on the main domain. But if you want a little bit more separation, the different aspects of your business are very disparate and you don’t want them really associated on the same domain, you could separate it out with a subdomain or a microsite. Just, again, make sure that you have the resources to maintain it, because while both have equal ability to rank, it’s the effort that increases with each new website you launch.

3. Differentiate uniquely branded sub-departments

Three, another goal is to differentiate uniquely branded sub-departments. There is a lot of this I’ve noticed in the healthcare space. So the sites that I’ve worked on, say they have Joe Smith Health, and this is the health system, the umbrella health system. Then within that you have Joe Smith Endocrinology.

Usually those types of situations they have completely different branding. They’re in a different location. They reach a different audience, a different community. So in those situations I’ve seen that, especially healthcare, they usually have the resources to launch and maintain a completely different domain for that uniquely branded sub-department, and that might make sense.

Again, make sure you have the resources. But if it’s very, very different, whether in branding or audience or intent, than the content that’s on your main website, then I might consider separating them. Another example of this is sometimes you have a parent company and they own a lot of different companies, but that’s about where the similarities stop.

They’re just only owned by the parent company. All the different subcompanies don’t have anything to do with each other. I would probably say it’s wisest to separate those into their own unique domains. They probably definitely have unique branding. They’re totally different companies. They’re just owned by the same company. In those situations it might make sense, again, to separate them, but just know that they’re not going to have any ranking benefit for each other because they’re just completely separate domains.

4. Temporary or seasonal campaigns

The fourth business goal we’re going to talk about is a temporary or a seasonal campaign. This one is not as common, but I figured I would just mention it. Sometimes a business will want to run a conference or sponsor an event or get a lot of media attention around some initiative that’s separate from what their business does or offers, and it’s just more of an events-based, seasonal type of thing.

In those situations it might make sense to do a microsite that’s completely branded for that event. It’s not necessary. For example, Moz has MozCon, and that’s located on subfolder Moz.com/MozCon. You don’t have to do that, but it certainly is an option for you if you want to uniquely brand it.

It can also be really good for press. I’ve noticed just in my experience, I don’t know if this is widely common, but sometimes the press tends to just link to the homepage because that’s what they know. They don’t link to a specific page on your site. They don’t know always where it’s located. It’s just easier to link to the main domain. If you want to build links specifically for this event that are really relevant, you might want to do a microsite or something like that.

Just make sure that when the event is over, don’t just let it float out there and die. Especially if you build links and attention around it, make sure you 301 that back to your main website as long as that makes sense. So temporary or seasonal campaigns, that could be the way to go — microsite, subfolder. You have some options there.

5. Test out a new agency or consultant

Then finally the last goal we’re going to be talking about that could impact domain structure is testing out a new agency or consultant.

Now this one holds a special place in my heart having worked for an agency prior to this for almost seven years. It’s actually really common, and I can empathize with businesses who are in this situation. They are about to hand over their keys to their domain to a brand-new company. They don’t quite know if they trust them yet.

Especially this is concerning if a business has a really strong domain that they’ve built up over time. It can be really scary to just let someone take over your domain. In some cases I have encountered, the business goes, “Hey, we’d love to test you out. We think you’re great.However, you can’t touch the main domain.You have to do your SEO somewhere else.” That’s okay, but we’re kind of handcuffed in that situation.

You would have to, at that point, use a subdomain or a microsite, just a completely different website. If you can’t touch the main domain, you don’t really have many other options than that. You just have to launch on a brand-new thing. In that situation, it’s a little frustrating, actually quite frustrating for SEOs because they’re starting from nothing.

They have no authority inherited from that main domain. They’re starting from square one. They have to build that up over time. While that’s possible, just know that it kind of sets you back. You’re way behind the starting line in that situation with using a subdomain or a microsite, not being able to touch that main domain.

If you find yourself in this situation and you can negotiate this, just make sure that the company that’s hiring you is giving you enough time to prove the value of SEO. This is tried-and-true for a reason, but SEO is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s not pay to play like paid advertising is. In that situation, just make sure that whoever is hiring you is giving you enough time.

Enough time is kind of dependent on how competitive the goals are. If they’re asking you, “Hey, I’m going to test you out for this really, really competitive, high-volume keyword or group of keywords and you only have one month to do it,” you’re kind of set up to fail in that situation. Either ask them for more time, or I probably wouldn’t take that job. So testing out a new agency or consultant is definitely something that can impact your ability to launch on one domain type versus another.

Pitfalls!

Now that we’ve talked about all of those, I’m just going to wrap up with some pitfalls. A lot of these are going to be repeat, but just as a way of review just watch out for these things.

⃠ Failing to future-proof

Like I said earlier, if you’re planning on growing in the future, just make sure that your domain matches your future plans.

⃠ Exact-match domains

There’s nothing inherently wrong with exact-match domains. It’s just that you can’t expect to launch a microsite with a bunch of keywords that are relevant to your business in your domain and just set it and forget it and hope that the keywords in the domain alone are what’s going to get it to rank. That doesn’t work anymore. It’s not worked for a while. You have to actually proactively be adding value to that microsite.

Maybe you’ve decided that that makes sense for your business. That’s great. Just make sure that you put in the resources to make it valuable outside of just the keywords in the domain.

⃠ Over-fragmenting

One thing I like to say is, “Would you rather have 3 websites with 10 backlinks each, or 1 website with 30 backlinks?” That’s just a way to illustrate that if you don’t have the resources to equally dedicate to each of those domains or subdomains or microsites or whatever you decided to launch, it’s not going to be as strong.

Usually what I see when I evaluate a customer or a client’s domain structure, usually there is one standout domain that has all of the content, all of the authority, all of the backlinks, and then the other ones just kind of suffer and they’re usually stronger together than they are apart. So while it is totally possible to do separate websites, just make sure that you don’t fragment so much that you’re spread too thin to actually do anything effective on the SEO front.

⃠ Ignoring user experience

Look at your websites from the eyes of your users. If someone is going to go to the search results page and Google search your business name, are they going to see five websites there? That’s kind of confusing unless they’re very differently branded, different intents. They’ll probably be confused.

Like, “Is this where I go to contact your business? How about this? Is it this?” There are just a lot of different ways that can cause confusion, so just keep that in mind. Also if you have a website where you’re addressing two completely different audiences within your website — if a consumer, for example, can be browsing blouses and then somehow end up accidentally on a section that’s only for employees — that’s a little confusing for user experience.

Make sure you either gate that or make it a subdomain or a microsite. Just separate them if that would be confusing for your main user base.

⃠ Set it and forget it

Like I said, I keep repeating this just because it’s so, so important. Every type of domain has equal ability to rank. It really does.

It’s just the effort that gets harder and harder with each new website. Just make sure that you don’t just decide to do microsites and subdomains and then don’t do anything with them. That can be a totally fine choice. Just make sure that you don’t set it and forget it, that you actually have the resources and you have the ability to keep building those up.

⃠ Intent overlap between domains

The last one I’ll talk about in the pitfall department is intent overlap between domains.

I see this one actually kind of a lot. It can be like a winery. So they have tastings.winery.com or something like that. In that situation, their Tasting subdomain talks all about their wine tasting, their tasting room. It’s very focused on that niche of their business. But then on Winery.com they also have extensive content about tastings. Well, you’ve got overlap there, and you’re kind of making yourself do more work than you have to.

I would choose one or the other and not both. Just make sure that there’s no overlap there if you do choose to do separate domains, subdomains, microsites, that kind of thing. Make sure that there’s no overlap and each of them has a distinct purpose.

Two important questions to focus on:

Now that we’re to the end of this, I really want the takeaway to be these two questions. I think this will make domain selection a lot easier when you focus on these two questions.

What am I trying to accomplish? What are the goals? What am I trying to do? Just focus on that first. Then second of all, and probably most important, what is best for my users? So focus on your goals, focus on your users, and I think the domain selection process will be a lot easier. It’s not easy by any means.

There are some very complicated situations, but I think, in the end, it’s going to be a lot easier if you focus on your goals and your users. If you have any comments regarding domain selection that you think would be helpful for others to know, please share it in the comments below. That’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one. Thanks everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of Cross-Posted Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Same content, different domains? There’s a tag for that. Using rel=canonical to tell Google that similar or identical content exists on multiple domains has a number of clever applications. You can cross-post content across several domains that you own, you can benefit from others republishing your own content, rent or purchase content on other sites, and safely use third-party distribution networks like Medium to spread the word. Rand covers all the canonical bases in this not-to-be-missed edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of X-Posted Content

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the cross-domain rel=canonical tag. So we’ve talked about rel=canonical a little bit and how it can be used to take care of duplicate content issues, point Google to the right pages from potentially other pages that share similar or exactly the same content. But cross-domain rel=canonical is a unique and uniquely powerful tool that is designed to basically say, “You know what, Google? There is the same content on multiple different domains.”

So in this simplistic example, MyFriendSite.com/green-turtles contains this content that I said, “Sure, it’s totally fine for you, my friend, to republish, but I know I don’t want SEO issues. I know I don’t want duplicate content. I know I don’t want a problem where my friend’s site ends up outranking me, because maybe they have better links or other ranking signals, and I know that I would like any ranking credit, any link or authority signals that they accrue to actually come to my website.

There’s a way that you can do this. Google introduced it back in 2009. It is the cross-domain rel=canonical. So essentially, in the header tag of the page, I can add this link, rel=canonical href — it’s a link tag, so there’s an href — to the place where I want the link or the canonical, in this case, to point to and then close the tag. Google will transfer over, this is an estimate, but roughly in the SEO world, we think it’s pretty similar to what you get in a 301 redirect. So something above 90% of the link authority and ranking signals will transfer from FriendSite.com to MySite.com.

So my green turtles page is going to be the one that Google will be more likely to rank. As this one accrues any links or other ranking signals, that authority, those links should transfer over to my page. That’s an ideal situation for a bunch of different things. I’ll talk about those in a sec.

Multiple domains and pages can point to any URL

Multiple domains and pages are totally cool to point to any URL. I can do this for FriendSite.com. I can also do this for TurtleDudes.com and LeatherbackFriends.net and SeaTees.com and NatureIsLit.com. All of them can contain this cross-domain rel=canonical pointing back to the site or the page that I want it to go to. This is a great way to potentially license content out there, give people republishing permissions without losing any of the SEO value.

A few things need to match:

I. The page content really does need to match

That includes things like text, images, if you’ve embedded videos, whatever you’ve got on there.

II. The headline

Ideally, should match. It’s a little less crucial than the page content, but probably you want that headline to match.

III. Links (in content)

Those should also match. This is a good way to make sure. You check one, two, three. This is a good way to make sure that Google will count that rel=canonical correctly.

Things that don’t need to match:

I. The URL

No, it’s fine if the URLs are different. In this case, I’ve got NatureIsLit.com/turtles/p?id=679. That’s okay. It doesn’t need to be green-turtles. I can have a different URL structure on my site than they’ve got on theirs. Google is just fine with that.

II. The title of the piece

Many times the cross-domain rel=canonical is used with different page titles. So if, for example, CTs.com wants to publish the piece with a different title, that’s okay. I still generally recommend that the headlines stay the same, but okay to have different titles.

III. The navigation

IV. Site branding

So all the things around the content. If I’ve got my page here and I have like nav elements over here, nav elements down here, maybe a footer down here, a nice little logo up in the top left, that’s fine if those are totally different from the ones that are on these other pages cross-domain canonically. That stuff does not need to match. We’re really talking about the content inside the page that Google looks for.

Ways to use this protocol

Some great ways to use the cross-domain rel=canonical.

1. If you run multiple domains and want to cross-post content, choose which one should get the SEO benefits and rankings.

If you run multiple domains, for whatever reason, let’s say you’ve got a set of domains and you would like the benefit of being able to publish a single piece of content, for whatever reason, across multiples of these domains that you own, but you know you don’t want to deal with a duplicate content issue and you know you’d prefer for one of these domains to be the one receiving the ranking signals, cross-domain rel=canonical is your friend. You can tell Google that Site A and Site C should not get credit for this content, but Site B should get all the credit.

The issue here is don’t try and do this across multiple domains. So don’t say, “Oh, Site A, why don’t you rel=canonical to B, and Site C, why don’t you rel=canonical to D, and I’ll try and get two things ranked in the top.” Don’t do that. Make sure all of them point to one. That is the best way to make sure that Google respects the cross-domain rel=canonical properly.

2. If a publication wants to re-post your content on their domain, ask for it instead of (or in addition to) a link back.

Second, let’s say a publication reaches out to you. They’re like, “Wow. Hey, we really like this piece.” My wife, Geraldine, wrote a piece about Mario Batali’s sexual harassment apology letter and the cinnamon rolls recipe that he strangely included in this apology. She baked those and then wrote about it. It went quite viral, got a lot of shares from a ton of powerful and well-networked people and then a bunch of publications. The Guardian reached out. An Australian newspaper reached out, and they said, “Hey, we would like to republish your piece.” Geraldine talked to her agent, and they set up a price or whatever.

One of the ways that you can do this and benefit from it, not just from getting a link from The Guardian or some other newspaper, but is to say, “Hey, I will be happy to be included here. You don’t even have to give me, necessarily, if you don’t want to, author credit or link credit, but I do want that sweet, sweet rel=canonical.” This is a great way to maximize the SEO benefit of being posted on someone else’s site, because you’re not just receiving a single link. You’re receiving credit from all the links that that piece might generate.

Oops, I did that backwards. You want it to come from their site to your site. This is how you know Whiteboard Friday is done in one take.

3. Purchase/rent content from other sites without forcing them to remove the content from their domain.

Next, let’s say I am in the opposite situation. I’m the publisher. I see a piece of content that I love and I want to get that piece. So I might say, “Wow, that piece of content is terrific. It didn’t do as well as I thought it would do. I bet if we put it on our site and broadcast it with our audience, it would do incredibly well. Let’s reach out to the author of the piece and see if we can purchase or rent for a time period, say two years, for the next two years we want to put the cross-domain rel=canonical on your site and point it back to us and we want to host that content. After two years, you can have it back. You can own it again.”

Without forcing them to remove the content from their site, so saying you, publisher, you author can keep it on your site. We don’t mind. We’d just like this tag applied, and we’d like to able to have republishing permissions on our website. Now you can get the SEO benefits of that piece of content, and they can, in exchange, get some money. So your site sending them some dollars, their site sending you the rel=canonical and the ranking authority and the link equity and all those beautiful things.

4. Use Medium as a content distribution network without the drawback of duplicate content.

Number four, Medium. Medium is a great place to publish content. It has a wide network, people who really care about consuming content. Medium is a great distribution network with one challenge. If you post on Medium, people worry that they can’t post the same thing on their own site because you’ll be competing with Medium.com. It’s a very powerful domain. It tends to rank really well. So duplicate content is an issue, and potentially losing the rankings and the traffic that you would get from search and losing that to Medium is no fun.

But Medium has a beautiful thing. The cross-domain rel=canonical is built in to their import tool. So if you go to Medium.com/p/import and you are logged in to your Medium account, you can enter in their URL field the content that you’ve published on your own site. Medium will republish it on your account, and they will include the cross-domain rel=canonical back to you. Now, you can start thinking of Medium as essentially a distribution network without the penalties or problems of duplicate content issues. Really, really awesome tool. Really awesome that Medium is offering this. I hope it sticks around.

All right, everyone. I think you’re going to have some excellent additional ideas for the cross-domain rel=canonical and how you have used it. We would love you to share those in the comments below, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

When and how to use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and link count metrics.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about when and how to use Domain Authority and Page Authority and link count metrics.

So many of you have written to us at Moz over the years and certainly I go to lots of conferences and events and speak to folks who are like, “Well, I’ve been measuring my link building activity with DA,” or, “Hey, I got a high DA link,” and I want to confirm when is it the right time to be using something like DA or PA or a raw link count metric, like number of linking root domains or something like Spam Score or a traffic estimation, these types of metrics.

So I’m going to walk you through kind of these three — Page Authority, Domain Authority, and linking root domains — just to get a refresher course on what they are. Page Authority and Domain Authority are actually a little complicated. So I think that’s worthwhile. Then we’ll chat about when to use which metrics. So I’ve got sort of the three primary things that people use link metrics for in the SEO world, and we’ll walk through those.

Page Authority

So to start, Page Authority is basically — you can see I’ve written a ton of different little metrics in here — linking URLs, linking root domains, MozRank, MozTrust, linking subdomains, anchor text, linking pages, followed links, no followed links, 301s, 302s, new versus old links, TLD, domain name, branded domain mentions, Spam Score, and many, many other metrics.

Basically, what PA is, is it’s every metric that we could possibly come up with from our link index all taken together and then thrown into a model with some training data. So the training data in this case, quite obviously, is Google search results, because what we want the Page Authority score to ultimately be is a predictor of how well a given page is going to rank in Google search results assuming we know nothing else about it except link data. So this is using no on-page data, no content data, no engagement or visit data, none of the patterns or branding or entity matches, just link data.

So this is everything we possibly know about a page from its link profile and the domain that page is on, and then we insert that in as the input alongside the training data. We have a machine learning model that essentially learns against Google search results and builds the best possible model it can. That model, by the way, throws away some of this stuff, because it’s not useful, and it adds in a bunch of this stuff, like vectors or various attributes of each one. So it might say, “Oh, anchor text distribution, that’s actually not useful, but Domain Authority ordered by the root domains with more than 500 links to them.” I’m making stuff up, right? But you could have those sorts of filters on this data and thus come up with very complex models, which is what machine learning is designed to do.

All we have to worry about is that this is essentially the best predictive score we can come up with based on the links. So it’s useful for a bunch of things. If we’re trying to say how well do we think this page might rank independent of all non-link factors, PA, great model. Good data for that.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is once you have the PA model in your head and you’re sort of like, “Okay, got it, machine learning against Google’s results to produce the best predictive score for ranking in Google.” DA is just the PA model at the root domain level. So not subdomains, just root domains, which means it’s got some weirdness. It can’t, for example, say that randfishkin.blogspot.com is different than www.blogspot.com. But obviously, a link from www.blogspot.com is way more valuable than from my personal subdomain at Blogspot or Tumblr or WordPress or any of these hosted subdomains. So that’s kind of an edge case that unfortunately DA doesn’t do a great job of supporting.

What it’s good for is it’s relatively well-suited to be predictive of how a domain’s pages will rank in Google. So it removes all the page-level information, but it’s still operative at the domain level. It can be very useful for that.

Linking Root Domain

Then linking root domains is the simplest one. This is basically a count of all the unique root domains with at least one link on them that point to a given page or a site. So if I tell you that this URL A has 410 linking root domains, that basically means that there are 410 domains with at least one link pointing to URL A.

What I haven’t told you is whether they’re followed or no followed. Usually, this is a combination of those two unless it’s specified. So even a no followed link could go into the linking root domains, which is why you should always double check. If you’re using Ahrefs or Majestic or Moz and you hover on the whatever, the little question mark icon next to any given metric, it will tell you what it includes and what it doesn’t include.

When to use which metric(s)

All right. So how do we use these?

Well, for month over month link building performance, which is something that a lot of folks track, I would actually not suggest making DA your primary one. This is for a few reasons. So Moz’s index, which is the only thing currently that calculates DA or a machine learning-like model out there among the major toolsets for link data, only updates about once every month. So if you are doing your report before the DA has updated from the last link index, that can be quite frustrating.

Now, I will say we are only a few months away from a new index that’s going to replace Mozscape that will calculate DA and PA and all these other things much, much more quickly. I know that’s been something many folks have been asking for. It is on its way.

But in the meantime, what I recommend using is:

1. Linking root domains, the count of linking root domains and how that’s grown over time.

2. Organic rankings for your targeted keywords. I know this is not a direct link metric, but this really helps to tell you about the performance of how those links have been affected. So if you’re measuring month to month, it should be the case that any months you’ve got in a 20 or 30-day period, Google probably has counted and recognized within a few days of finding them, and Google is pretty good at crawling nearly the whole web within a week or two weeks. So this is going to be a reasonable proxy for how your link building campaign has helped your organic search campaign.

3. The distribution of Domain Authority. So I think, in this case, Domain Authority can be useful. It wouldn’t be my first or second choice, but I think it certainly can belong in a link building performance report. It’s helpful to see the high DA links that you’re getting. It’s a good sorting mechanism to sort of say, “These are, generally speaking, more important, more authoritative sites.”

4. Spam Score I like as well, because if you’ve been doing a lot of link building, it is the case that Domain Authority doesn’t penalize or doesn’t lower its score for a high Spam Score. It will show you, “Hey, this is an authoritative site with a lot of DA and good-looking links, but it also looks quite spammy to us.” So, for example, you might see that something has a DA of 60, but a Spam Score of 7 or 8, which might be mildly concerning. I start to really worry when you get to like 9, 10, or 11.

Second question:

I think this is something that folks ask. So they look at their own links and they say, “All right, we have these links or our competitor has these links. Which ones are providing the most value for me?” In that case, if you can get it, for example, if it’s a link pointing to you, the best one is, of course, going to be…

1. Real traffic sent. If a site or a page, a link is sending traffic to you, that is clearly of value and that’s going to be likely interpreted positively by the search engines as well.

You can also use…

2. PA

3. DA. I think it’s pretty good. These metrics are pretty good and pretty well-correlated with, relatively speaking, value, especially if you can’t get at a metric like real traffic because it’s coming from someone else’s site.

4. Linking root domains, the count of those to a page or a domain.

5. The rankings rise, in the case where a page is ranking position four, a new link coming to it is the only thing that’s changed or the only thing you’re aware of that’s changed in the last few days, few weeks, and you see a rankings rise. It moves up a few positions. That’s a pretty good proxy for, “All right, that is a valuable link.” But this is a rare case where you really can control other variables to the extent that you think you can believe in that.

6. I like Spam Scor for this as well, because then you can start to see, “Well, are these sketchier links, or are these links that I can likely trust more?”

Last one,

So I think this is one that many, many SEOs do. We have a big list of links. We’ve got 50 links that we’re thinking about, “Should I get these or not and which ones should I go after first and which ones should I not go after?” In this case…

1. DA is really quite a good metric, and that is because it’s relatively predictive of the domain’s pages’ performance in Google, which is a proxy, but a decent proxy for how it might help your site rank better.

It is the case that folks will talk about, “Hey, it tends to be the case that when I go out and I build lots of DA 70, DA 80, DA 90+ links, I often get credit. Why DA and not PA, Rand?” Well, in the case where you’re getting links, it’s very often from new pages on a website, which have not yet been assigned PA or may not have inherited all the link equity from all the internal pages.

Over time, as those pages themselves get more links, their PA will rise as well. But the reason that I generally recommend a DA for link outreach is both because of that PA/DA timing issue and because oftentimes you don’t know which page is going to give you a link from a domain. It could be a new page they haven’t created yet. It could be one that you never thought they would add you to. It might be exactly the page that you were hoping for, but it’s hard to say.

2. I think linking root domains is a very reasonable one for this, and linking root domains is certainly closely correlated, not quite as well correlated, but closely correlated with DA and with rankings.

3. Spam Score, like we’ve talked about.

4. I might use something like SimilarWeb‘s traffic estimates, especially if real traffic sent is something that I’m very interested in. If I’m pursuing no followed links or affiliate links or I just care about traffic more than I care about rank-boosting ability, SimilarWeb has got what I think is the best traffic prediction system, and so that would be the metric I look at.

So, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of DA and PA and link counts and when and where to apply them alongside which other metrics. I look forward to your questions. I’ll be happy to jump into the comments and answer. And we’ll see you again next time for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Choose a Domain Name – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

One decision that you’ll have to live with for quite a long time is the domain name you choose for your site. You may have a list of options that you know are available, but what should you keep in mind when you sit down to make the decision? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers eight criteria for picking a winner.

How to Choose a Domain Name for SEO & Branding Whiteboard

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Welcome to Rand’s rules (for choosing an effective domain name)

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about choosing domain names, and, in fact, I’ve got eight rules for you that will help guide your domain name choices.

Now, it could be you’re starting a new brand. It could be that you have an existing brand and you’re trying to take it online. It might be that you’re working with clients who are taking their brand online. It could be that you’re starting a new company entirely. I love entrepreneurship, congratulations. Any of these ways, you’re going to need a website.

Before you do that, you should really think long and hard about the domain name that you choose and, in fact, the brand name that you choose and how that’s represented through your domain name online. Domain names have a massive impact all over the web in terms of click-through rate, from search to social media results, to referring links, to type-in traffic, brandability, offline advertising. There’s a huge wealth of places that your domain name impacts your brand and your online marketing, and we can’t ignore this.

So first rule that Rand has for how to choose a domain name.

1) Make it brandable.

Brandable, meaning when you hear the domain name, when you hear yourself or someone else say it, does it sound like a brand, or does it sound like a generic? So that means that hyphens and numbers are a real problem because they don’t make something sound like a brand. They make it sound generic, or they make it sound strange.

For example, if I try and say to you, “Look, let’s imagine that our new company that we’re starting together, you and I, is a website that has pasta recipes and potentially sells some pasta related e-commerce products on it.” If I tell you that I have pasta-shop.com, well, that’s hard to brand. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to remember.

Speaking of, is this brand memorable? So generic keyword strings are a big no-no. Generic keyword strings really tough to remember, really tough to stand out in the brain. You want something unique, which means try and avoid those exact and partial keyword match domain names. They tend not to do so well, in fact. If you look at the numbers that we see in MozCast, for example, or in correlation studies, you can see that, over the past 10 years, they have done nothing but trend down over time in terms of their correlation with rankings and their ability to show in the search results. Dangerous there.

I would probably stay away from something like a PastaRecipesOnline.com. I think BestPasta.com, maybe that’s getting a little bit better. PastaAficionado, well, it sounds brandable. For sure, it’s a little bit challenging to say. But it’s definitely unique.

I really like PastaLabs.com. Very brandable, unique, memorable, stands out. I’m going to remember it. It has kind of a scientific connotation to it. Fascinating. I might think about the domain name space that way.

2) Make it pronounceable.

You might say to yourself, “Rand, why is it so important that it’s pronounceable? Most people are going to be typing this in or they’re going to be clicking on a link, so why does it matter?”

In fact, it matters because of a concept called “processing fluency.” It’s a cognitive bias that human beings have where, essentially, we remember and have more positive associations with things that we can easily say and easily think about, and that includes pronounceability in our own minds. This is going to be different depending on the language that you’re targeting and which countries you’re targeting. But certainly, if you can’t easily say the name and others are not easily able to guess how to say that name, you’re going to lose that processing fluency, you’re going to lose that memorability and all the benefits of the brandability that you’ve created.

So I might stay away from things like FlourEggsH20.com. It’s clever. Don’t get me wrong. It’s unique. It’s clever. It might even be brandable, but it’s very difficult to pronounce and to recall. When you see it, you don’t know if that zero is an O. There are questions about like what does it necessarily mean or not.

Raviolibertine.com. Even I’m having trouble saying it. Raviolibertine? I would stay away from a little bit of the getting too clever for yourself, and many, many domain names do try to do that.

I might say, “You know what? Something like LandOfNoodles.com, while it doesn’t fulfill every requirement that we’ve got here, it is eminently pronounceable, easy to remember.” These are easy words that many people are very familiar with, at least in English. LandOfNoodles, whoops, I like LandOfNoodles. I’m giving it a check mark. Well, now I’ve messed up the Whiteboard. Hopefully, Elijah took a picture before I did that. Oh, he’s giving me the thumbs up. Good.

3) Make it as short as you possibly can, but no shorter.

This means obey these other rules before you just go for raw length. But length matters. Length matters because of the processing fluency stuff we talked about before. But the fewer characters a domain name has, the easier it is to type, the easier it is to say, to share, the less it gets shortened on social media sharing platforms and in search results. So when you’ve seen those long domain names, they get compressed, or they might not show fully, or the URL might get cut off, or you might see just the t.co, all those kinds of things.

Therefore, short as possible. Shorter is definitely better. I might go for something short like MyPasta.com, but I’d be careful about going too short. For example, PastaScience.com is a pretty good domain name. PastaSci, I’ve lost that pronounceability and a little bit of that memorability. It’s a little bit tougher. It’s clearly a brand, but it’s a little awkward. I would probably stay away from that one and I’d stick with PastaScience.

4) Bias to .com.

I know, it’s 2016. Why are we still talking about .com? The internet’s been around 20-plus years. Why does .com matter so much when there are so many TLD extension options? The answer is, again, this is the most recognized, most easily accessible brand outside of the tech world.

If you’re talking about, “Look, all I’m doing is addressing developers and my pasta website only wants to talk to very, very tech savvy individuals, people who already work in the web world,” well okay, maybe it’s all right to go with a .pasta domain name. Perhaps you can actually buy that TLD extension now that ICANN has approved all these new domain names.

But cognitive fluency, processing fluency says, dictates that we should go with something that’s easy, that people have an association with already, and .com is still the primary thing that non-tech savvy folks have an association with. If you want to build up a very brandable domain that can do well, you want that .com. Probably, eventually, if you are very successful, you’re going to have to try and go capture it anyway, and so I would bias you to get it if you can.

If it’s unavailable, my suggestion would be to go with the .net, .co, or a known ccTLD. Those are your best bets. A known ccTLD might be something like .ca in Canada or .it in Italy, those kinds of things. That’s your next best bet. I’d still bias you to .com. But the PenneIsMightier.com, I’m particularly proud of this one. I think it’s a terrible pun, but a man’s got to do.

MacaroniMan.net, would I potentially think about that if I couldn’t get the .com? Yeah, possibly if I thought I was targeting a little bit more of a savvy audience and if I was pretty sure that MacaroniMan.com was owned by a squatter who just wouldn’t give it up, or it was owned by a small restaurant somewhere that I never had to really worry about competition with and they wouldn’t sell to me, yeah, okay, I might do it.

What about Impastable.co? Avoiding the fact that this is another terrible pun of mine, I might consider that if I absolutely couldn’t get Impastable.com and that was already my domain name and I felt like I had the branding ability to make the .co something people would associate with. I could consider that too.

5) Avoid names that infringe on another company or another organization’s existing trademark or could be confused with that trademark.

You have to be very careful here because it’s not whether you think it could be confused. It’s whether you think any judge in the jurisdiction in which they might take legal action against you would consider those two things to be potentially misrepresented or potentially confusable. So it’s not your judgment. It’s not even your audience’s judgment. It’s what you think a judge in the jurisdiction might have the judgment about.

So this is dangerous waters. I would urge you to talk to your attorney or a legal professional about this if you have real concerns. But there is the danger and this does happen regularly throughout the web’s history where a trademark owner will come and sue a domain owner, someone who’s owning the domain legitimately and using it for business purposes or just someone who’s purchased it and is sitting on it, and that sucks.

This can also create brand confusion, which is hard for your brandability. So you might be familiar with some pasta brands that have done particularly well here in the U.S., like Barilla and Ronzoni and Rustichella d’Abruzzo. Well, I probably would not go get Barzilla.com even if you have a hilarious, Godzilla themed pun that you want to make about the pasta. Just because your name might be Ron and you are covering pasta, I still would not go with RonsZoni. Oops, I’m going to X those both out. Likewise, Rustichella — apologies for my poor Italian pronunciation — but Rustichella owns Rustichella.it. They don’t seem to own Rustichella.com. I think that’s owned by a domain name owner. But I would not go start up a website there. Rustichella certainly could, with their U.S. presence, go and claim trademark ownership of that domain and potentially get it from you. I would think that was risky.

6) Make the domain name instantly intuitive.

If you believe that a member of your target audience, the audience that you’re trying to reach now and in the future, could immediately associate the domain name with a good guess of what they think you do, that is a big positive. Being able to look at that domain name and say, “Oh, I’m guessing they probably do this. This is probably what that company is up to.”

So something clever and subtle, like SavoryThreads.com, okay, yeah, once I get to your site, I might realize, “Oh, I see it’s sort of a playful word game there and ‘savory,’ I get that it’s about food.” But it’s too clever, in my opinion, and it doesn’t instantly suggest to a majority of your audience what it is that you do.

Likewise, AnnelloniToZiti.com, well, yeah, maybe I could guess that these are probably pasta names and it probably means that the website has something to do with that. But they’re not traditionally very well-known pastas. At least here in the United States, those shapes are not particularly well-known, and so I might cross that one out too, versus something where it is clearly, clearly about recipes for and potentially sales of goods, PastaPerfected.com. That’s obviously, intuitively about what it is going to be, and anyone from your audience could figure that out.

7) Use broad keywords when sensible, but don’t stress keyword inclusion.

Keyword use in domain names, you might think, is an important thing and that would be something that I would mention here from an SEO perspective. It can help. Don’t get me wrong, it can help. It can help mostly for this instant intuition portion and the cognitive fluency and processing fluency biases that we’ve talked about, but also a little bit from an SEO perspective because of the anchor text that you generally will accrue when people link over to your domain. But what we’ve been seeing, as I mentioned earlier, is that Google’s been biasing away from these exact match and partial match keywords.

I would say that if you can get a keyword mention in your domain name that helps make it obvious what you’re about, go for it. But if you’re trying to target what would be called keyword rich or keyword targeted domains, I would generally stay away from those actually in 2016. They just don’t carry the weight that they used to, and there are a lot of associations, negative associations that users and search engines have about them that would make me stay away.

So I would not do something like a RecipesForPasta.com. I wouldn’t do something like BuyPastaOnline.com. I would be tempted to, in fact, go for something very, very broad like Gusto.com. Think about a brand like an Amazon.com, which clearly has no association with what it is, or Google itself, Google.com, or a domain here in Seattle area that serves lawyers that’s called Avvo.com. These are very, very well-branded and associated with their niches, but they don’t necessarily need to have a keyword richness to them.

Another great example, the find a dog sitter or find pet care website, Rover.com. Well, “rover” has an association with dogs, but it’s not really keyword rich. It’s more of a creative association just like “gusto” means “taste” in Italian. So I might be tempted to go in that direction instead. Same thing with something like Handcut.com. People have that, especially foodies are going to have that association between handcut and pasta.

8) If your name isn’t available, it’s okay to append or modify it.

If your domain name is not available, last one, it is okay to go out there and add a suffix or a prefix. It is okay to use an alternate TLD extension, like we talked about previously, and it’s okay to be a little bit creative with your online brand.

For example, let’s say my brand name is Pastaterra. Maybe I’ve already got a shop somewhere maybe in the Seattle area and I have been selling pasta at my shop and now I’m going online with it. Well, it is okay for me to do something like ThePastaterra.com, or PastaterraShop.com, or even Pastaterra.net. If I wanted to be very targeting a much more tech savvy set and was aware of the branding difficulties, I could conceivably go with something like Terra.pasta, because that pasta TLD extension is now available. But I could get a little bit broader. In fact, I might prefer this and go with something like RandOfTheTerra or RandsTerra.com or EatAtTerra. If I were a restaurant, I might do something like EatAtTerra.com.

So with these rules in mind, I would love to hear from all of you about your domain choices and your domain name biases and what you think is working in 2016 and potentially not working, and hopefully we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com;;

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Google News Now Will Crawl & Index Images Hosted Off Your Domain Name

Google News updated their image crawl process to include images hosted off the publishers domain.

The post Google News Now Will Crawl & Index Images Hosted Off Your Domain Name appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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How Google is Connecting Keyword Relevance to Websites through More than Just Domain Names – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

We’re seeing Google continue to move beyond just reading pages, instead attempting to truly understand what they’re about. The engine is drawing connections between concepts and brand names, and it’s affecting SERPs. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains just what Google is doing, and how we can help create such associations with our own brands.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about how Google connects keyword relevance to websites, particularly how they do this beyond just the domain name.

Obviously, for a long time Google looked at the name of a particular website and the queries that were entered and might rank that site higher if the domain name had some match with the query. We called this the exact match domains or the partial match domains.

For a long time, they did have quite a bit of power. They’ve gone down dramatically in power. These days MozCast is reporting 2.5% to 3% of domains that appear in the top 10 over many thousands of search results are exact match domains. It used to be above 7% when we started MozCast. I think before that it was in the 12%, 13%, or 14%. So it’s gone way, way down over the last few years.

Google has gotten tremendously more sophisticated about the signals that it does consider when it comes to applying relevance of keywords to a particular domain name or to a particular website.

I’ll give you some examples. One is RealSimple.com. If you’re someone who does searches around home organization or gadgets for the home, or especially quick recipes, not like the long, drawn out recipes, but like 10, 15 minute recipes, cleaning products, physical fitness and workouts, makeup and beauty, all of these topics Real Simple always seems to rank on the first page, at least somewhere. I’m not talking about these specific terms, but anything related to them.

It’s almost like Google has said, “You know what, when people are searching for cleaning products, we feel like Real Simple is where they always want to end up, so let’s try and find a page that’s relevant on there.” Sometimes the pages that they find are not particularly excellent. In fact, some of the time you will find that you’re like, “That doesn’t even seem all that relevant. Why are they showing me that page for this query? I get that Real Simple is a good site for that usually, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of match I’m looking for.”

You’ll see very similar things if you look at Metacritic.com. Metacritic, of course, started with games. It’s gone into movies and now television. They essentially aggregate and assemble, sort of like Rotten Tomatoes does and some other sites like that, they’ll assemble critic reviews and user reviews from all over the place, put them together and come up with what they call a METASCORE.

METASCORES are something that they rank very well for. But around all of these pop culture mediums, PC game reviews, critics opinions on games, PlayStation games, TV show ratings, movie ratings, they always seem to be in the top 10 for a lot of these things. It doesn’t have to be the broad PC game or TV show. You can put in the name of a television show or the name of a movie or the name of a game, and it will often show up. That seems to be, again, Google connecting up like, “Oh, Metacritic. We think that’s what someone’s looking for.”

You can see this with all sorts of sites. CNET.com does this all the time with every kind of gadget review, electronics review. Genius.com seems to come up whenever there’s anything related to lyrics or musical annotations around songs.

There’s just a lot of that connection. These connections can come from a number of places. It’s obviously not just the domain name anymore. Google is building up these connections between terms, phrases and indeed concepts, and then the domain or the brand name probably through a bunch of different inputs.

Those inputs could be things like brand and non-brand search volume combined together. They might see that, gosh, a lot people when they search for song lyrics, they add “genius”‘ or “rap genius.” A lot of people who search for quick recipes or cleaning products, they add “Real Simple” or “Martha Stewart.” Or if they’re searching for PC games they look for the Metacritic score around it. Gosh, that suggests to us maybe that those domains, those websites should be connected with those search terms and phrases.

Probably there’s some aspect of co-occurrence between the brand name and/or links to the site from lots of sites and pages on credible sources that Google finds that are discussing these topics. It’s like, “Oh, gosh, a lot of people who are talking about cleaning products seem to link over to Real Simple. A lot of people who talk about cell phone reviews seem to mention or link over to CNET. Well, maybe that’s forming that connection.”

Then where searchers on these topics eventually end up on the web. Google has access to all this incredible data about where people go on the Internet through Chrome and through Android. They can say, “Hmm, you know, this person searched for cleaning products. We didn’t send them to Real Simple, but then eventually they ended up there anyway. They went to these other websites, they found it, maybe they typed it in, maybe they did brand search, whatever. It seems like there’s an affinity between these kinds of searchers and these websites. Maybe we need to build that connection.”

As this is happening, as a result of this, we feel as marketers, as SEOs, we feel this brand bias, this domain bias. I think some of the things that we might put into brand biasing and domain authority are actually signals that are connections between the domain or the brand and the topical relevance that Google sees through all sorts of data like this.

As that’s happening, this has some requirements for SEO. As SEOs, we’ve got to be asking ourselves, “Okay, how do we build up an association between our brand or our domain and the broad keywords, terms, topics, phrases, so that we can rank for all of the long tail and chunky middle terms around those topics?” This is now part of our job. We need to build up that brand association.

This is potentially going to change some of our best practices. One of the best practices I think that it immediately and obviously affects is a lot of the time Metacritic might say, “Hey, we want to target PC game reviews. We’ve got this page to do it. That’s our page on PC game reviews. All these other pages, let’s make sure they don’t directly overlap with that, because if we do, we might end up cannibalizing, doing keyword cannibalization.”

For those broad topics, Metacritic might actually say, “You know, because of this functionality of Google, we actually want a lot of pages on this. We want everyone, we want to be able to serve all the needs around this, not just that one page for that one keyword. Even if it is the best converting keyword and our content resources are limited, we might want to target that on a bunch of different pages. We might want to be producing new content regularly about PC game reviews and then linking back to this original one because we want that association to build up.”

Other best practices that we have in SEO are things where we will take a keyword and will essentially just make our keyword research very limited to the ones that have produced returns in our paid search account or in our advertising. That also might be unwise. We might need to think outside of those areas and think, “How can we serve all of the needs around a topic? How can we become a site that is associated with all of the keyword topics, rather than just cherry picking the ones that convert for us?”

That might get a little frustrating because we are not all content factories. We are not all big media brand builders. But these are the sites that are dominating the search results consistently, over and over again. I think as Google is seeing this searcher happiness from connections with the brands and domains that they expect to find, that they want to find, they’re going to be biasing this way even more, forcing us to emulate a lot of what these big brands are doing.

All right, everyone. Look forward to some great commentary, and we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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The Next Domain Gold Rush: What You Need to Know

Posted by Dr-Pete

In late 2012 and early 2013, companies were allowed, for the first time, to apply for new TLDs (Top-Level Domains). There was a lot of press about big companies buying swaths of TLDs – for example, Google bought .google, .docs, .youtube, and many more. The rest of us heard the price tag – a cool $ 185,000 – and simply wrote this off as an interesting anecdote. What you may not realize is that there’s a phase two, and it’s relevant to everyone who owns a website (below: 544 new TLDs – cloud created with Tagxedo).

Phase 2: TLDs go live

You may have assumed that these TLDs would simply be bought up and tucked away for private use by mega-corporations, Saudi Princes, and Justin Bieber. The reality is that many of these TLDs are going to go live soon, and domains within them are going to be sold to the public, just like traditional TLDs (.com, .net, etc.). I talked to Steve Banfield, SVP Registrar Services at Demand Media (which owns eNom and Name.com), to get the scoop on what this process will mean for site owners.

Gold rush 2014

ICANN had more than 1,900 applications for TLDs, and of those Name.com currently lists 544 that will be available for sale in the near future. These domains cover a wide range of topics – here are just a few, to give you a flavor of what’s up for grabs:

  • .app
  • .attorney
  • .blog
  • .boston
  • .flowers
  • .marketing
  • .porn
  • .realtor
  • .store
  • .web
  • .wedding
  • .wtf

This is an unprecedented explosion in available domain names, and you can expect a gold rush mentality as companies scoop up domains to protect trademarks and chase new opportunities and as individuals register a wide variety of vanity domains. So, when do these domains go on sale, and how much will they cost? As Steve explained to me, this gets a bit tricky…

“Sunrise” & Pre-registration

Understandably, ICANN is reluctant to simply release hundreds of TLDs into the wild all at once and upset the ecosystem. As the TLDs have been granted, they’ve been gradually delegated to the global DNS and are coming online in batches. As each TLD becomes available, it has to undergo a 60-day “sunrise” period. This period allows trademark holder to register claims and potentially lock down protected words. For example, Dell may want to lock down dell.computer or Amazon.com may grab amazon.book. These domains must still be registered (and paid for), but trademark holders get first dibs across any new TLD. Trademark disputes are a separate, legal issue (and beyond the scope of this post).

Some registrars will allow pre-registration during or immediately following the sunrise period. While you can’t technically register a domain without a trademark claim during the 60 day sunrise, they’ll essentially add you to a waiting list. This gets complicated, as multiple registrars could all have people on their waiting list for the same domain, so there are no guarantees. Some registrars are also charging premium prices for pre-registration, and those premiums could carry into your renewals, so read the fine print carefully.

Facts and figures

Once sunrise and pre-registration end, general availability begins. You may be wondering – when is that, exactly? The short answer is: it’s complicated. I’ll attempt to answer the big questions, with Steve’s help:

When do the new domains go on sale?

The first group of domains began their sunrise period on November 26, 2013, and it ends on January 24, 2014. After that, additional domains will come into play in small groups, throughout the year. To find out about any particular domain/TLD, your best bet is to use a service like Name.com’s TLD watch-list, which sends status notifications about specific domains you’re interested in. Your own registrar of choice may have a similar service. The specifics of any given TLD will vary.

How much will the new domains cost?

Unfortunately, it depends. Each TLD can be priced differently, and even within a TLD, some domains may go for a premium rate. A few TLDs will probably be auction-based and not fixed-price. Use a watch-list tool or investigate your domains of choice individually.

What kind of a land grab can we expect?

With over 500 TLDs in play over the course of months, it’s nearly impossible to say. Some domains, like .attorney, will clearly be competitive in local markets, and you can expect a gold rush mentality. Other domains, like .guru may be popular for vanity URLs. Regional and niche domains, like .okinawa or .rodeo are going to have a smaller audience. Then there are wildcards, like .ninja, that are really anyone’s guess.

SEO implications

Naturally, as a Moz reader, you may be wondering what weight the new TLDs will have with search engines. Will a domain like seattle.attorney have the same ranking benefit as a more traditional domain like seattleattorney.com? Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that the new TLDs won’t have an advantage over existing domains, but was unclear on whether keywords in the new domain extensions will act as a ranking signal. I strongly suspect they will play this by ear, until they know how each of the new TLDs is being used. In my opinion, exact-match domains are no longer as powerful without other signals to back them up, and it’s likely Google may lower the volume on some of the new TLDs or treat them more like sub-domains in terms of ranking power. In other words, they’ll probably have some value, but don’t expect miracles.

There may be indirect SEO benefits. For example, if you own seattle.attorney, it’s more likely people will link to you with the phrase “Seattle attorney”, and since that’s now your brand/domain, it’s more likely to look natural (because it’s more likely to be natural). A well-matched name may also be more memorable, in some cases, although it may take people some time to get used to the new TLDs. To quote Steve directly:

What will matter is the memory of the end user and branding. Which is better: hilton.com or hilton.hotel, chevrolet.com or chevrolet.cars, coors.com or coors.beer? Today, it’s easy to say the .com is “better” for brand recall, but over time we’ll have to see which works better for brand marketing.

My conservative opinion is this – don’t scoop up dozens of domains just in the hopes of magically ranking. Register domains that match your business objectives or that you want to protect – either because of your own trademarks or for future use. If you hit the domain game late and have a .com that you hate (this-is-all-they-had-left.com), it might be a good time to consider your options for something more memorable.

Todd Malicoat wrote an excellent post last year on choosing an exact-match domain, and I think many of his tips are relevant to the new TLDs and any domain purchase. Ultimately, some people will use the new TLDs creatively and powerfully, and others will use them poorly. There’s opportunity here, but it’s going to take planning, brand awareness, and ultimately, smart marketing.

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How to choose a domain for your business (infographic)

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