21 Aug 2008

(QualityGal) Keyword-Rich Domain Names and Sites That Don’t Suck

Kurt Krejny of Fathom SEO is causing a bit of a ruckus on Sphinn with his piece about Domain Name Gaming. Basically, he’s irritated with keyword-rich domain names being bought up and filled with useless content that ranks well. I have to agree. What’s the controversy?

First, johnandrews commented that Kurt’s argument is "naive and uninformed." I made a comment about human reviewers to which SpostareDuro replied, "Terrific resolve… in theory."

I’d like to expand upon my argument.

We all know what these keyword-happy domains look like. I’m sure a good number of people reading this have created some. (In the name of experimentation, of course.) And we all know that, while the keywords rock the AdSense and bring in loads of cash, the people who visit these sites are not quite happy with the content they find. That’s why they click on the ads, of course, which is why they’re created so poorly in the first place.

But if we look at these sites with our user hats on instead of our SEO hats, it’s not a pretty picture. They fail at meeting user intent. Hard. And while they may rank well for a while, human reviewers could flatten them in no time.

Kurt encouraged his readers to submit a Spam Report to Google whenever they come across these sucky keyword sites. (Most likely because we want to compete with them, of course.) Commenter berto pointed out that these sites don’t fit the strict definition of spam as set out by the search engines.

Submitting a spam report could still help, even if the search engines don’t kick the sites to the curb for spamming. Why? Because human eyeballs still need to evaluate the spam report, and human reviewers would likely end up demoting sites that aren’t kicked out of the index.

Not convinced? Let’s take Google for example. Google utilizes human reviewers. Now I don’t know how different sites end up getting reviewed, but it would make sense that spam reports would kick up various URLs for them to look at. So if you submit a spam report, and the reviewer determines that the site doesn’t meet the Google definition of spam, that’s not the only thing they’re going to look at.

No, the human reviewer is going to look at the site that you already know is useless, and they are going to recognize that it isn’t "useful." It may have some relevance, if it’s able to dodge the spam label, but being bumped off the "useful" peg should leave room for good results to rank.

And that’s where you come in, with your site that is ready to rank competitively for the keyword that the sucky site formerly dominated. With useful information that meets user intent instead of copying and pasting important keywords into a generic template that uses many words to say nothing. Pay someone to write that useful content.  You paid for the domain; this is just another part of the investment, or else you’re throwing your money away.

That’s one reason I have my job: to create content that both helps boost SERP rank and provides value to the user. So my advice may seem a bit self-serving…

But it also helps you. Because your sucky keyword site may be raking in traffic and ad revenue now, but it’s only a matter of time before one of your competitors hits the spam report button and outranks you with actual content. I will begrudgingly admit that sucky content can serve as a placeholder while quality content is generated, but using it that way is a gamble and a race against time – can you replace the crap with something of substance before your site makes it to human review?

Holes in my argument: Maybe the spam report doesn’t automatically kick a site into the queue for human review. Maybe the human reviewer(s) will disagree with you on the value of the site. Maybe the human reviewer(s) will agree with you, but their evaluation has no real effect on the rankings. Maybe you can fly under the radar and not get caught. BUT… are those risks you’re willing to take?