Minnesota-Resident Amazon Affiliates Now Banned

Have you seen the newest amendments to the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement, released early this morning? According to the agreement amendment, residents of Minnesota will now be “ineligible” to be an Amazon affiliate.

Affiliates in the state received this email from Amazon:

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective June 30, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Minnesota state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Dayton on May 23, 2013, with an effective date of July 1, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after June 30 nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Minnesota residents.

Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to July 1, 2013, will be processed and paid in full in accordance with your regular advertising fee schedule. Based on your account closure date of June 30, 2013, any final payments will be paid by August 30, 2013.

While we oppose this unconstitutional state legislation, we strongly support the federal Marketplace Fairness Act now pending before Congress. Congressional legislation is the only way to create a simplified, constitutional framework to resolve interstate sales tax issues and it would allow us to re-open our Associates program to Minnesota residents.

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and look forward to re-opening our program when Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Sincerely,
The Amazon Associates Team

This makes the state list of “ineligible” affiliate residents include the following:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island

It’s a sad day for Minnesota affiliates. There’s no further explanation as to why this change happened, but the first thought always happens to be that of the greedy Nexus Law or “Amazon Tax,” which is slated to take effect across the entire United States (even President Obama is on board with it).

How will a nationwide Nexus Law affect the “banned” states? Will Amazon repeal a list of states not eligible for their Associates program? Only time will tell.

How to Get Backlinks After Google Panda

Every webmaster these days is stressed over backlinks — getting them, disavowing them, updating them, grooming them. The fact is that the days of toiling over the look and feel of your own backlinks and the manual labor you put into creating them is practically dead, and that’s a good thing.

The Death of Self-Manufactured Backlinks

Backlinks are my biggest rant, if you’ve read my past articles. I think it’s a corrupted, ridiculous system where everyone has to basically “cheat the system” in order to have a prayer of being seen on a search engine, and that’s not right…mainly because it’s unnatural, deceptive (no matter how well it’s done), and most importantly, Big Business always comes out #1 because it’s nothing more than “who has the most money to spend” on an army of content writers and linkbuilding services.

To make matters worse, backlinks also happen to be the #1 component of every algorithm in terms of what impacts rankings most.

With the latest release of Google Panda, it looks like things are finally starting to get a little better. For once, cheaters are getting punished. Black hatters are getting hurt. Link buyers who employed scummy services like TextLinkAds are scrambling to find new strategies. I say it’s been a long time coming.

Where Do Quality Backlinks Come From, Now?

If you’re looking for quality backlinks these days, there are only two ways to get them, in all of my experience and in my opinion:

  1. Your content is simply that good, that others will build links for you. The key part of this sentence is the latter: other people creating backlinks for you. More specifically, these ‘other people’ are random internet users from random IP addresses in random locations around the world.

    These are the backlinks that truly matter — not the garbage ones you’re self-producing on Facebook, Twitter, Delicious.com, Stumbleupon or your own Tumblr blog. Google is smart enough to know that you created those yourself, even if you didn’t do so using the same username on all of those sites. They’re all tied to your physical location, and probably your IP address.

  2. High quality backlinks acquired through real life social networking. Here’s the tricky one that requires being a human being and leaving the house. The real quality links out there are the ones you’ll get from other people who already own established blogs and business sites.

    If you’re struggling to get your local business to show up for something like “Springfield auto repair,” nothing helps more than joining your local “Springfield” Chamber of Commerce and getting a link to your site from theirs. Chamber of Commerce sites get ridiculous preference in local search, and it will become one of the most powerful links yet. But, you have to get out of the house, join the organization and get listed on their site.

    Other examples are the people you’ll meet at an industry expo. Become friends with another blogger, and you’ll be in their “friend zone,” and more likely to persuade them to link to your site from theirs, if they believe in you. If you’re in college and you have a niche blog, and one of your professors also has one on an .edu site, see if they would be willing to link to your blog. 9 chances out of 10, they’d be proud of your dedication to learn, and would accept.

An important thing to mention about these two methods is that the lazy cheaters and scammers of the internet world won’t do them (because they involve doing hard work), therefore, they’ll have to hang up their black hat and find something else to do. Everyone else, in the meantime, is now under severe pressure to create really good sites, because nothing else has a chance of ranking anymore.

Backfiring Backlinking Fads

This also brings about a good point — never jump the bandwagon on any link-building scheme. Link rolls, link wheels, “Angela’s Backlinks,” reciprocal link directories — all of these things had their day, then were deemend gray or black hat and punished. So, all of the work that people put into them was entirely wasted, and could have been used to just create content or do something else productive.

With this being said, it’s more worthy of your time to simply create content, set forth a goal to make one new article per day or every other day, and stop wasting your time ‘manufacturing’ your own backlinks. Using the right strategy, others should be doing this FOR you, if you’re heading down the right path.

If you happen to come across a local business club, join it. If you can get into a local niche expo, do it - and bring business cards. It’s the only way to get a chance to nab one of those quality backlinks from an industry-established blogger.

How to Create A Child Theme for ClassiPress

I figured I’d create this quick little tutorial for anyone using the popular Wordpress ClassiPress theme. A child theme in this case, or any other, enables you to create a custom look and feel for your website apart from the default theme.

The gigantic benefit of doing this is that every time ClassiPress gets a theme update in the future, your personal theme will never get overwritten, and you’ll have no work to do whatsoever after the theme gets updated. In other words, you’d be out of your mind to NOT create a child theme, especially if you heavily modified the way ClassiPress looks.

Creating a child theme is very tricky to figure out for any newbie. Thankfully, it’s ridiculously easy, and you can probably finish setting it up in under 5 minutes. I made sure that this tutorial is simple enough for anyone to understand!

Step 1: The Child Theme Folder

In /wp-content/themes, create a new folder called “childtheme” (or whatever you want to call it). On your computer, create a blank new file called “style.css.” Inside of this file, paste the following code:

/*
Theme Name: My Child Theme
Version: 1.0
Description: A custom theme I’m making for myself.
Author: My Name
Author URL: My URL Here
Template: classipress
*/

The last line that says “Template: classipress” is vital; it is what Wordpress will associate with ClassiPress itself. If you change this, it will break things when attempting to apply your new child theme.

Step 2: Copying & Pasting Original Style Info

At this point, you have a new style.css file created for your child theme that has nothing but a heading in it.

Now, let’s get into the default “style.css” file (this one is located in “/wp-content/themes/classipress”) via Notepad, and copy everything EXCEPT the header (the heading part commented out with the /* */ at the very top). Paste this directly into your new child theme’s “style.css” file under the heading we’ve just created.

Next, you’re going to do the same thing with one of the “color schemes” that come with ClassiPress. Personally, I liked the blue one, so I’ll use that as an example — look for “blue.css” in “/wp-content/themes/classipress/styles.”

Open it, and once again, copy everything inside this file except the heading area, and paste this under all of the other stuff (the code from the default “style.css”) that’s already in your style.css file.

I recommend that you create a commented-out heading that says something like “Color styling starts here” BEFORE pasting this in, so that you know where the two sets of code (the default style.css and blue.css) start and end. This will make life way easier once you start modifying things.

Step 3: Activate the Child Theme

There are two steps in activating a child theme with Classipress. For starters, you’ll have to get into your ClassiPress admin menu, under ClassiPress » Settings » Advanced, and check the box for “Disable Core Stylesheets.” Scroll down and click “Save Changes.”

Next, in the Wordpress admin menu, go to “Appearance » Themes.” You should see your child theme sitting there as an option — click “Activate” and visit the live site. If you followed my tutorial fully, including the color choice I did, you should see your site running ClassiPress with its blue color theme.

One last thing — you’ll have to re-apply your menus in Appearance » Menus.

You’ve successfully created a child theme for ClassiPress — from now on, make all of your changes in your child theme’s style.css file, and never touch the default or core files again. From now on, no matter how heavily you modify ClassiPress, it will never got lost or overwritten when ClassiPress gets upgraded. Yay!

1&1 MyWebsite’s Hostile Takeover of the Web Design Industry

It’s starting to look like the 2010’s are the decade of the “1%;” we suffered through a narrow-minded Mitt Romney campaign, saw endless angering statistics about Monsanto buying out the US Government, Walmart dodging Obamacare, Apple transforming from a technology innovator to a patent bully, and now, big-name web hosts turning vertical markets on their heads.

As for the latter, the new trend is that of the “build your own website” niche, spearheaded by giant corporations like 1&1 and GoDaddy. No doubt, we’ll see others follow in their footsteps, in order to remain competitive. These days, 1&1’s new “MyWebsite” feature seemingly gets as much national television ad time as Geico or Ford.

MyWebsite and the “Build Your Own Site” Bandwagon

1&1 MyWebsite is a service that ranges from $10-$30 per month, allowing a customer to build their own website using a pre-existing library of “elements” like web designs, stock photos and applets provided by 1&1.

There’s no doubt that this is a genius business move by 1&1, as they are well aware of the market they are catering to — spendthrift small business owners with small pockets.

I’ve been a freelance web designer since the late 1990s, and one thing is for certain these days: the cost of a website is the #1 deciding factor of a small business in need of one. Gone are the days of high-cost 5-page websites. You’re highly likely to lose a potential client because they went to that other guy who designs like he time-warped out of 1997, but charges half the price that you do — and that’s the only factor that mattered to the customer.

It’s a self-destructive habit that any contractor would have to explain to their potential client as inevitably damaging to their business’ online presence. Once these small business owners get the opportunity to hear about how a custom made, custom roadmapped website will bring in true leads, they second-think spending a little more for a better product. Then, along comes companies like 1&1.

Business Owners: Why Building Your Own Site Is Bad

1&1’s television commercials are quick and compelling, and attempt to convince you that building your own site is the convenient way to go. But, let’s not forget one thing: if you’re a dentist, carpenter, flower shop owner, dance instructor or beautician - I’m guessing you don’t have any sort of internet marketing or web development background whatsoever, and you probably don’t even know what SEO is an acronym for.

Regardless of how well your business is already doing, your website can bring in far more leads than your word-of-mouth campaign is currently doing, and it will do it 24/7. To treat your website as a second-rate “online business card” is a situation where you’re only fooling yourself.

When you build your own site yourself, you’re doing so as an inexperienced sales copywriter with no website usability, optimization or web design experience. You most likely don’t even have an official business plan written that incorporates exactly how your website ties in to your business, providing forecasts and milestones for the remainder of the year. These are all things that a marketing consultant will provide for you. They’re all things you don’t have, and they’re all reasons why your self-made website will fail.

Remember, when you go the “cheaper” route, you get the cheaper result.

What 1&1 Isn’t Telling Small Business Owners

All of 1&1’s websites are merely “Frankensites” created from the same pool of stock photos and templates. Google is smart enough to see this, and if you don’t think that 1&1 MyWebsite sites have a “carbon footprint” that all point to each other, then you’re mistaken. The mere usage of the same images and modules is enough to tie all of these sites together and classify them as “1and1.com entities” in the eyes of search engines. Being known as an entity of another site is never going to help you rank for the terms you want to be seen for. Beyond these visible elements, there are more tell-tale signs. If you want some proof, here we go —

Check out any site built through the 1&1 MyWebsite service, and you’ll see similarities. The first thing I look at is the footer. Most, if not all of them are 100% identical. Sites that have a login link, when clicked, open up a 1&1 interfaced login box:

image


Sometimes, it’s not about what can be easily seen, but what most don’t see. Check out the code for any site built through 1&1 MyWebsite, and you’ll see that they all pull in styles and javascript from the same “initial-website.com” web address — an address owned by 1&1:

image

Here’s the WHOIS record showing that 1&1 owns this “initial-website.com” domain name:

image

The purpose of pointing all of these things out is that you’re taking the wrong route by using a “quick-fix” solution like this, which pulls resources and code from a central database owned by a big business, ensuring that your website is never going to rank for any significant terms on search engines due to its “carbon footprint.”

You’re making a grave mistake by not owning your own a web hosting account, having software installed on it and hiring a consultant create a site using today’s SEO protocols, providing professional copywriting that is strong enough to have an impact and bring in leads, and have a site whose software will give you the true capabilities you need to track orders, manage inventory and re-market to old leads.

You don’t get any of this with 1&1, but they’ll never tell you that.

Spending Money to Make Money

Perhaps there’s a bit of anger in my tone. It’s because I’m a web design contractor and freelance marketing strategist, and it’s the bulk of how I earn my living. 1&1 is taking food out of my mouth by hijacking my niche market and taking my customers through the use of a cheap, inferior 2-bit solution. They’re portraying this garbage as a alternative to hiring local marketing consultants — true professionals in this industry — who have education and experience as strategists, web designers and internet marketers.

They’re parading this service as a low-cost solution to customers who don’t know what they’re getting into, because they don’t have an internet marketing background, and therefore, can be easily snowballed with shiny drag-and-drop interfaces and baloney phrases like “search engine optimization tools to help you rank.”

When you own a business, there are just some costs you’ll have to eat, and one of these costs is a GOOD website. Your website is the online representation of your business, and it’s the “first impression” that makes or breaks you when a customer lands on it. If it looks like it came out of the 90’s, has weak body copy or terrible site flow, you’ll lose credibility and valuable leads on a daily basis. Perhaps, it will be that moment where you kick yourself for pinching pennies and not budgeting that one-time cost of getting a truly professional website and branding package done for you by someone who does it for a living.

Take it from a fellow business owner: you’re only good at what you do. You wouldn’t have me treat your patient’s cavities or lay a foundation to the new house that you just contracted (because I’d have no idea what the hell I’m doing), so, why would you want to develop your own website knowing that you have a complete lack of experience in doing such a thing?

Big Business is always going to find a way to trample on niche markets and suffocate true professionals for the sake of raising their end-of-year bottom line. They do this by pulling the wool over your eyes, which is exactly what companies like 1&1 and GoDaddy are doing with these garbage “build your own site” services. If you want to look professional and have a website that converts leads and sales, you’ll hire a web and marketing consultant and get it done right. Otherwise, you’ll use a “build your own website” service and tag on yet another unnecessary monthly fee to your expenses. 1&1 will be grateful if you choose that route.

A Full Wordpress Classifieds Theme Review: The Good and Bad

If you’re an affiliate marketer running an eBay affiliate storefront, you’re probably having a very bad time with Google Panda. In all of the deep thinking I’ve done, I personally think that transitioning over to a self-owned classified ads website makes the most sense — you don’t rely on eBay anymore, you’re running an actual service for once, and you won’t get discriminated against by Google for having an affiliate link-ridden site.

If you want to create a classified ads site, you’re in for a long, hard road of research just to find a CMS (and/or, one that has a classifieds theme) that creates a site of this magnitude. Classifieds are complicated websites that place products into multiple categories and require multiple, sophisticated search options.

Benefits Of A Wordpress-Driven Classifieds Site

Being my usual self, I naturally look toward Wordpress and nothing else. It’s the biggest and most versatile CMS platform for non-programmers, and I have the most experience using it. The bad news is that there aren’t many classified ads themes for Wordpress, and the ones that exist tend to REALLY suck. ClassiPress, however, is the exception. It’s good, but it’s not great. It is, by far, the best of all other classifieds themes (including SiteMile Classifieds) for numerous reasons, and it can definitely be used to create a decent classifieds site with multiple pricing options that you can set.

Wordpress has tons of plug-ins to expand the capability of your site, but you already knew that. It’s also light-weight and very secure; plus, it merged with Wordpress MU awhile ago and has built-in multi-user options so that you can have users register on your site (you’ll need this for classifieds).

Getting to Know Classipress

If you’ve ever searched for Wordpress classifieds themes on the internet, you’ve undoubtedly come across ClassiPress, since it continues to be one of the most talked-about ones out there. I purchased this theme when it came out years ago, and just recently got into creating a very involved classifieds site with it, which is my inspiration for writing a full review that will let you know what you’re getting into.

The Good

Classipress looks beautiful. It’s sleek, minimalist and the individual ad pages look awesome and inviting. It has the functionality needed to run a classified ads site — multiple “search by custom field” options, so that, for instance, your used car site can be searched by year, make, model, condition, state or province, ZIP code, price range and/or anything else you want (note “and/or”, since you can search by one, many or all of these options at once). It is one of the only two Wordpress themes that has Google Maps integration, literally putting your customers “on the map,” increasing their chances of successfully selling locally, while offering this attractive feature for all users.

Wordpress classifieds

This theme allows you to set pricing packages, and this is what really sets it apart from pretty much all other competing classifieds themes. You can charge for a fixed ad (it runs for X amount of days), a price per category (charge customers more for listing a car, rather than for listing a car part), percentage of the seller’s ad price (charge a % that the item was set for) or make all ads be free, and charge only when someone opts in for a featured ad on the homepage. There’s also a coupon code system that is invaluable for marketing your site. No other Wordpress classifieds theme has a pricing structure of this intricacy, and I’ve researched them all.

Each “category” that ads can be placed into can be fine-tuned with their own set of custom fields. With that being said, Classipress can be used to sell anything you can imagine, since you can create mandatory fields on the seller-end that buyers can narrow down their search with. Another great feature is that every individual category of your classifieds site will have its own dedicated RSS — a great foundation for placing that feed elsewhere, or maybe even creating your own app someday.

A Wordpress classified ad listing


The site has a very rudimentary email system where your users are emailed as their ad expires, reminding them to either delete the ad or renew it, or whenever a potential buyer has a question for them. This is all built into the Wordpress theme; so, it’s not going to be anywhere near as feature rich or effective as something like Aweber or MailChimp. If either of those two premium email programs were integrated with the theme, we’d be looking at a huge selling point.

Ads can be set to automatic or manual review. If you’re just starting out with a new website, you won’t have any ads whatsoever on it, and nobody is going to want to pay to list something. In these early months, make sure posting ads is free, but be sure to manually review ads so that backlink scammers or other jerks aren’t creating garbage ads. Once you start charging for ads, it’s pretty safe to set them to be automatically posted on the fly.

I’m not sure how important this is to you, but it should be highly important - ClassiPress is the only classifieds theme that is “modular” — that is, it automatically displays its own smartphone or tablet version when used on those devices. The competing themes do not, and they look like total garbage that must be “pinched and expanded” constantly in order to be used.

The Bad

ClassiPress is by far the best looking, best functioning Wordpress theme for classified ads. However, it is far from perfect, and has numerous things that a nit-picker will complain about.

The URL structure for ClassiPress is not very desirable, however, it is far better than its competitors. A typical category looks like this: “mysite.com/category/shoes”, and an ad looks like this: “mysite.com/ads/nike-high-tops”. As you’ll notice, the ads are not placed within the directory structure of the category they’re falling into. However, they are still “bound” to that category due to the fact that they’ll appear on the list of items when you visit “mysite.com/category/shoes”, or when you search for “nike” or “high tops.” People of any SEO level of understanding know that the best scenario here would be for an ad to look like: “mysite.com/category/shoes/nike-high-tops,” and the reason why the developers of this theme did not create this structure is baffling. The good news is that many legitimate classifieds services out there don’t have this structure either — so, you can either blame me for my OCD, or agree that things could have been handled a little better.

On a separate note, you’ll notice how I mentioned that a category URL looks like “mysite.com/category/shoes,” where that stupid, unnecessary “/category/” part of the URL is forced. It’s true. This is an age-old Wordpress core programming issue. However, you can rename it to “/products/” or whatever else you want in the theme’s admin panel. If it really, really bothers you that your URL is being lengthened with an unnecessary word, you can simply use a free Wordpress plugin like No Category Base to remove “/category/” entirely.

The big gorilla in the room with ClassiPress is its complete inability to be a multi-country site. It isn’t alone, though — competing Wordpress themes can’t do this either, and they actually do a worse job of even providing workarounds.

If you want a multi-country classified ads site with ClassiPress, you’re in for a lot of heartache as you can’t have separate dynamic drop-down menus for things like ZIP or Postal Codes, States, Territories or Provinces or anything else of that sort. You’d have to lump everything into one form, which looks sloppy and unprofessional. You’re also forced to either bias the entire site toward either miles or kilometers, but not both.

So, if you wanted that US & Canada site, you’ll have to choose if Metric or Imperial standards will govern the entire site’s mapping and proximity searches. Chalk this up to being yet another ridiculous, simple feature that was ignored by the development team. With this handicap, your best alternative is to run individual country websites as subdomains (beware of duplicate content), or just create different websites for each.

ClassiPress miles or kilometers

ClassiPress’ forum is basically “community help only,” so, don’t be surprised if your questions and comments get buried with 0 replies. In fact, expect it often. Members of the dev team do check the boards regularly, and seem to cherry-pick the threads they’ll reply to, based on the complexity of the question being asked. Bumping your ignored post does tend to help.

The Best Of What You’ve Got To Choose From

ClassiPress, although severely limited by the lack of several basic functions mentioned in this review, continues to be the only worthy option that Wordpress users can really consider at this point. There are still no other similar themes being built in the horizon, and the competing classifieds themes out there are atrociously bad and not even worthy of considering due to a severe lack of features and scalability.

This theme will definitely get the job done, although it leave you wanting more. The reasons for this are partially the theme’s limitations, and partially Wordpress’ core limitations (if you’ve ever tried to hack/design a Wordpress Category page, you know exactly what I mean). Smart webmasters will know how to remedy things using logic, a little hard work, and perhaps a plug-in or two that will modify things better. ClassiPress does get regular updates, all of which implement many must-have features voted on by the community.

Get started and create that classifieds site of yours. Stop relying on affiliate storefronts — with a classifieds site, you’ll be able to get yourself into an instant-pay, residual income service that can create a nice little niche for you, just like your eBay affiliate storefront did…except, with more search engine clout.

Google Slaps TextLinkAds

In a move that made me gladly think: “Google is finally becoming less corrupted,” the search engine started hitting long-time link brokerage service TextLinkAds.

What Is TextLinkAds?

TextLinkAds, for years, has been a paid DoFollow link brokerage. Based in New York City, it’s a service where your corporation can work directly with a consultant, who will provide a portfolio of DoFollow links for a very hefty monthly fee. Everything about this service was against Google’s terms of service to the fullest extent, yet, it somehow flew under the radar for years. Due to this, many conspiracy theories surfaced about some kind of sweetheart deal going on between TextLinkAds and Google.

This company uses an applet that their publisher network of (THOUSANDS of) bloggers and webmasters have placed on their site, which will display DoFollow links of TextLinkAds advertisers who are paying a monthly fee for them.

If you’ve guessed that TextLinkAds is one of the premium services that big brand names have been using to cheat their way to the top of Google for years, then you’re right. It is the epitome of the “unfair advantage” that big pocket corporations have been exploiting over small fry websites for years.

Best yet, TextLinkAds has always been the synonymous name with link selling; therefore, all of their competitors will be getting the same Google slap, as this was not merely a target against this one company.

Customers Taking Hits From the Fallout

With this latest crackdown on link brokerages, there’s also talk about how the customers who employed these services are next up to receive penalties.

I’d like to reference the old saying, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

The obvious de-ranking these customers will receive is due to the fact that their high page ranked paid portfolios will now be nullified, but there was always talk of the “carbon footprint” that TextLinkAds had on sites that used it. It’s possible that former users of TextLinkAds have been somehow “marked” or blackballed for using these services, and can still receive penalties for their past dealings — although, this is unconfirmed.

In all, this is a great day for honest webmasters. It’s a welcome scenario to sit back and watch the cheaters get squashed for once.

The New Domain Name Strategy for 2013

I’m still undergoing what I call “the great domain name purge,” reverting my domain names to “manual” before they’re due for renewal, and watching them go back into the public pool. Why? My new policy is that any domain that can’t pay for its own renewal these days is more than likely a liability instead of an asset. Using domain parking services (I use Voodoo, personally), I can see the type-in traffic whittling down and the ad clicks dying along with them. That’s when I decide if a domain is worth holding on to, or not.

At my peak, I owned 560 domain names. That was around $5,000 per year just to upkeep them. Most, if not all of them were exact match domains - mostly two or three-word .com’s and a few .net’s, as well as other ‘novelty’ domain extensions that never took off, like .me’s, .tv’s and .us’s.

2012 Was The Death of ‘Exact Match’ Domains

If you’re not familiar with the term exact match, it’s basically the definition of a domain name that is also an exact keyword. For example, “toycars.com” for “toy cars,” or “sunblock.com” for “sunblock.” The alternative are branded names, like “Nike” for “sneakers” or “Dell” for “computers.”

Back when exact match domains were all the rage, I spent an overwhelming amount of my time researching niche markets, doing keyword research and snapping up exact match domains. Then, September 2012 happened; more specifically, the Google EMD Update, which greatly devalued the ‘boost’ that exact match domains got in search.

Regardless of the fact that this cost me a lot of money, I saw the purchasing of domain names to be almost at the same level of stocks. They might be a good investment, with the possibility of being worth more in the future. While this is true, it’s only really true for ‘branded’ domains, now — the current type that Google really wants to see. That’s why I agreed with Google’s EMD update - it’s kind of ridiculous to give anyone a boost for having an exact match domain name, and it was being exploited like crazy.

Why Branded Domains Are So Important in 2013-Onward

These days, Google wants you to have a brand. That means, your company is some made-up word that has to be branded from the ground up, setting off signals showing how people remember your made-up name, associating it with your product category. It’s hard to do. Then again, all things that are hard to do pay off the most in the long-run.

Sometimes, your brand has the product keyword in it — kind of like “Ford Trucks” or “Weber Grills.” Sometimes, it doesn’t — like “Monster.com.” Either way is fine. Some argue that having that one product keyword in your domain gives you a boost, when it is pretty irrelevant these days, thanks to Google EMD. It probably won’t harm or help you. The effort you put into branding it, though, will make or break you.

Save Dying Sites By Rebranding Them

In the last year, I’ve gotten into branding so much that I even started demolishing my old sites, re-building them and moving them over to branded .com domains. The results have been speaking for themselves over the past year — they simply get better treatment in search results than they did when they were exact matches.

If you haven’t done so already, start thinking about re-branding your old exact match domains into something more personable. It just might breathe some new life into your now stagnant sites, and make you look a bit more professional.

Besides, “whitegolfgloves.com” doesn’t really cut it in today’s online market anymore — that’s so 2007…