How the Google Exact-Match-Domain Update has affected our micro niche sites – with Spencer Haws

Episode 8

Most of you are already aware that there was a Google update this weekend that has had a big impact on the niche website making community. If you haven’t read about it yet you can find out about it at the following resources: Webmaster World, Search Engine Land. The gist is that websites with the domain name as the keyword that they’re trying to rank for will no longer have as much as an influence when it comes to ranking websites in Google as they did before.

There’s a lot of theory and speculation about this update so far, but Spencer Haws’ (from and I had the chance to have conversation a about the following:

1. What streams of income is Spencer currently earning from?

2. How did the Google Exact Match Domain update affect Spencer’s and my websites?

3. Has the value of exact match domains/websites been decreased by this update?

4. Spencer gives us a glimpse into his premium version of Long Tail Pro version

Watch the video below: Duration 34:13

[leadplayer_vid id=”5069E8B40455C”]Stuff mentioned in the show

Sign up for a Free Ten-day Trial of Long Tail Pro (discount affiliate link)– A great keyword research software that I personally use to do research. It’s super fast and will save you a lot of time. You can get it for $97 $77 through my discount affiliate link for a limited time.

Has the Google Exact Match update affected you? Let us know in the comments below.

Raw transcript

Mike Spencer Haws 10.7.12

Mike: Hello there it’s Mike Thomas from from I’ve got a great guest on the show today. It’s Spencer Haws. You probably know him from where he talks about making niche sites and keyword research among other things. You might also know him from his keyword research tool called Long Tail Pro, and I’ve got that right on my desktop as well. It’s a program that I use all the time when doing research. He also has a theme called a niche theme which he’s produced with Chris Guthrie, they both kind of sell that together, so, we’ve got a great show today we’re gonna talk about the new domain exact domain match update that Google has just put out we’re going to see how it’s affected my websites and how it has affected his websites so stay tuned.

Ok So we are here with Spencer Haws. Spencer how are you today?

Spencer: I’m doing great how are you today?

Mike: I’m’ doing great thanks. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to come on my show.

Spencer, first off, why don’t you tell people about yourself, people that might not know about your website Niche Pursuit.

Spencer: Yeah, niche pursuits is a blog that documents my journey building niche sites and other business ventures that I’m trying to do, basically my backgrounds is I started dabbling and started doing internet marketing back in 2005. I really just started to want to figure out if I could get something online.

Mike: Mmhmm.

Spencer: It started out as a hobby I wanted to see if I could do a little Html code. The point at that time wasn’t to make any money; it was just to see if I could build a site and then then as I did that I wanted to see if I could make some money.

Mike: Sure.

Spencer: Then that led to the light bulb going on I could get free traffic from Google, me to see sure I could see that I could make some money and target some traffic and it was a long process.

Over a few years, I uh, eventually landed on the strategy of building small niche sites that targeted laser focused topics that targeted specific keywords that I could rank for and target and Google

Mike: Ok

Spencer: And by getting that free traffic I could target.

Mike: Spencer, how were you doing your keyword research at that time.

Spencer: Well I started off just using the Google adwords keyword tool you know the freeword that Google offers. You know they are advertisers they are not actually created for people doing Seo but it can be used for that.

Mike: Sure

Spencer: But that’s how I started how much search volume certain keywords were getting using how much advertising people were paying.

Then I used Market Samurai for a bit there as well I never bought it just the free version there.

Mike: Ok

Spencer: Yeah

Mike: Ok so you started off you were going after the low hanging fruit the low hanging fruit the easy to rank keywords how many sites did you initially build?

Spencer: Well, ok I started building very few.

The first sites my first couple I imaged were going to be these large sites but they never really did weren’t because I didn’t understand keyword research, how to build these large sites in Google. And so, then I moved on, and I built two initially. I started building these small sites, these small sites that started but I had a whole paradigm shift. I never thought to make thousands and thousands of dollars I thought if I could just make a dollar or so hands free, then that’s passive income and I’m fine. So I built two sites initially and then after six or eight months I could tell they were consistently earning 20 to 30 dollars a month whether I did anything or not. About a year after I built those sites is when I went back and decided to build lots of these sites so I went back and decided to go large scale and build lots of these sites so now I have over 200 of these sites.

Mike: So you have over 200 sites today?

Spencer: Right,

Mike: So you are kind of different from my sites the wso testers and AdSense flippers in that I haven’t seen you selling any of your sites. Is there a reason for that.

Spencer: Well it’s just the model I guess that I have chosen. I have decided I have decided to keep my sites, and the passive income myself and I have built it up to a point where I quit my job a year and a half ago. And I so. I certainly considered selling a couple of my sites and I certainly have sold a couple a couple of my sites, maybe half a dozen or so, but for the most part I keep my winners and they consistently earn for me and I am happy with that.

Mike: So I think the big question that people are thinking that people have right now is there is the new update, the exact match domain update that went into effect this past weekend. How did that affect you Spencer?

Spencer: Yeah, and it just took effect Friday evening I believe?

Mike: Yeah,

Spencer: And today is Monday its been about two days, its Monday morning so it is hard for me to do an overall analysis but honestly I haven’t seen a big movement in my earnings.

Mike: Oh.

Spencer: Yeah and I haven’t seen in my ranking overall but my earnings were fairly consistently my earnings yesterday they were more than usual, the day before they were a little less, but the few sites I have looked at I was affected at least a little. I have a few that were not ranking, but I have one site that is now number one in Google, at least number one that was number 7 or 8 but it is hard for me to know the exact overall impact. I plan on looking on that this week and doing maybe a full blog post.

But I think I will know a little bit better overall in time.

Mike: Ok so from what it sounds like, from the little information you’ve gathered so far. You have not been hit too negatively and you have actually gained some ranking in some circumstances.

Ok I don’t know if you follow my progress at all but I have about 600 sites myself, and of my highest earners all of my sites have been affected by the new standards, and before I recorded this, just recently before you and I recorded this interview the AdSense flippers.

Did you get  a chance to see that?

Spencer: I did see that and apparently they got hit pretty hard.

Yeah they got hit pretty hard.

Mike: Yeah, I haven’t heard from everyone, the WSO testers I haven’t heard from them yet but I am sure we’ll hear from them in the near future. Have you been hearing getting emails from people getting emails asking about the update.

Spencer: Yeah I should be hearing from people. I should clarify why maybe I wasn’t hit as hard,

Mike: Sure.

I can think of a couple of reasons and because I don’t know your situation or the AdSense flippers or other people. My year has been kind of interesting , at the beginning of the year my Google AdSense account had been shut down and that affected me a lot.

Mike: And Spencer how much money did you have in that account?

Spencer: I had, well, I was making over 10,000 a month in that account. And so, I was pending a 5 figure check I didn’t get. And so it hurt pretty bad.

Mike: Wow.

Spencer: Yeah that hurt pretty bad.

Yeah. So here were a couple of months where I was not really making anything.

So I started adding my sites back slowly, and in fact never really added back a lot of my sites, that were

just very… I looked at the super low quality and just never added those sites back essentially so that is

part of my sites.

Mike: Hmm.

Spencer: So, that’s part of my sites.

Then the Google penguin update affected quite a lot of my sites quite a bit.

Mike: Yeah me too.

Spencer: And so, Since the Google penguin update, I have not built a ton of sites. I have built some sort

of small batch sites testing things. I was affected more by the Google penguin update I think, than by the

exact match update. If I hadn’t been affected by the Google penguin update I would have been by the

exact match domain update.

I think that is part of the reason is that a lot of my sites were already affected, and that  a lot of my top

earners I have built into larger sites, I’ve expanded those quite a bit so some

have 50 pages of content and some had 100 pages.. so a lot of my top earners a lot I have expanded

into larger sites, so that’s a big reason why a lot of it.

Were any of those top earners … exact match domain sites and then built out into larger sites.

Yea definitely yea that has been my top strategy overall to find the exact match. But I also have a lot of

partial match.

But I don’t think the majority of my sites are exact match domains the majority are partial match, the

keyword plus the word review or pro or hq added too, so maybe that is part of it, that I have a large I

don’t know the exact proportion but a large portion are partial domains. But one of my top earning sites

is an exact match that I started out a quite a while ago and that I expanded that so it has quite a bit

more content and it is still doing well.

Mike: Ok so people are going to start, there is a lot of talk in the forums on the SEO blogs about the

Deciding factors about what this update is really about if it is about exact match domain or if it about

anchor text in the links people are building to them, or if it is about this, or what;  what do you think,

about what is going on; there are lots of theories, I mean you and I can only guess, what are you thinking

about what it is about.

Yeah it is tough to pinpoint exactly, and there have been so many updates, the panda update,

The penguin update, and now this. The penguin I believe was more focused on anchor text and using too

much keyword anchor text and link building overall. The panda I believe was focused on quality and this

exact match domain appears I believe is taking away the bonus that was given to sites just for having

that exact match; I don’t believe it is a penalty. We’ll probably know more in a week or two.

Of course of course you and I are just trying to guess.


I believe Google in the past gave a bonus a bonus ranking to sites that had the exact match

domain; that had just that exact match domain; in the past you would in the past get a bonus if you had

just that exact match domain. You would get a bonus from Google and rank better if you had that exact

match domain, even if other sites had better quality content or links because you had this exact match

bonus now I believe Google has taken away this bonus either because they had better quality content or

links so I think that is a part of it that bonus is gone what else is involved I don’t know at this point.

Mike: That’s a good point you know I think it is not necessarily a penalty it is just taking away that

special ranking factor bonus.

Spencer: And part of the reason say that I think is that it makes no logical sense that Google would

penalize a site that Google would suddenly not rank someone for searching for niche pursuits, at least

logically in my opinion, in mind when I think about it that makes the most sense.

Mike: Yeah I really like that theory I mean over the years people have been talking about this over the

years that it’s inevitable that over time that there would be some kind of discount because you would

do a search and find pretty miserable and crappy websites just for the fact they found a website just

because they find the keyword in their url.

Could this be a good thing?

Spencer: Yeah I mean if you looking for a good site if you are looking on Google if you are trying to find good results then it is a good thing for the end user. But with all updates with Google rolls out where with sites that shouldn’t have been penalized were the results are always fluid Google always updates maybe they will roll back some I do think that eventually all  of us in the end they will try to provide a better experience with the end user there are always conspiracy theories they are trying to get people to pay to get on the first page.

Mike: Do you think the value for someone selling an exact match domain has been decreased?

Has the value been decreased?

Because before the person said, I have the exact match domain, people should see that was easier to

rank the site, you don’t have to do as much Seo or link building, perhaps now that isn’t a ranking factor

could the value of these domains be less?

Spencer: Do you mean if you are selling a full site? If you are selling a site…

Ok. I think the value of a site should be on the earnings, content and not on the domain. So if you are

selling a site that earns 30 dollars a month somebody should have an agreement based on the

earnings. So there should be someone that looks on the exact match that some people may do that but

when it comes down to it there will be someone that should be able to sell it.

Mike: Now you asked me if I meant website or url. Does your answer change if I mean url.

Spencer: Well I think maybe it does because if you are just selling a domain with no history or trying to show

there is value at domain people will see I don’t get the bonus that id not get with exact match domain so

what value does it get with exact match so I have to do everything else.

Mike: Now you’ve got you product Long Tail Pro so can you talk a little about that?

Spencer: Yeah, absolutely

Mike: Tell us what it is what it does.

Spencer: Yeah it is a keyword research tool I created out of my frustration with other keyword research tools

including Market Samurai tools that one in particular because I was trying to do keyword research very

quickly. So I built this tool very quickly to meet the needs that I had. So essentially it you can search in

multiple keywords really fact, so it is a big keyword differential you can type in five keywords and you

can search really fast and you can search for the exact match domain, you can search up to 800

keywords at one time, of course it has the competitor analysis function where you can search for the

top ten results in Google and determine if you want to rank for tat. That’s’ what Long Tail Pro is, and of

course I am selling that. Lots of people are using that we are continually updating it. As we talk about it,

keyword research is something that is always counting to be critical. Maybe people are going to use the

domain research tool very often,


I still think even with this exact match domain update I still think exact match may not have as much

value as in the past but I can’t see it hurt you exactly.

Spencer: Exactly I can’t see that Google will hurt you. I still see  a little bonus there just not as big.

Mike: Exactly. If it were I think they would have dropped it. I was looking at mike from main, and it still pulled pu. I just won’t get any advantage from it .

Mike: So Spencer who is your biggest influenced on your life?

Spencer: I have to go a lot online. When I was really reading online I think everyone goes through that

learning period. I think when people are trying to learn a couple of epp eri wall I flowed hin pretty

loosely for See and Jonathan leisure he has the best spinner and he has lots of other product as well I’ve been following him from 2008 he has lots of content and case studies he followed my thinking and I was following the internet marketing forums I can’t think of anyone in particularly but definitely the


Mike: So Spencer so as far as streams of income, I had people coming in the forums, I saw people coming in the forums and saying look what happens when you don’t diversify. I see you had diversity, you had lots of traffic, and you just didn’t have the flow. What are you working on for the future. Yeah I had my niche sites, that was my sole source of income when I quit my job one of my reasons for niche sites was to document those things on my blog I have long tail pro as a source of income the niche website theme.

Mike: How did that go by the way, how did the sales go?

Spencer: That went very well the first couple of months. It sort of tapered down after that. I created that with

Chris Guthrie the both of us haven’t really focused on that very well we’ve talked about that but we don’t have we need to have a better sales funnel

Mike: Yeah Spencer I remember you had a presale for it an scarcity tactic and after that it fell off the face of the

earth and maybe I do think you might want to look at trying to go after from what I saw of it looked

like a pretty good theme.

Spencer: Yeah we put a lot of time and effort into it and presale and webinar and we done some other things but

no you are absolutely right but my business I have a few different products and by niche sites I am

stretched a little thin and Chris Guthrie is too and we are trying to see what we can do about that I are

we can do more for the theme about that.

Mike: I want to make sure I didn’t cut you off.

Spencer: I have an iPod app a small little thing. As far as big new products I don’t but I am working on long tail pro and a premium version of that with lots of new added features that will help people analyze keywords better that you can’t currently do now like well one of those for competitor analysis it works the way I like it like look at top 10 sites but I understand that people want to see things quicker and better and see a formula and give them a number that will give them a number and keyword difficulty number and matrix that will give them a number or matrix that’s a big thing and give them a tool to save keywords to save them in a bucket and keep them to save for article for keyword tracker and a few others.

Mike: Well Spencer I want to thank you for coming on the show today. I am disappointed that we couldn’t see your face.

Spencer: Just have a pretty picture of me.

Mike: We will put a pretty picture of you. If people are looking for you on line where can they find you? The best place is That’s my blog where I update. They can also go to check out the software we talked about. Is that theme still available. They can check out that them at: its’ a greet theme if you are building lots of theme sites if you are trying to place color and the definitely people can check it out as well.

Mike: I just want to say Thank you for coming on the show and talking about exact update. Again I want to thank you; people will say, “Oh those guys really got it or had no idea what they were talking about.” This interview will have a shelf life. Again Spencer thanks a lot for your time.

Mike: I really hope you guys enjoyed the show with Spencer Haws he’s a great guy to go for keyword research or internet marketing related on building niche websites theme and check out his niche website them and his out his niche and longtail keyword research. I’ll have links to all of that on the video. He’s working out deal for my readers, from $97 dollars down to $77 dollars for his longtail keyword product if you buy on it from my site so check it out and I’ll see you guys tomorrow.

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  1. Thanks Mike for the great interview! I hope people find our commentary on the recent Google update useful. A lot of it is just conjecture at this point, but I think we definitely hit on some interesting discussion points.

    Anytime something like this happens, its important to re-evaluate and look at the direction of your business.

    Thanks again for the interview!

    1. Thanks, Spencer. I think this will be good to see how people with larger portfolio were affected. The more we all talk about it the less chance erroneous rumors will be taken as fact.

      In the next few weeks we’ll all be re-evaluating the way we build niche websites.

      Thanks again for your great insights.

  2. Hey Mike,

    I’ve got one question that came to my mind, I’ve heard of Spencer’s recent ban from adsense. When you asked him why he doesn’t sell his sites, one question came to my mind, if he got banned from adsense would he still be able to sell the website for the next person to use adsense on? Would it affect the next person’s adsense account if he put adsense on a website which previously had adsense on and in which the account got banned?

    1. Sufi,

      He got another account so he could put Adsense back on it. If an account gets banned it doesn’t mean that the individual sites are banned from Adsense. Another person can put their own Adsense code on the sites.

      1. Sometimes the individual websites can be banned actually. I had one banned that I had to spend about 6 months trying to get it added back on. Fortunately it’s supposed to be better now that there is an actual contact form with Adsense now though.

          1. Yep – got that site unbanned. It was one that I bought and 9 days later was banned by Adsense lol.

            It’s still chugging away.

            1. Chris,

              I think I remember you talking about that site. Nice work getting it unbanned…do you have a post you could link to where you explain how you got it unbanned?

          2. Ran out of nesting reply options…

            No don’t have a blog post but it was just a lot of forms and follow up and overall pain in butt

  3. I’ve listened through the whole interview. Awesome points shared and once again with this new Update it’s time for everybody re-arrange their efforts and tactics. I am sorry for your over night bad rankings Mike on most of your site, but I am sure that you have enough spirit, knowledge and motivation to recover in short time 🙂
    Much Love,

  4. Great Interview!

    Several encouraging take-aways.

    1. Google has a history of rolling back some parts of updates.
    2. Sites with more posts, especially quality posts; should bod well in the future.
    3. building quality backlinks are even more critical.
    4. Hopefully this is not a penalty and it is just a removal of any bonus that was previously applied by Google.
    5. Keyword research is still very important.

    I can validate point 4 to some degree as my partial match domains have held up and secondary content is still ranking within an acceptable range.

    So the questions become:
    Q1. How do we build quality backlinks (automated and/or outsourced)?
    Q2. Do we go for “higher fruit” that has bigger pay since we are investing more in content?

    Jason Ansley
    Online Business Manager and Business Development Coach

    1. Jason,

      I wish I had answers to your questions, but it’s just too soon to say. We’re going to learn a lot in the next few weeks.

  5. Great interview Mike. I had over 100 EMDs hit hard! I just don’t know what to do with them yet. Thanks for doing this interview…funny how wso testers are not talking about it…especially there methods was really 1 page content with the EMD.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your 100 EMDs that were hit. A lot of us are feeling that pain right now.

      I’m sure the WSO Testers will announce how the update affected them in a post soon enough. Just give them a little time.

  6. Hey everyone. I had gotten my first 25 site up over the past month, all 25 sites were doing okay but all tanked. Luckily I hadn’t put too much into the sites yet and did no backlinking yet. All 25 sites have a great informative and entertaining 800 – 900 word article in perfect conversational English, so hopefully I can still make use of my investment, maybe spend more time on fewer sites … Just like everybody I’ll have to see what happens … And hope this has a silver lining and opens up even more opportunity!

    1. Dave,

      I’m sorry to hear about your 25 sites that tanked. It’s so frustrating to have this happen after putting so much time and money into the sites. Don’t worry, we’ll find a way together to come out of this.

    2. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
      I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.
      I am quite certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  7. Hey Mike – another great interview with Spencer. I figured something was up with some of my niche websites but couldn’t figure it out. All of a sudden they lost all their traffic.

    Very disappointing this happened after purchasing a site from you just a few weeks back. Looks like that site will never make any money unless I build it out into an authority website or move the content to a new domain. Oh well.

    BTW – I mentioned your blog on my post today on my blog.

    1. James,

      Sorry to hear about your website…it’s happening to so many people right now.

      Thanks for mentioning me on your blog.

  8. Mike do you think 100+ sights I built are useless if they dont recover? Or should I try building more links and content? What do you plan to do with yours

    1. Barry,

      That’s a good question. Some of my sites are still making money. I’d like to sell some of the other sites in the future, but I’m going to wait and see how the update turns out.

  9. Hi Mike , great Interview! So sorry to hear of the Hit on your sites. Well I must say that 99% of my sites were not affected by this update ,Just a few hit. I think this must be due to the fact that my sites gets an initial 5 – 10 articles. I also try my best to target closing related keywords with my post. Well I can’t really say why my sites are still ranking and only a handful were affected. I am still gathering data, maybe I will be back with a better report.


    1. Dori,

      I’m glad to hear that you weren’t badly hit by this. Do you do backlinking to your sites? If so are you using a lot of exact anchor text?

      Let me know if you find anything out.

  10. Another great interview Mike.

    I use Long Tail Pro and it really is a fantastic tool. The pro version sounds like it will be a useful addition too.

    Like you said, I don’t think having the EMD can hurt you – you just need your site to be of sufficient quality and I don’t think that’s a bad thing – sure, it makes our job a little harder but as a webuser (as well as marketer) there sure is a lot of crap out there.



    1. Chris,

      Glad you enjoyed it. I also really like Long Tail Pro…it’s really the besk keyword research tool that I’ve ever used.

      I think this EMD update will be good for everyone in the long run…it’s just going to make things harder for us evil Internet marketers 🙂

  11. Well it was rolled outon weekend eve. Lets wait for few week days and hear impact. Some webmasters start reporting huge drop in search traffic

    1. Gole,

      I really don’t know, Gole. All I know is that these updates are coming more often and messing with my income 🙂

  12. Pingback: Income Report - September 2012 | AdSense Flippers
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