What The Google EMD Update Was Really Targeting October 5, 2012
Last Friday Google’s head of webspam announced that Google would be implementing another update to their algorithm, although they claimed it had nothing to do with Penguin or Panda. This update was geared toward reducing “low-quality” EMDs (Exact Match Domains) from ranking well in the SERPs.
Matt tweeted that the Google algorithm update is only supposed to affect about 0.6% of the English-US queries with the purpose of pushing sites with the following “low quality” attributes out of top rankings:
• Duplicate, redundant, or overlapping content.
• Content that has a high concentration of ads or images that interfere with the contextual content.
• Content that doesn’t provide substantial value to users.
The fact that Google is finally addressing high-ranking EMDs comes as a shock to few, but what is coming as a shock is the amount of webmasters speaking in outrage – or excitement – about the negative movement of their websites in the SERPs.
After analyzing the SERPs over the past few months and in the past week since the EMD update was rolled out, the team at The Link Builders came to understand why many sites are being affected.
Sites That Were Hit By The Google EMD Update
The EMD update at its core seems to be more or less a Penguin clean-up. The sites getting hit the hardest on this update are EMDs that may have slipped through the cracks during the Penguin refreshes.
Using data from our Microsite Masters account we learned the following about the sites hit by this update:
1) Many of these websites were created before April, 2012 (ergo, before the Penguin update)
2) These sites were not drastically hit by Penguin, or they’ve recently recovered from that update.
3) Still has qualities that should have been penalized by Penguin. (i.e. high % of EMD anchors)
As a result, all of the sites we were tracking which possessed the (3) attributes above dropped in ranking when the EMD update went live. In multiple instances sites dropped out of the top 100 positions on Google.
The graph below is for a particular campaign we’re tracking using an EMD for an exact match search query. The website in question has many of the elements that were penalized by the Penguin Update: mainly a high concentration of EMD anchors (60% as per Ahrefs), etc.
From ranking on Page 1 for the exact match term last week, this website stopped ranking in the top 100 SERP results since EMD update was rolled out for 100% of the terms that it was previously ranking for.
Just to clarify, the EMD and search term in the example above is for a competitive geo-based keyword.
Combined EMD and Panda Update
Another reason webmasters are complaining about losing keyword real estate in the SERPs is because the EMD update wasn’t the only major update Google recently made.
Those who don’t understand why their EMD domains/terms would get penalized also need to understand that a major Panda update was also rolled out. The new Panda update was estimated to hit 2.4% of English queries in the US. One big algorithm update right after another, seriously?
The graph below shows a site that wasn’t penalized from the both the original or rolling Panda updates. The content on this website is 99% images above the fold. When the EMD update went live, not only did the site feel it, but it again completely dropped out of the top 100 SERP results for the exact match term.
Additionally, the graph below demonstrates another EMD tracking an exact match query. Once again, this EMD isn’t ranking for 100% of the terms that it was previously ranking for and in this example the concentration of EMD anchor use is 21% as per Ahrefs for this particular domain.
As previously mentioned, although there has been some uproar over the EMD update not many people are surprised. In fact, the most common reason for surprise is the fact that it took Google so long to make an EMD algorithm update in the first place.
How To Get Your Rankings Back
The truth of the matter is that if your website hasn’t been updated to appease both the Panda and Penguin then there isn’t much that can be done, especially if it was an EMD. (Creative 301’s perhaps?)
However, if you have a new website on an EMD, the following measures can help you avoid getting hit by an existing update or increase the longevity of rankings for prevention against future updates.
• Make sure you’re not over-optimizing your anchors in terms of concentration.
• Refrain from excessive internal-linking using exact match anchors residing on EMD’s or sites in general.
Most important, use your head! You can still rank a great partial match domain (that’s branded) the same way you would go about ranking an EMD. When you’re placing less importance on the value of an EMD you’ll be 10 steps ahead of Google.
Don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t done before by experimenting with partial match domains.0