How To Recover From The Google EMD Update
Once again Matt Cutts released another ambiguous statement announcing the release of a new algorithm update being labeled the “EMD UPDATE”.
The update is essentially a new filter that tries to ensure low-quality sites don’t rise to the top of the search results purely because they have search terms in their domain names. If you’re not “in the know”, an exact match domain is a domain with a keyword/search phrase as its domain. For example (cheapcarsforsale.com is the EMD of “cheap cars for sale”.
For some retarded reason having an EMD allows you to rank extremely quickly for the search term or terms in your domain. This was an update that I’ve predicted for some time, and one of the reasons why I stopped purchasing exact match domains a long time ago.
Similar to other updates Google says the EMD update will be continual. Meaning it’ll be updated periodically just like the pandas and penguins. So if your EMD’s haven’t been hit by this one, you better brace for impact in the near term.
What Exact Does The EMD Update Do?
This is the good news. It doesn’t actually target all exact match domains. It specifically searches for low quality sites that happen to be exact match domains… and generally; exact match domains are low quality.
It’s common knowledge that having a keyword in your domain allows you to almost instantly rank for it. Which is why there are so many low quality EMD sites out there. SEO’s took serious advantage of EMD’s. Buying them left, right and center only to slap up 2-3 poorly written articles and a block of Adsense ads.
So don’t freak out just yet, this update may not impact you if you’ve got an EMD. The fact remains:
All Domains Are EMD’s
Every domain is an exact match of something. It may not be a highly searched term, but it’s still technically a keyword. Presumably this update will be going after the serious EMD’s like “best-bmw-cars-of-2012.org” or “top-20-laptopstoshiba.net” first. Those are the kind of domains that take full advantage of the ranking power & benefits of EMD’s. They seem to be first on Google’s hit list.
As soon as they announced the update, everyone started freaking out about their sites being hit. From what I’ve seen so far, there is no evidence of all EMD’s being slapped. There are still plenty of exact match domains ranking very well.
It all comes down to quality, but having a long EMD now is just playing with fire. Google said the EMD update was specifically designed to target poor quality sites with exact match domains. The problem is nobody really knows what Google deems poor quality; but we have a good idea.
All of this leads me to believe Google cannot punish EMD’s, they can only penalize a type of site that appears to be abusing the “EMD bonus”. So Google are penalizing sites that have signs of EMD abuse, not EMD’s in general. Google never really tell the truth about their algorithm updates and filters.
They tell white lies and half truths. We’re left to figure out what they’ve really done. We know this because thousands of non-EMD sites have been hit hard by this update.
What Causes The Penalty And How Do You Avoid It?
Well, there are triggers. On-page and off-page SEO triggers that lead Google to penalize your site.
I’m really surprised Google waited till now to roll out this update. Essentially we have another penguin type effect. With the penguin updates Google would look at your title, description, header tags and keyword density. When they see clear over optimization they’d give you a slap (this also applied to your link profile). Here’s what they’re doing now.
They’re looking at the same elements, but in relation to the keyword/s being using in the domain.
The sites that got struck by this update had a few things in common:
- Keyword in the domain. If they were targeting “best bmw 2012″ their domain would be “bestbmw2012.com” or another domain extension.
- Title, Description & Keyword Tags
- Image Alt Tah
- Header Tags
- High Keyword Density
They are all things Google has looked at in the past to penalize sites for over-optimization. They’ve known about webmasters abusing EMD’s for a long time. So now all they’re doing is looking at the keyword in the domain, then if it lines up with above elements on-page they slap you for EMD abuse. Obvious really.
If you do have EMD’s and you won’t get rid of them; dial down the on-page optimization for the keyword/s in your domains. The EMD’s that didn’t get hit had several things in common:
- Lots of images on each page.
- Youtube videos.
- A social presence.
- Less header tag optimization.
- Low keyword density.
- External links to authority sites.
- High page count (lots of content).
Similar to on-page, Google is looking at your link profile and its relation to your domain name. If your domain name is “cheapcowmeatforsale.com” and 70% of your link profile uses anchor text like “cheap cow meat for sale” and “cow meat for sale” you’re just asking for a penalty.
Be careful with your anchor text, rank for keywords that don’t involve your EMD keyword. EMD’s that didn’t get slapped had these things in common:
- Social Backlinks (FB likes, G+1′s, Tweets/Retweets)
- Youtube & Video Links
- Social Profiles (Most importantly a Facebook fan page with likes and a Google Plus business page)
- No-follow backlinks, a natural amount
Ultimately you need to be one step ahead of Google at all times. Also; don’t be foolish and try to cut corners. Buying an exact match domain site was the logical thing to do when we discovered their benefits. However the good SEO’s knew they would eventually be useless.
If you really want to rank quickly, I mean faster than using an EMD, just buy a high page rank domain (pr3 or more) from an auction site or forum. For $200 you greatly increase your chance of ranking faster and avoid being hit by Google.
P.S. Leave me your thoughts, comments and questions below. Also opt-in to the email list on the right for more SEO tips, tricks and secrets.