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The New Exact Domain Google Algorithm Change

Google is notorious for dishing out game changing algorithm updates – just look at the Panda and Penguin tweaks. On 28 September, Matt Cutts1 announced an algorithm change, which will affect exact-match domains and will be focused on the English-US queries. He further commented that it is unrelated to the previous two updates, and will impact 0.6% of the SERPs. Although this move aims to decrease the “slight supremacy”2 of EMDs, there may be other casualties as before3.

First of all, exact-match domains are those domains (and URLs), which are keyword packed with the sole purpose of attracting traffic. With a previously 3.6% and now 3.1%2 presence in top 10 search results, it could be argued that EMDs give a slight advantage. However, many times these turn out to be low quality content websites and do not deserve user attention. For example, “cars.com” and “usedcars.com” are EMDs and although these examples might be reputable sites, ones like “fun-online-games.com” are surely not.

Naturally, Google stayed true to its word as between 27 and 28 September there was a change in the presence of EMD and PMD (partial match domains) of 10% and 7.5% respectively4the largest single changes so far. Furthermore, as the data shows, the decline continued afterwards and further decreased the EMD presence in the SERPs. Much like Panda and Penguin, the EMD change is a recurring filter with which Google tests its database periodically5 for better results. Naturally, the company uses one of its other filters (Pirate, Top Heavy, and Panda, to name a few) at any other time. The implications of this are that 1) not being affected by the first update (EMD or Panda) does not automatically protect you from later checks and 2) a site can be hit whenever Google runs the filter again.

It is interesting to note which type of sites are affected and by how much6. Surprisingly there is no pattern in the type of punished sites and amount of punishment – .com, .net, and .org sites all suffered a drop in SERP standing, ranging from a couple of places to more than 18 pages. A large number of the affected websites were game-related, which could either reflect the content quality of these sites or be a coincidence. Surprisingly, no first place EMD was affected by the filter. This could imply that Google did not punish the sites for being EMDs but rather removed a previous advantage and then ranked them accordingly.

If your website was affected around 28 September, do not automatically assume that it was the EMD update, as Google rolled out Panda v2 around the same time7. Panda v2 was set to impact 2.4% of English search queries and it is statistically more likely to be the root of your problem. Furthermore, your website will not see an improvement in its standing until the filter is refreshed a couple of months in the future.

Nevertheless, you should not simply wait for this but instead locate the initial problem and fix it. Thankfully, the suggested solutions for Panda and EMD are the same, which will mean less time and resources spent. The generic advice is to improve your content but more specifically you must identify poorly ranking pages, and either enrich and merge or delete them. If their presence is vital, consider making them non-crawlable by Googlebot. Furthermore, promote your strong and authoritative URLs, trying to build more valuable backlinks. Your social media efforts should also not lag behind, and consider improving your author rank by incorporating Google+ with the website.

References:

  1. https://twitter.com/mattcutts
  2. http://mozcast.com/metrics
  3. http://searchengineland.com/google-panda-losers-today-show-winners-youtube-95257
  4. http://mozcast.com/metrics, PMD influence
  5. http://searchengineland.com/the-emd-update-like-panda-penguin-expect-further-refreshes-to-come-135446
  6. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/googles-emd-algo-update-early-data
  7. http://www.webpronews.com/google-panda-update-rolls-out-alongside-emd-update-2012-10

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