Google’s EMD Update And The Fall of Short-Sighted SEOs

On the morning of September 29th, screams (and then a great deal of whining) could be heard across the Earth as SEOs and affiliate marketers woke up to find that their traffic had been wiped clean. For some, the next few days would rock them to the core; marketers of every niche were coming to terms with dramatic losses in revenue as Google launched possibly the most SEO-significant update of 2012.

It was about 10 years ago that we all realised exact match domains (EMD) were overpowered. I could wake up one day, purchase a domain in a niche I knew nothing about, write 2 pages of content in a niche I knew nothing about, pay for a few links and be sitting on a couple of hundred quid a month. This seems totally fair right? Why would I ever think about doing anything else?

SEOs had hit a comfort zone. Affiliate marketers deemed their EMDs untouchable and did very little to improve the site’s content or user experience. Even after Matt Cutts posted a video explicitly saying that they were beginning to ‘turn the knob down’ on keyword rich domains affiliate marketers didn’t bat an eyelid.

Google’s EMD update did exactly that, except the knob got ripped right off the wall and sent any hint of an EMD packing. This hypersensitive update resulted in a ton of collateral damage which I’ll come on to – but this was arguably a giant step towards improving search.

The reactions from webmasters looked a little something like this:

This is just pure criminal. There is nothing about this that could be considered legit. MATT CUTTS and his criminal team of imbeciles should be in prison for the economic damage they’re doing! Now Google has showed its monopoly again…… I am not able to understand…. why Google repeat this again and again… Guys google is company of crooks matt cutt is head of these crooks.

Next Time: Risk Management

Before I start, let me be clear; a close friend and myself have worked on a couple of sites separately for several months solid – the time and energy spent on their content and link building has been exhausting and we both got hit for six when this update was released. I understand that there are tons of people out there in a similar position who have been unfairly treated by this update.

As an SEO, I rely heavily on Google for traffic, if Google decided for whatever reason that my website was rubbish then me and my earnings are gone whether I liked it or not. Fortunately for the people I know and myself, we chopped up our portfolios to split our risk as much as possible. There’s so much that can be done and it doesn’t just apply to this update but anything that is out of our control.

  • Google PPC
  • Bing PPC
  • Non-EMD / Partial EMD / EMD domains
  • Multiple Niches
  • Paid Advertising
  • Separate Link Portfolios

Those are the foundations of a portfolio with split risk. Then on top of that you have your organic marketing – keep it as clean and as white hat as possible for the most part. Sure if you’re after quick wins then go nuts on all those grey areas but keep your long term strategies away from all the crap.

Other forms of risk management also come with understanding Google and seeing what direction it’s going to take. A perfect example right now is Google’s Authorship that was introduced a year ago – so many SEOs are ignoring this and will continue to ignore it until it actually comes into effect. Stop putting your strategy at risk, adopt every new development and its mother!

But what actually came of the EMD update?

As part of an inbound marketing company I can tell you that bricks and mortar businesses have held their rank impeccably well – almost certainly to do with the positive brand signals being sent to Google.

  • EMD websites with affiliate links for large networks have been punished heavily.
  • Google seemed indifferent to the quality of content.
  • Keyword domains with lots of keyword searches may be a stronger penalty trigger.
  • Google seemed indifferent to website age.
  • Anchor distribution may have been a penalty trigger

This is all anecdotal correlation based on several dozen sites and I appreciate there is no hard data to back it up (not that data ever does lead to conclusions in SEO anyway!). And there are always exceptions to the rule – i.e. a two page site (one page is a privacy policy) cashforgoldcalculator.org still ranks top for its term in the UK…

So here’s what I have to say to those who are complaining:

  1. If your website is of quality and has simply been caught in an oversensitive update then I’m sorry to hear that. But think positive! These updates often get turned down a bit and reports over at Webmaster World seem to indicate that it’s already happening – http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4501349-11-30.htm – keep practicing great, legitimate SEO and you’ll be back soon enough.
  2. If your website is of poor quality (compare your site with those at the top for a clear answer), then you need to come to terms with the new face of SEO. There are no more easy wins, and there’s certainly no room for thin content anymore. Google has been tough with us over the last two years but the options are simple – you either accommodate big G or leave the market altogether.
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Written By Nick Pateman

Nick is the web property director at inbound.co.uk and has been messing around with SEO for almost a decade. He currently develops and markets websites in the financial and educational niches.

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3 thoughts on “Google’s EMD Update And The Fall of Short-Sighted SEOs
  1. avatarthranduil

    Really nice article!

    I agree with you on all the points. The steps that Google has taken are ultimately to improve the users search experience, not to benefit the websites.

    It’s no use denying that Google is a huge entity in both, the real and virtual world. It has used it’s position to raise the bars which will ultimately result in a much better interweb.


  2. avatarnick

    I’ve noticed quite a significant loss in placements as well as traffic since this update rolled out. I mean huge losses in basically every site I own.

    But I don’t quite understand the thought process to this update.

    Think of it like this:

    You have two separate sites. Both have content focusing on dog training. And both have great content but on the other hand, both have greatly varied domain names.

    One is dogboneunlimited.com

    the other is tedsdogtraininglessons.com

    Now both sites will be treated the same even though the first has a domain that has little to do with the subject?

    That is crazy. People are going to take advantage of that big time by buying up domains that have very little or nothing to do with the subject matter and ranking better than websites with an EMD.

    Hopefully Bing and Yahoo will finally catch up to Google so we can all jump ship. Google is getting a little crazy with their updates lately…


  3. avatarNick Pateman

    Thrandull, it’s so rare that anyone takes this view on Google. In fact just yesterday there were SEOs celebrating across the World as Google’s stock fell by 10%.

    Google is cleaning things up, and I think that the outrage from the ‘SEO’ community is a direct result of that!



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