Questions: We were smacked by the EMD (Exact Match Domain) Update in September
and we are still scratching our heads as to what we need to do to recover. I know we need to make changes before the next refresh but, like with Panda, I need a checklist. Can you help?
Answer: As we covered in last month's SES Updates, Google did roll-out an Exact Match Domain (EMD) algorithmic adjustment that lowered the value of exact match domain results in Google search at the end of September.
The change by Google has been a long-time coming and we actually predicted it back in December in our 7 SEO Predictions for 2012 article:
"I (We) predict what you will see in 2012 is a DECREASE in the value of exact match domains and footer links (seriously Google, it's a long time coming)..."
In simple terms, Google has lowered the specific SEO punch that exact match keyword domains have for ranking purposes. On a scale of 1-10, let's say that the value of an EMD was a ten before the update. Now, that specific algorithmic calculation may only be worth a two or a three.
Similar to Panda and Penguin, the EMD update is an algorithmic calculation that Google will run against the index at specific times in the future. Each time this update is run or "refreshed," sites that meet the criteria of the update will be negatively affected. In contrast, sites that have made changes to "improve" their content between EMD refreshes will be positively treated in the results.
To recover from an EMD slap, it's important to recognize first, how badly you were impacted. So far, we've seen two main classes of EMD-affected sites.
The first class are exact match domains that have extremely poor, spun or weak content and which lack clear user-friendly metrics. In these cases, the EMD penalty operates in a similar fashion to a -950 penalty, a penalty that is historically so bad that starting an entirely new site is the common recommendation. These sites, (like our example www.teethwhitening.com in last month's issue), are dropped almost to the end of the search results.
If you've been affected by this more serious version of the EMD update, you need to ask yourself some questions:
- Is your site operating with branded or exact match keywords in the URL and trying to rank SOLELY based on that, with no attention to on-page content?
- Does your site contain little unique content or use spun or manufacturer-provided content that provides no real value for the average visitor?
- Does your EMD have a greater than 50% bounce rate or perform negatively in other site-user engagement metrics like average time-on-site or repeat visitor numbers?
- Does the site load slowly or contain multiple pages of scrolling image heavy content?
- Does the site have any social media signals? Check it out in http://howmanyshares.com. If you see many 0's, that's not a good thing.
- If your site was visited by a Google Quality Rater, would they look at your site and consider you an authority site in your EMD-targeted niche?
Unfortunately, if you find the answers to the above questions are not positive, and your site is ranking at the end of the search results, you need to accept the possibility that moving to a new domain may be necessary. Salvaging some of your content or even 301 redirecting it entirely to a new less-EMD optimized domain may be the only way to recover.
The second class is the less severe form that has dropped sites in the rankings from 5-15 spaces on average. In these cases, the value of the EMD domain has been reduced algorithmically but overall, the site has enough inherent strength (either from existing quality on-site content or their backlink profile)to keep them ranking competitively.
If you fall into this category, some simple on-site housecleaning and more attention to building up niche-related backlinks may be all you need to get your site moving back up the rankings. Specifically, ask the following of your sites and those of your clients:
- How much of your EMD content is above-the-fold? How does that compare to the sites that are now outranking you in Google?
- Does your content need to be refreshed? Is everything 100% unique and written to present your site as the authority in your niche?
- Use tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer and compare your backlink profiles to those sites above. Can you find and identify shared links that will allow you to close ranking gaps?
- Does your site have strong social signals? Have you added on-page social media sharing buttons(i.e. AddThis.com)?
- Do you have a blog or content generation system to ping Google and generate Freshness boosts which clearly help pull in links and higher rankings?
- Have you performed a site audit and corrected any existing on-page issues that may be keeping your site from achieving its full SEO potential?
The EMD update is the latest iteration of Google's long standing desire to serve the most relevant, high-quality results for specific search queries. This is especially the case with branded queries.
Unfortunately, if you were operating a hyphenated branded copycat domain with thin or spun content and ranking competitively solely on the strength of your URL, your free ride is over.
If however, you did have a quality site and you noticed a slight drop in the value of your EMD domain, then we suggest conducting both a backlink audit and a review of your on-site content issues and getting your site back up to snuff.
Source: Casey Markee, Writer & Lead SEO Consultant, Planet Ocean . Share from: searchenginenews.com
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