|Algo Change Targets Low Quality Exact Match Domains 9-28-2012|
Matt tweeted [twitter.com]:
|small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results. |
As someone who has been doing research on the net since well before the www, IMHO, unless you are looking to buy something, Google's results have gotten pretty much useless over the last year. While that may be their goal, I am switching more & more to Bing.
Since the EMD, my 4 year old blog about energy has gone from an unimpressive, but steady 100-200 visits a day to about 3. Adsense was paying the hosting fees, now it may very well have to go away. Legitimate & Well received writing about energy and science 1 ad block, no SEO, now off the radar - with no idea even why... "Cleaning up the results - so they can get more ads in".
This will pretty much destroy the domain name businesses also - what's the point now?
If one's domain business is selling quality, short, brand-able domain names, example.com for example, that business will be fine. Domain brokers with 1000's of domains that all look a lot like buy-cheap-example-online-red-example-for-sale.com are probably going to struggle a bit.
Whoever has said this is a penalty, I agree completely. I've experienced the exact same disappearance for the keywords that I was ranking for. Exactly the same feeling and appearance. No idea how this demotion/algo works but yes, it is effectively a penalty. I dealt with a spam over optimization penalty and this seems no different than that. It's a scary feeling to search this term or that term and realize you simply vanished. I have no idea how people are getting to my one site unless that 50% is coming from bizarre searches. Certainly nothing that I was known for in terms of keywords.
Let's look at some of these supposed usability factors.
1. Conversion score
Irrelevant to many sites - for some a conversion is just someone clicking on an ad or just someone viewing an ad.
2. Bounce rate
I actually think this is good - but it is not someone just visiting your site and clicking away. It has to be looked at as someone clicking a SERP result visiting your site and then clicking another site from the same SERP.
Even that is somewhat floored as many eCommerce sites may be disadvantaged by people who are price comparing the various sites with the same product (but hopefully all results in the same SERP will have a similar level of disadvantage)
3. Number of page views
This is absolutely not an indicator of quality (unless you can very specifically categorise the intent of a site)
If you a news site - getting goodly numbers of page views per visi is good as people are reading more of your articles.
If for instance you happen to be providing lists of ASCII character codes or similar type information then getting a high number of page views would have to be considered really bad as the user who is looking for this information is generally looking for a very specific answer to a very specific query and generally wants to find this information as fast as possible.
eCommerce sites lie somewhere in the middle as they are trying to balance users buying as many products as possible (high page views good) and users finding the products they want as fast as possible and then going through the checkout/cart process as fast as possible (low page views good).
4. Number of repeat visitors to this page
A good indicator of quality perhaps - or perhaps just an indicator that the site has a lot of offline presence (such as a TV station site)
5. How many people add products to cart after visiting this page?
Irrelevant to non-ecommerce sites, but a good indicator for ecommerce sites.
6. Average amount of time that is spend on this page.
As for number of page views this factor depends on the type of site - as per the examples above a news site wants a high time on page - it probably means that the user was interested in the article and read it all. The ASCII code type site would want a fairly low time on page as if the user takes too long in finding the specific information that they want, the page is probably too confusing and the user may have thought 'I've had enough of this I'll try another site'
In my opinion quality is defined by the purpose of the site and how effectively it fulfills that purpose - and no amount of statistical analysis will tell you that.
Trying to apply data driven quality indicators is a bad plan and will lead to a very homogenised web, dull and boring with some queries being answered effectively and others providing totally useless results.
Moving on to other factors that could be deemed a measure of the quality of the site which weren't mentioned earlier
The size of a site could be a factor in quality, especially regarding backlink analysis, as a large site should generate more natural backlinks and they should be of a more diverse nature.
This of course ignores scraper and auto-generated content as these can produce very large low quality sites (as we have seen in the past).
Small sites, such as many EMDs, are often produced to provide quick answers to specific information requests and will generate few and very focused backlinks (think similar anchor text) - this does not mean that they do not answer a very small number of queries extremely effectively.
There are some interesting things in psychology and one of them is the Belbin Team Inventory - [en.wikipedia.org...]
If you look at these - you can see how these personality types can be applied to webmasters, some will love large projects which they can add to and add to and never complete, others will get satisfaction from completing a job and moving on to the next job. Some will just start a project and get bored - and then start another one without finishing the first.
If you look at people who get satisfaction from completing a project - they are likely to want to produce a small website (for which EMDs are absolutely ideal) which they can 'finish' before moving on to the next project. (Some may return to do a revamp project on their website at a later date, whereas others will just start the project over again on another domain and try and learn from the information they got from the first project because their personality doesn't like updates and upgrades)
Site age can be considered an indicator of quality because sites that are not successful will often be abandoned and the domain recycled, however this is not necessarily true for all domains as there have been Search Engine Spammers for very nearly as long as there have been search engines (probably the day of the first launch of a search engine!).
9. Incoming links. Google may only be counting links from "quality" pages now but you cannot escape the fact that it's all about incoming links. Always has been. All of the "quality" metrics are a deciding factor on wether or not a link will be deemed valid but in the end it's all about your link graph as compared to that of your immediate competitors.
I think it's fairly safe to say that EMD's were largely niche/specialty websites most often run by your average one person operation. With those appearing far less from what I see right now, niche is no more. If a bigger site covers your subject, even just one article, they take that traffic. Sure you may be a specialist, but your site is small fry in comparison. I will at least say this is what I'm seeing in the more sought out keywords that I know about. I think the opposite of "finding the best of the web". It does appear that "finding the sites you already know about" is more or less how this EMD algo attack tweaked search results where I look. Niche (that's you and me) be gone. Time to go hire a staff of writers and a marketing team if this continues. Am I wrong on this? It's what I see. EMD's were more about niche/specialty/experts than it was about ranking unfairly imo.
EMD was abused for sure , I know of several companies that would run several hundred keyword specific domain names and flood that field. It needed cleaning up. That say BT in UK pitched keyword specific domain names claiming to be in partnership with google......... so what about those poor suckers!
Requires you have GA enabled on your site not to mention the ability to add that GA to an end page to actually track a conversion.
|5. How many people add products to cart after visiting this page? |
How is this even possible? Your telling me that if you have a homebrew cart on your ecom site they are going to know if people added to it? Of course, you could always set a goal, but then again you have to have GA and the ability to do so.
If these really are factors then they are certainly forcing GA upon everyone and some people don't even have the ability to do such things if using certain order processors out there.
Out of curiousity I just looked at conversion rate for a site of mine which G would have no ability to track... 8% go through with the order process and purchase. If this really is a factor I will need to switch processors to have the ability to track.
I'm beginning to think this algo change is more aligned to a breakout "tweak" from Panda and Penguin.
A few EMD sites I observe were dropped on Penguin, but were actually good quality. Some further quality elements have been added and they are back in top positions as of last week with this update.
So on this observation and change, quality makes a difference.
|I think it's fairly safe to say that EMD's were largely niche/specialty websites most often run by your average one person operation. With those appearing far less from what I see right now, niche is no more. If a bigger site covers your subject, even just one article, they take that traffic. |
Agreed. My own take on this is that Google is valuing trust more than quality of content, and they trust big, well established sites more than small fry. This suggests to me that for all their claims to be able to recognise high quality content they simply cannot - yet. The inevitable result is the decline in quality of the SERPs that most of us are experiencing.
|Requires you have GA enabled on your site not to mention the ability to add that GA to an end page to actually track a conversion. |
Nah, plenty of other ways for google to get this data, Chrome for one, buying ISP data for two.
@Sgt Kickaxe - agree with you on the inbound links - I am pretty sure Google is measuring quality by number and diversity of inbound links.
My counter argument to this is that highly focused small sites (generally EMDs as well) will fall foul of this 'quality' indicator because as narrow focus for the site will by definition cause a narrow focus of inbound link text - which is what appears to be tiggering the penalties.
@Whitey - interesting observation, would you consider these sites, that have made a recovery, to have broadened their spectrum of potential inbound link text when you add in the keywords that are in the domain name? (i.e. they had a very small spectrum of keywords that would have been used as inbound link text outside of those in the domain name)
@superclown2 - I think that the natural diversity of link text of a larger site will prevent it being penalised, where a smaller site may be penalised by the higher focus of link text on specific keywords.
For instance if you have a large site about widgets you will generate inbound link text about red widgets, blue widgets, yellow widgets, big widget, small widgets, round widgets, square widgets and so on. Whereas if you have a small focused site on big round yellow widgets your inbound link text is likely to be highly focused on the particular keywords 'big round yellow widgets' - I think it is that diversity that will prevent the larger site being penalised. Even though the specific site about 'big round yellow widgets' may be much the better site for that very specific topic.
What happened to Google's policy of do no evil?
They have completely destroyed tons of innocent businesses with this apparently small update!
I work on tons of websites and the SERPS are just plain awful when compared to a few years back, surely the users have got to notice at some point?
Can anyone confirm where this is a penalty? I may have missed that part of this. As far as I was aware, it was an algo update. I've said it feels like and acts like a penalty for my given keywords, but where has Google said this is a penalty and requires a reconsideration request? Any clarification would help me.
@MrSavage - From what I have seen - it appears that many EMDs are being given a -950 (or -x to remove them to the last few pages of considered results) - which appears to be an over optimisation penalty based on diversity of inbound link text. (Certainly an over optimisation penalty)
I could be wrong - but there are many here who seem to be providing information that this is the case. (read the posts of WebPixie, tigger & Leosghost through this thread - they have some idea of what is going on and try to impart some real information)
I personally don't think that many reconsideration requests will get okayed by Google and think this penalyty is algorithmic rather than manual - so consider the chances of reconsideration very limited.
|interesting observation, would you consider these sites, that have made a recovery, to have broadened their spectrum of potential inbound link text when you add in the keywords that are in the domain name? |
Not definitely, but possibly.
Certainly internal link text is varied into phrases that often include the domain name, and the site has many URL's. Not sure when this was done, or even if it was done post Penguin penalty. But remember the revival occurred in the weeks before the Penguin refresh.
Another observation on this site is that secondary target terms, not involving the exact domain name, more associated with it appear to be doing quite well on a randomized basis. That is, some rank highly, some moderately. It seems to say to me that Google doesn't care too much for optimization tricks, it has it's own that it chooses and applied randomly. Exception is brand.
There's one further thing you could say, on the basis of this EMD recovery. The EMD update liked it and Panda liked it. It also overrode, what Penguin previously didn't like about it.
If i was to take a guess, I'd pitch it as say that certainly brand, and perhaps quality are algo overriding factors that soften the effects of EMD and some degree of Penguin effects. I think these observations need more qualification from other data sources to be strengthened.
My other hunch is that the EMD element of the 1st Penguin update, probably didn't get it quite right, and it needed to be wrenched free for separate refinement. Given the length of time and sequence of the EMD / Penguin algo tweaks, i's give myself a better than average chance that this was correct. Who knows what the complexities might be that caused this.
From a Google perspective, it seems logical that they would be driving focus onto these two things [ brand and quality ], given what we've being hearing and seeing in the SERP's and from MC and his team.
Perhaps some further feedback on EMD's that appear recovered, or remained untouched by this update may give a further clue.
Some of the EMDs I compete with haven't really lost any rankings. However, they have a lot of links/references from authority sites. Could Google be devaluing EMDs that were mostly relying on on-page SEO?
my exact domain was just hit. :( it was supposed to be at least top 5 in serps but now nowhere to be found unless i search the domain.
@seoNOOB check the last pages of the results for you query - i.e. postions 900-1000 - does your EMD appear there?
Just go to the change the &start=xxx parameter in teh URL to 990 to get to the last page and then move back from the last page (it often won't be 990) as you get:
|In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the xxx already displayed. |
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
on the results page.
|Can anyone confirm where this is a penalty |
Google stopped calling any ranking changes a "penalty". The word is out of their vocabulary and pretty much undefined at this time.
All we've got now is "algorithmic changes" and "manual actions", where manual actions correspond roughly to what we used to call penalties. And this EMD change, no matter how drastic the ranking demotions may be, Google is calling an algorithmic change. Lot's of old-time penalties are now folded into the algorithm.
I feel pretty hopeful that the algorithm will eventually soften these low-quality EMD blows a bit, but it probably will be quite a while - at least several months.
So I agree with IanTurner - it's not considered a "penalty" [old-speak] or a "manual action"[new-speak] so a Reconsideration Request is not going to get anyone anywhere. It's going to take a significant change to the site that Google's algorithm can interpret as improvements to quality. The other possibility would be a change to this new EMD algorithm.
|I feel pretty hopeful that the algorithm will eventually soften these low-quality EMD blows a bit, but it probably will be quite a while - at least several months. |
Me too - i sense the algo "break outs" provide insight into the isolating of elements for site improvements.
This could lead to the brand strength signal being diluted in favour of quality, when there is enough of it. It just depends how sites respond, but Google surely requires some diversity to maintain interest in the SERP's for visitors and encourage webmasters to invest in their sites. Interesting times over the next few years.
|The other possibility would be a change to this new EMD algorithm. |
Can't see that happening..at least not in any substantial way...this last batch of aglo runs , EMD included..there have been some loud wails..but from a relatively small number of voices, and Google had given warning long before that weak low quality EMDs would suffer, eventually..( much of the "collateral damage" may be down to those low quality EMDs linking in to other EMD or non EMD sites, having been devalued and demoted )..but is isn't like the "Cult of Mac" getting caught in Panda 1 situation, that resulted in a "white-list" tweak that could be seen and was acknowledged by G as having been done..
Someone asked in a recent thread, if this would affect domainers businesses, and someone else said probably not as domainers look for short and or catchy names that usually are EMDs, but that are not always..
I'm not a "domainer"..but have a few hundred or so..since the EMD algo went through I've registered an additional 20 or so..in English and French..all short and catchy..all EMDs or KW+ one or two or three letters..( none over 10 ..Ooops , recount, 12 letters..and none with hyphens<= except to block squatters ) I'm not worried at all about if they will "soar" in SERPs ..it depends entirely on the quality of what I put on them..
They are all of the "hear the name, make the association, remember the name" type..with some thought you can "brand" in people's minds, right out of the starting gate..
|I'm not worried at all about if they will "soar" in SERPs ..it depends entirely on the quality of what I put on them.. |
@Leosghost - your own recipe might work for you, but a multi domain EMD strategy for the majority of webmasters cannot be as easily supported as well as a single domain strategy IMO. There's too much work to keep it maintained with quality. Over the last 5 months I've seen a large business taking advantage of this strategy, virtually wiped out. To build back is going to cost a fortune, and will take a long time.
That said, Google teaches us not to have all our eggs in one basket.
Moderation maybe, but i wouldn't go hog wild on this idea.
This is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. My gut sense is that a few of my top EMD sites are not coming back. One of them did in fact have an over optimization penalty a while ago, but after some cleaning up, time and affiliate link removal, I was brought back after a reconsideration request.
For me the disappointment is that this was said to be the weeding out of low quality EMD websites. Fair enough. However what I'm seeing right now is more like a double whammy. It's weeding out EMD's, but it's also saying that websites talking about Brand X should rightfully be replaced by Brand X instead. That's the double edged part of it. Yes, EMD I get, but the apparent shift to bounce the sites which covered Brand X with a portion of Brand X in their domain seems like something else and something much larger.
The reason for me that I'm not hopeful is because of what I see. I'm very familiar with the results on a number of searches. When I see that Brand X taking the rightful top 2 or 3 results, how on earth can this be dialed back? It seems far more substantial than that. It's more like a philosophy switch rather than a simple ago. You telling me I should be hopeful that the next algo tweak is going to send Brand X down from the top of page 1? I'm very realistic about that. Not in my lifetime comes to mind.
To summarize, for me to be hopeful moving forward, it would take an algo switch which reduces Brand X in the rankings and therefore giving more traffic to the bottom feeders. This seems so counter intuitive, it's just not going to fly. If you are that expert regarding a certain niche, you will get swamped by Brand X and all the authority for that broader subject. Example? A niche site talks about how to cook fish and only fish from a fish chef. Lots of content and articles specific to that cooking. However Brand X is all about cooking and they have a 4 paragraph article on cooking fish. Guess who is going to be getting those rankings and organic traffic? Not me the fish chef with the specialty site. Not when there is this giant of Brand X who covers cooking. The fact is EMD was one last remaining opportunity for that fish chef to receive some of the glorious organic traffic. High relevance used to count for something and EMD played a role in that. In a nutshell this is how the whole dang thing has changed in my narrow view.
Sad days I'm telling you. For me at least.
@IanTurner thanks for the tip man. Its on the last page. lol
I own about two dozen exact match domains, most of them are three word domains, exactly matching a very popular search term applicable to the site content. None have Adsense on them, all in-house advertising that is a 100% match to the content. None were hit.
The content on each site is 100% matching the domain name, page after page. I think this is the definition of a high quality kw matching domain. For once, I wasn't hit hard or hit at all by an algo change. Ranking not moved. Whew.
Since this board is targeted to Google SEO, I will add this, which may help some who were hit by other recent algo changes. The content for these keyword matching domains all came from one main website. It was having trouble ranking, due to the wide range of topics in the nitch. I took the content from that website, sorted it into topics and registered the new kw loaded domains. Very carefully, and with great planning and forethought, I moved the content onto the smaller websites, added new templates and then began adding content to each. For the most part, the content was exact, though I did removed article images which were on the larger website, transferring only the text, with new meta data and if there was an update to the content of the original article, I updated the article with the new information, which was minor.
I stripped the old pages of all content, blank page with a text link to the new smaller site that was applicable. Then, I uploaded the site maps to Google webmaster tools. Worked like a charm. Instant ranking for the new websites, and increased ranking for the content left on the main website. This has resulted in fine nitch kw intense websites, making it difficult for others to outrank me. Each of these websites is updated frequently.
I actually came to this board for trouble I'm having with my main website, another nitch. I'm going to have to break it down into smaller websites too. Traffic is down to 10% of January 2011 levels, sliding continually. Today, I managed to figure out a template change caused likely half the loss.
I can confirm my 2 word EMD sunk to last page of search result. No spam, no ads that are even remotely over-the-top, no SEO optimization. Simply sunk for looking a certain way. Wow, this is enlightening. Is this called torpedoed? I will say it was a site being worked on, not complete, not terribly thin. Perhaps a few too many pages with not enough content. Seriously, this is not "one of those sites". Trust me I've had those in the past and I have enough experiences with penalties to know whether I'm at fault here. BTW, this wasn't one of my top sites that took a hit here lately.
I just noticed, my other pages from that site still show up around page 14 and beyond, but the main url link is dead last.
|Martin Ice Web|
MsHuggys, thanx for sharing this. So I though "siloing" - put all matching content into one categorie with subpages - would be the same. But it seems that having more little webpages with targeted content is less vulnerable but for a ecom site hardly to realize.
@MrSavaga +1. We have the biggest choice of a certain widgettyp in germany, prior to penguin/panda April we had daily traffic on this, since then amazon/brands are outranking us with non related widgets.
Martin Ice Web, one of the other things I did was waiting to put Facebook like buttons on the websites for three to four months. Rather than show a couple likes in the beginning, making the site look unpopular, I held off until many had liked each website, or I had hoped many had liked it. After the 3-4 months, I placed a Like button on the main page of each website to see how many had liked it via links placed on their FB page. I was surprised to see each had 100-300 Likes already. So, I placed the Like button on each page of each website to further grow the audience.
|I can confirm my 2 word EMD sunk to last page of search result. No spam, no ads that are even remotely over-the-top, no SEO optimization. Simply sunk for looking a certain way. Wow, this is enlightening. |
I'm begining to think that EMD sites overrode the Panda algo to some extent.
With the EMD update that may have been skewed the other way, with little weight given to EMD's if the quality wasn't strong.
The first Penguin update did knock a lot of EMD's around, but not all. This is partly why i think the EMD update was hauled out for special attention and preceded the last Penguin refresh.
@MrSavage - can you confirm this. You talk about possibly thin content and one of many sites. It kinda sounds like you were in the above category.