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Algo Change Targets Low Quality Exact Match Domains 9-28-2012

 9:13 pm on Sep 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Matt tweeted [twitter.com]:
small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.



 5:06 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm not afraid of speaking up and getting smacked by the next update. If you ARE afraid of speaking up because you might get hit by the next update my advice would be to start fixing your site now.

It's easy to not be concerned about speaking up when you don't participate in controversial threads or express strong opinions. But for more outspoken members, such as me oftentimes, I become a target for those wanting revenge. So by participating in threads where I can't absolutely prove something other than say "I feel strongly about this" I leave myself wide open to verbal assault. I don't need that, it disturbs my inner peace. I'm not afraid of comments about the updates themselves, actually the word fear doesn't hold me in it's grip, I simply know when I should leave well enough alone.

There are no tactics Google doesn't know about, just ones they haven't dealt with yet.

If you are referring to offsite tactics maybe so but there are definitely onsite optimizations that they will never be able to refine enough for, nor have they even taken it into consideration.

Based on my point about being controversial here's an example of me sticking my hand in the fire unnecessarily. I'll go so far as to speculate that when a site exceeds their algorithm's capability of containing it within their predefined limits they will write an exception to push it back down until they can reverse engineer what the site owner did to exceed their predefined score sheet by XX%.


 6:10 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

@sevencubed when I mentioned not being afraid of speaking up I was referring to an earlier comment
if I was unaffected I'd be reluctant to post up here what I'd done for fear of the next "quality update" shooting it down in flames
. I'm not worried about people coming back at me verbally either. Perhaps I should have been clearer that what I meant was that I'm not worried that speaking up here means that I'm going to be targeted by the next "quality update". What I did to be unaffected by the update is the things that Google wants a site to do anyway. If you know you are doing stuff they don't want, I guess one might be worried about speaking up.

I'm perfectly happy to discuss the things I did to make sure my EMD didn't get hit by this update because those aren't things that should get me hit by updates.


 7:13 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you know you are doing stuff they don't want, I guess one might be worried about speaking up.

Here's a snippet from something I said in message#4502106 on page 5 of this thread:
The affected one is the oldest (5 years) and is the one site that does have about 50 backlinks with not enough anchor text variation. I'm beginning to suspect the "low quality" angle is not related to content but to anchor text...(SevenCubed)

That's speaking up. That's doing stuff they don't want, but I spoke up about it and acknowledged it -- no fear, no worry.

And your statement that I quoted: In fact many who have spoken up in this thread have acknowledged they have undesirable backlink profiles. They have acknowledged they did something wrong but not wrong as in "do no evil wrong" just wrong as in it was not the best way to get links. They weren't trying to exploit anyone, they just damaged their own efforts.


 8:18 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

EMDs, PMDs, maybe we should get Colin Powell to...

...oh right, we tried that already.


 10:13 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'll go so far as to speculate that when a site exceeds their algorithm's capability of containing it within their predefined limits they will write an exception to push it back down
Interesting - I reached the same conclusion a few days ago after analysing our visitor numbers against Google updates ( all of them ).

We seem to have a 'ceiling', once we exceed that ceiling we crash and burn, as we work on the site we raise the visitor numbers slowly to, or above the 'ceiling', the algo(s) notice and the cycle repeats.

Also we have days of little variation in visitor number as if the algo can't decide what to do for a while...

Not sure this is the right thread for this comment - which is why I didn't post the comment earlier


 10:32 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)


I was thinking more along the lines of a site being built to something like the 1000 signals that Bing parses for as compared to the 200 that google says they use. In other words the site technical quality (mostly) exceeds their ability to contain it within the confines of maybe their PR algorithm for example. I've seen new sites pushed out that then caused a cascade of PR updates for other sites in that niche that shared the SERPs with that new quality site. That's probably why toolbar PR updates are only infrequent. That's a whole other topic though.


 10:56 pm on Oct 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I get the point - but that would be reflected, in the end, in the number of visitors. I see a relationship in our stats, not the reason for the relationship :(

I don't take any notice of Page Rank, a I think it's only slightly relevant these days, nor do I bother about checking 100's of keyword phrases in the SERPS any more ( OK I check a handfull now and then ). At the end of the day I am just interested in traffic :)

With you on the site versus/connected to other sites though, unless you are a big spending brand with a free pass.

On topic, I wonder what the quantity of same search phrase is before an EMD is actually a EMD, buy-widgets obviously, but buy-widget-from-joes-store-in-cityname how many people would search for that ?


 12:31 am on Oct 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

@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.

Regarding this topic. @Whitey I'm not really sure your question exactly. Can you clarify? I'm a bit confused.

I was questioning the page quality strength [UI / content] on these sites to give me a hunch about how priority weightings might have been applied.

It would provide some insight into what high level algo changes against site features occurred, how they are prioritised, and the sequence of Google applying them.

Apologies if I wasn't clear. So again, did you feel these sites were thin content content, and not particularily deep in terms of URL's?


 7:06 am on Oct 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

For any interested Cemper put out a report analysing 60 sites that were affected by EMD, 30 negatively and 30 positively. The report itself doesn't contain much useful analysis, but they do provide the 60 domains so you can dig further in order to try to classify diffs between EMDs that were hit versus those that actually improved visibility.

Taking about 20 of the sites here's some items I noted (hit sites | promoted sites):

Exact match keywords used in regular text (not internal anchors) on homepage (e.g. "Anchor Text"):
Multiple times (i.e. 6-10) | few times (1-2)

Domain name used in regular text rather than keyword ("AnchorText.com" vs. "Anchor Text"):
Little or no usage (<2) | Much more prevalent usage (>2)

The above could be signs of on-site over-optimisation, and a reliance on exact match keyword over brand.

Now the interesting part about links. While Cemper did come to the conclusion that links were the major element in EMD update, they really didn't back this up very well with their data IMO. Here's what I found via Majestic SEO (again Hit | Promoted):

Level of EM Keyword anchors (e.g. "Anchor Text"):
Generally all top anchors were EM | Top anchors much more diverse (similar to Penguin)

Linking root domains:
Very high number of EM keyword links from each linking domain | Low linking domain:anchor ratio (many hit sites seemed to be getting multiple EM links from each linking site)

Top Anchors:
Mainly EM keyword or commercial | Diverse anchors with far fewer EM

There's no way to know what mix of signals Google uses (other than to be certain it's complex), but my gut tells me it's a blend of anchor/link type together with some obvious on-site over-optimisation signals. Basically EMDs without SEO might still enjoy a ranking boost (as per the promoted set of domains in Cemper report).

If correct then diversifying inbound anchor text and reducing on-site optimisation might see EMDs increase rankings as Google refreshes the data.

Of course the above is all humble opinion, and as with everything SEO YMMV. Using the data set might be useful, and I think some users were looking for lists of sites they could analyse.

PS: one hit site (according to Cemper) that might be interesting to watch was the official Tourism Dubai website.


 11:42 pm on Oct 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

An EMD I previously reported as ranking in the week before the Penguin update, that was previously hit in the original Penguin, has now disappeared for all but's it's domain name. And even this is not in top positions.

Flux, data updating, no hope - no idea ! I guess a week or so might give a better indication - who knows?


 12:23 am on Oct 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

If correct then diversifying inbound anchor text and reducing on-site optimisation might see EMDs increase rankings as Google refreshes the data.

Yep. That's the conclusion I've come to also but can't change anything until a few months from now. I've stopped looking for clues, right or wrong I've decided that's what needs to be addressed in my case. Everything in my instance points to that (inbound anchor text and reducing on-site optimisation).


 1:17 pm on Oct 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

inbound anchor text and reducing on-site optimisation

I agree. But do I try to reduce on-site optimization quickly now? Do it slowly over time? A quick change in linking text of inbound links might trigger a second issue with Google. And all of these changes might hurt our rankings with Bing which are stellar.

As it stands our plans are to do a site redesign which we have planned for over a year but put off due to having top 5 ranking for almost every coveted term in the niche. After that we are just going to wait a month or two. Trying to fix an issue related, at least in theory, to too much SEO with a quick blast of new SEO does not seem prudent.


 1:10 pm on Oct 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

My EMD was hit hard. The drop in search queries as reported in Webmaster Tools is steep with the top ten terms now all in the red.

The site has been the top in its niche for over ten years so naturally, I think this algo change sucks. To "reduce" simply because a domain name matches what a site is about makes zero sense.


 4:21 pm on Oct 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Um, hope some of you are aware that there was also a panda update, penguin refresh, and ATF update as well.

Just because you have an emd/partial, it doesn't necessarily mean you were hit by this EMD update only.


 4:52 pm on Oct 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

My EMD was hit hard. The drop in search queries as reported in Webmaster Tools is steep with the top ten terms now all in the red.

An EMD can only be an exact match for one term. Either you were caught in one of the other concurrent updates or the EMD algo also catches some PMDs, though I've always found Matt Cutts to be pretty precise in his choice of words.

Robert Charlton

 5:20 pm on Oct 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just to note that from what I'm seeing, the algo is doing precisely what was intended. Eg, a personal blog of a blogger who had the same name as a famous person but whose owner had beaten the famous person to the EMD, now only ranks for [famousperson.tld]... but not for [famous person], and not even for [famousperson].

It appears, from the quick look I had time to take before leaving for PubCon, that the blog had no independent inbound links to justify Google ranking it well. I don't think that Google has demoted the domain... simply removed the advantage the EMD gave it. In this case, absent good inbounds, that seems to be a demotion.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't get an exact match domain for your name. It does mean that you're going to have to be known elsewhere enough to motivate inbound links that justify the ranking.

It may be that Google is applying this more strongly to EMDs targeting "named entities" and personalities than it is to other terms... not sure of that. Clients I have with EMDs have, if anything, risen slightly during this update.

Michael Corder

 9:35 pm on Oct 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

<snip> I might understand the name, but why have all my pages, and all my images, been demoted to nowhere? I also question why my name/blog does not show up in search at all for my name - not just below <a public figure with the same name as mine> , but below numerous other non-famous people with the same name, below phone book sites & garbage sites. Indeed, I cannot find ANY of my blog pages period. I have been completely shut down because I have a domain with my legitimate name - a name that I had long before he wss born. He is not even "that" famous - only in the UK. If someone searches for me (I AM looking for a job), the only reference they will find is my Linkedin profile...

Am I supposed to change my name? <-(just trying to be funny;^).

Honestly, this seems wrong to have my entire blog dropped when I did nothing nefarious...

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:37 pm (utc) on Oct 13, 2012]
[edit reason] remove specifics [/edit]


 11:25 pm on Oct 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Michael Corder, have you checked if you have a -950 penalty? It seems like sometimes in the lates (?) update sites end up on the last page. One of my theories is that it is a duplicate penalty, duplicate pages\
on your site or if you have a similar site with almost the same content. Imported from other blogs?


 8:06 am on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

An EMD can only be an exact match for one term. Either you were caught in one of the other concurrent updates or the EMD algo also catches some PMDs, though I've always found Matt Cutts to be pretty precise in his choice of words.

Thanks Jim. Yes, you're right. I'm confusing things. Whatever is going on, Google cut my traffic by about 2/3 from where it was before September 29. I'm not sure why my site was hit, but it most definitely was. For now, I've decided not to change a damn thing and see what happens.

Regardless of what Google thinks, my site is the unquestioned leader in its niche, and so changing it in any way just to appease some algo I don't understand seems foolish. Hopefully, things will improve with Google, but I'm also not naive enough to count on that. If there's any good news here, it's that I finally know first hand that what Google giveth it can take away. Diversify your traffic sources and plan on Google not being part of it. Hedge your bets folks.


 9:37 am on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Interestingly enough we have been hit hard with our ecommerce site, this is updated on a regular basis with new products being added daily and is clearly a valuable site.
Now none of the sites with this keyword in the domain rank on the first 2 pages.
This does not make sense at all as this has got rid of some legitimate sites.
I am currently de-optimising the website for this keyword on the pages to see what happens.



 1:53 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

De-optimising, de-linking, de-whatever... this is getting rediculous! Whatever we do doesn't matter anymore because none knows how to "fix" things. I haven't read about anyone doing anything that has recovered. None! If there is anyone out there, let us know. I won't ask how you did it bacause it doesn't really apply to my site anyway.
I am sick and tired of GOOG now so I have removed the things I have done to try to recover. None of it worked and, like it seems, have to got worse by the minute, so why even try? There is a lag in everything GOOG and other SE's does so I don't kow if my reversal changes did it or not, but yesterday was one of my best days in a week at least. GOOG is screwed up as always but Bing and Yahoo did a good job picking up the slack.
Speaking about GOOG, a co-worker said that GOOG was all screwed up. She was searching for things for work (EDI stuff) and she said that all she found where "blogs" in the serp's, those links with little pictures (GOOG+...) so it is hitting everywhere now.... I showed her the Knowledge Graaph and she did NOT like it so I guess GOOG lost another customer.


 4:21 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Totally agree. I have moved to ebay now and spend 95% of my time now on this.



 5:36 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have had 4 EMD websites hit with the -950 "somewhere really low in the SERPS" penalty.

I have had 1 non-EMD website hit with the -950 for its main terms, but survive for a few others.

I have had 1 EMD website survive unscathed.

after looking at my own sites at length I believe this is an over-optimization penalty which is keyword-based. i feel pretty certain on that, I dont think most people have been hit with an EMD penalty.

im not sure on whether the penalty is for on-page over-optimization, or link based. perhaps it is both. either would apply to my punished sites, where I have obviously targetted certain searches zealously, without doing anything approaching black hat. your typical site owner would not do this (or, at least google's ideal site owner wouldn't). I have a strong suspicion there is an issue with too many footer links and links not in sentences e.g. forum sigs.

the site that survived is 6 months old, has my best content and has some pretty decent backlinks. so either there is a few months grace period with regards the new penalty, or I have done something right here.

I feel the solution is within google's regularly repeated mantra "pretend google doesn't exist".


 6:40 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the insight. I think as webmasters hit with this we are like a doctor for websites. Imagine a doctor who see a patient who has pain in the big toe, swelling of the eye lids, shortness of breath and loose bowel movements. That's me the doctor trying to diagnose the patient. My website might be hit with EMD, or it could be that same time Panda update, the apparent image algo update, or an over optimization penalty or all of the above or 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4 of those things. *insert mission impossible theme song here*

It might be worth dumming down my choice of words (keywords) on some sites but am I over doing it? If I dumb it down to much then I need to have confidence that Bing and Yahoo can realize what my content is all about. If I just tweak things to accommodate Google these days, is that a worthwhile investment? Yes, it reality it is. I'm personally going to fashion my sites and style to what suits Google. They set the standard, I try to best follow suit. There is nothing wrong with that. Chasing Bing? That's a waste of time.

I'm still hoping to read here posts about optimism and bounce backs. Although I too can claim an EMD site of mine is fine, the fact is my top dogs got smashed to bits. Regardless I can't give up. I'll update if my dumming down works or if there is ANY optimistic reports from myself.


 6:45 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

That's me the doctor trying to diagnose the patient.

Just toss it 2 fish (penguins luv them) and tell it to call you in the morning.


 7:05 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I believe this is an over-optimization penalty which is keyword-based

I've assumed all along that this algo change MUST be keyword based. "Exact match" means it matches the query phrase, right?

Has anyone with significant non-matching traffic also seen that traffic fall off when this new EMD algorithm kicked in?


 7:49 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I believe this is an over-optimization penalty

Matt Cutts specifically said "low quality" sites. When Penguin was released he mentioned over-optimization (being the engineer that he is he quickly changed that to "spam"), so I don't really see him saying one thing when meaning another.

Has anyone with significant non-matching traffic also seen that traffic fall off when this new EMD algorithm kicked in?

With the concurrent Penguin update and everything else going on folks are in a thorough state of confusion. (Heck, I'm sure there are a few folks in this thread who don't really know what EMD means.) And I guess it's possible that a site could be hit by both EMD and a Penguin refresh that would only muddy the waters more.


 9:13 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I sure hope I never run into anyone who is dealing with both - that would be a major tangle, especially because it took 3-4 days for Panda Update of Sept 27 to roll out completely, and EMD was oon Sept 28. ( reference [webmasterworld.com...] )


I've been assuming that the loss of traffic would be Google traffic for the exact match query phrase. Is there anyone with an exact match domain that was getting significant traffic for a DIFFERENT query phrase, and also saw that traffic go away?


 9:39 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tedster major uplift in Google traffic 30th Sept, thinks to self - cracked it ! Lasted until 7th October - given up, confused. As posted before, as soon as we hit a 'ceiling' in google traffic get hit on next Goggle update whatever it is called. Conclusion: nice site, but sorry rather show others that make us more money.


 9:50 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

So johnhh - you are talking about an EMD, right? That algo shift was on September 28. If that was what affected you, two days to recover seems amazing to me. Have you considered other possibilities than the EMD Update?


 10:09 pm on Oct 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

it is an EMD but with low volume, I wonder what query volume is required to trigger an EMD.

We have Google updates logged as 27th Sept, 28th Sept and 5th October ( to avoid US date format ). I guess 27th Sept update gave us the traffic, removed on 5th Oct Update. As you say, confusing as all mixed up !

WMT shows increase in impressions, not reflected in logs or sales.

Note: .co.uk site, online since 1997, hit by Panda 1 in UK on the 12 April 2011, that awful day when Reseller posted .. opps something up !
edit for clarity

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