Marketing_Guy - 11:23 am on Oct 1, 2012 (gmt 0)
It's probably worth noting that even professionally written content doesn't automatically mean it's "high quality" content, and even if it is, that doesn't mean it's a "high quality" result.
I could hire the best writers in the world to write copy for "buy blue widgets", but that's only one page and in the context of my larger site and the other competition in the marketplace, that piece of outstanding copy still could be considered to be a low quality result for the term.
Looking at the EMD "market", what percentage of sites out there are SEO tools (affiliate / adsense sites, hobby sites, doorway pages, "brand" changes to help local sites rank for competitive phrases) and what have simply been created naturally (a business decision to call your website keyword.com)? The former probably vastly outweighs the latter and I guess that's Google's logic with this update.
It boils down to the intention behind the website and even the whitest-of-whitehat content can be construed as being an attempt to artificially manipulate search results.
All things being equal (i.e. no SEOs using the technique) then EMDs might be a good indicator of relevance for search engines. But this hasn't been a reality for a long time and given there are quite a few people posting in this thread (and probably many more that haven't) that run networks of dozens, even hundreds of EMDs (across multiple markets) should stand testiment to the fact that the technique was well on Google's radar.
To speculate at answers to some of the questions raised in this thread;
Why weren't these sites smacked by Panda?
The impression I get is that Panda is a constantly improving internal process, possibly tied in some way to data from the quality rater program. A blunt instrument that's being fine-tuned every month. It could be the case that Panda process has made this update possible in terms of indentifying sites that appear to be of reasonable quality, but consistute a lower quality result for the query.
EMDs are a very unique data set within this problem for Google, so a later update to address the unique problem makes sense.
How to fix the penalty?
Well, at this point, it's anyone's guess! ;) Personally, I think taking a good look at affected sites and scoring their quality, not in terms of the "quality of content" which seems to be a recurring theme for people hit by penalities, but the quality of the site in the context of the market.
You could have the best New York Hotels blog in the world, but if you aren't an actual hotel in New York, then there's no reason you should expect to rank for the term "New York hotels". In Google's mind, that could very well be a "low quality" result.
"Content is king". I think we need a new mantra. "Intention is Emperor". The intention behind the search is what Google is trying to return good results for and the explosion of SEOs producing "quality content" for any and every search term over the years is getting in the way of that goal - hence this update and others like it (Panda, ATF, etc).
One question to throw out there for discussion;
A potential fix = changing domain to something more brand orientated. But would 301ing the old URLs trigger a Penguin penalty on the new domain with all the old EMD inbound links?