Introducing the EMD Algorithm Update

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Published: 07th November 2012
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In Google’s never ending quest for high quality user friendly search results they have released another algorithm update. This one is set to affect “low quality ‘exact-match’ domains” and has been rather unimaginatively christened “the EMD Update”.

What are Exact Match Domains?

Exact match domains are domains which feature keywords which the site hosted on that domain is optimised for. For many years EMDs were a sure fire route to the top of search results for the chosen keywords. This led to major competition between webmasters for domains featuring high traffic keywords.

What does this update intend to do?

This is not simply a one off update designed to purge all exact match domains but simply another attempt to reduce the number of spammy low quality content sites in SERPs and boost the user experience.

For you see there are a large number of exact match domains which offer very little in the way of quality to the user. Instead many are over optimised, keyword stuffed and chock full of adverts and affiliate links. If it is simply the domain which leads to the high ranking position, lazy webmasters are getting “free” traffic, with little incentive to offer a quality user experience.

This update is designed to reduce the boost that exact match domains provide whilst also continuing to promote high quality content over spammy heavily optimised sites.

I have an exact match domain – panic?

The update won’t affect every exact match domain for the simple reason that it isn’t possible. Every domain on the internet is an EMD for a search. Granted there might not be many searches for that term but “technically” it’s an EMD. To punish all EMDs would be to punish all domains. Google is not doing this; it is punishing a certain type of domain which has sought to abuse the benefit of EMDs with disregard for the user experience. It is reducing the influence which EMD has as a ranking factor, as opposed to simply punishing sites that have one. SeoMoz noted the following drop in EMD influence from their data.

If you look at the update in this way, it can be seen as simply an extension of the previous updates of Panda and Penguin. Both attempted to boost the quality of search results by targeting sites with low quality or spammy content. The EMD update is a continuation of this effort but simply focuses more heavily on exact match domains as the element of “over optimisation” it wishes to address.

How can I recover from a hit – or avoid one completely?

All the on page optimisation issues targeted by previous Google Penguin and Panda Updates holds true but now the domain is taken in to account when considering over optimisation, keyword stuffing and other black or grey hat SEO tactics. So if you have an exact match domain, don’t overdo the on page optimisation lest you risk the wrath of a Google update.

Sites which survived the update also had a number of on page elements which sites affected lacked. These included videos on page, pictures, links to industry authority sites and proper natural internal linking.

Similarly in off page optimisation, if your site has a majority of links with exact match anchor text, and the anchor text used matches your domain, then this update will likely have a major effect on your site.

In line with Google’s mantra for a quality user experience, greater emphasis is again placed on social signals and shares.

Much of the advice prevalent in recovery from the Panda update is relevant to that of the EMD update.

The Future

This is merely another step towards ridding search results of low quality or spammy sites. Like Panda and Penguin the EMD update will return periodically to assert its authority over Google SERPs.

Google aren’t looking like giving up in this, so its time webmasters take the hint and stop peddling outdated SEO strategies which simply will not work in this environment any longer.

This article is brought to you by SEO and internet marketing agency Only Web. Only Web is a division of London PR Agency Beattie Communications who operate over 20 businesses through the Only Marketing brand of its marketing agency in London.

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