We’ll get right down to it in the post…we took a punch straight to the nose with this one. We’ve waited a couple of days so that we could monitor the impact and get back to you with some factual information. There will be more to come, but we wanted to get this out as soon as we possibly could.
As many of you are aware, Google released a new update last Friday, September 28th that’s being referred to as the “EMD Update”. According to Matt Cutts,
“Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results.”
Matt later clarified:
“New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.”
Unlike the previous updates Panda and Penguin, this has had a more devastating impact on our sites across the board. This is all still extremely new so it’s hard to paint a complete picture, but we wanted to get this post out as quickly as we can to share some of the facts about what’s happening, give some details about the impact it’s had on us, and to share our thoughts about why it’s happened and how our tactics will continue to change and evolve in the coming weeks and months.
Just The Facts
The EMD update has had a significant impact on exact match domains and their position on the first page of Google. SEOMoz is reporting a day-over-day change of 10.3%…and that’s just the initial report.
While this has severely impacted smaller/thinner niche sites, authority sites have taken hits as well. Consider the following examples:
www.teethwhitening.com – Authority site with 228 pages of content that previously ranked #4 on the SERP. This site has dropped below the first 10 pages on Google. Currently outranked by these sites:
- www.teethwhiteninggelsale.com (a thin niche site with more content on the first page)
- www.xtremeteethwhitening.com (a local business based out of Kissimmee, Florida)
www.charterschools.org – An authority site (admittedly local) with over 7,000 pages that previously ranked #7 on the SERP. This site has dropped a few spots to the second page and has lost some of the benefit of the exact match domain, even though it remains a quality site. Currently outranked by other (local) government sites discussing charter schools in their local area.
It seems the EMD Update wasn’t only related to exact match domains either, although the data on this is a bit more fragmented. Some are reporting their partial match domains or even branded domains have taken some serious hits.
There’s no other way to put this…many of our sites have been decimated. We were averaging 6,454 pageviews a day on Saturdays/Sundays this month and this last weekend we dropped to 2,012 pageviews…a 69% drop in traffic. Our average earnings in the same period dropped from $134.62 per day to $43.59…a 68% drop in earnings.
That’s pretty bad…
What’s mind-boggling is the fact that we build our sites the same way and yet (nearly) 70% of the traffic/earnings were affected and the other 30% were not. Why is that? This is something we’ll be delving into in the coming days/weeks as we tweak our process and adjust the “machine”.
Note: Please be aware that everything I’ve said up until this point was factual. Everything below in this post will include quite a bit of interpretation and “best guess” analysis on my part.
We avoided major Panda issues because all of our content was 100% unique and relevant to the topic. Definitely not award winning stuff…but significantly higher quality than some of the keyword-stuffed, auto-generated content on some of the sites that took a hit with previous updates. We weren’t immune, but weren’t exactly the target for Panda, either.
We took a bit of a hit with Penguin (largely due to our using BMR for links to some of the sites) but it was on a specific set of sites and not damaging across the board. Again…Penguin was looking for linkbuilding profiles to particular pages and that wasn’t a tactic we employed very heavily.
This…is different. The net cast by Google on this latest round of changes was SUPPOSED to target sites like ours, it seems. Unlike previous updates, the tweaks in this algorithm update didn’t catch some of our outlying sites by accident…it snagged the bulk of our sites.
I should point out that I think something different has gone on with our sites as opposed to the example sites I listed above. With the teeth whitening site, you’ll notice that if you search Google with this search string: teeth whitening “teethwhitening.com”
The site comes up in the #1 position. Not so with our sites. In fact, most of them aren’t on the first page, second page, etc. It looks like image searches were affected as well.
The other example, www.charterschools.org, shows a drop of just a few positions, putting them on the second page. I think this is a clearer example of them tweaking down the value of the EMD for their site. In our case, we didn’t drop a few spots…our sites are completely tanked in the rankings. Using the search string mentioned above, the SERP is showing random blogspot sub-domains that have much less to do with the topic than our niche sites…not a good sign.
WARNING: We’ve already received several emails and have seen people aggressively promoting fear and uncertainty. (Usually to promote their $17.95 ebook on how to recover your site from this latest update, sell you their “Google-Proof” websites, etc.) Resist the temptation to give them your money. They can push all the “I told you so’s” they want to, but the truth is it’s way too early for anyone to have tested through this or to confidently say what will work or what won’t. We’ll have more about our tactical adjustments and what we “hope” will work in a future post, but for now here are a few resources you can trust:
They’ll be updating their sites in the next few days as more data rolls in, I’m sure.
It’s still a bit early to detail all the changes that are surely coming for us in the next few days and weeks. We’ve been tossing around some ideas for a while now and haven’t acted on them, but these recent changes are forcing our hand.
The truth is this: We’re just not sure yet.
I have to be honest with you, I’m frustrated with what’s happened, but also both nervous and excited about getting “back to work” improving our process and taking this to the next level. I think we failed a bit in that we’ve been complacent in recent months, focusing more of our time/effort/energy on side projects rather than taking our sites to the next level. We’d escaped previous updates because our sites weren’t that bad, but once Google started moving up the value chain we took a hit. We got the message…it’s time for us to grow.
I should mention that our philosophy, strategy, and goals remain the same. Ultimately, we build informational sites around niches and long-tail keywords by providing useful content and monetized with advertising. We then share our process, success, and failure with you in the hopes that it helps you with your journey. The use of EMD’s, linkbuilding vs. non-linkbuilding, etc. are just the tactics we use to bring in the traffic. It’s a subtle, but important distinction I think.
Joe, John, and I are in different cities and will be through the rest of this week. We’ll all be back together next weekend and discussing, documenting, and implementing our gameplan going forward will be our top priority. Rest assured, we’ll be sharing all of that here, as always.
Now…over to you! We’re really interested to hear about any trends or patterns you’ve come across with Tanked Vs. Non-Tanked sites. Please be sure to differentiate from what you believe to be the case and what you’ve actually experienced. Hopefully, we can all share information in the comments below that will help us get back on track with building our online empires. Please feel free to ask any questions. We don’t have as many answers as we’d like…more are coming soon…but we’d like to share what we can.