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Everything you need to know about Google’s EMD update

By Alexandra Gavril - October 9, 2012

As you probably know, last week Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, announced a “minor” change to Google’s algorithm. Its purpose is to reduce the number of low-quality exact match domains (EMD) in search results. EMDs are domains that include keywords that match a search query perfectly.

If you own an exact or partial-match domain, you’ll want to read this short interview with our SEO expert, Roxana. She has answered the most important questions about Google’s EMD update but if you need further clarifications, feel free to ask your questions in a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

What’s the Google EMD update about?

I believe that Matt Cutts explained it perfectly in his tweet.  EMDs used to offer a competitive advantage to those who knew how to use them. Ranking for a keyword was easier if the website domain matched that keyword, especially in the early days of search when Google’s ranking factors and algorithms were not as complex as they are today.

What types of sites were affected by this update?

Mainly websites that use keywords as their domain name and are also low quality sites.  On the other hand, there are many EMDs out there that haven’t been hit. These are quality websites that are relevant for the keywords they employ as their domain names but are not over-optimising their website for ranks.

Ok, but what defines a low-quality site?

  • Keyword usage – when done aggressively, the user’s overall experience can suffer as the content is stuffed with keywords and is no longer informative or useful.
  • Low authority – a website’s authority is given by the number and quality of backlinks. Having a backlink from another site means that your site is trusted. Having more links gives your site a better trust score. However, in order to increase your authority, the websites linking to you must have a high authority. Receiving trust votes from bad sites will only make your site look untrustworthy as well.
  • Spammy link-building – The same as above, getting links from low quality sites will only make your website look bad in the eyes of the search engines.

Is there any way to get a site up again if it’s been hit by Google’s EMD update?

It’s too early for success stories but many webmasters that were hit are in the process of fixing their websites.

Some of the actions that will help get a website on the right path are:

  • Content clean-up – Take a good look at the quality of your content. Make it relevant, stop stuffing it with keywords and ensure it’s unique and useful for your site’s visitors.
  • Fix over-optimised pages – Double check to ensure your most important pages are not over-optimised. You might fall victim to another Google penalty. Start by varying internal anchor texts and use related keywords as well instead of repeating the same keyword over and over again. Give your copy some lexical richness!
  • Fix pages with high bounce rates – If you do have pages with high bounce rates, it can be an indicator that your users haven’t found what they were looking for. Ensure you rank for keywords that are actually relevant for that page. Otherwise your users will search one thing and find something different on your page. That’s when they bounce to a more relevant website.
  • Get associated with brands, websites and people famous in your niche – Prove you’re part of a trustworthy group of people with high authority. Engage with experts, bloggers or even clients.
  • Be social – Take the time to enrich your social presence. Find ways to get people talking about your website on as many social channels as possible.

What happens if none of the above works?

It takes time to complete all of the above so have patience. If you’ve done everything and still haven’t recovered, then it’s time to think of a domain name change. Get your brand’s name this time. Make sure you redirect your old EMD domain to your new brand domain using a 301 redirect.  You don’t want to lose the benefits of all the hard work you did trying to salvage your initial website.

Prevention is key

All in all, even if your site has been affected by Google’s EMD update, there are plenty of things you can do to recover. But prevention is key so take the time to go through every page of your site and ensure you are providing your visitors with the useful information they are looking for.

Has your site been affected by Google’s EMD update?