Google Exact Match Domain (EMD) Penalty or Update – First Look25
I guess the latest Google
update penalty shouldn’t have been a surprise for many of us, we’ve all known that exact match domains have had extra punching weight when it comes to rankings in Google for some time now. For those that were not aware, on Friday 28th September Matt Cutt’s announced the following algorithm update:
Like many other SEO’s I run a number of affiliate or adsense site, these help pay for my server and for content development – so I checked out what impact this update has had. For the data below I have used 10 of my exact match domain websites as an example to see what aspects if any contribute to the algorithm change – out of the 10, 9 are .co.uk domains and 1 is a .org.
Change in Rankings since update
The graph above illustrates ranking changes over the weekend for the keyword that is targeted in the EMD – you can see that the results are quite dramatic, with only 2 of the 10 sites not dropping rankings. The largest drop in rankings came in at minus 191 positions but the overall average in ranking drop came in at minus 81.
Ranking Change Versus Age of EMD
What’s interesting in this graph is that certainly looks like there is a correlation of the EMD site age and what effect this latest has update has had on them. The 3 youngest EMD sites in Medical, Insurance and Beauty are all over 1 year old but have sustained the most drops and the 4 eldest sites have had the least amount of drops in rankings.
Ranking Change Versus Number of Links
Now I realise that number of links is not really a very useful metric as it’s always quality over quantity and unsurprisingly there is no correlation against the ranking drops.
Ranking Change Versus EMD Search Volume
So search volume is one metric I guessed would play some part in the update and this really does play a big part in the EMD strategy – it’s historically been the higher the search volume the more expensive the EMD is worth. Although you can see that the domains with the least amount of search volume are generally the least effected it’s not clear cut – there are some sites with low EMD search volume that have had big drops in rankings (beauty niche) and other sites with a low number of drops with higher search volume (film niche 1) – so there must be other factors that are taken into consideration.
Ranking Change Versus Content Quality
Ok, so this is probably the least scientific metric as I’ve personally graded my own website content quality. I like to think that none of the sites in this study would be considered spammy, I’ve either written the content myself or paid someone a decent wage to write content for me. What I’ll also admit is that within these 10 websites there are some which I believe have very good content and some that are probably now out of date or towards the lower end of the quality scale. What I find interesting is that 2 of the top 3 sites (in order of website content quality) have had the least impact – but what I find more frustrating is that the site I work on the most/consider the most valuable is one of the EMDs that has suffered the biggest drop (Medical Niche). As well as that Insurance Niche 1 site has low and certainly out of date content but has not really been impacted at all (but this is one of the sites with the lowest EMD search volume).
Ranking Change Versus MozRank and MozTrust
Now this graph above surprised me the most – you can see that there very clearly seems to be some correlation between Moz Trust and drops in the rankings (besides Film Niche 1) but it doesn’t make any sense – surely websites with good MR and MT would have good links and therefore be treated well by Google, but for EMD this really doesn’t seem to be the case.
Takeaways from this study
- The age of your exact match domain does seem to play a part and anything under 1 years old will most likely have received a drop during this recent update
- If your EMD is targeting keywords with fairly low search volume you may be ok, those with higher search volume appear to be further impacted (although at a very high 50k+ searches a month I am not sure)
- Google seems to be counteracting the negative value of EMD’s with the sites true content value. My Medical Niche website has the best content (text, video and images), the most valuable links and the highest MR and MT but has dropped 143 positions
This update from Google has certainly reduced the value of EMD which was needed in many areas of the web, that being said not all EMD’s are spammy and some are certainly more valuable than a user generated Wikipedia page (which seem to have prospered from this update). Will Google release a second update? Maybe – for the sake of some of my websites I certainly hope so.