I’m sure most of you have heard about it, but for those who haven’t – Google recently did another algorithm update, focused on exact match domains.
The Google exact match domain(EMD) update took place late September 28th, rolling out first to the US and then worldwide very quickly.
Matt Cutts wrote about it on Twitter, and almost made it sound like no big deal.
Here are the relevant tweets:
Yet this “Minor Weather Report” is like the TV weatherman telling you it’s going to be “cloudy with hints of sunshine” then part of your house gets destroyed by a tornado.
I’ve written bits and pieces about Panda, Penguin and other updates on Affiliate Bible – but I’ve never been able to write a full article dedicated to it. The reasoning for that is simple: I’ve never been affected by any of these updates. I’m not the type of person that is going to sit here and throw out random theories or do guesswork. I would much rather deal with the cold, hard facts. And I’ve never been able to do that, as I’ve never had a website affected by any Google update.
Whenever there is an update to the search engines, I usually wait a couple of days for everything to settle and then painstakingly go through all of my stats, seeing if part of my business empire crumbled overnight. And in this case, it has. Here are two websites that were clearly affected by this update:
Now I’ve no problem telling you what site #1 is. The domain is a website dedicated to the TV show Alcatraz, which launched last season and only lasted 1 season until it was unfortunately canceled. So in terms of that site – meh. It was still earning me money, but was dead in the water and long forgotten.
Site #2 I can’t tell you the URL because it’s in a relatively untapped and uncompetitive but lucrative niche. It has made me $x,xxx per month with little effort. Revealing what that site is would unfortunately be akin to me taking a portion of my monthly income and donating it to AL-qaeda. I can tell you that it is NOT a gambling website – it’s in the technical/computer genre.
Now as of this writing it’s October 2nd, 2012. We’re only a few days into this “new search world” and it’s too soon to come to many early conclusions. If you’re looking for a “fix” or wild theories based on very little facts – then you’ve came to the wrong place. It’s just too early to draw any solid conclusions from this update yet.
I’ve spent hours studying my websites and various other websites, reading SEO blogs, comments, social discussions etc about this update.
Really there’s only one conclusion at this stage:
It’s a clusterfuck.
Really – that’s the best way to describe it. There’s no other way to describe it at this stage. It’s a complete and utter mess, and right now everything is inconclusive. I mean you have:
- Completely crappy EMD websites still ranking #1 for their primary keyword.
- Completely crappy EMD websites affected by this.
- Very good EMD websites unaffected.
- Very good EMD websites dropping a few numbers in rankings(ie: #1 to #5).
- Very good EMD websites dropping completely off the radar.
On top of that you have some EMD websites that have lost ranking for their primary keyword but still killing it in longtails. Then you have the opposite – EMD websites that have lost ALL their longtail traffic, but still ranking for their primary keyword.
What a freaking mess.
I could post a million examples to back up any of the above. I mean hell search “d Drol” and look at the website that is ranked #1(as of right now it’s the exact match domain) compared to some of the other websites on the list.
I know right now a lot of people are freaking out, and wanting to know “how to fix the Google EMD Update”, or just wondering what caused it.
Right now there is only one thing you can do:
Relax. Chill out. And take this time to look at your websites objectively.
See – whenever Google does an update like this, nothing is set in stone. For a week afterwards there is a ripple effect where websites bounce back and forth all over the place before finally settling. And don’t think that Google will just leave this update “as is” – like any sort of software update, they’ll be looking at it, studying it, analyzing it and tweaking it.
There’s just so much we don’t know about this EMD update at this stage. The worst thing you can do is panic. I was talking to one affiliate yesterday who, in the light of this EMD update, purchased a completely random and generic brandable domain, ditched his EMD and transferred everything over to the new domain, thinking somehow this would magically fix everything.
And I was talking to an SEO blogger yesterday, who was analyzing a high-quality, prominent .co.uk domain that had completely disappeared from the rankings. He had literally spent over 12 hours analyzing this website and writing about it, covering everything, throwing out all these ideas and theories etc.
I noticed today the blog article still wasn’t up and asked him why. The reason? “It regained its rankings”, which made his article pointless.
At this point, there’s no magic advice on how to fix the Google EMD update. Once the riptides have stopped and everything has settled THEN we can actually look at it and see what the issue is.
In the meantime, this is a good time to….
Look at your websites objectively.
Googles plan here was simple: to remove EMD bonuses on low-quality websites. Now while the whole thing is a clusterfuck you can’t lose site of the message behind this – Google has suspicions that the websites affected by this are “low-quality”.
Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. As I said above – I’ve seen a lot of high quality websites affected by this. However it’s a good time to take a step back and look at not just the websites affected by this – but other websites that you own.
Really look at them. Look at them as critically as you can. Are they the best websites they could be? Do you have solid backlinks? Is the content and user experience great? I mean – looking at Site #2 – if you asked me a few weeks ago I would have said “Yep it’s a great site”. Now that it’s been affected by this update, I’m able to look at it more clearly. I’m able to look at it and see that while the content itself was quality, the quantity of content was weak. The user interface could have been better. I really didn’t have many solid backlinks on it etc.
As always – turn those lemons into lemonade. While everyone else is freaking out about this update and raging about it all over the internet, use that time to slowly start improving your websites, and making them the best they can be.
And Remember the Bigger Picture:
Okay – this update is a mess, but the intentions are good.
I don’t know about you – but I have some websites that I am REALLY proud of. Websites where the content is amazing, and is perfect for the user. Then I get frustrated when these brandable websites are thrown to the bottom of Page 1 or even Page 2 all because of a bunch of crappy exact match domains that are ranking higher.
Googles intentions are to fix that. Whether or not they’ll ever actually be able to fix it we’ll just have to wait and see. But while the results of this particular update weren’t good, the intentions were – and hopefully they’ll just get better and better as time goes on, and the people who put the most work into their websites get rewarded.
Don’t do anything drastic. Please.
Right now, the best thing to do is wait this out. SEO websites like to jump the gun on topics like this, and throw out their opinions like they are fact. All for the purpose of getting people to read their articles.
Remember that everything they write, no matter how convincing they may be – is usually just theory. Unless they can actually back it up with cold, hard facts that they can show you, with no countering evidence available – then take it as theory.
I mean hell – some SEO guys have lived and died by the motto that “there is no such thing as an exact match domain bonus”. They’re probably out buying towels right now, so they can wipe that egg off their face.
Just relax right now, let everything settle and realize that affiliate marketing is going to be more long-term based than ever, so you need to start planning for that. Think of the hysteria following the Google Panda initial update. – and where we are now with that. After quite a few updates and algorithm changes it really came down to something as simple as “your website content is crap”.
As more data comes in, I will provide updates on the two websites I listed above, any rankings changes, any changes I make etc. I’ll be analyzing everything, studying various websites, looking at the results for various EMDs etc and attempting to determine some sort of pattern.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual.