The EMD Update: Google Issues “Weather Report” Of Crack Down On Low Quality Exact Match Domains

The head of Google web spam fighting team Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that Google will be rolling out a “small” algorithm change that will “reduce low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains” from showing up so highly in the search results.

Cutts said this will impact 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. He added it is “unrelated to Panda/Penguin. Panda is a Google algorithm filter aimed at fighting low quality content; Penguin is one aimed at fighting web spam.

This should come as no surprise, as Cutts said a couple years ago that Google will be looking at why exact domain matches rank well when they shouldn’t, in some cases.

Likely over the coming days, you will see shifts in the search results where many sites that may rank well based on being an exact match domain may no longer rank as high in Google’s search results.

Exact match domains mean domains that match exactly for the search query. For example, if I sold blue widgets and owned the domain name, that would be an exact match domain.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean sites with keywords they hope to rank for in their domain names are now doomed. Rather, the change aims to target low quality sites that might be riding on on the basis of exact matching.

For a broader perspective on Google algorithm updates, see The Return of the Google Dance on our sister site, Marketing Land. As for ranking factors overall, be sure to see our Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: EMD Update | Google: SEO | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Authority Buzz

    The Internet Marketers that base their business around setting up exact match domain microsites are probably sweating bullets right now!

  • Scott Sala

    So idea. Method of reporting low-quality exact-match domains to Google. For the ones they miss.

  • Fionn Downhill

    Oh Dear..the drug rehab industry going down

  • IrishWonder

    So for a couple of years they have been looking at why exact match domains rank so well but still haven’t figured it out? Pathetic…

    Have Googlers been allowed to bring their kids into the office? Are those kids running around unattended playing with everything within their reach? Because what’s going on lately surely looks like a kid playing with shiny switches: “What happens if I pull it this side? and then pull it back?” What Google does with their algo looks like a kneejerk reaction to the results of what it previously implemented. E.g. Jaguar clearly looked like an attempt to fix the overkill effect of Penguin, now this.

    Google wants to know why exact match domains rank so well? I can tell them. If you go all brand signal happy, at some point you are bound to run into not being able to draw the line between brand as such and exact match domains as this is in most cases an arbitrary decision. I’m afraid just pulling the switch on this one won’t be a perfect solution.

  • IrishWonder

    which is like 90%, with about 90% false positives

  • Kevin

    That’s funny. I bet 90% of the people that buy those low quality links from you, are exact match / “micro-niche” spammers. That’s about all those crap links can rank. You should be sweating bullets along with them.

  • Jeffrey Henderson

    Oh well, it was fun while it lasted….

  • Thiago Prado

    Finally !!! This technique has been used by spammer since I started learning SEO.

  • News World Inside

    i think it is a good news for real webmaster who believe in content quality :)


    Not to worry spammers, there will be plenty of other useless junk in the index for every niche and long tail term.

  • Peter Sundstrom

    All I can say is that it’s about time. I thought the Panda/Penguin updates would have sorted this out a while ago.

  • Scott Sala

    I’m sure they look for an abundance of adsense, low-qual content, lack of contact, no privacy/terms and maybe even traffic and bounce.

  • Gosu

    My site is down of top 10 keyword, no visit….sad

  • RentalLease Agreement

    So does a pr 4 website with good content going to take a hit? to be continued…

  • eCommerce

    Then what about the domain start with “seo”? There are large no. of domain starting with this word and are a low quality, like this also include some directories as well.

  • Matt Ridout

    While I agree this kind of update is needed I think Google have reduced the EMD value too much. Have seen 10-15 page reductions in rankings simply because of EMD – doesnt seem right to me, especially if the content is good and valuable for the niche. Wikipedia will be laughing.

  • Nick

    They can’t apparently; a friend of mine owns He has spent months developing the content on the site. He’s also acquired legitimate government links and has grown a big community around it, yet he’s been completely delisted from Google. He doesn’t even rank in the first 10 pages for ‘pregnancy’ (or any other major term) … I can understand if he dropped from 3rd to 11th, but to be completely wiped out seems odd.

    Google is known for releasing aggressive updates and then drawing them back in over time; so hopefully this is just another instance of that.

  • Jessica Smith

    According to what I see, this update is not exactly after EDM . Not only has been penalized, but also and

  • Jessica Smith

    ahhaha it’s a bout time ..:) you’re so naive .. check serp now and tell – does it look any better ? I see you all like …strong hand :D

  • IbpsNews

    my website got fucked only 50 hits :’(

  • Steve Wyman CloudVenturesGroup

    becuase its an pass/fail filter you pass or fail. this wa true with penquin but not panda.

    what may be different is penquin was url dependent. but with this update (why does it not have a name?) if its targeting the domain name then it could be site wide.

    At this point its all speculation acroos a few hundred sites in three portfolios id not like to say what we have yet,

  • Steve Wyman CloudVenturesGroup

    its not over yet. @mattcutts – please simply define “low quality” then we’ll be do that.

    Were not dead in the water either the fun continues.

  • Gowrishankar Srinivas

    My website has be seriously affected in this update. My site is not even exact match domain. How can I appeal this?

  • H. Comfort

    So, Matt Cutts, You will decrease Low Quality EMD, but will NOT decrease Low Quality Non-EMD? Smells fishy. Guess which part of tweet is true and which one is false? What is easier, determine “quality” or determine “EMD”… Just say it like it is. You have decreased the “EMD” signal and be done with it.

  • leodeen

    One of my EMD site which had several natural facebook shares every day
    and lots of comments too everyday and excellent content is now even not in
    top 100.
    Is Google better than people who checked the site and shared it on FB?
    Their new algo is crap!

    Google is arrogant and has no respect for webmasters.

  • leodeen

    Imagine, tomorrow if you search for keyword GOOGLE in Google and you get Wikipedia entry for Google as first result since was penalized for being an EMD for keyword Google.

    Everything is possible now.

  • Mohamed Bhimji

    This is Google. They do no evil. You can’t appeal Google.

  • Mohamed Bhimji

    Same thing happened to mine – and I wasn’t even trying to rank the site but at one point I could type in my name and I would show up in the top spot. Now I’m at number 9 as are any images. But all my social media profiles are in the top spots.

  • Mohamed Bhimji

    I think that they were cautious because if you search for lipitor or other major drugs those sites still show up in the top 10. Guess they didnt’ want to bite the hand that feeds them this time around.

  • Uri Lederman

    I wonder what Google means by “low quality”?? I would venture to say that the EMDs which are not brand specific will suffer.. oh well,..

  • Guest

    Have seen this update not effecting old domain

  • Sunil Tarwara

    Have seen this impacting new domains only (< 1 Year)
    Any similar experience or idea ?

  • Ben Guest

    If you are not using AdWords, you will not be able to pay for your organic rank. Now about SEOing Bing and SEMing Google…

  • IrishWonder

    Right, so obviously poor old does not deserve to rank for “buy viagra” again – another hilarious update

  • Dean Paul

    U are an idiot, I had a quality site that I worked on for over a year and is gone, Not everyone is a spammer, so quit hanging on Big G”s nut sack moron

  • jayesh khandor

    Spot on Ben. It’s time now to move to another search engine for Natural Listings. I have noticed couple of things from Google over a period of time: 1.Google is trying to make money as much as they can from Adwords (may be Google sees someone beating them in search traffic in near future) and 2. Google always comes up with something in favor of BIg Brandz…ridiculous

  • jayesh khandor

    You hit the nail on the head….EMDs which are not Brand specific will suffer and is the policy of Google…you can easily buy so called Natural Listing in Google if you are a Brand….

  • HTML Blogging

    Now obviously we need to create High quality content. If we can not create high quality content. Obviously google can attack our site. am i right?

  • regoberto

    every time I read things like this I die laughing. Let Google bring in all the Pandas and the Penguins, nothing will change, I still rank LOL

  • cosmedic jetaways

    I have 3 EMD domains that all have over 60 pages of highly unique content and they have ranked number 1 for all primary and secondary keywords for 4 years. Furthermore they are regional specific businesses tied to the domains.

    The latest algo update did not just drop the so called bonus from my primary keyword, which would be fair and id never argue with that. But instead this algo update has penalized my entire site, plus all related Keywords, all pages, the traffic has dropped about 80% and i fallen from page one position one to about 500.

    This is shocking!

    and the icing on the cake!!! is still ranked number one for his EMD

    Round of applause!
    Come on Blekko we need some new engines that are NOT Capitalist machines gone corporate hypocrites. There is nothing short but crap coming from google these days, its all about the $ and zero brains.

    oh hold on Xmas is around the corner !!! hmmm so maybe the bids from Amazon and other corporate machines were higher than the little and more relevant sites, just so they can milk it for xmas while the rest of us go bankrupt.

  • Shane Parkins

    I think personally the affiliate marketers will be hit which I think is good to an extent as they are visiting a website which resells someone’s products; it would be far better for that visitor to go directly to the main selling website. A good example is Amazon.

  • Shane Parkins

    I think personally the affiliate marketers will be hit which I think is good to an extent as they are visiting a website which resells someone’s products; it would be far better for that visitor to go directly to the main selling website. A good example is Amazon.

  • Ed Pudol

    So what is new with this update? Isn’t the previous updates are all about low quality sites crack down?

  • Jim Huinink

    Yeah, because Amazon makes all its own merchandise. A list of everything wrong with your comment would be a good list of everything wrong with this update.

  • Alexander Edbom

    That would be epic :D But many of the rank 1 exact match domains are still at the top with a very low quallity content. Not sure why? Maybe Google is just starting?

  • Alexander Edbom

    Sites with content quality never had any issues ranking good.. Average quality content sites had troubles before.

  • Shad David

    I just installed Adblock Plus for firefox. Bye bye adsense and chrome. Google doesn’t exist for me anymore.
    You guys who think that your sites are great quality and google is all about quality… I’ll see you here crying about Google has destroyed your great sites… only question for you is WHEN.

  • Loving Relationship

    I hope that in your blindness you get to remember that google itself runs an affiliate program. If google says it is going after affiliate marketers then that would be hypocritical of it. And the you refer to equally runs one.

  • Authority Buzz

    Hey Kevin, actually all my customers so far are corporate companies and agencies. I just re-read my comment though and it was pretty dumb and offered no value whatsoever so I deserve the attack. And you got 17 votes up so a lot of people agree…damn. On a side note, I’m noticing a lot of press releases rank in some niches after this EMD update. Like ones hosted on Yahoo News and SB Wire.

  • Patrick Kompf

    What you should do is monitor Hayneedle stores. Every one of there stores is a keyword exact match domain. Search Hayneedleinc for a list of their 250 stores.

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