The EMD Update: Like Panda & Penguin, Expect Further Refreshes To Come

Last week, Google announced the EMD Update, a new filter that tries to ensure that low-quality sites don’t rise high in Google’s search results simply because they have search terms in their domain names. Similar to other filters like Panda, Google says EMD will be updated on a periodic basis. Those hit by it may escape the next EMD update, while others not hit this time could get caught up in the future.

How Periodic Updates Work: The Panda Example

Google has several filters that it updates periodically, that is from time-to-time. The Panda Update is the best example of this periodic nature and the impact it can have on publishers.

Panda works by effectively sifting all the sites that Google knows about on the web through a filter. Those deemed having too much poor quality content get trapped by Panda, which in turn means they may no longer rank as well as in the past. Those that slip through the filter have “escaped” Panda and see no ranking decrease. In fact, they might gain as they move higher into spots vacated by those Panda has dropped.

Since the filter isn’t perfect, Google keeps trying to improve it. Roughly each month, it sifts all the pages its knows about through an updated Panda filter. This might catch pages that weren’t caught before. It might also free pages that may have been caught by mistake.

Importantly, sites themselves get a chance to escape Panda each time the filter is used based on their own attempts to improve. Those that have dropped much poor quality content might find themselves no longer being trapped. Each new release of Panda is chance for a fresh start.

There are two articles from the past that I highly recommend reading to understand this more. One’s even a picture, an infographic:

How The EMD Update Works

How does this apply to the EMD Update? First, EMD gets its name because it targets “exact match domains,” which are domains that exactly match the search terms that they hope to be found for.

One common misconception is that EMD means that sites with search terms in their domain names no longer will rank as well as in the past. I’ve not seen evidence of this so far, and it’s certainly not what Google said.

Google specifically said EMD was designed to go after poor quality sites that also have exact match domain names. If you do a search for “google,” you still find plenty of Google web sites that all have “google” in the domain name. EMD didn’t wipe them out because those sites are deemed to have quality content.

Is that Google just favoring itself? I wouldn’t say so. After all, it didn’t wipe out:

  • for “cars”
  • for “used cars”
  • for “cheap tickets”
  • for “movies”
  • for “books”

Instead, EMD is more likely hitting domains like, which is a made-up example but hopefully gets the point across. It’s a fairly generic name with lots of keywords in it but no real brand recognition.

Domains like this are often purchased by someone hoping that just having all the words they want to be found for (“online computer training schools”) will help them rank well. It’s true that there’s a small degree of boost to sites for having search terms in their domains with Google, in general. A very small degree.

But such sites also often lacked any really quality content. They were purchased or created in hopes of an easy win, and there’s often no real investment in building them up with decent information or into an actual destination, a site that people would go to directly, not a site they’d just happen upon through a search result.

Some of them lack content at all (are “parked”) or have content that’s taken from other sites (“scraped”). Google already went after parked domains last December (and made a mistake in classifying some sites as parked in April). It’s already been going after scrapers with Panda and other efforts.

EMD seems targeted after low-quality sites that are “in between” these two things, perhaps sites that have content that doesn’t appear scraped because it has been “spun” using software to rewrite the material automatically.

It’s really important to understand that plenty of people have purchased exact match domains in hopes of a ranking boost and have also put in the time and effort to populate these sites with quality content. I’ve already listed some examples of this above, and there are smart “domainers” beyond this who do not park, scrape or spin but instead build a domain with a nice name into a destination, making it more valuable for a future sale.

In short, EMD domains aren’t being targeted; EMD domains with bad content are.

The Many Filters Google Uses

A mystery in all this is that Panda was already designed to punish sites for having bad content. Clearly, Panda wasn’t doing the job in the case of EMD domains, to the degree that Google had to build a completely separate EMD filter.

That means, metaphorically speaking, Google pours all the sites it knows about through a Panda strainer. After that, it pours what didn’t get caught in that strainer through the EMD filter.

In reality, it’s not a case of pouring everything through a variety of different filters all at once. Google’s running different filters at different times, such as:

There are more we don’t even know about, and Google doesn’t announce most of these. But what we’ve learned more and more through Panda is the periodic nature of Google’s filters, the idea that once a filter is introduced, at some point in a few weeks or month, Google will improve that filter and sift content through it again.

To better understand how all these filters can keep the Google results “dancing,” I highly recommend reading my article from last month:

Recovering From EMD

Google confirmed for me this week that EMD is a periodic filter. It isn’t constantly running and looking for bad EMD domains to filter. It’s designed to be used from time-to-time to ensure that what was filtered out before should continue to be filtered. It also works to catch new things that may have been missed before.

If you were hit by EMD, and hope to recover, the advice seems to be very similar to Panda — get rid of the poor quality content. In particular, these articles below might help:

You can find more in the Panda Update section of our Search Engine Land Library. After you’ve removed the poor quality content, it’s waiting time. You’ll only see a change the next time the EMD filter is run.

When will that be? Google’s not saying, but based on the history of Panda, it’s likely to be within the next three months, and eventually it might move to a monthly basis. But it could take longer until EMD 2 hits, nor is there any guarantee it’ll ever ramp-up to a monthly refresh like Panda, nor that Google will even announce when they happen.

To complicate matters, many sites that may have thought they were hit by EMD instead might have been hit by the far bigger Panda Update 20. Google belatedly acknowledged releasing a fresh Panda update the day before EMD was launched.

My advice is that if you were never hit by Panda before — and you have a domain name you purchased in hopes of an “exact match” success — then it’s probably EMD that hit you.

Postscript: Related, a few hours after this was posted, a new Penguin Update was released. See our story, Google Penguin Update 3 Released, Impacts 0.3% Of English-Language Queries.

Related Articles

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


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Ben Guest

    You want to see something funny. Just Google “auto transport”. Look at the EMD for “auto transport” at #8. It has 7 total links to its site.

    No Facebook page, no Twitter account, no social signals, and only 13 results coming back when you site: it.

    This is now the biggest joke to man kind. lmbo!

  • Ben Guest

    So can I hire that link builder for us because it sure does look like that works…

  • John Romaine

    And that’s exactly why it’s there – because it has a clean link profile.

  • Ben Guest

    And the dirty link profile is at #1. lol

  • Bill

    With regards to Panda, there does seem to be a minimum waiting time. It has now been almost a year and a half since I have corrected the problem on my site, and I have yet to recover:

  • Ben Guest

    It’s just funny John. I guess EMD sites like this one won’t need an SEO.

  • jimbeetle

    “But such sites also often lacked any really quality content.”
    Do you have it from Matt that he meant low quality content? He’s usually takes care with what he says and he didn’t mention content in his tweets. And there are other ways the quality of a domain might be measured:

  • Adam Grunwerg

    Pretty poor write up if you ask me Danny. Where has anyone said that the recovery tips for EMD update have anything to do with Panda? Most of the articles I’ve written think it has more to do with Penguin. Also a large number of sites that I’ve seen with excellent content and user metrics have been hit by the EMD update (with no-optimised links). I know plenty of generic EMD brand sites hit by the EMD update with excellent content and 4+ minutes on site. I think you need to go over what Cutts deems as “quality” for EMDs. It’s far more likely to be age, off-site brand signals or CTR% then content quality.

    Also, it’s fairly obvious why Google unleashed the EMD update. Panda is only effective on larger sites that act as “content farms”, while many EMDs were safeguarded against Penguin by building links. As such, small EMD sites would have passed through both Panda and Penguin 100%, hence why a new update was required to deal with small, low quality EMD sites.

  • Julia Katherine Cowher

    As a user I can appreciate Google wanting to deliver the best quality search results for users by decreasing the rank of sites with low quality content through its various updates. However, many sites with high quality content are being erroneously penalized by Google’s filters. The startup that I work for WebKite,, creates custom vertical search and decision engines that are protected from Google’s traffic punishing updates by automatically suggesting a single canonical version of similar pages. Also, our platform prevents sites from being de-ranked by constantly keeping content fresh:

  • Julia Katherine Cowher

    I’d be curious what Matt constitutes as quality content. Google hasn’t been all that transparent on the issue.

  • Ben Guest

    Exactly. The particular one I am mentioning at the bottom. Their home page has 133 words on it and on-page SEO grades as a ‘C’. But you know, because they are an EMD, they get a first page rank for a term with an exact match search of 18,100 a month.

    There are just things we analyze that just don’t add up, and it gets just a tad bit frustrating. But we must maintain focus on our own sites and not worry about the others. Google will get it fixed, right? I’m still waiting…smh & lol at the same time. ;-)

  • Dana Lorton

    Great read thanks Danny! Yep, my EMD (which was my biz name!) that was new but had unique and informative content, socially active, all clean links, white-hat etc. gets nailed but a super thin (5 pages, no real content) hyphenated .info stays. It’s my understanding this was the point of this latest algo update. Guess I’m just a casualty of war. I called Cutts out about it on Twitter but have yet to receive a response–not that I’m expecting one.

    I’ve always played by the rules and never had a problem though my heart went out to those who played by the rules but still got nailed. I feel no sympathy for those who practice black-hat techniques to try and beat the system then wonder why they have to go play in the sandbox.

    My response to them was “You shoulda played by the rules to begin with” and firmly believed that if I continued to play by the rules I’d be safe.

    How terribly wrong I was.

    Thank goodness I also believe/preach diversity and that Google ain’t the only game in town.

    Anyway, IMO these updates are less about content of links and the like (though I feel there is some truth to this) and more about their bottom line.

    Q. What did Google say to the EMD site owner?
    A. Don’t worry there’s always Adowrds.

    Play by the rules and still take a hit?

    I’m still waiting for my personal explanation Cutts. This is my business after all not some affiliate site, sales page, a site with bad links, a site that wasn’t socially active or whatever else you can think of.

    Thanks again Danny and keep up the good work my man.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Hope you get back in.

  • Danny Sullivan

    The update is about targeting EMD sites with low quality content. Panda was an update aimed at targeting sites with low quality content. If you’re trying to figure out what Google considers to be low quality content (but not spam), then looking at Panda makes huge amounts of sense. That’s why it has much to do with Panda.

    I’ve already gone back to Google for more that they could share. The periodic nature is just it. Maybe they’ll share more so far. But I’d be pretty surprised. I don’t think they’re sitting around thinking well, poor quality content on a non EMD web site is different than poor quality content on an EMD site. Poor quality is poor quality.

    And agreed on the fairly obvious part, in the sense exactly as I wrote, that Panda wasn’t doing the job with EMD sites. If Panda was perfect, Google wouldn’t have had to roll out an EMD patch. That obviously wasn’t the case, that there was something unique with EMD sites it had to deal with. Hence this update.

    And this update certainly won’t be perfect. Just as Panda has false positives, you bet, EMD is going to have them too, as well as not catch things it’s supposed to.

    That leads back to this pretty poor write up, as you call it, that I wrote. If you were hit and trying to figure out what to do, you really need to understand that there’s not going to be any immediate recovery. That you can’t make a change today and expect tomorrow it’ll be all better. It’s not going to get all better for a month, more likely two or perhaps longer. It won’t get better, no chance of that, until a new EMD update is rolled out. And Google might not even say when that actually happens.

  • Danny Sullivan

    The update is about targeting EMD sites with low quality content. Panda was an update aimed at targeting sites with low quality content. If you’re trying to figure out what Google considers to be low quality content (but not spam), then looking at Panda makes huge amounts of sense. That’s why it has much to do with Panda.

    I’ve already gone back to Google for more that they could share. The periodic nature is just it. Maybe they’ll share more so far. But I’d be pretty surprised. I don’t think they’re sitting around thinking well, poor quality content on a non EMD web site is different than poor quality content on an EMD site. Poor quality is poor quality.

    And agreed on the fairly obvious part, in the sense exactly as I wrote, that Panda wasn’t doing the job with EMD sites. If Panda was perfect, Google wouldn’t have had to roll out an EMD patch. That obviously wasn’t the case, that there was something unique with EMD sites it had to deal with. Hence this update.

    And this update certainly won’t be perfect. Just as Panda has false positives, you bet, EMD is going to have them too, as well as not catch things it’s supposed to.

    That leads back to this pretty poor write up, as you call it, that I wrote. If you were hit and trying to figure out what to do, you really need to understand that there’s not going to be any immediate recovery. That you can’t make a change today and expect tomorrow it’ll be all better. It’s not going to get all better for a month, more likely two or perhaps longer. It won’t get better, no chance of that, until a new EMD update is rolled out. And Google might not even say when that actually happens.

  • Danny Sullivan

    If you haven’t recovered, I’d say at this point, you’re going to have to do some radical rethinking about that site. Whatever you’ve done is clearly not working.

  • Bill

    Well, as I explained in my article, I know I was penalized for the IRS articles, which were all in 1 folder. Within 2 days after being hit by the penalty, I deleted the entire folder. Just by doing that, I should have seen SOME recovery, but that has not been the case. I have read just about everything I could about the Panda penalty, and I am certain that my site would otherwise pass with flying colors. If I am being penalized for something else, then I have no idea what that is. In any case, I should have, at least, seen some recovery. That is why I am certain that the penalty is assessed for a minimum of time, depending on the perceived transgression. Furthermore, both Matt and Amit indicated in roundabout ways that the penalty is for a specific amount of time. This conforms to how they do the manual penalties, which are also for a specific time.

  • Jon

    But have Google said this update will be refreshed at any point? I dont see a quote.

  • Jon

    But have Google said this update will be refreshed at any point? I dont see a quote.

  • Adam Grunwerg

    The problem is I just don’t think this has anything to do with Panda, which is why I didn’t like your write-up. I don’t think it’s fair to explain false positives as “collateral” – I’d like to give Google more credit than that. For example, when you have a site with plenty of strong signals (great content, excellent time on site, solid social profile, natural brand type-ins), it doesn’t make sense to penalise it.

    Remember also that if you were hit by Panda you lost around 50% of traffic, where as this EMD update has completely penalised the sites that it’s hit, down to position 300 etc.

    Google never said this update targets EMDs with low quality content. All they said was that it targets “low quality EMDs”. You’ve put the content/panda paradigm in there yourself, which isn’t helpful for people reading this.

    What google deems as low quality could mean a lack of established authority, lack of off-page brand signals, new sites that have built little trust, low quality content WITH RESPECT to other sites in the niche, poor user metrics or CTR%, or even a mathematically dodgy page keyword% to keyword domain ratio (even though that could still be very good for users).

    I completely understand how periodical refreshes and fixing sites work. I just wanted to make clear that this update could have much less to do with Panda and more to do with authority/Penguin/optimisation for EMDs (i.e. a more targeted penguin for EMDs, rather then panda).

  • Daniel Haim

    Our traffic spiked by 286% since September 27th, I thought it was the EMD update, but, it was Panda.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Here’s how it has to do with Panda, the condensed version.

    1) Panda is the most important example of how Google targets a particular perceived problem with a filter that gets updated on a regular basis

    2) Understanding that there are other filters that get updated on a regular basis is important so that you know a change you make today might not help you improve for a month or longer until the next “update” of a particular filter.

    3) The EMD Update didn’t target EMDs. It targeted EMDs with low quality content.

    4) If you want to understand what Google considers to be low quality content, you have to look at Panda, which was the first and most significant time that Google went after content that wasn’t spam but just deemed “not good enough.”

    So if you were hit by EMD, I think you’re wondering how to recover. My advice is to first understand that you won’t recover immediately. It’s then to say that you need to improve the quality of your content, and so some of the advice that came out of Panda is probably useful.

    You clearly think there are factors beyond the actual pages on the site themselves that are playing out. Could be. Or maybe it’s not. But thanks for sharing it.

  • Danny Sullivan

    “Google confirmed for me this week that EMD is a periodic filter.”

    That means it runs on a periodic basis, so it will be updated at some point in the future.

  • hipec

    I’m still trying to figure out if Danny has ever actually ranked a website, or if the guy is reporting Google’s bullshit news to the masses. White hat propaganda shit. I always love how Google updates kill the best sites while my shitty shit ones continue to rank no problems. Fucking ridiculous. Matt bullshit man Cutts making it clear they want only brands ranking in the SERPs.

  • Miami SEM

    Danny is out of words, he can only repeat what he hears from Google PR.
    Blogs like these are useless now. They dug their own grave too, by
    covering up for Google.

    SEO and other tech writers only need to tweet to Matt Cutts and their traffic problems are solved.

  • Alan

    The problem with Danny is that he still believes that Google is doing all this only to improve the search results. When really it is designed to drive sites to adwords. Just as many people doing the right thing as people doing the wrong thing have been hit by this. He makes the assumption that if you were hit then you deserved it. That is arrogant and condescending. No algorithm is perfect and what we have seen this year proves that.

    Lets look at cause and effect.

    cause : Take away host crowding? 1 domain dominates the serps what do the webmasters of the other domains that used to be in the results do?
    effect : They go to adwords.

    cause : paid shopping results! Above the fold becomes all ads!
    effect : webmasters go to adwords.

    cause : Google moves to being a knowledge engine : users don’t follow links anymore
    effect : webmasters rush to adwords.

    cause : crazy number of updates in a short period of time : Good websites become (to use Danny’s words) collateral damage : SEO’s no longer as effective as they once were.
    effect : webmasters beat down googles door in their rush to adwords.

    There is a common denominator there somewhere I am sure of it.

    What Danny doesn’t want to believe is that this is actually an attack on his industry. google has share holders those share holders want increases in profits so the share price goes up. Google has realised that the low hanging fruit is to reduce the number of times a user leaves google through an organic link and increase the number of times a user leaves through a paid link.

    Hey it is their search engine they can do what they like. However people like Danny need to stop protecting Google. It is big enough and ugly enough to look after itself. Danny it is your readership that needs the protecting. However your attitude in all this has been “condescending”. Assuming we are all noob and don’t know what we are talking about. Yes Danny you have been around a long time we get it. Yes you have seen things “LIKE” this happen before. Yes Florida was a shock to everyones system!

    however Google has changed since then, Google wants to become a knowledge engine. Why do you think that is the case? For the benefit of the user? Google’s every move needs to be seen for what it is. “A grab for cash” and like I said it’s their engine they can do what they like. In the short temr it is going to be insanely profitable for them but the long term is going to be another matter.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Hipec, you’ll get this warning only once. If you post again with foul language, you won’t be allowed to comment here again. The policy is pretty clear above, and we don’t have the time to be wasting editing out profanity.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Alan, I’ve written on behalf of my readership against search engine changes plenty of times. I’d suggest you spend some time reading these:

    Go do some reading.

    Every argument people want to trot out about how much Google is different and changed today? The same exact arguments existed back then, down to the whole too many ads, want to push people out and want to provide direct answers. The knowledge graph is a catchy new name and format for stuff Google’s been doing for a long time.

    Meanwhile, the basic advice any smart SEO will tell you, even a smart black hat pro, is that if you really, really want to win in Google and not have the latest PenguinEMDPandaTopHeavyYouNameIt filter hurt you, you have a site that absolutely, positively has to be in Google.

    You create a site that if you can’t find it in Google for obvious terms, Google looks bad.

    That was, by the way, a lesson many did learn from Florida. But from the shock of many out there, it’s clear they haven’t been around long enough to understand that basic lesson.

    I’m sorry you consider it condescending. It’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be good advice on what’s likely to let people survive in the long term against any search changes. Take it, dismiss it, totally up to you.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Yes, useless. For instance, after Penguin first hit, we kept at Google asking if there was anything else that happened that they hadn’t shared. Then it turned out there was a Panda update they finally revealed.

    The same exact thing happened with EMD. After it hit, we kept asking — several times — if there was any other update that happened. Finally, another Panda update was belated revealed.

    You wouldn’t know that, no one would know that, if we hadn’t kept pestering.

    But you know what? We shouldn’t have to. Of all the things we could write about search marketing, do you really think it’s a great joy on a Friday afternoon to spread the word that Google decides to unleash a Penguin update with cryptic details? An update that there’s no real good advice you can offer about, since most of the people hit probably were spamming and find it easier to simply blame everyone else for their woes than hunker down and earn a bulletproof place in the listings?

    No. There are far better things we could write about.

    It shouldn’t be like this. Google should simply tell site owners what the problem is and not have all this mystery. Of course, when you’re on the other side and can clearly see how heavily people will hammer away, I suppose perhaps they form a bunker mentality.

    But still, I’d like to see some true transparency. If there’s a penalty, say so. If someone’s hit by Panda or some other penalty (which Google doesn’t even want to call penalties now), say so. Say when it hit.

    I written and spoken about this many times, that Google should open up.

  • Jenksy

    Aside from the inherent problems with the ‘kill the messenger’ approach a lot of people choose to take with Danny, there is another, related, problem with this approach that I would hope the mass of rightfully frustrated webmasters, SEOs et. al. will take a moment to reflect upon: Google does not release actionable information; Danny then reports on in-actionable information. What do you want from the guy? In a very real way, he’s our diplomat to Google: if we want any objective, albeit in-actionable, information at all, we need people with access willing to ask questions in a manner that will not hinder future access.

    That being said, the ‘quality content’ mantra (not just from Danny) is little more than a parody at this point for numerous reasons:
    1.) ‘Quality content’ cannot be saliently defined (which is why Google does not bother), even reducing an examined data set to as few as ten search results. Even with so few variables, there are always head scratchers in the mix. ‘Quality content’ is like porn: most people know it when they see it — algorithms? lol, no.
    2.) Google assumes that it — and only it — is possessed with some manner of divine spark, with which it can determine ‘quality’ in any given niche that is superior to how someone who has (in some instances) life-long experience in the niche. Which is bullsh*t.
    3.) Google penalizes websites all day long, every day of the week, REGARDLESS of ‘quality,’ because these algorithmic filters A.) assume too much; and B.) do not — in fact cannot — function together absent remarkable contradiction. Ergo, high ‘quality’ sites gone unaffected by Panda can be wiped out by Penguin. And vice versa.
    4.) Given the sheer amount of websites out that that are more than capable of providing a stellar user experience for any given search query, the whole idea of ‘website A is qualitatively better than website B and is therefore on page 1 position 1 for said query’ is untenable. And Google knows this; at least they ought to. Said differently: collateral damage is not a concern for Google because Google has a free pool of millions of websites to take the penalized site’s place with minimal, if any, effect on the engine. Shortest version possible: the algorithmic application of the term ‘Quality’ is usually arbitrary; and is, in literally billions of instances, capricious.

    I could go on with this for days, but the point is ultimately this: everyone, everywhere, should stop using the term ‘quality’ in these discussions as if is has some sort of clearly defined, universal and therefore actionable meaning. Because it doesn’t.

  • Miami SEM

    “After it hit, we kept asking — several times — if there was any other
    update that happened. Finally, another Panda update was belated

    Google doesn’t want to admit any Panda changes because they know webmasters associate Panda with fraud, or fixing search to improve revenue. But why does it matter if Google admits to an algo change or two or 50 when you do not question the end result? The end results is bankrupt small business stores and webmasters and mega increase in Google earnings. That aspect, all public btw, you never touched. So no gain at all from you. Why did Google’s earnings go up so much after Panda and Penguin? WHY? WHY? Can Google be trusted to provide the “most relevant results in an unbiased manner” or just list brands that are alo Adwords advertisers?

    Blogs like yours cannot tell people a damn thing to do to improve their rank, other than the usual Google PR, designed to get webmasters to chase their own tail while Google profits and profits. Honestly, soon enough no one will need to come here, all informational searches will be answered by Google “Knowledge”/Ads and PPC for the transactional ones.. No doubt you will be talking about we need to do to come out of Google Penalty 245BV7, but no one will be reading or listening.

  • Miami SEM

    “The problem with Danny is that he still believes that Google is doing all this only to improve the search results.”

    I am going to defend Danny: He does not believe that Google is doing all this only to improve the search results. Danny may be a lot of things, but a slow he is not, he reads Google’s earnings reports, PPC numbers, numbers of ad-clicks, revenue etc etc. He would have to be legally retarded to believe what you said

  • James Barker

    Good comment, but I would say “quality content” can be judged by the quality and content of natural inbound links. With all the talk of spammy links being ignored or penalised, it’s easy to forget that decent inbound links are still valuable, and are still used as an indicator of quality content.

  • Daniel Haim

    The whole idea is that you shouldn’t create articles, or “quality content” with the first thought of being a “link bait” and just focus on creating, unique stories, bespoke, original content that would serve as great content to actually read, and that alone is stronger then inbound links.

  • James Barker

    Agree with you in theory but how can Google judge if the content is “quality”? “Unique / bespoke / original” does not mean “quality”.

  • Daniel Haim
  • Daniel Haim

    And they do that with the usage of authorship as well, for example my fashion editor now has 100,000+ followers on Google+ (, engagement, reactions, and many other measurements.

  • Bill

    Danny, do you know
    for a fact that a website can recover on the next running of the relevant
    algorithm if they fix the problem for
    which they were penalized? Did you
    receive official information from Google about this? As I have said in my
    posted article, I am pretty sure that I was only penalized, on April 11, 2011,
    for the IRS pages that were in a special directory. I deleted the entire
    directory on April 13, 2011, but I have yet to recover at all. I have read
    everything that I could find about the Panda penalty, especially by comments
    made by Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal. I have reviewed my site over and over
    again, so I am pretty certain that I am
    conforming to what Google wants. I have always followed Google’s guidelines and
    I have never practiced any black-hat techniques or done link exchanges or
    anything else that violates Google’s published guidelines, but I still got
    blindsided by this penalty. Nonetheless, that was a year and a half ago.

    Matt Cutts did put
    out this video,,
    stating that it is possible to recover 100%, but this video was published on June 9, 2012 and there have been
    at least 3 Panda refreshes since then, and I have still not recovered at all.
    It seems reasonable that in time, Google will allow quick recoveries after
    correcting the problem, since any new websites will be quickly scored by the
    Panda algorithm, but I believe that the lengthy punishments that exist now are
    because people have been violating Panda’s unknown guidelines for years, so
    they are being punished accordingly. As I have said in my article, I believe
    that this punishment is deeply unfair, since I was doing nothing different from
    what many Panda-trusted sources are doing even now, and I did not violate any
    published guidelines in regard to what I was doing. Amit Singhal did publish an
    article detailing some of the factors that Panda considers, but this article
    was not published until May 2011, after running the algorithm at least twice. I
    just do not understand why this article was not published before they started
    running the Panda algorithm so that people had a chance to conform to Google’s

  • Bob Wilson

    FTR, my comment is not a defense of Danny.

    I have owned several EMDs. Some have excellent content with solid links. Some do not. All are domains I have owned for 13-15 years.

    None of my sites were initially hit by Panda or Penguin. A few of my EMDs with little to no content (in two cases I just put of WP sites and didnt add any content at all – only meta titles and descriptions. These ranked on page 1or page 2 for the EMD. Immediately after the EMD update, my BS EMD sites are gone. Those that have solid content and quality links are fine.

    While Google may not always get it right, I own enough EMDs to draw the same conclusion as Danny. More importantly, I’m glad this happened. These will be fantastic test beds to see what will work and what wont work WRT recovery.

  • Jenksy

    That’s a wonderful website, Daniel; I am sure everyone would agree. :)

    Now, let’s take that site, exactly as it is, and hypothetically remove its PR, authority and trust. Same site, minus the metrics it obviously deserves…. would it be just as high quality absent those earned metrics? Yup.

    Right. So, let’s take that site, exactly as it is, and hypothetically remove its PR, authority and trust. Same site, minus the metrics it obviously deserves. And THEN, let’s throw some links its way that Google decides are questionable such that its nabbed by Penguin…. would it be just as high quality absent those earned metrics, in spite of those links Google didn’t like, and despite the penalty? Yup.

    Again, that is a wonderful website you’ve linked and it is likely immune to pretty much everything that some other, just as high quality sites are not. It does not, in any way, shape or form mean that those sites that are not immune are in any way qualitatively inferior, at least not in a way that can be deduced by an algorithm. Any algorithm.

    Whenever I hear/read someone refer to ‘quality’ content or lack thereof, I hear/read “algorithmically immune” and “not algorithmically immune.”

    Why people continue to anthropomorphize Google’s bots is beyond me.

  • Alan

    Danny something simple to try… type in Samsung Galaxy tab into above the fold on my macbook air right now as I type this, I see 1/4 of an organic result! Yes I understand that term is a buy term. However when all results look like that it doesn’t matter how much your site “absolutely, poisitively has to be in Google” You still at best will be below the fold!!! However you know as well as me that Google will not stop there. What happens when all the page 1 results are paid links? It doesn’t matter how compelling your site is you are still position 11 at best!

    If you do not think this is a seismic shift in Search Engine development then you really are a Dinosaur and have no right to be advising others.

    What I think you are trying to say when you say

    “You create a site that if you can’t find it in Google for obvious terms, Google looks bad.”

    is build a site that does not need Google to survive! However Danny, if we don’t need Google, we don’t need SEO and if we don’t need SEO then we don’t need SearchEngineLand and we don’t need you.

    So if you can’t see that “YOUR” industry is under attack in a way that hasn’t been seen before. Then Danny you really are to close to the source!

  • Onuora Amobi

    Hey Danny,

    Not sure what this dude is on about but thanks for the good work you do. As a blog and business owner myself, I know the sacrifice we make to bring news to people.

    Regardless (or because) of how much money you make, people never see the sacrifice.

    Thanks for your hard work.


  • Danny Sullivan

    Alan, it’s hard to respond to someone who clearly has a view that is different from what I’ve actually written and said. But I’ll try one last time, for what it’s worth.

    For one, SEO doesn’t equal ranking on Google. SEO equals gaining free listings in any type of search service. If you ask Siri for a restaurant, and it comes back with listings, an SEO understands where those listings come from (Yelp) and what influences how they appear.

    Search Engine Land covers search marketing, of which SEO is one part, and of which Google is a part within that. So no, if Google went all ads, we’d still have plenty to write about for the SEM folks looking to Google as well as the SEO opportunities available elsewhere.

    The reality, of course, is that Google isn’t going to kill SEO. You bet, the ad listings have grown. But many, many, many web sites are getting plenty of free traffic from Google beyond this.

    That leads me to your idea that I’m saying you should build a site that doesn’t need Google to survive


    Absolutely, that’s excellent advice. If you have built a site that is a natural draw for visitors, that isn’t dependent on Google to send it traffic, that’s probably one of the best ways to guarantee that you will get traffic from Google.

    A site that isn’t designed solely to attract visitors from a search engine is a site that probably has that elusive “quality” that is so hard to define, that is so in demand and has such good content that Google or Bing would want to ensure they have it well indexed and assigning good authority to it.

    Getting this point is helpful when you understand that there’s a wide-range of people doing SEO. At our conferences, when I ask about how many have been hit by things like Penguin or Panda, it’s few — maybe 15 to 20% of the audience at most. That’s because we have a lot of people who do SEO for companies, real companies that aren’t depending solely on Google for their traffic. They have products and services people may also seek out in other ways.

    That’s one group of people, which can encompass large big brands as well as small businesses. Another group are affiliates who largely have a product that is getting search traffic in turn to send that traffic to someone else. Smart affiliates have seen the writing on the wall for ages — search engines are seeking to eliminate them. And for good reason — if you’ve ever tried to find something and had to wade through a bunch of crappy affiliate listings, I think you’d honestly find them annoying too.

    Smart affiliates try to build sites that add value beyond just hoping to be an in-between from a search engine to destination site. Some of the Black Friday sites out there are good examples of this.

    Another group are people who are simply new to SEO, especially people who may be starting out with an entirely online business. They know search traffic is important; they may assume it’s all easy to get, that you just toss some pages up with the right keywords, and away you go.

    No. What they need is decent content to start with. They need a business that could succeed even if it didn’t have Google, that would attract people to it through other online marketing channels, such as social, email and perhaps paid, as well.

    Don’t forget the paid. After all, for all the flak Google takes, can you tell me what business in the “real world” would open its doors and just expect that tons of traffic would flow in for free? That doesn’t happen. You have to market. You have to shell out cold hard cash. But on the web, Google and Bing both just deliver up visitors — and rarely get appreciate for that, I might add. Instead, they just get attacked when changes cause some people to lose traffic while others that gain. Those that gain, of course, don’t complain.

    But back to the build as if Google doesn’t exist. If you’re a new business, someone new to SEO and you’re trying to be focused on what’s going to help you in the long-term, what’s going to keep you from being potentially crippled but some ranking algorithm change, then building as if Google doesn’t exist is a great way to focus.

    That’s not the same as saying there’s no need to do SEO or that SEO isn’t dead. Instead, it’s a smart perspective, a smart way to stay focused, in my view.

    Now beyond that, , you want me to try and see how ads have grown on Google, as if I’m not aware of this and haven’t written about it? I think you need to go back and read this:

    Pages With Too Many Ads “Above The Fold” Now Penalized By Google’s “Page Layout” Algorithm

    “Another issue is that ads on Google’s own search results pages push the “content” — the unpaid editorial listings — down toward the bottom of the page.”

    That’s the lead in to a entire section on the growth of ads, and this is hardly the only time we’ve covered that issue.

    But that’s not the real seismic change you should be looking at. What you really want to watch is what you said above:

    “What happens when all the page 1 results are paid links?”

    You mean like what is only about two weeks away from happening with Google Shopping? Because that’s the biggest seismic shift of anything Google has done that should have SEOs alarmed. It took an entire vertical search engine, Shopping Search, and turned it into paid inclusion. You don’t pay; you don’t play. In addition, it did this against all its stated principles about paid inclusion being wrong.

    You want to worry about how one day, Google might go to five or six ads in its results? Hey, it’s already going to 100% ads in its results, right now. And I’ve not only been one of the few spending time writing about it, as I already explained above:

    Google Product Search To Become Google Shopping, Use Pay-To-Play Model

    Once Deemed Evil, Google Now Embraces “Paid Inclusion”

    I’ve even written to the US Federal Trade Commission about some of the serious issues it raises:

    And I’ve also covered the alarming move Google keeps making into having content that competes with publishers:

    From that article, at the end:

    “But what happens when the best “answer” to a search for a song or a TV show is selling that content? Do we find our search results at Google propelling us to Google Play with the direct answer explanation being trotted out? If so, it sucks to be Apple or Amazon….

    That’s the forest being lost, that traditional role, and it’s something that should concern every publisher out there.

    It should also concern Google, too. If you’re at Google, reading this, wondering why it sounds like I hate you (I don’t) or others are acting unreasonably (sometimes they are; often they’re concerned), it’s because you’re not seeing the forest. Think about the trees you’re chopping down. Maybe more of them should be left standing. And other companies, the same is true for you, too. We like our trees.”

    So again, I think you actually need to read some of the things I’ve written, because if you do, you’ll find I’ve been plenty critical of Google in places that deserve criticism. I also hope you’re finding some realistic advice for those who want to survive long-term with SEO traffic. But I also recognize that anything that isn’t rabidly anti-Google for the sake of being rabidly anti-Google will be dismissed by some.

    That’s too bad, because the one thing I know is that anyone hit by Panda or Penguin update thinking that being angry at Google is enough to regain traffic is following a poor strategy. Heck, it’s pretty clear that there’s not even been any mass upset with Google by small businesses that’s so great that there’s been any shift away from it to Bing.

    I’ve looked at plenty of sites that have been hit. It’s very rare that I come across those that are exceptional. I’m not saying that all those hit are spam. Again, I’m NOT saying all those hit are spam. But as I look at various reports — when people are actually brave enough to put out URLs — it’s just sad. You see poor quality sites, people who if they were in the real world would have never even been able to open up shop at all.

    Go on over here:!msg/webmasters/CuC_JFxptnw/8zn0QtgkA2sJ

    Look at the guy who was hit by EMD there and figure out what advice you’ve got. There’s nothing exceptional about his site. There’s nothing that exceptional about the sites that didn’t get hit, by the way. But if he wants back in, like I said, shaking a fist Google’s way isn’t going to do it. There’s nothing that having this particular site dropped from Google’s search results shows in terms of it somehow not serving searchers as well.

    Ultimately, that’s where you hit Google, if you want change. You show that it has made a chance that has made search results worse. We got some of this after the first Penguin update (anyone for malware? anyone for sites lacking any content magically ranking well?). But these remained mostly outliers. They clearly did NOT cause searchers to abandon Google.

    Getting mad at Google doesn’t help you. You have to help yourself. You have to fix whatever problem you can tell that Google has with your site or just give up on getting that traffic, at least until you can get some law passed that demands Google is required to send you traffic. Good luck with that.
    The best way to help yourself is to have a site that is so demonstrably good that, when Google drops it from top listings, you’re able to do a blog post that says “woah, look at how terrible this is.” A site that’s so good that even Matt Cutts does one of his rare “hmm, we’ll look into that one.”

  • Danny Sullivan

    Thank you!

  • Danny Sullivan

    Yes, I do know for a fact that if you have fixed the problem with a particular filter, you should show a recovery the next time that filter is run. Google has said this several times. We’ve reported it several times. See the reference articles I’ve listed above. The fact that I’ve reported in this one that Google is confirming that EMD is a periodic filter is another example of this proof. It wouldn’t be confirming that otherwise.

    If you’ve not recovered after any of the nearly 20 Panda updates after you were hit by Panda 2, you’ll need to look at doing more work on the site. Sorry.

  • Bill

    Well, there is nothing I can do, since I would have no idea why I am being punished, if it was not for the IRS articles. It also does not explain why I have not seen at least some recovery by deleting the articles, since there is no question that they were the cause of my punishment, as Matt even gave the example of IRS articles in a interview. I have read quite a bit of just about everything I could about Panda, and I am fairly certain that my site would otherwise comply with Panda; it certainly complies with Google’s Quality Guidelines, so I really don’t know what else to do.

  • donthe

    @Danny, I’ve read almost everything you’ve written about Google in the past few years.

    I appreciate when you write articles which challenge Google. I just wonder about your relationship with Matt Cutts because it seems to me that you need him to like you. Your business relies on the scoops he shares with you. That must effect your ability to ask him the really tough questions.

    For example, have you ever asked Matt Cutts why there has not been a real Penguin update? Why the sites hit by Penguin have now been penalized for half a year with no end in site, while JCPenny only got a 3 month penalty because Google didn’t want to be “vindictive”.

    What would happen if you asked him that question? Are you afraid to challenge him directly because he might not give you tips any more?

  • jimmyn

    “Getting mad at Google doesn’t help you. You have to help yourself.”


  • Shay Garini

    Dear Danny,

    What you write is completely true, it’s a shame people look only on things that relavent to them and reflect it on the industry, I think as a website owner who deal with professional SEO services as well the last 12-15 months do a great service to the quality of Gogle as in general the site becoming mor interesting and more unique with the content.
    Who ever don’t agree with his probably don’t understand where is google going in the next steps.

    Keep wih your excellent column we all enjoy it.

    Shay Garini

  • David

    We have exactly the same issue. Real ecom site selling jewellery with about 300 products in about 50 categories. All of our content is unique and created by us as well as using our own multiple product photos and yet we get spanked by this latest range of updates, but other sites are favoured that are of poorer quality using standard manufacturer content and photos or worse.

    For one brand search term, one of the *new* top 10 results is a site that doesn’t even sell the brand and hasn’t for a number of years!

    I’m literally shaking my head

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