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Google EMD Update

We created a blog post shortly after Googles EMD update (here) in which we mused over the impact and what appeared to be inconsistent results.

Since then it’s transpired that although Google gave their EMD change quite a fanfare, they also did a Panda update at around the same time with somewhat less of a fanfare, and so it could well be (almost certainly) that the major changes in the results came off the back of the Panda change rather than the EMD update.

This seems to be Googles new Modus Operandi – to keep everyone in the dark and guessing so that it becomes very difficult to see exactly where the results are going, and how different things effect them (see the next blog post).

Now the annoying thing for many people is that they stick to Googles rules, they make sure that they don’t do anything naughty, and they aim to provide great quality and a great experience for their visitors, and then suddenly BOOM – it doesn’t matter, they see their website and their business vanish in a puff of smoke.

It hardly seems fair, does it?

If the changes that Google were making were improving the results and the experience of searchers then I truly believe that everyone would be cocking their hats to Google with an admirable acknowledgement of a job well done, but their results don’t seem to be getting any better, they seem to be getting worse.

As an example do a Google search in the UK results for one of the hot topics of the day, in this case lets look at electronic cigarettes, and specifically “sky cig discount codes.”

Now, this area is earning many companies small fortunes, but if you do that search you’ll find at least 3 sites on page 1, all of which are registered to the same person, and which are largely identical (and he’s not the only one, there’s another very prominent website for all manner of e-cig keywords and he’s been involved in blog networks and God knows what else):

This person is not selling electronic cigarettes, he’s an affiliate, so in other words he earns a commission every time someone goes to his site and buys after clicking one of his links. In fact the content of his site (YouTube videos etc) doesn’t even look like they’re his!

Compare this to a site where the owners have taken the time to buy each e-cigarette, and not just review them, but create videos, make relationships with the manufacturers, etc like “The Best Electronic Cigarette” – which of those sites deserves to be at the top of Google – the spammy crappy ones, or the ones where someone has obviously taken a great deal of time to produce something genuinely useful?

It appears that while Google make all of the right noises, they aren’t making all of the right moves, which is a shame.

And this leads me into where this blog post has been going (sorry for rambling!), which is what will be of interest if you believe that your website has been hit by the Google EMD update.

The first question you need to ask is: What defines a “low quality EMD?”

It is quite an important and far reaching question. We mentioned in our previous post on Googles EMD update that if their algorithm was doing it’s job properly then it wouldn’t matter what your domain name was, EMD or not, since quality is supposedly king.

However we have some anecdotal evidence from a website of ours that was on quite a naff semi EMD (i.e. it was an EMD with UK stuck on the end of the phrase) that might shed some light on what’s going on. We’ve initiated a test, and if that proves to be successful then we’ll share with you what we’ve done and it might help you to recover your lost rankings.

Basically we had the domain containing maybe 2 major volume phrases (i.e. they get searched for a LOT each month), and in the meta title was the phrase from the domain name with another couple of additional phrases, and the handful (i.e. maybe 30 s0cial bookmarking sites we’d linked from) had variations of these phrases.

In webmasters tools where it shows you the content keywords that Google sees as being important on your website, in the top 4 keywords were 3 of the key ones from these phrases, the 3 words that generated almost all of the traffic.

Out of those keywords only 1 of them appeared in the domain, the title, the H1, and the backlinks – and now after the EMD update that keyword is the only one that is still listed in webmasters tools. The others have vanished even though they’re still there on the website.

This strongly infers, as we’ve believed for some time, that although people think of Google as having an index of websites that are measured to see which keywords they are important for, it actually makes more sense to consider it as having an index of words where it works out a score for websites in terms of relevance to each word, and by some calculation processes results for combinations of words based on scores given to each website for each word.

So for example, if your website was the most relevant for word 1, word 2, and word 3, then you’d be no.1 in the results for a search looking for “word 1 word 2 word 3”, and any combinations of those words.

So what it looks like (and with some additional “evidence” from a former Google employee who’s been doing the rounds), is that if your domain name contains words that are considered high volume keywords, and your title matches, and your backlinks match, and if those keywords can be (and/or have been) formed into various combinations of high volume phrases – then you’re going to get EMD’d.

In this case by gauging which of the keywords in say a 3 word domain is most important, Google can remove your site from the index for 2 of those words, and you will no longer show up for the phrases you used to.

Thereby hitting “low quality EMDs”.

The problem of course is that while the EMD may be low quality, the content may be exactly the opposite.

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