Everything You Need to Know about the New “EMD” Update

SMS Text

As many of you already know Google has done it again…

With the release of the new “EMD” update, a new uproar of confusion and panic has taken over the SEO community leaving many SEOs scratching their heads. Of course, this is all leading to the BIG question on everyone’s minds: What exactly did this update do?

At a glance, you would assume that this update goes out and hulk smashes every exact match website on the Web … But if you look a bit deeper, it does something quite different. In fact, this update is not even truly targeting EMD domains, it is targeting signs of spam!

It Is Not “Technically” an EMD Update

Wait what?! Then why is it called “the EMD update”?

Let me explain:

The first thing you have to understand is that every domain on the Internet is an exact match to some search. For example, if you had some abstract website named affiliatesite1001.com, it would still be the exact match for the search affiliate site 1001.

With that in mind, Google literally cannot punish EMD domains because every site on the Internet is an EMD! (It does however consider EMDs that target searches with volume to be a top priority.)

However, Google is well aware of EMD abuse. For years, affiliate marketers have been gobbling up the exact matches for large searches and using them to give themselves an advantage in the SERPs. This would not be a problem, except for the fact that 95 percent of these sites are pure spammy garbage

So, because it is technically impossible for Google to punish every EMD site, it instead created an update that targets signs of EMD abuse. Also, keep in mind that EMDs are a prime example of the “over SEO”—Google was aiming to target with its penguin update.

In short, it is not an “EMD” update. It is an extension of the spam and “over SEO” updates Google brought forth with the mighty Penguin.

This of course leads to the biggest question…

Did This Update Work?

The answer: Sort of.

In a perfect Google world, this update would’ve gone out and removed any low-quality EMD or near EMD from the SERPs. But that’s not quite what happened.

If you go to Google and type in “D Drol” you will see this site shows up first:  http://ddrol.com/ (this is a site I own). I will be the first to admit this site is HORRIBLE and should not be ranked first, but this tiny spammy EMD is still going strong despite the update.

It is not alone either. Ironically, this update managed to take out medium sized “average” EMD sites but almost totally overlooked the lowest of the low-quality EMD sites.

After reviewing close to 100 EMD sites that survived and those that got hit, the surviving sites had one thing in common. They were either one to three page disasters like the site I showed above OR they were very high, authoritative quality sites. Every site in between got caught in the crossfire.

Why did the bad of the bad survives?

I believe it is because Google was not able to pull enough “signs” from these sites to persecute them.

What Causes the Penalty?

What you must understand is that Google penalizes sites in a “checkbox” fashion. It pulls data on the site (on page, anchor text, links, etc.) and then goes down a  “signs of spam” checklist. If a site has to many checks, it gets the smack down, which is where the big issues lies. The super tiny sites do not have enough data/signs for Google to come to a conclusion.

However, with medium SEO sites, I can almost guarantee it was able to pull enough data and go “we got ourselves an EMD abuser.”

How It Works?

Keep in mind, I do not work for Google. However, I can guarantee this is how Google went about smacking these sites. All Google has to do is pull the site’s backlink, anchor text, titles, on-page factors, and then line it up with the domain.

For example:

Let’s imagine we have the domain BestLawnMowerReviews.com. Google then looks at our anchor text and sees abnormal percent of it is exactly “best lawn mower reviews.” It then looks at our meta data. Again, “best lawn mower reviews” is exactly stuff in each meta area.

Finally, it looks at the on-page factors. Our site is littered with affiliate links, has a anchor text density of “best lawn mower reviews” of 4 percent+, and has only 10-50 pages (which are all stuff with affiliate links). On top of this, every other on-page factor points to abusing the search “best lawn mower reviews.”

And then it compares all of this to the domain name “BestLawnMowerReviews.com.”

Smack! It is really that simple. Find signs of over SEO and then compare it to the domain name. If the over SEOed keyword lines up with the domain, it is fairly obvious there is EMD abuse going on.

So far, with this update, it seems like only the medium sized culprits got hit. Which leads to our next question…

How to Avoid the Penalty If You Have an EMD Site?

A few things I have seen that separate surviving sites from dead ones are:

  • Social media presence
  • Youtube videos on page
  • Very few affiliate links

However, these are all speculations. The best advice that anyone can apply is to de-optimize your site a tad. If you have an EMD, you do not need to have all of your anchor text, metas, and on-page factors super targeting the keyword. That is not how a legitimate site operates. On top of this, doing things like ranking your pages, linking to other authority sites, and finding ways to increase user engagement will also go a long way.

What Does This Mean For New Sites?

If you are planning on making a new SEO site soon, it probably is not in your best interest to make an EMD-style site.

Can these sites still rank? You bet!

But when the head of the Google Web spam team is tweeting that he’s trying to take you down, why put your money in the EMD hat?

The best plan of attack right now for SEO is what it has been for a long time. Make large quality sites that naturally attract visitors, and then target keywords in your niche. Also, be sure to use the pages of your site to rank instead of zeroing in on the your keywords blatantly with your home page.

What Overall to Take Away from This Update

With all of this in mind, the one thing you need to keep in mind is not EXACTLY this update does, but more so what Googles intentions are.

Sure, a lot of really crummy EMDs are still ranking. But with Google constantly trying to hunt these, would you bet your income that they will be there six months from now? I wouldn’t.

The GREAT news is that by eliminating these sites Google has left a temporary opening for new, quality sites to jump in and gain a foot hold that was not there two weeks ago. Legitimate site creation is slowly becoming an efficient way to rank.

Use this new update not as a deterrent to do SEO, but as a motivator to make something awesome instead of some random spammy affiliate site!

Alex Becker
Alex Becker is the head of Source Wave Marketing, an <SEO Blog and corporate internet marketing agency. He also runs many large scale link building... Read Full Bio
Alex Becker
Alex Becker

Latest posts by Alex Becker (see all)

Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!