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

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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

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  • Chris Hughbanks

    Wake up to a new update. Now got to check to see if there is any effect. Thanks for the info.

  • Alex

    Excellent. I thought Google had an ulterior motif, this clears it all up. Thanks Alex.

  • Thomas

    Searched “good christmas presents” – the first result is almost laughable.

    Looks like they survived EMD and the Top Heavy updates.

  • Sean

    Great article! Thanks Becker.

  • Derek Armson

    Thanks Becker that is the best explanation of the latest Google update I have come across. Clear, concise and easy to understand, I wish more Online Mareketers would speak without forked tongue and just tell us what;s really happening. As always with Big G, the answer is provide quality content that is genuinely useful to people and 99.9% of the time your site will be fine and loved by Google. Thanks

  • Dave

    Roger that Sean, that was a great article!

    Google should hire Mr. Becker! If not, that guy from Apple that screwed up Maps, or something like that, is available! Lol.

  • Yugam


    Yes you are right, every domain on the Internet is an exact match. Even I have many sites and they are not affected in EMD and they are coming in 1st or in 2 page.

  • Rabeel Dennis

    Hello Alex,
    Thanks for publishing this information, EMD owners shouldn’t be afraid of this update as far as they are doing ethical SEO and taking uniqueness and quality of content seriously. Besides it could have a negative impact to some extent in future if Google decides to update EMD, as keyword usage in urls are take as one of a ranking signal.

  • Karl Steinmann

    Google doesn’t care what it does to marketers. Google only cares about a “good user experience.” However, they are screwing that up something fierce. Methinks the algorithm guys have been tweaking on caffeine, crank and ego for far too long.

    As stated above, every freakin’ domain online is an EMD, other than vanity domains (like my own namesake site (currently down), which does me exactly ZERO good, but I digress…). It seems to me it should ignore EMD as a criteria. What it’s attempting to measure and differentiate is meaningless as a factor when a very high percentage of all websites are EMD. Once again, the mad scientists at Google are conducting their experiments in real time, in the real world, and to hell with the consequences. You’d think a company that has more computer horsepower than anybody could run a simulation or two before rolling out yet another bad update and punishing the good with the bad.

    Thanks Google!


    Am I the only one who hopes that some other SEs come along and start stealing a big chunk of Google’s market share.? The way Google looks at it… it doesn’t matter if they’re right, because the world either likes it or lumps it. Monopolies never really work out for anybody other than the monopoly.

    Not to mention that fact that Google has become an ad-driven, greedy revenue monster, doing harm pretty much everywhere it goes. So much for “Don’t be evil.” I would have settled for “Don’t be stupid.”

    I dream of a world where Google is only 50% of the SE market again…

  • Adam

    Enjoyed the article. The problem is that under normal circumstances I would agree with you, but then my StudentMoney.co.uk website which is not an EMD, nor targets any terms and has excellent content and user metrics got smacked by this update.

    The other thing people are ignoring is that all Google had to do was reduce rankings for the EMD query. If you have a 500 page site that also happens to target the EMD query on the homepage then I don’t get why the entire’s sites pages need to be penalised.

  • Amit Porwal


    If I create a new page on my website like- http://www.expertvillagemedia.com/wordpress-developer, and my keyword is also wordpress developer, I created some backlinks for this page and all that basic seo work. Now can Google penalize this page under EMD update as I used a exact match keyword in url to make it more seo friendly and also I am targeting this page. May be google think that yes this is a poor quality EMD?? Any suggestions?


  • Barry

    I got hit pretty hard right around the time of the EMD update, even though I don’t run any EMDs (at least none that were having any impact). Interesting thoughts you have on the on-page factors that may be salvaging those low quality sites.