There was a minor weather report indicating how Google penalized so-called low-quality EMDs. Matt Cutts indicated this in a tweet that was sent on 28 September 2012 (link here). He said it was a minor update and would affect just about 0.6% of English-US search queries and it was not related to Penguin/Panda in any way.
Though the update was supposed to be minor (as suggested by Matt Cutts) but it turned out to be quite a massive update concerning affiliate sites and for most webmasters who relied on their domain power to rank. For years affiliate marketers and small business owners relied on exact match domains for dominating search results and this update really hit their business hard. Not just low-quality EMDs but some genuine websites were penalized by this update. As for me, this update did hurt some of my clients (I have got 3 reports so far).
Dealing with this update is more of an on-site affair than off-site. The reason I say so is because the update mainly affected low-quality websites. I have seen a lot of good quality websites (lot of pages and interlinks) with terrible backlinking ranking well even after the update. However, the websites that had low on-site score or thin content were penalized heavily.
Coming to the original topic – How do you overcome this EMD penalty thingy? To be honest, the update was imposed recently (just about 2 weeks ago) and nothing much has been accomplished in terms of recovering such a penalized website. However, the recommendations below are based on SEO knowledge and views of different SEO experts I have talked to.
Identify the problem
Google released a penguin update on 6th October and most of the webmasters are confused as to what actually hit them. Though this penguin update only affected 0.3% English search queries and 0.4% non-English search queries; but there were significant number of domains that were affected. So it is important to understand what is the actual cause of your problem. Checking your ranking history can easily identify this. If the rankings dropped before October 6 then it was most likely EMD update but if it was after 6th October then it is because of the new penguin update.
What if I do not track my rankings on a daily basis? Good question. Most people won’t be tracking rankings on daily basis but rather on weekly or bi-weekly basis. In such a case it helps to check your traffic stats. This can help you identify a possible date when you fell of your rankings and lost your traffic.
Now once you have identified the problem to be this EMD update; let’s proceed.
De-Optimize Your On-Site SEO
This is the most basic thing but works miracles in most cases of over-optimization. This EMD update was also targeted for identifying websites with sole of purpose of ranking without adding any value to search results. One of the basic characteristics of such websites is to add multiple instances of their keywords over and over on their page content and their Meta tags. This is exactly where you start. Try doing the following –
- Do not let the exact same keyword appear in your Meta title as it appears in your domain name. For instance if you have a domain called seattledentist.com and you are targeting keyword ‘Seattle dentist’ then having this keyword in Meta title tag is not a good idea. Try keeping Meta title something like – “Dental Services in Seattle” or something along those lines.
- Do not use the exact keyword on your on-site content more than once (except for in H tags). Use related keywords but never use the exact same keyword more than once.
- Though you are trying to de-optimize the website but it also necessary to make sure you are not ignoring the target keyword. Hence, make sure the exact target keyword appears in your Meta description tag. Make sure it appears just once in your Meta description tag though.
Is your website having thin on-site content?
Make Some Social Signals
Another quite strange and interesting observation I made is that websites with significant amount of Facebook likes; retweets; pins or other social signals were not affected by this update. Shockingly, even if the social signals were fake and manipulated, they did work for this. Social signals’ importance is highlighted over and over again by all major SEO companies and experts. And though I always believed in this; it was this update that made it sure for me.
So what do you do?
- Create a Facebook page for your EMD and get few likes. Try keeping it updated though or else it might not work.
- Create a Twitter account and link your profile with this EMD. Try getting a twitter handle that is closely related to your domain name/target keyword.
Setting up the two social networks to share one another’s feed would be a good idea. This would ensure that you are spending lesser time and both the social pages are getting regular updates.
Go ‘old school’ when it comes to content
A lot of new gurus are now advocating that duplicate content is a myth, and it is okay to scrape articles from other sites and use them for your SEO purposes. This is just not right. It is not that Google is advocating using original, good quality articles recently. This has been there since SEO first started and this is valid now; more than ever. As Google continues to update their algorithm; they will get better at identifying low quality content and the penalties would be even severer then. So here is what you do – go old school. Focus on writing good quality, original content for each and every of your pages and websites. Some affiliate marketers have a bunch of websites in the same niche and they use the same content over and over again for all their websites by just making some small edits. As a result they end up having over 50% duplicate content on all their websites. This is to be avoided. As said before, go for only ‘good quality’ articles.
What is that you mean by ‘good quality’ articles? That’s a pretty good question. Most people do not actually understand what does it mean by having a ‘good quality article’. They usually think that having a 500-word article with a keyword density of about 1-2%; having keyword in H1, H2, H3 tags and keywords reflected in alt text tags of images would be considered good quality article. This is so not right! By doing so you would end up over-optimizing your website and eventually getting penalized with Over Optimization Penalty.
What you would want to do is –
- Make sure you have your keyword in H1 tag
- A piece of content with just one H1 tag, one H2 tag and one H3 tag is highlighting the fact that the article contains just limited information on the topic and has just one sub-heading and one sub-sub-heading. This is the kind of article someone would write to just make sure their keywords get reflected in all 3 H tags and this is just not right. You got to make sure you have at least 2-3 H2/H3 tags to support your topic subject (which is reflected in H1 tag). Also make sure that you are not using your keywords over and over again in all H tags. Use related keywords bust not the exact same keyword.
- Try embedding at least 1-2 images; some video or other embeds to reflect the fact that your page has some real value added to it.
- Do not set alt image tag of each image to your exact target keyword. Make sure they are related to your target keyword but never use the exact same image alt tag twice.
- Just be natural and try to add as much information as you can. The best quality article is when you try your best to make as much information available to the user as you can.
Make new backlinks. Take precaution & Diversify Anchor Texts!
One of the burning topics when Google first rolled Penguin update was that you needed to have diverse anchor texts when building backlinks. This is still crucial. Most of the EMDs that were hit had lot of blackhat links and poor use of anchor texts. You would not want to do this. This is what you would want to do –
- Make a master list containing your target keyword(s), related keywords and generic keywords. Make sure there are at least 10 total anchor text you would be using for making the backlinks.
- Say if I own a domain like bostondesigner.com and my primary target is ‘Boston designer’ and my two secondary target keywords are ‘Boston web designer’ and ‘Boston web designing’ then my master anchor text link would look something like –
- Boston designer (primary)
- Boston web designer (secondary 1)
- Boston web designing (secondary 2)
- Designer Boston (related 1)
- Boston website designer (related 2)
- Website designer (niche generic keyword)
- Click here (generic keyword 1)
- Visit this website (generic keyword 2)
- Here (generic keyword 3)
- Clicking here (generic keyword 4)
- Now distribute your backlinks in such a way that the following keywords get following percentage of links (approximately) –
- Boston designer (primary) – 25%
- Boston web designer (secondary 1) – 15%
- Boston web designing (secondary 2) – 15%
- Designer Boston (related 1) – 5%
- Boston website designer (related 2) – 5%
- Website designer (niche generic keyword) – 15%
- Click here (generic keyword 1) – 5%
- Visit this website (generic keyword 2) – 5%
- Here (generic keyword 3) – 5%
- Clicking here (generic keyword 4) – 5%
The tips above shall help you a great extent in recovering. As said before, the update was released recently and so there is nothing much we can say as to what works for recovering a website hit by EMD penalty.
If there is any help you need with your website; feel free to contact me or leave a comment here.