How to recover from Google EMD update

Google recently announced the new EMD update which discounts the low quality exact match domains. Read our experience and explore the possibilities of avoiding such penalties in future.

I was exploring why some of our micro niche websites lost some decent amount of traffic from yesterday. I quickly realized this has happened after Matt Cutts announced the EMD update. After analysing the traffic in all the websites in our network, I concluded few points:

1. Sites that has some good keywords in it has lost good amount of traffic.
2. Even though Matt Cutts said this change will affect 0.6% of English-US traffic, he did not mention how does it affect other regions. From my experience, I believe a large number of bloggers are affected.
3. We survived Penguin and Panda from Google but our small sites are affected by the EMD algorithm change.
4. Traffic in our branded websites like and are not affected.
5. I am getting a lot of cries from small bloggers that they lost about 80 to 90% traffic.

Are Micro Niche Websites dying?

Few months ago, one of the top earning bloggers in the country told me that he makes much more money from his secret micro niche sites than his famous blogs that everyone know. I am sure there are several bloggers who focus on small sites that focus on specific keywords to bring traffic in. Just 3-4 days ago, I read it on a famous blog that Micro Niche Websites are the way to go and that is where the future is! I don't focus much on such sites but I have a few such sites where domain names include some keywords. They all don't fetch much traffic but surprisingly they lost a significant amount of the traffic it was getting. Even my personal website -, which is a 10 year old domain with just few static pages that talk about my personal and professional life, was affected by this EMD algorithm. Most of the traffic to this small site was from the search queries people specifically looking for my personal information. I do not really care much about the traffic loss to these small sites but I do wonder if Google made the correct judgement in this update.

We have about 70 websites in our network. I don't think any of them are made as exact match domains for any big keywords and none of them get significant traffic from the exact match keywords. They all survived Panda and Penguin updates but failed to pass Google's EMD test. Many of the small sites lost some amount of traffic while the big authority sites showed an increase in traffic after the change.

If you look back to what Matt Cutts said last year, you will see he had given hints that Google is considering making the ground level for both keyword rich domain names and brandable domain names. Listen to this video where he talks about the domain names:

Exact Match Domain Update Penalty: A Case Study

One of the big impact for me was my new website I launched for SEO training courses in Bengaluru. This website was launched just 2 months ago and it did pick up Rank #1 or Rank# 2 for the keywords I was targetting. However, the site lost its ranking after yesterday's Exact Match Domain algorithm update. The site was dropped from page 1 to page 3 or sometimes not even anywhere in the results.

If you look carefully, this site is not an exact match domain for the keywords we are targeting - SEO training in Bangalore. However, it has the word "SEO" in it and this algo change has affected the traffic without an exact match keyword. Well, SEO is a keyword but I don't think site was attracting any traffic from the word "SEO" itself. It had less than 100 visitors per day and all traffic was from some keywords related to "SEO training", "Internet Marketing" and associated with the city name "Bangalore".

This case study is just one scenario out of many similar cases I analysed in our own network. I did analyse the traffic change in our network and about 15 small websites have lost traffic after this changes from the search engine giant. One important point is, all the sites that lost traffic are very small sites with less than 1000 visitors per day and those sites were updated very rarely. The big and branded sites are not affected. In fact, this website ( shows some increase in traffic, but I need more days of data to conclude anything from that.

After analyzing the impact on several websites (some affected and some not affected by this change), I am coming to the conclusion that frequently updated and fresh content is the key to retain the ranking for small niche sites.

How to recover from Google EMD algorithm update?

This is the million dollar question now. When Panda and Penguin updates were released, a lot of experts quickly came up with suggestions to recover. But that is not the case with the new algorithm changes. The penalty is for low quality sites with exact match domains. Even though Matt Cutts said this will affect only the low quality sites with exact match domains, I believe several sites with exact match domains have lost the traffic they were getting from exact match keywords.

If your primary traffic source was the keywords in your domain, you will probably see a big drop in traffic. According to Matt Cutts, if you maintain high quality content, your site will not be affected.

Here are my suggestions to reduce impact of the EMD algorithm change and possibly recover from the traffic loss:

Update your content often

In the past, many bloggers used to create several small blogs with 3-4 pages with some static content. If they managed to get a good keyword rich domain, those blogs used to get good traffic. The new algorithm update has significantly affected a lot of such sites. What I learnt from my own research is, micro niche sites that are rarely updated are significantly affected and those sites which always provide latest and fresh content are least affected by the update.

If your site has lost traffic, check your content. When did you update your content last? When did you add a new post? Do you provide latest updates on the subject you are covering in the website? If not, you can safely conclude that it is the primary reason you lost your traffic after the EMD update.

Adding fresh, high quality, up-to-date information is the key to survival and recovery from EMD updates. Don't leave the site to automatically bring traffic. Instead, keep adding fresh content regularly.

Change your strategy

You probably may want to change your strategy on your website business. Sit back and relax. Review your current blogging and website business strategy. My general approach was to create one big site and then multiple small niche sites to take advantage of traffic potential for micro niche topics. But I may be forced to change this strategy. Considering the traffic loss on small sites, it may no longer be worth spending my time on small sites. Rather, I would put all my energy to promote a single site and make it the authority site on several niche.

It is too early to judge, but if the impact of Google's Exact Match Domain algorithm update continue as it is today, then don't focus much on micro niche sites or exact match domain sites. Focus on creating authority, brandable websites. Reduce number of sites in your network and put all your energy to make an authority website that can be branded.

Don't depend on domain name to bring traffic

In the past, if you manage to get an exact match domain, you already won the game. A good keyword rich domain with 4-5 pages of content was enough to get good amount of traffic in that niche. Many webmasters call it "auto pilot mode". All they do is, keep creating small micro niche websites with exact match keywords, add few pages and then keep getting their AdSense cheques in their accounts automatically.

The auto pilot mode may no longer work after the Google EMD change. An exact match domain is no longer a guaranteed way to get traffic. Maintain high quality content in your exact match domain sites. Don't expect traffic just because you have a great domain.

Combine multiple micro niche sites into a single, authority site

I have seen few bloggers creating too many micro niche sites on each variant of the keyword they can think of. It is no longer a good idea to have too many small blogs scattered with different variants of the primary keyword. Combine them all to a single site and try to make it an authority site.

For example, if you have blogs like,, etc, consider combining them all in to a single site like or Even though keyword based sites used to bring lot of traffic in the past, authority sites are the way to go in future, at least with Google.

Avoid tricky keywords in micro niche sites and EMD sites

Google has said they are after the low quality sites. This means an exact match domain site will not be penalised just for the name. Instead, they will be affected only if they are of low quality.

Avoid tricky keywords meant for fetching traffic using all combinations of keywords in your small niche sites. If you analyse carefully, all recent updates from Google were meant to deal with some or other form of over optimisation. That include link building, abuse of keywords, trying to take advantage of domain name etc. Ultimately what Google wants from you is, provide great content and don't depend on SEO to get organic traffic. The signals from Google indicate that they will count only the quality of content and most of the other signals will be discounted while ranking a website.

Analyze your content and check quality

If you lost traffic after this algorithm change, carefully analyse your blog posts and check what made Google think your site is a low quality site. Remove any low quality pages that were meant to trick Google. Remove any pages that add no value to the web. In other words, improve the overall quality of your site and make sure you provide all possible information about the specific topic if your site is focussing on a very micro subject.

Compare with your competitors and learn from them

If your site has gone down in the search results, then look at the sites that are appearing in the top of SERP now. Do a search engine ranking comparison of your site against those sites that are ranking higher. I have written a detailed article on how to compare the search engine ranking of your site with your competitors. If you find your competitor is now ranking better than your site, then analyze the competitor sites to find what are they doing better.

Strong backlink profile and domain age matters

If I look at the list of domains in our network that are affected by the EMD update, the newer sites are affected more seriously than old sites which have a good, natural backlinks from various sites. Obviously the older sites have more natural backlinks and newer sites have lower backlinks. There is one new site for which we made some efforts to build backlinks through commenting, which shows the worst impact.

This analysis shows older sites that have lot of organic backlinks have survived the EMD update even if they have been getting advantage of the keywords in domain. This shows the importance of strong backlink profile in surviving various algorithm updates from Google.

Caution: Don't try to build lot of links by commenting and spamming in various forums. Write unique content and try to get natural links. Google either ignore or penalise massive links from Forum footers and commenting.

Start all over again

Well, this is an extreme step that you may want to consider if your site is seriously hit and you lost most of the traffic. Considering that only small and low value sites are affected by the EMD updates, it may not take a long to start all over again and rank well in search results with your new site. But don't repeat the mistakes. You probably may not get the exact match domain again and it is definitely worth if you get one. As I mentioned few times earlier, you will not be penalised for exact match names. Having a matching name can help you rank well at least in other search engines like Bing. And obviously, provide valuable content in your new site. If you decide to kill your old site, then you may move some of your good articles to the new site after doing a review for any potential issues in those articles.

NOTE: Don't jump into this solution yet. I am writing this just 1 day after the EMD announcement and it is too short period to come to any conclusion. You should watch your traffic atleast for 2 weeks and explore all possibilities of a recovery by following other suggestions mentioned in this article. Switching to a new site should be considered if all other options fail.

Content is the King!

Add great content (this advice is applicable for all past, current and future Google algorithm updates). If you have been just adding many micro niche sites with no valuable content, it is time to slow down. You may need to invest more work in each of your sites and add a lot more content. Quality is the key and Google has made it clear that this update is targeting only low quality content and not all sites that have exact match domains.

So, the solution to recover deal with the Google EMD update is, create great authority websites instead of too many small sites with shallow content.

This does not mean you have to shutdown your micro niche websites. Let them stay where they are if you have quality content. But start focussing more on a single brandable website.

I am sure many of you may disagree with the single site approach, especially the people who are not hit by this algorithm update. I am eager to hear their voice as well. Feel free to express your comments below.

Article by Tony John
Tony John is a professional blogger from India, who started his first Weblog in 1998 at Tony switched to blogging as a passion blended business in the year 2000 and currently operates several popular web properties including,, and many more.

Follow Tony John or read 692 articles authored by Tony John

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Guest Author: Swayam30 Sep 2012

Hi, I was looking for an awesome post like this.. finally! The good thing about Google is that when they roll out all these kinds of updates chances are that they always leave behind tons of exceptions :)

Guest Author: snay30 Sep 2012

I am hit by emd :(. My website is not small but new. It is very high quality content which we spend lots of time. We were page 3 before the penguin which was understandable because our website was new. On the 24th our website suddenly become #2 and we enjoy several month a lots of traffic but on Friday it disappear from the SERP.
I don't know they Google think my site is low quality.

Guest Author: gabriele30 Sep 2012

Hi, your article gave me some good advise as my site got almost destroyed. Can you have a look at it? I am not sure if I should make a new one or work this one over, lots of content. more than 260 posts. I don't consider it a shallow content site. It is a site that has covered a nice niche and grew incredibly the last 2 months up to 2500 views daily. I am unhappy and need a solution. Any idea?

Guest Author: Jain30 Sep 2012

Excellent points, Tony. You have covered them all. This is a great effort by Google to cleanup the web and get rid all of nasty websites that has no use. The bloggers who claim to have 1250 websites in their profile will be now embarrassed to say the same.

Well done Google. Hope you will come up with more and more such changes to get rid of the useless sites from the web.

Author: Tony John30 Sep 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1


I took a look at your site and it look perfectly alright. I see nothing wrong in the site that would invite a penalty. It is possible that Google detected something wrong that I did not notice.

You have a lot of affiliate links.. may be Google didn't like that?!

Guest Author: gabriele30 Sep 2012

Maybe and thanks. I think the site is just fine. There is nothing fishy about it. Just hard work over 2 years that had been ruined in 1 day. that's the only thing, I am affiliated to a German online store. But is it wrong to be an affiliate??
I wish I would know what's going on.

Guest Author: gabriele30 Sep 2012

Maybe and thanks. I think the site is just fine. There is nothing fishy about it. Just hard work over 2 years that had been ruined in 1 day. that's the only thing, I am affiliated to a German online store. But is it wrong to be an affiliate??
I wish I would know what's going on.

Author: Tony John30 Sep 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2


There is nothing wrong to be an affiliate. What I meant was, Google may not have liked it. I could be wrong. At this point, this is the biggest impact algorithm change from Google in the search history. So far, all other updates were meant to deal with low quality sites. But this one is more like changing the way the micro niche website industry works. Even though Google has said this will affect only low quality sites, I am seeing this is affecting many good sites as well.

Guest Author: gabriele30 Sep 2012

Google is wrong. There is more behind it. Look what is left? The big sites. Monopoly on the Internet. That's the game they are playing.

Guest Author: snay30 Sep 2012

Your site looks great. Google can't afford removing such quality sites on his search result. I would suggest to wait for while because I think Google should be busy fine tuning his Algo. If nothing change after a week then you could follow Tony's suggestions.

Author: Packers Movers01 Oct 2012 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 2

Dear sir, In our sites, all Contents are fresh and pure, All keywords are already researched but EMD hit our sites. you Focus max. time on content of sites. why? Tell me one thing Emd hit that sites whose url and keywords are same or maximum time used the low/high searching keywords on sites content..whatever..
Please Give us proper Idea in your Next Blog about Recover the site in Google Ranking. Thank You

Guest Author: Mark02 Oct 2012

It is too early to make any judgement on the impact of this update. Wait for few days to see how it affects the web. Basically Google wants to eliminate SEO.

Guest Author: nick02 Oct 2012

Everyone should understand that you can not run a continues successful business on Google if you are a small business. Every few months they run updates to clean out the little guys thus leaving the stage for the big guns. Why do you think gave up the multi store ecommerce platform and moved on to single domain They knew this was coming way before all of us did. How did they know? Remember "do not put all your eggs in one basket" look for other ways of getting traffic.

Guest Author: nelson02 Oct 2012

I noticed new EMD sites with affiliate are the ones impacted the most. look at still rank #1 on Google page 1 although it's low quality site with no frest content for 3 years. My suggestion is take away your affiliate for now and add fresh content.

Guest Author: gabriele02 Oct 2012

my site has mostly affiliate links to amazon and an online store. so that can be a reason? well, there are so many opinions around. I also see sites that are not updated since 2008 and they are now on google one. horrible sites. what the heck?

Author: Nitin02 Oct 2012 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 2

Hi Tony,

A nice review regarding the EMD update, and a quick one as well. I had one query, you mentioned regarding one of your website which draws approx 7 million page views monthly showed a drop initially but was to early to decide whether it was due to the EMD update. Can you confirm if it did get affected by the update, the reason I am asking is because I want to know that has this update only affected small sites or even the larger ones.

Nitin G

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