Google’s EMD Update – Setbacks and Moving Forward

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If you haven’t heard by now about Google’s latest algorithm change, the EMD (Exact Match Domain) update, well then you are living under a rock as far the internet marketing community is concerned. Just like the former Panda and Penguin updates, this latest one has internet marketers all in a tizzy. More specifically, people who build niche sites and micro-niche sites. It has long been known and accepted that EMD’s held value on their own and were given a little bonus, or boost, when it came to search engine results. If you could find an exact match domain available for a good keyword, it was like finding a nugget of gold in the bottom of your pan!

The niche site community doesn’t know what to think and nobody is certain what exactly the latest update is targeting. One thing that is certain is that Google’s SERP’s are totally different than they were before the update. Everybody has their theories and I’ve been studying up as much as I can to try to figure this out and come up with theories of my own. It appears to me that Google may have simply taken away the bonus that they used to give out for EMD’s, but not necessarily penalized sites just because they are EMD’s. My guess is that their algorithm might analyze and scrutinize sites more closely if they are EMD’s just for the simple fact that they know people are creating these sites in mass just to take advantage of easy advertising income (usually with Google Adsense). To me, this doesn’t make sense from anybody’s point of view. It seemed like a win-win-win the way it was working. Sites were being built around keywords that normally would never have been considered otherwise. Traffic was being driven to these sites, ads were getting clicked and all 3 parties were making money. Well, hard to tell if the advertiser was making money, but they were the ones targeting these keywords via Adwords advertising.

How The EMD Update is Affecting The Big Players

The initial report from the Adsense Flippers on how Google’s EMD update has affected them is not good at all. They lost about 69% of their traffic and income over the first weekend. Check out their full report here and also read the discussion in the comments. Good conversation over there. Being that the Adsense Flippers are among the biggest of the niche siters and definitely have a lot of respect and admiration in the community, I am very eager to learn about their new strategies going forward.

Spencer Haws, from Niche Pursuits, was considering changing his strategies anyway because his latest attempts at building niche sites weren’t performing as well as he expected. He even wrote most of this post just before the Google EMD update. I like Spencer’s new strategy and am certain he will find success. If you are in the business of building niche sites, you definitely need to be following his blog.

Mike Thomas is another of the big players in the niche site business and he documents everything he does at his MikeFromMaine blog. He actually interviewed Spencer Haws yesterday and they talked about the Google EMD update. That interview is posted here on YouTube. Mike also has had a lot of success with niche sites, so it will be interesting to see the direction he will be taking his business.

Lastly, the WSOTesters are the other big players that I’ve been following while learning how to build niche sites. They haven’t posted anything on their site yet (as of the writing of this post), but I’m sure they will soon.

How The EMD Update has Affected Me and Moving Forward

Since I started this journey and experiment to build niche sites a couple of months ago, I’ve purchased 10 domains solely for the purpose of building niche sites. All 10 of these domains are either exact match domains or partial match domains. Of these 10 domains, I’ve already discontinued 2 of them – meaning my keyword research was bad and I never should have bought them in the first place. 3 of the sites I haven’t done anything with yet and now have to re-analyze whether or not I am still going to use them. 4 of the sites are in process – meaning they are works in progress. They have content posted and ads up but aren’t even close to ranking on the first page yet. I also need to re-analyze these and decide if I am going to continue to work on any of them. 1 site is complete – my very first attempt at building a niche site and my first experience with WordPress. That site actually held up. It is the only site I’ve had any success with, and is an EMD that still sits at #1 for its primary keyword. Go figure.

Even my Getting Rid of Fleas Now site, which I am featuring as part of the follow-along series, remains questionable as far as whether or not I should continue to pursue it. Looking at current Google first page results (post EMD update) for the search term, getting rid of fleas, this is a keyword I would not have even considered knowing what I know now and if the results looked like this. Here is a screenshot of what they look like now.

post EMD update Google SERP - Getting Rid of Fleas - Dumb Passive Income

A few things to note. All of the top 10 results (except the YouTube video) are PR 2, 3 or 4 and none of them are exact match domains anymore. Not good. If the SERP looked like this when I initially did the keyword research for this site, I would not have gone forward.

Another think I’ve noticed in this SERP, as well as several others that I’ve looked at today, notice how 3 of the top 10 results have author pictures included. This is something called Google Authorship and seems to be playing a more important factor in ranking towards the top of the SERP’s. Steve over at Ingenious Internet Income pointed this out and wrote a detailed post about it here. This is something I am going to look into more closely and consider basing part of my future strategy around.

It also appears that Google might be placing more importance on updated content. This totally throws a loop into my hopes and plans to create passive income with niche sites. If I have to constantly throw up fresh content, well, then that isn’t passive at all. But, I think I have a possible solution to that as well. Say I am going to build a larger niche site (25-50 pages of content). Instead of posting all the content as soon a I get it written, I could schedule the posts to publish at specific time intervals. Say once every two weeks, or once a month or whatever – depending on the size of the site. This is definitely not a short term strategy and won’t get a site to rank quickly, but it could be a good long term strategy if fresh content is in fact what Google is looking for. Who knows. This is one thing I am considering.

So, for me, smaller niche sites might be out. Luckily, at least one of the domains I own that I haven’t started yet is meant to be for a larger site with lots of content. It may be a perfect guinea pig to test out my new strategies. The two main things being the use of Google Authorship and scheduling posts to publish over time. After all, long term passive income is my goal. I’ll get by if things don’t happen quickly as this is only my side hustle gig for now.

I would love to hear any thoughts, opinions or advice from anybody else going forward after Google’s latest update. I have no idea what I’m going to write about next or even what I am going to work on next. Perhaps I will dive deeper into my new strategy post EMD update.

Until then, remember that there are several dumb ways to create passive income online, but only one site that is blogging about it! Dumb Passive Income… dot com.


19 thoughts on “Google’s EMD Update – Setbacks and Moving Forward”

  1. Hey why do you think wsotesters are a big player. they don’t have that many sites (100 or so, who doesnt?) nor have i ever sen them publish original content.

    Many of use with 500+ sites (i a member of a master mind adsense group invite only) dont talk about how to do this as were not focused on affiliate income as they are. We just build test build.

    And they have no proven that with 5 days in and not a peep. probably due to the 100% loss sad but true 🙁

    Mike has done well implementing a thin version of the adsense flipper process (i.e. reduce page count to 1) and of course the flippers remain one of the few serious players to establish a significant following whilst giving everything including the guide away for free.

    • I included WSOTesters only because I just found them last week via their Skype interview with Mike from Maine. I went through their entire guide and found it to be quite helpful to me. Also, I was impressed with their stated earnings with “so few” sites. Maybe you’re right James. Maybe they lost it all and they aren’t “big players” after all. I don’t know.

      I realize that many of the biggest players are probably guys like you who don’t publicly blog about processes, progress, earnings, etc. The list I included in this post just happens to be the guys I’ve been following as I learn the process. Thanks for your comment man!

  2. I’m simply not going to rely on SERPs and Google to do anything for me. I’m targeting YouTube and authority sites and I’d love to start app development. Everything I see on the niche / Google front makes me wary and it all seems so arbitrary.

  3. Google is smart enough to roll out it on a weekend evening. What happen in case Apple market its iPhone 5 with a new site like iphone5[dot]com. iPhone 5 is a huge keyword and so google will penalize this if not then what will be in case if Apple does not have that domain and some one else running a site on that domain

  4. Great post. I have been meaning to look at my sites and rankings. but I have not had the time. Thats also the reason I have two posts waiting to be double checked and published. I will hopefully get the chance to see how badly I was effected

  5. Great stuff as usual, Matt. This reads for me like a roundup post. Now I’ve got a ton of reading to do.

    • Thanks Average Joe. Let me know if you’ve learned anything from all that extra reading. Even as a blogger with a following, like you, it’s good to know what Google is up to. I know I’m still learning as I go while I make plans for future and current online endeavors.

  6. good stuff Matt, I really need to get back into gear and finish the 3 posts i have written and get a chance to look at my sites after this update. It doesn’t seem like my average page views have changed much, Maybe gone up a little.

    • I’m not saying all niche sites are dead Bryan – just that micro niche sites are dead to me right now. Certainly some sites have survived and hopefully yours are among those. I’m chalking this one up as yet another learning experience.

  7. Fascinating stuff Matt! You’ve got me all pumped up about this genre, even if Google is taking a machete to it! Gives me motivation to try and write more on Financial Samurai and and generate passive income. I really enjoy affiliate income, since Google is 100% onboard with relevant content with good affiliate.

    Thoughts on just focusing more on a few blogs instead of spreading thin?


    • Yeah Sam, I definitely saw the light when it comes to focusing on more and better content on just a couple of sites rather than building a bunch of small sites with less content. Luckily, the Google EMD update hit when I was only a few months in – so I didn’t really have a lot to lose. Right now I am focusing solely on building up the Pay Off Credit Card site, with at least 2 good posts per week. I also continue to post at least once a week on this site.

      I have definitely noticed a shift in your writing on Financial Samurai to focus on affiliate income since you’ve quit your job. You do a fantastic job by providing excellent content that provides value and then working in your affiliate link without sounding to sales-y or pushy. To the unsuspecting regular reader, they probably have no idea that you are focusing on affiliate sales. Great job Sam. I can only dream about one of my sites one day getting traffic like yours.

      • I’m just hoping for the best w/ Google. A lot of my posts are now 1,500-2,000 words now. I think I’ve hit a plateau on affiliate income now, and I think it’s going to take another 3-6 months to get to another step up. Takes a while for search to find new articles.

        Question on Niche Pursuit’s strategy of creating an LLC to get back into Adsense to then put those adsense codes on banned sites. Doesn’t that sound like a ticking time bomb?

        • I’ve learned a LOT about how to optimize for Google in these past few months. There are things you can do to make sure search engines are finding you quicker. I’ll try to write more about that on this blog soon.

          Niche Pursuit’s ticking time bomb? Maybe, but then again anybody who uses Adsense is playing with a ticking time bomb. Even Pat Flynn got a warning from Google for his popular niche site which (he thought) followed all the rules to a tee. Check out this post

          As far as Spencer, he changed a lot of what he did with his niche sites before he put Adsense back on. He used less aggressive ad placements, changed some themes around and didn’t even put it back on some of his smaller sites. See more on the “What I’m Doing Differently,” part of this post

  8. According to my research, many sites depending on adsense took a very huge hit around 2012. Alot of them had to revise contents and pages. Some people making $2000 a month on ad sense went down to near below $100 after all these updates. And alot of them lost out but alot of them rose back up 🙂

    • You’re right Navinf. Many sites got hit back then. Most of them were worthless sites though that deserved to get hit. People were taking advantage of this loophole in Googles search algorithm and creating garbage sites JUST to get traffic and Adsense clicks.

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