questions-2Do you have any pressing questions about the how the Google updates affected your sites?

If so, you will want to read the rest of this post.

I have compiled a list of the top questions from the industry, our Site-Reference readers, and clients with whom I work. Hopefully, I can put to rest some of the myths and ease your concerns about what to do or not to do with your website.

If you are an SEO consultant and you can provide our readers with answers to questions you receive from your clients, I would love it if you could share your wisdom with us in the comments!

Here goes…

Q: I have an EMD…is that why my site was downgraded?

The EMD (Exact Match Domain) update was not an all out assault on EMDs. In fact, the line is often ambiguous when determining exactly which domains are targeting keywords. A keyword can be a brand name and vice-versa. If I was searching for red shoes, I would use the keyword “red shoes”, so should the domain be penalized? The site sells red shoes. What if that was its brand name?

Now if your domain is, well, now we may have a problem!

But, even then, that domain may not be enough for you to lose rankings. The EMD update removed any positiveeffect webmasters gained from using EMDs. So if your domain is accompanied by a solid linking profile, stellar content and a nice following, you should be fine. The sad reality is that the people who target domains like this usually over-optimize for that keyword and other “questionable” strategies often follow such as over-optimization, spun content, low-quality links, etc.

Bottom line: If you lost rankings and you have an EMD, Google wasn’t targeting you directly. But, if the keyword in your domain is all over your linking profile and stuffed in your content, you may have a problem. Look at all of your strategies and remove any incidence of over-optimization.

Q: Was my site hit by Panda or Penguin or EMD?

The easiest way to figure this out it is to check your analytics to see when your traffic plummeted.

The updates occurred on the following dates:

December 21, 2012 – Panda refresh
November 21, 2012 – Panda refresh
November 5, 2012 – Panda update
October 9, 2012 – Page Layout Algorithm update
October 5, 2012 – Minor Penguin update
September 27, 2012 – EMD Update
September 27, 2012 – Major Panda update
July 24, 2012 – Panda update
April 24, 2012 – Penguin update – Initial launch

To see the entire list of updates, click here.

If your site lost traffic on any of these days, you may have an answer to your question as to what update affected your website.

Also, check your site for the following issues…

If you have any of the below, you were most likely hit by Panda…

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Poorly-written content
  • Spun content
  • Illegible content
  • Duplicate content
  • Thin content
  • Links pointing to you from sites that contain poor content

If you have any of the below, you were most likely hit by Penguin…

  • Over-optimized anchor text (internal and external)
  • Low-quality incoming links
  • Paid links
  • Excessive footer links

Even if you do not know what hit your site, analyze each of these issues and make the necessary changes.

If you were hit by the EMD update, it doesn’t mean you have to change your domain name. Rectify all of the other issues and you may revive your rankings. You will also have to work a little harder going forward because your EMD is not getting the positive boost it once did.

Q: If my site was downgraded a few pages, was I penalized?

Minor fluctuations are common. They could signify changing competition or shuffling of pages due to updates. Don’t panic.

Continue in your course and check your site for any potential issues. It’s also possible that some of the sites linking to you were affected by a Google update so they are no longer “voting” for your site.

Q: My site was penalized by Google and lost rankings. What should I do?

First, for the majority of people asking this question, only a handful will have actually been hit with a Google penalty.

A downgrade does not necessitate a Google penalty. Unless you received an unnatural links warning in your Google Webmaster Tools account, you most likely have not been hit with a manual penalty.

Q: I received an unnatural links warning. Should I use the Disavow Links Tool?

I suggest first trying to remove the suspect links. If you cannot remove all of the low-quality links, use the tool, but exercise caution. If you do not know how to use it, consult with an expert.

Remember that you only need the tool if you received a manual penalty. In most cases, a downgrade as a result of an update won’t necessitate the need for the Disavow Links Tool. The best practice in this case is to assess your site for the issues and rebuild to remain compliant with Google’s webmaster guidelines.


Hopefully I helped to answer some of your questions.