Google Algorithm Change Launched.. and Felt!

There has been a TON of buzz going around about the what I would like to call the “Valentine’s Shake Down” and even though some people are reporting that their ranking are starting to come back, others are still down a couple spots or so, and others still, blown to the wood shed!

So, what happened?

On about Feb 7th rankings starting to rumble and it has sent SEO professionals (including me) into a frenzy trying to figure out what the heck was causing the decrease in rankings of seo’ed sites.  (And, we still don’t know for sure were the devalue is, but most will agree, there is a devaluing happening somewhere.)

So let’s start late last year…

Last November, there are numerous reports from bloggers letting us know that they heard Matt Cutts speak and Pubcon and he said that “some of the webspam engineers had been loaned out on other projects but since the completion of most, he is getting them back and there were two big projects they were working on.”

He was also reported to say that they will be taking a look at “Exact Match Domain” names and that he thinks right now having an exact match domain is giving a site too much power in the ranks and that this will be revealed in the coming months.

So it should be no surprise that…

On January 21st Google released a “State of Search” type of blog post that dove into webspam. In short, they said even though they have already made great progress, they “have new efforts underway to continue to improve our search quality.” And.. “we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.

And then on January 28 Matt Cutt’s further told us on his blog in reference to the above quote, “That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week.” And he went on to say… “The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.

Well, I thought, that is great news!

Nobody likes the webspam sites anyway (Google defines webspam as junk you see in search results)

And, most of us who are doing any type of linking don’t want the site we are linking “from” showing up in the rankings and heaven forbid they land on top of the site we are linking “too.” (which sometimes happens if you are linking from an nice authority sites to a long tail keyword) I mean, we are NOT trying to rank THOSE sites so.. check, we’re good!

So then on Feb 7th, the shake down became obvious that it may not just be sites with low quality content being targeted, it may also be low quality linking was next on the list.

Back in the original January 21 Google blog posts said, “The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.” (see original site citation above)

Ok, check on that one too as I was glad I didn’t do any of THAT! lol

But was buzzing with so much conflicting evidence that a direct pin point on exactly is causing a link devaluation is unclear at best. I just know none of my moneys sites that have been linked to exclusively from my private blog networks were NOT affected, AND, what surprised me most is that I had one of my assistants doing some testing with profile links and xrumer and THOSE money sites were not affected either as they all held their rankings. Hmmm.

One of my sites did however drop from  #4 to #17 on a major keyword, but I had also used someone else’s link network on it AND the links were not contextual) Hmm.

Then on Feb 12, the  JC Penny debacle was released to the world in the New York Times.  WOW!

Bottom lining it, JC Penny was in so many #1 spots that it drew attention to the New York Times and as they investigated their story, it drew the Google’s attention! Weather or not Google did a manual review and de-indexed sites that were contributing to the inflation of their rankings we won’t know for sure, but JC Penny’s rankings have suffered the same sort of ranking drops as many other seo’d sites. Not to the woodshed, but just a couple of spots or more.

And, since it has affected the entire SEO community, my bet is on the algorithm change that lowered JC Penny’s rankings not a manual review. Or maybe both, but one thing is for sure, the rest of us got caught in the back wash. lol 😉

Oh and for the most part “Exact Match Domains” are history. There are some exceptions of course, but unless they are a .com and have age and size, they have been pushed back into the nowheresville just for being an EMD.

So, the take away is?

Google’s WebSpam engineers are baaaaaaack… making our lives interesting again! 😉

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “Google Algorithm Change Launched.. and Felt!

  1. Hi dori same happened to me:

    My sites that i used only profile links to get 1# dropped 3-5 positions,but they recovered some positions but in overall i lost positions so some devaluation happened that got profile links.

    For example 3 terms that i used profile links:

    Keyword1: Rank 1 after 7 feb rank #5 now is #2.
    Keyword2: Rank 1 after 7 feb rank 8# now is 6#.
    Keyword3: Rank 1 after 7 feb rank 7# now is 3#.

    But the keywords that i only used blog networks are holding positions and some new terms that i targeted last week earned positions fine.

    So it seems that the only kind of links affected was profile links at least for me.

    With this recent explosion of Xrumer,Sick subimitter,Drip feed blasts etc.. it was beginning to be to easy to dominate the first positions,so one day google would start to move.

  2. Same here….Middle of last week, one EMD that was outgunning travel search engines for 6 months with no backlinking dropped to 3rd spot……for emd keyword.

    BUT all other keywords holding positions.

    Good to know what caused this.

  3. @pirondi, thanks for reporting in! Interesting that your sites with profile links were affected when mine weren’t. That is what I mean by all sorts of conflicting data. It makes it hard to pin point.
    @Francesca, thanks for reporting in also, you are lucky that EMD didn’t take a hike! lol
    @jlic53 THANKS!!

  4. Dori, thanks for letting us know: this looks to save me quite a bit of money and wasted effort.

    Does anyone yet have new ranking results for exact match subdomains or subdirectories on existing authority sites?

  5. Sorry I have to disagree. As an owner of a lot of “exact keyword match” domains I have seen absolutely no shift in the rankings at all. In fact one was upgraded several positions. But then we have always put quality content on the sites.

    Fact is an exact match keyword domain with quality content and quality backlinks is a killer combo!

  6. Hi Dori, we run several technology sites, plus a few spin offs. The sites all have the brand in the domain and the ‘spin off’s are all EMD’s

    All of the site have high quality content, reviews that are hand written and posted, some 1000 word plus with images, video etc. We also post a lot of uniquely writen ‘tech news’ content as well.

    On top of that we post tons of ‘coupon code offers’ on a weekly basis.

    3 of the sites have actually risen in the rankings, with one of them rising to number 4 just under wikipedia, and the vendor themselves, for the single main brand word.

    Now the interesting thing is that the derivative site that is one of the EMD’s uses the ‘brand’ plus the words in the domain, it is dupe content, hasn’t been updated for a year, and sits unmoved at number 5 in Google!

    Now for the painful one, another of our main sites covering a different tech brand, contains the two word brand name with the word ‘store’ on the end as a .com.

    So it wasn’t an exact match domain, but it was close. We ranked in the top 4 for several model names associated with the brand plus the brand and the word ‘coupon’.

    That keyword was number 2 on the first page, All the content was unique, review stuff and techie news about the brand plus well written coupon offers, not from feeds.

    All the links were a mix of profiles, blog comments, and other link building strategies similar in quality to SEONitro.

    On January 27th the site fell of the face of the earth, and the keyword that was at number 2 went firstly to 74 then 323!

    Traffic went to about 100 uniques per day from lots!

    The site WAS earning $10,000 in commissions (and has done months in a row), to date this month, virtually zilche!

    The thing that really p****’s us off is that the crappy feeder sites that ranked just above us are still there!

    Where is the sense in that/ We cannot work it out but needless to say we are trying!

  7. I’m with gmartfin on this one. If you follow the same SEO strategy on your EMD’s as you do your primary keywords, chances are you are still doing well. Content + links + EMD is as beautiful as that triumvirate that dominated Roman politics for most of a decade. Wait…they all died horrible deaths in the end…crap. Oh well, it still ROCKS! :)

  8. Dori,

    Love your stuff, usally agree with you. On EMDs being history, I think its more likely that the factor will just get less weight. I have over 4000 EMDs and none have taken a hit, of course most of them are strong otherwise. I can not see the logic in EMD ever becoming a negative factor or a neutral factor. Would not be highly relevant for Harley Davidson Motor Cycles. I do not see google throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  9. I would still find it difficult to believe that an exact match domain won’t have some level of impact so the strategy of registering a keyword rich domain and following this up with link building will still work but the results may come slower. The score attached to EMDs may be reduced but overall it will still be a big player.

    I optimize several florist sites and the keyword rich domains are still very clearly in the top 5 results overall.

  10. ThinkPadGuy’s Case:

    From 2 to 323: one of these positions was obviously wrong, but the margin is so big…

    Could it be a clear indication that ThinkPadGuy’s link building strategies similar in quality to SEONitro are frowned upon by Google?

    Let’s all stick to Gmartin’s strategy: always put quality content on the sites :-)

  11. On Feb. 14, traffic dropped about 70% on a money site, this sales dropped about 60%. I did a few fixes, I noticed a duplicate site ( was rebuilding the site in WP was getting indexed) so I took it down and emailed G to let them know. I did some linking and pinging and most of the traffic came back within a week.
    It is so strange I lost about 3K links but I am now getting higher keyword rankings with less traffic and less links. i can’t figure it out. My site is pretty big, loads of good content.

    Also all my EMDs have all stayed the same.

  12. I had a good money site original content natural back links ranked number three for two years now, January 12 Google hit it hard,went down to position 330 now back up to position 50 this is not a exact match domain, by the way. I don’t quite understand I have what I would consider crappy sites that were unaffected.

    What really gets me I have a competitor who is now in position 3 with auto generated content and a really visible linking scheme (I mean come on)

    I am keeping a close eye on many auto generated content sites to see if yesterday’s announcement will affect them.

    February 24
    But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.