How Do You Know If Google Panda Or EMD Hurt Your Site?

Oct 5, 2012 • 8:00 am | comments (37) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Update BrewingAs you know by now, Thursday/Friday of last week, we had two pretty important Google updates. We had an EMD update on Friday and a Panda update begin on Thursday and continue throughout this week.

The question webmasters and SEOs are asking themselves, if they saw a drop in Google traffic, is... Was it the EMD update that hit me or the Panda update that hit me?

Clearly, if you have a keyword-less domain, for example,, and if you were hit (was not), then you know it was Panda and not EMD. But what if you are and you were hit (was not), how do you know if it was EMD or Panda?

Looking at the Google traffic might not tell you the story because they are overlapping updates. Here, take a look:

google emd panda overlap

Now, EMD was specific to happen on Friday or so at some time. Although, I think it was rolled out late Thursday as well - but I cannot prove that.

The Panda update started on Thursday, according to Google, and is expected to continue to be pushed out until throughout this weekend. So more changes will be felt over the weekend, I suspect.

How do you know if you have a keyword based domain and you see a decline in Google traffic, if it was EMD or Panda related? Maybe it is both? Maybe EMD is baked into Panda? Google said it only goes after low-quality exact match domains (EMDs) not high-quality ones. But I doubt they are baked in.

For me to run a poll to find out from SEOs if they were hit by the EMD update or the Panda #20 update, it wouldn't give me anything solid to report back on.

What do you think?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: October 4, 2012



10/05/2012 02:20 pm

"What do you think?" More spin and confusion. The day is coming real quick when it will be pointless reading any SEO blog. At the moment SEO blogs are doing a roaring trade we are all coming here to try and work out what is happening. However after a while it becomes pointless as we realize you guys have no answers. That is when traffic to SEO blogs will drop to all time low. The only advice that works is buy adwords ads we don't need to come here to know that. What google wanted all along. You SEO blog writers dug your own grave by being Google cheerleaders.


10/05/2012 03:07 pm

"if you were hit (was not):" OK now tell us why you were not hit. Don't ask us Barry for what we think; we are spammers now in the eyes of Google. For them, we have low quality sites and that we are not authoritative and trusted. You are the one that is the authority, you should provide us with solid advice. Now stop writing pointless news and post. Start writing advice why your domains were not hit by this update. In details, we appreciate it a lot. Thanks or else, like Alan said, there is no point reading your blog.

Kevin Gerding

10/05/2012 03:23 pm

codex-m, we are not spammers in the eyes of Google. We are the competition. It's pretty easy to see that since Google is pushing even #1 organic listings beneath the fold. Am I the only one that sees the relationship between Google's massive lobbying efforts and algorithm updates with the 10/17 deadline for converting Google Shopping to paid listings? All these updates are leaving Google Search users with less of a choice to purchase products from anyone other than Google or through one of their paid services. The holiday shopping season is just around the corner too, and most others that retail directly to consumers are going to take a huge hit. I'd say Google is doing a pretty good job of excluding retailers from their search engine that do not pay them for appearing in Shopping or Adwords.


10/05/2012 03:33 pm

In reality of course sounds sick being branded as spammers when in reality we are not.. OK we are the competition, but Google can't directly say that to our face...I already know this for a long time..It seems they want to kill all sites getting organic traffic that are not big enough to sue them with skyrocketing high cost in legal battles like Amazon, eBay, eHow aside that these companies are adword spenders and some of them are prime adsense publishers.


10/05/2012 03:36 pm

That's a good point Alan. I've actually stopped visiting a lot of the blogs now because no one has a answer or even a hint of one. It's all very frustrating and I've just wasted more time reading this post now.


10/05/2012 11:05 pm

"What do you think?" I think that this post is a joke... a bad one btw... Enjoy your weekend with your traffic.

Nick Ker

10/06/2012 03:12 pm

When your question is "how can I continue tricking Google into putting my site above other more deserving sites without doing anything resembling hard work?" you won't get the answer you are looking for.


10/06/2012 06:29 pm

Dunno if it was Panda or EMD, but my site has registered a 90% drop in traffic.


10/06/2012 09:07 pm

I think to get insights about which update hit what : go to webmaster tools and look at impression data if keywords corresponding to EMD do no more show high volume then sure it's a problem with EMD update


10/07/2012 09:56 am

Good point, as for us I dont understand how or why Google would penalise a matching domain name of 12 years old. Our site seems to have settled now and is down 66% traffic. Using my particular search terms first page is filled by Amazon, Argos, eBay


10/07/2012 10:35 pm

I have to disagree. It's more like this, when you are trying to give Google what they don't want, you will not rank. There are plenty of useful sites that take a lot of hard work to develop yet they don't meet Google criteria and therefore, they cannot rank.


10/07/2012 11:53 pm

Kevin, I think you make a good point about SEO's being the competition in the eyes of Google. I think it is fair to say this is becoming increasingly true for terms with commercial intent where there is strong Adwords revenue potential. I think Google is looking for great organic content as well but you'll get much more prominence on non-commercial intent keywords on that type of content. With fewer organic listings above the fold it does give a good incentive to do things right and create sites that both users and the search engines will love.

Nick Ker

10/08/2012 11:31 am

Got an example of such a site that took "lots of hard work to develop", has not violated any of Google's guidelines and has been hit by Panda or the EMD update?


10/09/2012 02:27 am

"Tricking or not doing anything resembling hard work" doesn't always explain being hit by a Google algo. Sure there are many sites getting hit by Google for tricking or building low quality sites but this is not always the case. Of course you can find plenty of sites that are useful yet they don't meet Google criteria, and therefore cannot rank. Shopping aggregators, data aggregators and coupon sites are just a few good examples. They basically can't rank well due to duplicate content - Panda hit them. Developing something like this takes a lot more work than writing a 20 page blog. If you are not a programmer you cannot understand the work that goes into developing a website or app from scratch without the help of Wordpress or other CMSs. I can point you to numerous websites that weren't trying to trick Google. I can also point you to sites that are content rich and built for people yet they don't contain the type of data that Google wants - even though people want this data. Whether Google likes it or not, those aggregators do a better job than Google. For example, unlike Google which focuses on what is it? Millions or billions of sites, those aggregators focus on hundreds or thousands of niche sites and they are more tuned into the data than Google. For this reason they can provide more detailed information. People use such sites all the time and they are often some of the most visited sites on the web... Yet they are not algorithmically correct.

Chris Ainsworth

10/09/2012 08:59 am

For all of you whom are interested, HP Group have just released some EMD research data charting the impact of EMD across 5000 keywords. There's some very interesting data there. To summarise: The average EMD ranking went from #13.4 down to #26.6 The average PMD ranking went from #39.7 down to #47.7 The average top 10 EMD went from #3.2 down to #11.9 The average top 10 PMD went from #5.2 down to #12 Check out the full post via


10/10/2012 10:03 am

60-70% here starting the 27th..... motherfuckers.

Nick Ker

10/10/2012 12:55 pm

I am sure there are such aggregators that don't rank well (and probably don't care if they do since they already have lots of traffic), but if all of their content is aggregated, should they really rank above the original sources of that content when people search for a specific thing? Sure, a coupon site should rank for coupon related keywords, but should it rank for "Bob's restaurant coupons"? Or news: which should rank better for a breaking news story - the aggregator that has lots of good stories it collects from elsewhere or the news agency that originally broke the story? And these "numerous websites that weren't trying to trick Google". Got a few examples? Not that I don't believe you, it is just that so many people are complaining and every time one finally posts a URL, it turns out to have more than a few guideline violations or the content is such that it is ranking just about where it should. Sometimes they weren't trying to trick anybody, but the webmaster was just misinformed or for whatever reason felt the need to use their keyword 40 times within about 300 words. My point is that nobody ever seems to want to take a look at their own site objectively and look for what could be improved, or why other sites rank above theirs. Instead they choose to claim Google is out to get them. "The Man is keeping me down!" Not sure what the method of building (CMS or from scratch) has to do with anything, but just because coding takes time and effort doesn't mean the end product is automatically good. "From scratch" sites often have more coding, navigation, and general markup errors than most CMS based sites. Sites from good, pro developers - not so much. Sites from the average Joe do it yourselfer - the technical quality is often such that "optimized" would not be a word used to describe them. Those sites often take tons of effort on the part of the owner but that doesn't mean the quality reflects that. Last time I checked, neither Google nor the rest of the world give bonus points for all the hard work that went into a mediocre product.


10/11/2012 12:33 am

Er, yes actually


10/11/2012 01:30 pm

Let me correct you man it is now more like search for keyword girl on google and get all 10 results of gay.Is this is EMD you are defending? I think its all crap what they are doing and you are thinking deserving site will rank better that way .IMPOSSIBLE

Nick Ker

10/11/2012 01:41 pm

Not sure what you are talking about. I searched "girl" and got a wikipedia definition of girl, Girl Skateboard Company, games for girls, American Girl Dolls, Girl Scouts, a row of youtube videos, and so on. What do you think I should have seen in the search results?


10/14/2012 05:45 pm

70% drop. but 1st page still dominated by those "evil web".. d*mn you google =(

Neil Infield

10/14/2012 09:04 pm

My traffic also went down to 10% from 27 September, and I still have no idea why. I'm not aware of doing anything different, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thomas White

10/24/2012 09:06 am

One site is gone ~ we cannot find it. We stopped looking at page 50. I have no traffic and I have lost my income. Totally organic. All my competitors are big brand names ... they are ok. I am at a loss.


11/12/2012 01:04 am

OK, here's an example - www dot traveltipsthailand dot com. Hit by Panda on 27-29 September. Quality content and plenty of it. No content duplication greater than 5% (Copyscape run over site). No messages from Google re bad behaviour. No purchased backlinks. No selling outbound links. Some questionable backlinks due to repointing a decommissioned domain to the site, but removed weeks before Panda #20. Traffic dropped 80% on 27-29 September, all content relegated to pages 40-50 in the Google SERPs. Still has not recovered. Not saying this site is perfect, but it's better than average and there are lots of sites still in the SERPs for competing keywords that are much lower quality and have very questionable cross-linking and back-linking strategies. This is not about "tricking" Google into ranking bad sites. It's about ordinary dedicated bloggers and small businesses being able to compete with the big boys (which apparently is no longer possible). Google has forgotten its origins.

Nick Ker

11/13/2012 05:04 am

First thing I notice is that you don't have very many incoming links. OpenSiteExplorer says around 24 linking domains, MajesticSEO says 15. Most of the sites that are doing well for Thailand travel searches have significantly more, and probably better (I didn't look into it that deeply). If you were ranking well prior to the end of September, it isn't that you are being punished, it is just that your site is no longer benefitting from having the keywords in the domain. Prior to the EMD update, a site would almost automatically rank high with an exact or even partial match domain. But that would only be seen in searches for "travel tips Thailand" and probably some variations. If only those specific keywords dropped but others are not noticeably worse, then the EMD boost is gone and you'll have to do some catching up, link-wise. I did a comparison with a few competitors and while some do look pretty dated and junky, they have either been around a long time so they are still getting a free ride, and/or they have enough decent links to rank well. Or both. Hmm - seems like a future algorithm update may filter some of the older sites that are just really old domains with high volume/lower quality. Unfortunately, how good or bad your competitors are does not always work out to be fair. It is like getting pulled over for a speeding ticket when you know there were others nearby who were driving faster. You happened to be the one that they got this time. Link comparison: A few on-page things I noticed that could make a difference, too: The site loads pretty slowly. GTMetrix is showing the homepage loading in about 5 seconds, with Pagespeed and YSlow scores of "D". The map took about 10 seconds to load when I first went to the site. Speed may make only a minor difference, but is usually relatively easy to improve. You could also consider reducing the number of excerpted articles on the home page. Each of those sections could be made into its own category page with maybe 5-10 excerpts per page within each category. That would give you additional pages that could rank for things like "places to stay in Thailand" etc much better as focused pages rather than as part of the home page, which would also be a little better focused. As it is now, your home page has about 200 internal and external links. Google has recommended trying to keep the number of links per page down to under 100, and 300 if you really can't help it due to the nature of the site. So you are probably OK, but combine this with enough other minor things and it could count. Your home page's meta description is commented out and it looks like other pages don't have them. Meta descriptions don't directly improve ranking, but couldn't hurt. They help provide users some idea about the page, so could also be considered an indication of "quality". Little things like that and image alt tags can add up to better results. These quality issues alone are probably not enough to cause a major drop. But since the EMD update and that Panda update were rolled out at the same time as your drop, they may be more important than one might normally think. The loss of the old EMD "bonus" is more likely to be your problem if you saw a big drop, but the quality issues are worth a look since the EMD update does supposedly hit lower quality sites more. Hope that helps

Eddie Spaghetti

11/14/2012 02:13 am

That is a lot of words to say "Dude, you need some links. Your EMD is not working anymore."

James W

11/25/2012 04:31 pm

For example, my blog is full of unique content and it took me 2 years to the point where I'm now and I never violated any guideline, but still two weeks ago my blog started to loose traffic and spammy websites are ranking high for my niche keywords :(

Nick Ker

11/25/2012 05:28 pm

I don't think there were any Panda or Penguin updates 2 weeks ago. Last confirmed Panda refresh was Nov 5, I think. It could have been that. . keep in mind that not doing well in search is not always the result of an algorithm update. If the drop did not closely coincide with the date of any algorithm updates, what makes you think it is an algorithm change or penalty? Did anything change on your site recently that could have made a difference? Assuming your drop started around the time of the last known algorithm update... The home page of the site linked in your Disqus profile has virtually no static content that would help define what the site is about, and probably too many links - over 200 internal and external (webmaster guidelines recommends keeping that under 100, or 300 if you really need to have more). Your ads are more prominent than your content, which is simply the excerpts lost in all those links to articles. Your content may be unique in that an exact copy does not exist, but is it really "good quality"? Look at these opening lines from a recent article: "Organizational development is extremely important for any business. You simply can’t reach your goals or get any real work done without organization. Organizational development can be done in any business very easily by coming up with a distinct plan. Making an organizational development program..." How many times do you think you need to repeat "organizational development" before it gets too spammy? Your incoming links are another place to look: OSE shows about 900 different domains linking to your site. About 650 of those all use "make money online" as the anchor text. Did that really happen "naturally"? Probably not. If you are still ranking ok for "make money online" after Penguin with all of those unnatural links, consider yourself lucky. Those may seem like minor things, but when combined it does add up to an appearance of low quality.

James W

11/25/2012 06:27 pm

thank you for in depth analasys Nick, now that you mentioned the anchor text linking to me. I remember in my early days that I used that anchor text a lot when commenting and promoting my blog on other websites. But if that's enough to loose the traffic all the sudden, even with over 400 posts of unique and quality content, then I'm disappointed in google. What also crossed my mind is that maybe holiday seasons affected the traffic. thanks

Amit Patekar

12/07/2012 12:15 pm

I have an EMD domain from last 5 years and it was ranking in top 3. I am a service provider and was earning on an average $500 to $1000 each month from that website. After google EMD update my website is no longer in google :( for that particular keyword. Total loss. I am sure I have all original content and kind of expert on that particular keyword but now only people with copy/paste content are showing up in google and I am no where. I tried PPC after that as I have company to run. If i dont earn how will i pay salary to my team?? But even after PPC no luck. If I want to get same results which you use to get from Organic ranking then I will have to spend fortune for PPC. After lot of research I found out that 90%+ back links I got from the same keyword which I am using in my domain and that is what made google ban me for that particular keyword. Now there is very little I can do. From last few month no lead just spam from get quote form another frustrating thing. I will write more informative articles lets see if that helps. Thank you all for the awesome discussion. Regards Amit

Matt Hepburn

01/09/2013 02:10 pm

You may want to change your focus keyword on those pages to a related keyword which 25% or less of the keyword that is contained in the EMD domain name. This depends on whether you are able to recover the page without changing the URL. In drastic cases, I would suggest changing the URL of the page to reflect the new changes.


01/22/2013 06:10 am

Thanks for taking a look Nick, really appreciate it. Sorry I've been so slow in responding, but I've been head down working on the site to correct those and other issues I detected when I ran SEOmoz over it. The metadata commented out was part of a running war I seem to have with Yoast SEO plugin. If I enable it, I have to comment my theme metadata code out, then when I update the theme I get duplicate metatags! This must have been at a point where I had Yoast disabled. As for competitors, I could understand if my URLs dropped to page 5 or even to page 10, but page 30 (or in some cases page 50) seems very harsh. I actually have no page that ranks above 240 in the SERPs even now, three months later and a lot of work done in between. I am now working on better backlinks, but that takes time as I don't spam forums. Oddly enough, my embedded images still rank on page one for many queries (like BTS Skytrain map and Khao San Road map). And my Google Plus page ranks well! Oh, the irony.


01/25/2013 05:33 pm

Your definition of "quality" is the real issue. You've had it explained to you that if recent posts are any indication, your articles read like they are spun by software. Yet you still think you have lots of quality content. And those comment spam keyword links you didn't want to remember are a violation of guidelines. Your disappointment in Google is misdirected.

James W

01/25/2013 11:02 pm

Hi Mark, do I feel jealousy from you? I'm sure that hard work seems like software to people like you, if you can find any article copied or spun I will admit it here. I'm challenging you. My blog is the result of over 2 years of hard work, articles are mine and from hard working guest bloggers. And my comments were the simple way of online promotion and SEO that many white hat seo experts are using. It was not spam at all. My only mistake was that I didn't use any black hat tactics, because after all these Google updates, my blog and many other quality blogs are outranked by automatic blogs that copy articles from blogs like mine. Google has lost his reputation and you can say whatever you want. Today SEO is loosing it's power, I realized that, all it matter to me now are my loyal readers and my content which is of the top quality, maybe I have some spelling errors, but if Google sees that like low quality instead then I don't have any words for you or them. But my business and my blog are now ranking great and I'm growing faster than ever, the less I care about what Google thinks the better I become. Giving value and fighting against people like you are worth every word written here. Thank you all for reading and I'm sorry that you all needed to see this argue, because this is not the place for that.


01/28/2013 01:25 pm

"And my comments were the simple way of online promotion and SEO that many white hat seo experts are using. It was not spam at all." No, posting useless comments using your keywords as anchor text in links on 600 websites is NOT white hat and is a good example of spam. Did any of those comments provide any value to readers? Probably not. Like another commenter already told you, your content is repetitive, keyword stuffed and LOOKS like it is spun. Looking like spun is just like being spun as far as Google is concerned. Your problem is not Google, your problem is James W. Read Google's webmaster guidelines & seo guide and then look at your site as if it was your competitors and not your own. Then maybe you can see what is wrong.

James W

01/28/2013 05:37 pm

My content is very high quality, I just feel jealousy from you. And don't worry about my blog, I'll keep it fresh and without spam. You better look for your own mistakes and errors. And my rankings are better than ever :)


08/30/2013 03:39 pm

You know if there Is a tool that allows to check if a site I do link building on has been penalized by Panda/Penguin? Please note that I have not access to Analytics or WBT and Majestic SEO for example still gives me good Trust Citation Flow and Flow. Thank you!

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