A couple of days ago, I discussed my strategy moving forward for building niche sites. In a nutshell, this strategy includes focusing on larger and higher quality sites; rather than starting sites with only 1 to 5 pages of content. Of course, its not all about the amount of content a site has; quality is key. You can read the full discussion of my new strategy here.
The timing of that last post also coincided with the Exact Match Domain Google Update aka Google EMD algo update. Because of the timing of my post (only a couple of days after the algorithm update) a good portion of the comments were focused on that. However, today I wanted to provide a deeper look into how my sites have fared since the EMD Google update and my analysis.
I also want to stress that with any update, a lot of discussion is hypothesis. So first, I will present some numbers based on the stats from my niche sites, but then I’ll do my best to interpret those numbers based on the recent Google changes and whether they were related.
First, I want to remind everyone that I have over 200 sites; really closer to 300. I have a wide variety of type and quality of sites. Some of these sites are several years old, and some of them were just created a month or 2 ago. Some have over 100 pages of content, and others only have 1 page of content. Some of these earn a substantial amount, and some don’t make anything. So, what has been the effect on such a diverse portfolio?
The Overall Impact
I decided to take a look at overall earnings via Google Adsense to assess the damage that this algo change has had. With over 200 sites, it would have been difficult to compare actual rankings before and after. Before I report my numbers, here’s how I got them.
I compared the average daily earnings for the month previous to Sept. 28th (day the EMD update rolled out), to the couple of days following the update (its only been a few days now). I did not include the day Sept. 28th in either of my calculations, because the update seems to have taken place sometime during that day – so I just removed it from the analysis. So here it is:
My portfolio of sites is earning on average 12.9% less per day since the update. So my earnings are down 12.9%. Compared to some others out there, this is a pretty small impact. The Adsense Flippers reported a 68% drop in earnings; and others with large portfolio of sites have shared with me similar numbers.
However, as I take a deeper look I see a more interesting story. My sites at the bottom were impacted hugely to the downside. However, my top 10 earning sites actually INCREASED in average daily earnings (although not by a huge amount).
So, in fact my top 10 earning sites actually increased in earnings since the EMD update. Buy why?
Of my top 10 earnings sites, only 4 are Exact Match Domains. The other 6 are either a partial match or 1 is more of a branded type domain.
However, what’s more important than that is the quality and quantity of content that these sites have. Most of these sites are not my typical 1 to 5 page content type site. These are sites that I have grown and built into something bigger (many of them started as 5 page mini-sites though).
- My top earning site has 62 posts.
- Another top 10 earning site has 22 posts.
- Another top 10 earning site has 134 posts.
- Another top 10 earning site has 110 posts.
So as you can see many of these sites that were not affected are larger sites. I can also tell you that they are better quality overall. They are also older domains (for the most part).
On the flip side, as I look at all the sites that I’ve created over the past few months; most of these sites are just 1 to 3 posts. These newer sites and overall MANY of my very micro sites got decimated. Many of these that were ranking in the top 10 are gone. I am also seeing just as big an impact on partial match domains as exact match domains.
However, because many of these sites were not earning as much (maybe only $15 or $20 a month or less), the impact on my average earnings overall was much less. So overall, my earnings dropped around 13%, but among my newer and smaller sites, the drop was much more drastic – maybe up to 50 to 60%. However, because my top 10 sites are such a huge portion of my earnings, my average drop doesn’t appear to be as bad.
One Interesting Example from My Sites
Not all of my top 10 earning sites are big sites. In fact, one of them is a site with just 1 page of content. So, why did it survive? Not only did it survive, but its now ranked #1 for its keyword, where before it was around the middle of the first page on Google. Its also an Exact Match .com domain.
Here’s the difference that I see between it and most of my other small niche sites.
- I didn’t do my regular link building to it. This site only has a handful of links, and they are from directory type sites. But perhaps more unique is that NONE of the links include keywords in the anchor text. Its all URL match.
- The site is LESS optimized in keyword use on the site itself. In particular, the URL structure is not my standard keyword.com/keywordposthere. But instead its the default WordPress URL structure: keyword.com/?page_id=7
So, overall perhaps this site survived and others didn’t because I was over-optimizing the on-page and off-page use of the keywords.
So, as I take a look, I see that my larger sites were affected very little; while my 1 page sites that are newer were hit really hard. In addition, the overall link profiles of my larger sites is better as well. I’ve had a chance to diversify link sources; whereas my smaller/newer sites have not. When you build lots and lots of micro sites, the only way to build links is to automate. It appears that Google has figured out these types of links pretty well.
So what does this Google EMD update really do? Apparently it does indeed affect EMD and maybe even Partial match domains. But the affect is much bigger for those sites that have small amounts or poor quality content and have a weak link profile. If the site is of higher quality content and link diversity; the impact may have even been positive (even with an exact match domain).
Overall, it appears that this update is an extension of Panda and Penguin. Panda addressed sites with low quality content. Penguin addressed sites that were over-optimized in terms of keyword use on page and off page (anchor text) and the quality of links in general. But apparently exact match domains were missed to some degree with the standard Panda and Penguin updates. So, whatever bonus having an EMD had on rankings is now gone IF your site is of lower quality. So, this may just be a Panda/Penguin update customized to target low quality Exact match domains.
I can only speculate on the overall causes and effects of this update, but this is what I’m seeing from my sites. Others, including Becker from Source-wave.com, have similar theories as well.
Overall, the Google update is again rewarding higher quality sites in terms of on-page and off-page factors. This was specifically meant for EMDs that didn’t meet the quality thresholds. My low quality sites got hit like everyone elses, but I also had at least my top 10 sites that not only didn’t get hit, but actually increased in earnings.
This just re-emphasizes the point I made a couple of days ago about my new strategy for building larger niche sites. Its really the way to go. Trust me, I wish I could build a bunch of 1-page sites, as its easier; but in the long run focusing on just a handful of high quality sites is a better way to grow your business.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Lets me here it below!