Exact Match Domain Google Update and The Way Forward with Niche Sites

By Spencer Haws |

The majority of this post was written last Wednesday as I sat in the airport in Lihue, Kauai waiting for my flight back home from my vacation.  However, Google also just made some algorithm changes affecting exact match domains that I wanted to address.  I point out the timing of when I wrote this post to let you know that I decided to make changes to my business before this latest algorithm change was made by Google.

I discuss the Google Exact Match Domain algorithm update a bit towards the end of this post.

I have had a lot of time to reflect on my business during my vacation last week.  However, to be honest, I have been considering making some changes to my niche site strategy for several months now.

Why have I been considering making changes?

Well, the same reason anyone makes changes.  I’m not happy with the results I have seen with the sites I have been building over the past few months; so its time to re-evaluate.

Let’s Re-cap: How it All Started

When I first started building niche sites about 3 years ago, I wrote all the content myself and my first few sites started with around 20 or so original articles a piece.  My first couple of sites each starting earning $20 a month and continued to do so.  In fact, these first couple of sites are still earning, and one is still right at about the $20/mth mark…and I haven’t touched any of these sites in 3 years!

After the success of these first couple of sites, I decided to expand in a big way.  I looked for ways to build more sites, more quickly, and at a lower cost.  As a result, I experimented with starting sites with only 1 page of content and using automated link building tools.

The strategy worked brilliantly!

I quit my job over a year and a half ago because the income was so much more than I was making as a Business Banker at Wells Fargo.  The best move I ever made!

However, as Panda and Penguin hit, these thin content sites have not been holding up as well.  Please also remember, that many of my sites now have MUCH more content than 1 page.  I took the “winning” sites and built some with 20, 50, or 100+ pages of content.  Some of these larger sites have held up.

But in the past few months, my strategy of building lots of small sites with 1 to 5 pages of content is falling flat.  I’m not able to rank most of these sites very well with the content and link building strategies that I’m using.

The keywords I’m picking should be ranking very well because of how low the competition is.

Time to Re-think my Strategy

So, I’m re-thinking how I approach niche sites.  When something isn’t working, it’s always a good idea to try a new approach.

So here’s the scoop: For me, micro niche sites (1 to 5 page sites) are out.  Larger sites with better content are in.

You might be thinking, “Didn’t Spencer just say he couldn’t handle authority sites and he’s back to building niche sites?”  Well, yes I did say that.  But if you read the post, its clear that what I meant is that I can’t handle personally writing for more than one or two sites.  So, a big part of going back to niche sites was so that I could outsource content again, not that I thought authority sites were a bad option.

Does this change everything?

No not really.  keyword research remains the same.  The overall goal of ranking well in Google and generating free traffic remains the same.  Providing relevant content also remains the same.

Content Strategy

What changes is rather than trying to build 100 mini sites all with 1 to 5 pages of content.  I feel like it’s a much better long term strategy to focus on 1 site at a time.  Over a period of a year, I may only perhaps create half a dozen sites.  And if I find a really big winner, perhaps, I’ll only focus on 1 or 2.

So, how much content will my new niche sites have?

My new strategy will be to start each new niche site with at least 20 pages of content.  I am thinking that 25 to 30 original articles will be the new normal starting point.  Obviously these sites would get even more content as they show promise and start making money.

What About Link Building?

Because I will only be focusing on 1 site every month or 2, I will have the ability to create higher quality links.  The problem with creating dozens or hundreds of micro niche sites is that you never have time to build real links; you have to rely on links that you can automate.  These links are just not working that well anymore.

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So, now I will have time to spend an hour or so each day on just 1 niche site for 1 or 2 months.  So, rather than using cheap or spun content and using automated tools, I’ll have a chance of a month or 2 (or more) to focus on just 1 site and truly build the connections necessary to start a real link profile.

In a nutshell, I’ll have the time to build quality links using the techniques I’ve already discussed here and here and here.  You just don’t have time to build real links if you have hundreds of sites.

In the past, you didn’t need to do these things to rank micro niche sites; the strategies worked.  But like I said, the sites I have built over the past few months have not met my expectations at all.

What About Keyword Research?

In addition, because I will be investing more time and money into each of these sites, I need a higher return.  I’m not happy with $1 a day.  My hoped for return would be closer to $500+ per month per site.  To get this return, I can’t target a keyword that only gets 1,000 searches per month.

Most likely, the keywords I target will need to have a higher search volume; probably around 4k to 20k searches per month.  I hate to suggest a minimum or maximum (because I certainly won’t follow it exactly), but I just want to make the point that my primary targeted keyword for the site will have more search volume than for micro niche sites.

However, long tail keywords will also play a bigger role here.  Each new article can target a slightly different long tail keyword.  So, yes, I’ll have a primary keyword that I want to rank for, but I’ll also have dozens of other keywords that I’ll hope to rank for as well.  Keyword research is much more important now than ever before, because your investment of time and money in each site is greater.

You can’t just throw up sites anymore and see what sticks, you need to truly analyze your keywords and competition to make sure you have a profitable niche on your hands.

What About Outsourcing?

If you can do everything yourself: writing content, building links, and overall creating your site, I think it’s a great way to start.

However, I know myself too well, and there is no way that I can commit to writing all the content myself for multiple sites.  I will be outsourcing most of the content to high quality content writers.

In addition, I will be doing some of the link building myself; but will also rely on my virtual assistant to complete as many tasks as possible.

This will give me more time to oversee the overall quality on higher standards of the site itself.  I think it goes without saying that each of these sites will have custom logos and premium themes.

Quality, not quantity, is the new strategy.

What About Exact Match Domains?

As mentioned in the first part of this post, I’ve been considering re-focusing my business on larger and higher quality sites for a few months – long before the so called “exact match domain algo update” or “Exact Match Domain Penalty” or whatever you want to call it.

So far I can definitely see that some of my sites were negatively affected by this update.  I can also see that at least one site is ranked #1 now where it was 5 or 6 before in Google.  Overall, I have not seen any major changes in my Google Adsense earnings from my sites overall.  However, its only been a couple of days, so its hard to assess the overall impact of the EMD Google update.  I plan on writing a more in depth post in a couple of days when I’ve had a chance to analyze the results.

But overall, having an exact match domain is no longer necessary.  In the past, having an EMD (exact match domain) gave a bonus to your site that made it rank better than it should have based on quality of content and links.  However, that bonus is now gone.   I’m of the opinion that Google didn’t apply any penalty to exact match domains, it just took away the existing bonus that was there.

A large portion of my sites are not exact match domains, but are rather partial match domains.  I’ve been saying for a long time that if you can get an exact match domain, get it; but if not don’t worry about it!  Just add a prefix or suffix to your domain and work with the low competition keyword.  Now, you probably don’t even have to worry much about having the keyword in your domain for a partial match.  If you want to build a site called and target the keyword “surfboard reviews”, that’s fine.

Its too early to say how important having the keyword in your domain (even if not an exact match) really is anymore.  The point is, you can still rank with an EMD, a partial match domain, or a totally unrelated domain like “”. Other factors like quality of content and link building are more important.


I’ve heard from several people so far that this EMD algorithm update has affected them pretty heavily.  I’ve haven’t been affected as heavily from what I can see right now (although definitely some).  However, whether or not the update had taken place, I’ve decided to take a new approach to niche sites.  I’ll be focusing on only one site at a time and truly working on building it into something of better quality as discussed. Micro-niche sites are no longer the way forward for me.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Where will your focus be with niche sites?  Have you been affected by the EMD Google update?  Lets discuss below…

Niche Business Ideas | 122 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding, and co-founding You can learn more about Spencer here.

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Good luck with the new strategy. I just quit my 8-5 job last week and I’m jumping back into the AM game. I was about to pull the trigger on a great niche flipping domain, but I think going with an authority site is definitely the way to go now.
Using social media, YouTube, and focusing on providing good content that people will actually find useful is the best route to go now if you want a site to last.

Spencer Haws

Focusing on quality content is always a great idea.


Now I really think that Google is going in right directions now.

Harris Lowe

lol so you didnot get hit so talk up..

Niche Wolf

Hi Spencer , great post. I noticed a drop in the ranking of a few sites but majority of my sites are ranking ok.

The surprising revelation is that both the sites that were affected and those that weren’t were built with the-same method and strategy.

I am still investigating what made some stick and why others didn’t



Spencer Haws

It may take a while to figure out exactly how and why all the sites were affected.

Justin Cooke

Hey Spencer,

I just wrote a post about it, but we took a beating with this latest Google update. We’ll be changing our process significantly in the coming weeks as well. It’s frustrating and nerve-racking…but a little exciting as well as we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and revamp our creation process.

Spencer Haws

Sorry to hear that you guys got hit so hard! But I think you have a good attitude that this can be a new chapter.


It’s interesting. I have one big authority site and few smaller niche sites. There wasn’t any change with the niche sites, however, in the last couple of days I’ve noticed about 30-50% increase in organic search to my authority site. It seems like Google is starting to favor those and re-directing SERP towards them.

One more factor to consider is another recent Google update aimed to provide search diversity (not getting 8 out of 10 first page results for the same site).

Anyway, somethings is telling me that from now on the web will start to see more and more bigger authority sites, which at the end isn’t a bad thing (for the society, not the niche site guys…)

Spencer Haws

Ben, I agree that larger sites will start to dominate the serps more. In particular we are likely to see larger branded sites ranking better and better. This will make it more difficult for the startup to rank well for certain terms. But Google favoring large brands has been happening for a long time.


I agree that Google is now preferring larger sites. But they must not overdo it. It’s now happing quite often that I get 5-6 out of 10 first page results references to Facebook (latest algorithm update improved that slightly, but still not enough). Facebook is social networking site and rarely you can find any quality content there.

Generally Google is heading direction towards more ads and more large sites on their SERP. But this is not what the internet is about. When people what to read a magazine or newspaper, they grab one. They don’t read circulars or marketing booklets. And if Google tries to force it upon them, then Google may loose its users as well…

Harris Lowe

So what your saying is if i write 100 pages of good quality content thats better than 1 page of awesome epic content?

Thats why war and peace is the best book ever written i assume?

Doesnot explain why WaterWorld was not the best film ever though it was pretty darn long..

This is like a bigger size is better than a smaller size! thats not always the case

As to you daft society comment.. OMG this is the web. what matter is can you find usefull info fast. the rest us of no concern


So are you saying there is no more money to be made working on micro niche sites or just not as much as you would like. Do you think you could start out with your past strategies and still make a reasonable amount?

Spencer Haws

I’m not saying there is not money in micro niche sites, its just getting harder and harder. I just can’t advise it anymore.


Hey Spencer. Pretty good article here. Yep..I noticed a big drop in the serps and had a feeling something was cooking up.

Seems like they are going after those EMD’s and thin pages of content. I see someone in my niche who has pretty much the same type of info I have but he has around 40 pages on his site and didnt seem to get effected at all, we had around 10. That might have something to do with it as well.

Also, this got me a little discouraged but I had to do was look at your Pixpiration I made over at my site. Thanks for contributing. It gave me motivation which was the purpose of the site. Not sure if I gave you the entire URL, but this is the one that links specifically to you Spencer. I look at it through tough times like this…

Let’s keep an eye on this EMD algo shift and come together to beat it! 😉

All the best


Spencer Haws

Thanks for sharing your experience Omar. Great pixpiration 🙂

Great info Spencer,
worth changing the strategy



I find all of this interesting. Several months ago when everything started to fall apart with niche sites and the whole backlink deal started screwing everyone – I just let my sites sit. Did nothing at all to them. They all stopped earning and just sat for months doing nothing. Then just last month they started ranking again. Those without backlinks ranked quicker and better than the ones with backlinks, but all have now moved back into their positions and are earning just as much as they were (adsense) several months ago.

Not sure what to expect.. I hate google though.

Spencer Haws

Glad to hear that your sites bounced back, always interesting to see how everything affects people.

HIV POZ Dating

hate google too, and Matt Cutts. I’ve had my site for years and endured all the updates, this one has really hit me hard. And in this economy they are making life harder for those of us who really count on that income.


Hi Spancer,

Good points you have made here. I have some sites that are exact mach domains that I have recently bought and I am thinking to renounce on them and focus only on two sites to transform them in authority sites. I often visit your blog because I really like the information that you are posting here and the way you write.

Keep it going!

Domingo V.

thanks for this update, i am just coming into the building game and think its good this happen before i have invested much.

quick question, in your new strategy i see you want to start your site with 25-30 high quality articles, how often would you add more articles, and to what point would you build?

i have been using Longtails trial this week and even though confusing in the beginning it makes a lot more sense every time i go through it.

will you change some of the content on the tutorials to match the strategy posted above?


Domingo V.

Spencer Haws

That’s right, new sites will start with 25 to 30 pieces of high quality content. New content would be added based on how well the site is performing. If it appears to be a winner, perhaps it would get content daily. It all depends…

Nick Kizirnis

Thanks Spencer, this article is really helpful and really timely! I appreciate that you keep evaluating and re-evaluating what’s possible, its very helpful and very encouraging.

Also good to know that all the SEO work that we’ve learned over the years doesn’t just go out the window even if things like EMDs don’t count for as much …. but do you think having a completely unrelated domain name could cause an issue? I’m referring to the example above, where the content and name are definitely not related? I know that was just an example, but I’ve wondered how having a personal name as a web site domain could help/hurt/hinder a web site … including a scenario where someone was an “expert” … does Google get to decide?

Spencer Haws

No a completely unrelated domain will not cause an issue. ranks for lots of stuff with an unrelated domain, so do most websites. Most ranking sites in the world don’t mention all their keywords in their domain. Having a branded domain, including personal names, is just fine.


I don’t think that unrelated domain can hurt in any way. My site name is completely unrelated to its content and still ranking on #1 page for many keywords.

Look at it from another angle – is CNN suffering for “CNN” not having any meaning or keyword in it?


Maybe thats a good test. Build a site with a completed unbranded and non EMD name and see how well it ranks.

I have one EMD with virtually no backlinks that has actually seen an increase in traffic. So no idea what this update is targeting to be honest.

One other thing I have noticed is that my UK traffic has been hit a lot harder than my US traffic. That could be because my sites have lost most of their Google traffic and no one in UK uses Yahoo or Bing so I only see traffic from US now?


You and the AdsenseFlippers guys are the first ones I looked to when I heard about this update, glad to see you’ve both got some information up.


Good to hear about your new focus…Yes, building large authority site is the way to go and you will be really proud about providing useful content and regulars that will visit your site for more…
Use FB, Twitter, Pinterest etc to go all out to engage and build you loyal customer base!
Later, these kinds of site will sell in Flippa for 6 figures …!

Good luck!

Harris Lowe

Im at a loss.

You did write a post saying you were only going to do authority sites.

you wrote a post youd lost your asdsense account. clearly becasue you broke T&C (multiple accounts!)

Your wrote a post saying you’d given up on authority and were going back to niche sites.

You wrote apost saying you had a new adsense account but not told people for months and months. Bythe way YOU cant have a new account your manipulating the system (new LLC0 to get around the rules.

Now your back to one at a time authority sites.

Of course you can change your mind thats 100% great. BUT

one page EMD sites ranked in less than 14 days, researched with LongTailPro the best EMD tool out there. Ok 1 page content. BUT NO BACKLINKS. you probably struggled as the BL were not working. shame we cant test that idea. Surprised you had not. we were crushing it hence google turning the switch.

Sadly i can see and would love to understand what precisely your strategy is now. Are you going to continue to backlink and build a simple 500 page site with good quality articles. that’s going to cost at least $5K fine in your position but tough for newies.

i sincerely wish you well im not a hater, your a personal hero and shows me the light when you started this blog (i followed you on the old blog!). just want to know who to follow and why.


Andre Garde

Don’t follow anyone blindly, but also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.


I agree with Andre. You need to make your own decision. Spencer as well as other Bloggers in this niche put out great content based on their experience but ultimately it depends on us to formulate our own strategy based on our individual skill sets and goals.

Best of Luck Harris


I think your right that they aren’t penalizing EMDs so much as removing the bump that they where receiving.

In my opinion, the best search engine domain strategy is to find a domain that is more likely get a click through from the serps. If that means an emd, then great, but there are domains out there that will lend even more human perceived authority.

Spencer Haws

Great point. Finding a domain that will get click through is a GREAT way to think about it.


@Harris Lowe – it is not against the Google AdSense TOS to have multiple accounts. Each must have a unique SSN or EIN for tax purposes. Their system does not support multiple accounts for a single tax id, so what Spencer has done is 100% legit.

Spencer Haws


Harris Lowe

Sorry but thats wrong.

What it asks for is a UNIQUE PAYEE.

Thats why guru’s that done ask other loose their multiple adsense accounts.

You can even ask google a road show if you like.

What he has done is legit as he formed a new LLC and therefore created a new payee.

I think youll see i mentioned that.

Still i figure that if google could be bothered they’d read spencers blog and ban his adsense account again just as a way of making a point.

If all you have to do is form a new llc then the ban is pointless.


Umm, the entire purpose of corporations is that they are separate legal entities fom their owners.

It’s been that way since the 16th century.


Please don’t construe this as whining, because I’m not whining, but Google is headed in the wrong direction here.

Niche queries and topics shouldn’t direct the user to a thousand-page authority site. I don’t need Amazon, Wal-Mart or Livestrong results when I want to learn the going rate for a gutta-percha golf ball, or the costs involved with starting a worm farm.

This algo update again emphasizes the importance of having a diversified online business because we’re all at the mercy of Google. There will be one day when the ENTIRE adsense program is discontinued.

Joe Helms

Luke, I’m with you on this one.

Lately when I’m trying to find out info on a topic, the first page or 2 of results is always a damn store like Amazon or Home Depot or Walmart – you name it.

I don’t only put search queries into Google because I want to buy something!

A store page doesn’t give me information on a topic, just on a product. With all their changes to try and foil people “gaming the system” they’ve started to really make their results worse in many cases.

At least from my point of view.


You guys are hilarious! You don’t want stores on the front page because you aren’t looking to buy something. Yet you want to get on the first page with your site so you can make money off of people clicking ads on YOUR site (to buy something most likely)… You can’t have it both ways. How is your site adding value?


Peter, don’t be a knucklehead. If I’m looking for a quick piece of info, i.e. “cost of c section”, I don’t always want to read through 6 pages of WebMD or Wikipedia – I want a quick, reasonably reliable answer. A one page blog is MORE than enough to satisfy my query. Your assumption (as is Google’s) is that a one-page site with ads isn’t authoritative and therefore doesn’t add value. Your assumption is wrong.


If webMD or Wikipedia provided the answer for me in a one page post, I would find it infinitely more reliable and trustworthy than a one page website with ads. Just saying. A whole website about pregnancy gives me, the searcher, a better feeling about the reliability of the information and I think Google feels this way too.
The reliability of the answer is key and by the look of some of these niche sites, they’re full of generic responses that hardly satisfy the search query.
I think if google tracks where people go after they bounce off a niche site, they’ll have a good idea of whether they’re question was answered or not. Do they go to another search result or do they close Google and get back to work.

Harris Lowe

Your falling into the trap of “authority” based on size. that might apply in the porn industry but in the rel world the experts in most fields are individuals.

And you trust wikipedia.. what really.. are you sure.. where does the authority come from?

I have 10 pages on wikipedia. rest assured theyare not written by mean but well written and link bait to my adsense domains.

No im not going to show you the pages… 🙂


I agree Luke. I’m building a blog and I’m calling myself the authority in that niche. This is why I put 40 pages of content on the blog before taking the “under construction” plugin off.

I will hopefully have about 100 pieces of content on that niche within 6-8 months. I’d like to think that with good on page and off page Opt as well as Quality LinkBuilding, and an agressive social media campaign that I can beet out some of these large sites that have just a handful of articles on the subject. Time will tell.



I should mention that I’m not using Adsense on the site. All content is Free.

Typo in my last post: Beat


I think that’s a great strategy Frank. Some of the most profit profitable websites in history focused on having a great user experience before introducing a single ad.

My goal is to get enough repeat users/fans so that the users will be interested in writing the blog content.


This is what I mean. If you have 100 pages on a specific niche, then yes, I would trust you. If you have one page, then I’m suspicious. You haven’t established any credibility in the niche. What do I do? Bounce!

And it doesn’t matter whether I trust wikipedia or not. The truth is most people do. And google knows it.

My point is one page mfa sites do not establish credibility and almost always keep the searcher looking for more. Ask your non-IM friends. Ask your wife, mom, dog, teacher. They hate them.

The additional content of larger sites is not to make the search engines happy or match some magic formula. It’s to prove to your readers that you know what you’re talking about. It doesn’t matter that you have the most reliable information on your one page site. Your readers don’t know you and so, don’t trust you.

But most 1 page mfa site creators don’t care. They want people to click the ads and leave. Which is exactly what google is trying to prevent.


Spencer, you never let me down with your on-target posts. This weekend one of my sites dropped from #5 to #188. I had removed the Google ads, so I thought that’s what caused the ranking to drop–and now I’m learning about EMD. It’s not a thin site and it has high quality content, although the backlink profile may be a little suspicious 🙂 Thanks to Longtailpro this is what I’m noticing for all of the keywords I’m trying to rank for: not only do the top 10 not have exact match domains, but the majority do not have the exact keyword in their titles, descriptions, or keywords–some only have it in the keyword.

About the time of the Sept 21 update another site went from #6 to #30. I took the exact match keyword out and it bounced back to #10. Hmmm… I think Google is constantly trying to keep us guessing, and I don’t necessarily feel like they are making it a better experience for their users. I for one am getting more and more frustrated by the search results that appear when I’m looking for something.

Hope you enjoyed Kauai (red dirt and roosters!)


Actually, I noticed that too. Recently I was doing some keyword research and saw Google #1 page returning results that have no keyword in title or description. I jumped happy thinking that I found high traffic keyword with no competition. Later I noticed that 2nd and 3rd page provided many results with both exact title match and keyword in the description.

It’s a bit weird, looks like Google is trying to offer synonymus search results. However, I am not sure if this approach will enhance the user experience in any way. If Google continues like that, sooner or later Bing or Yahoo may take over and do what Apple did – rise to the glory from near exctinction. It’s possible, Apple proved it, Google is no exception…

Spencer Haws

Kauai has a lot of red dirt and roosters, indeed!
There are so many factors that could be causing your site to bounce around that its hard to guess. I agree that I’m seeing a lot of questionable results in the serps as well…


The biggest question I am faced with now is if I should work on my domains that took a hit or start with fresh domains. It DOES appear as if there is a penalty and not just a devaluing of the EMD. (one of my sites was a PMD) It would be an interesting experiment to take one of these domains and expand it seeing the results. Unfortunately, I really don’t have the time or resources to do such a thing. All site are past page 20 and in some cases I have terms of use and privacy pages showing up and that’s all (not a good sign). My content was 100% original, all high quality written by myself, keyword density around 2% or less, all over 1000 words. Sites were thin though with anywhere from only 1-8 articles but highly relevant.

It seems wrong to penalize a site just for the name of its domain. All they had to do was turn down or off the amount of weight in its algo, which some are saying is what happened, but It seems like much more than that to me.

Would love to hear Spencer’s opinion as well as others as to starting with a fresh domain or working on the sites that were hit.


Spencer Haws

I’m of the opinion that EMDs were not penalized, the bonus that was there before is just removed. If you truly think your content is of high value and people really want to read it, then you can consider re-using the content. But that’s quite a process…


I’d probably take a few and start a new domain, while working on a few of the ones you think were penalized so you can see what the better approach is.

It seems like it can’t just be the # of pages and they can’t tell “quality” of an article. There is no way for them to determine if something is an “EMD” or not. It has to be a combination of things you have. I would imagine they have to start with your domain name and compare that against other onpage features you have (title, tags, meta, alt, title, structure), and probably backlinks too.


Now I see where this is all going at…in a bid to avoid Google penalties. It doesn’t change anything. You can rank and make money with an authority site, but then, you may wake up the next morning only to become aware of the disappearance of your site into oblivion. Dealing with Google is a gamble, and unless you are Amazon or a similarly distinguished brand, your odds of failure is frankly extreme. Big, small, large, thin, informative, worthless sites… It takes only an algo update to wipe them all out…

Let the matter rest!

Spencer Haws

Yep, its always risky! (But that’s also why there is lots of money to be made).


I think they took the bump for the exact mach domain away. I had a site that was on page 6 up until Friday now I am on page number one. My domain had a hyphen which I have always been told is a no no. Now it appears to not matter. I was working on a quality site and apparently the the work paid off now.


Interesting one. I actually have a domain with a dash in it that I havent used yet. Worth a test to see if it does anything if I put some content on it now.


Spencer, re: “You can’t just throw up sites anymore and see what sticks”.

Maybe in a sense you CAN do this more now. Instead of diving into a micro micro niche, maybe take 1 or 2 steps back from that to get a little more general. Then you can throw up articles for many more related topics on 1 site and see where they land before focusing more articles or backlinks on it.

A new article is cheaper than a new domain + article. There’s no reason you can’t outsource content for a bigger site too!

Spencer Haws

I agree with your point. However, you still should pick a general niche to start. I would advise still picking a primary keywords, but then exactly as you said: you can write lots of related content that obviously doesn’t mention your primary keyword and find lots of additional keywords.


I think there will always be an element of throwing things out and see what sticks. Example – I have 2 niche website. For the 1st one I created unique, relevant content, pictures, did the backlinks, etc. The site is now PR2. But the organic traffic is bad (very bad).

Then there is another niche site. I did no backlinking whatsoever, even content was almost non-existent. I put up the site, created about 15 empty articles – containing only title, one sentence and a photo. This site is PR0… And surprice! It has got almost 10 times more searches than the first one. This site simply stuck… 🙂


I had a good 10-15 sites. All content was written by american writers over 800 words each. Two of which were not EMDS had brandable domains. These two targeted EMD keywords for content and they were hit also.

Steve Eason

My main site was affected and I think it’s primarily because I didn’t have enough back links, just social links and blog comments.

I’m glad you posted this. I was curious how things would be looking on your end after this update.

But I’m going to continue on doing what I’m doing, which is writing great content and doing what is right for my reader. Which is what Google wants to see anyway.

Emmanuel Uduezue

Thanks for the analysis you provided in your article, gives me new ideas to build my blog. Have already bookmarked this post.


Thanks for the prompt update Spencer. Quality over quantity and strong evaluation of niches makes natural sense to me.

Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

I definitely think you’re getting on the right track again focusing on larger sites. While micro niche sites were fun to see how high you could get all of them to rank, I think having fewer larger sites is the better long-term strategy.



Hi Spencer – great information.

Quick question: if you’re now going for keywords in the 4k-20k hits/month haven’t you moved away from the “long tail”? Or, at the very least, you’re looking at much higher competition for that k/w.

So where will your traffic come from if your Authority Site’s page doesn’t compete for ranking?

Okay, that wasn’t a quick question!

Spencer Haws

Many of these are still considered “long tail keywords” because they can still be very low competition. This is why keyword research is still going to be so important – you may have to look a little harder to find a keyword that is both low competition and has a decent search volume. The site will still target lots of other related keywords that perhaps only have very low search volumes (less than 1k); only the primary keyword will have a higher search volume.

Steve Wyman


Could you define your criteria? as you know i use LTpro most days.

Finding keyword with 4K+ search and comp as you have set out before is pretty difficult to do.

So i guess your relaxing then number or presence of PR0?

And your planning to backlink most new pages?


Spencer Haws

I agree that it may be more difficult to find keywords that fit this criteria. So yes, the competition may not be quite as low as before. But its still not that difficult to find at least 2 of the top 10 sites to have a PR of 0 or very few backlinks. There are lots of these keywords out there. More time will need to be spent on keyword research. And yes, I would plan on link building to all pages to some degree.


Hi Spencer I am still a newbie to the game and I recently took action and started building a niche site around a keyword that gets exact local searches of 2900 @$2.80 cpc.

The site with an EMD was ranked around 6-8th place on google for about 4 weeks until the EMD update and then got pushed out to 12-14th position.

On the 1st October the site has now been ranked 1st on google with no new content or backlinks added.

My 2 other EMD sites are still ranked 1st place on google and did not take a hit from the EMD update (knock on wood).

Not sure what is going on but im just sharing my ‘EMD update’ experience.


Jay did these sites have any backlinks at all?

Charles T

I think the major questions remains beyond the current issue facing people with sites, the question of getting started. The larger scope of the problem, let’s wait till the date comes out, but let’s say it’s harder to rank. Starting out just became harder.

Making one site, spending a good six or twelve months only to find out the site didn’t work isn’t possible for many. That means tools like Long Tail Pro and others are going to feel like pain, since less people will try to get into this market or the the quality of the customer will go down since most that will get info from old or new get rich schemes. Since the quality people most will already have the tool or the tools they like.

Or the other option, this isn’t a big deal. Time will tell, or maybe they will scale back since it hit quality sites too. Tools will either change, and become more useful. The question remained will emtering the sense become harder resulting in fewer people coming into the area.

Disclaimer, I’m talking about non-trainned SEO.


I agree here, making half a dozen sites in 6-2 months only to find them go nowhere is just not an option for many including me.

When I search on G, I always look for the emd because that represents what i’m searching for, am now noticing a lot of useless youtube videos on first page which I never click on anyway.

Time will tell what happens

Jason Ansley

Spencer, I am listening to the interview you did today with MikefromMaine. Good stuff.

I noticed that my partial match domains have faired better too.

Building off your statement re: BillsZone could rank for an unrelated keyword; it will be interesting to see if Google targets PMDs next.

Jason Ansley

Spencer Haws

Yep, the one thing we know for sure is that there WILL be more google updates down the road.


Great timing for this post. I just noticed recently a few of my niche sites just crashed in ranking. They went from first page to 20th page all of a sudden. Had no idea what it was. Thought it could have been the ads I put on the site but it was the EMD. Oh well.

Time to focus on my authority website.


The question I am struggling with is that if this wasn’t a penalty I don’t understand why a couple of my sites tanked so far for long tail keywords as well. I understand loosing rank for the EMD keyword but I also lossed significantly on longer tailed keywords for the same sites.

Its early to say the total impact but it looks like 5/50 sites were CRUSHED – 20-30 visitors/day and now at 0-1 visitors / day. While the rest of my sites were not affected. I didn’t have any sites that had a significant increase.

Authority sites definitely seem like the way to go to provide value and be more resistant to Google Updates. But who knows what the next update has in store for us.

I don’t think any one strategy will work forever so Spencer your approach of testing and then scaling makes a lot of sense.



same thing happened to my site. I’m still on the 1st page of google for my main keyword, which is an EMD.

But I’ve lost significant amount of traffic from my long tail keywords, which I didn’t realize was about half of my traffic till today.


Great post Spencer! 110 EMDs of mine tanked! I think I will build the ones that are still making money to authority sights and see how that goes. Maybe add more content to the emds that got hit to see if that makes a difference…I doubt it though.

Spencer Haws

Sorry to hear about your sites Barry…


Oh this explains why my blogspot blog which was getting 250 visitors a day plunged down to 70 visitors a day.Google penalizing its sub-domain like a retard that slaps itself in the face.

Just yesterday as if by prophecy,I bought a new domain for my site because I felt I needed a brandable domain name,what a coincidence!

Ralph | Niche Websites

Ow man.. my Long Tail Pro Review site has taken a nosedive with the latest update.

I have a larger authority site which didn’t do a hell of a lot but others have just tanked.. I wrote it on my blog, hope you don’t mind linking..

I have a few other sites in the “exact name workout” niche and those haven’t been affected nearly as bad as my review website for Long Tail Pro.. which is the example I wrote about in my blogpost.. pretty annoying….

Spencer Haws

Hey Ralph, sorry to hear that some of your sites tanked…never fun. I totally know what it feels like.


Hey Spencer,

I have no doubt that you’ll figure this out. I rely heavily on your opinion, Adsense Flippers , Justin and Joe’s opinion as well as a handful of others so I’m curious for more on how you’ll be moving forward.

I began building Niche Sites about ten months ago and it’s been a bumpy ride to say the least. In addition to the major learning curve I had to overcome the constant algorithim changes left me with an uneasy feeling and I decided to abandon that strategy for the most part 4 months.

I think the Adsense Accounts Bans were what put me over the edge. I had very minor Adsense Success so I would be lying if I said that I didn’t consider building mores sites on occasion. I decided to build an Authority Type site after reading one of the best articles on the subject.

I’m up to about 45 pieces of content in three months and at minimum I’d like to have a core article base of about 50-75. I will then build on that base with regular blog posts just to keep the blog active.

May I ask what monetization strategy you’ll be incorporating? I’m assuming it’ll vary a bit depending on Niche.

I’m going to employ the Internet Business Mastery Approach and try to build relationships and an email list initially however there’s part of me that thinks I should just offer excellent affiliate offers for first time visitors since i’m targeting many keywords with High search volume and may never see these people again.

I was able to get about 7 sites to the first page of google using Long Tail Pro and “Build a Niche Site Empire” by Adsense Flippers so I’m hoping that I can replicate some of that success on my blog with many keywords.

I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing the content you guy’s will be putting out since it’s more in line with what I’m doing now.

Best of Luck Everyone


Spencer Haws

Sounds like you are on your way to building something quality. I say stick with it and continue to make it a valuable resource…


Glad to see you focusing on authority site at last, good luck spencer!


I am considering launch a domain haha


Insightful post! I totally agree with what you’re saying and think the same thing myself. I just got into niche sites a few months ago after Penguin and I went into it with the authority site or nothing approach. I guess not being around when things were different helped me make this decision but in the end a good test is to just put yourself in the shoes of a reader. Would they want to waste their time on a content thin site? No. And that’s why things are turning towards quality content. It was inevitable.


Hi Spencer
nice article you wrote down here. I do like the way you analyse your sites. however you have your adsense banned by google, but you said above that you still make earning through adsense…can anyone join adsense again after got banned by google…?
anyway thanks for you inspiring post spencer:D


Hi Totok, from what I’ve seen, you certainly can successfully get an account again – but your chances of doing so are definitely increased by making common sense changes in your application details (different address used for example).

Joe @ How I Got Rich

Hi Spencer. Great write up of what might have happened.

With your new sites of 25-30 pages how much would you be looking to spend on setting one up?

Would it be $20 per article = $600 plus link building. Perhaps $1000 for a site that would make $500 per month sounds pretty good.

Would these all be adsense sites or promoting products?



Yep, I agree, those are the key questions I ask myself as well.

$500/month seems far too optimistic as an average though? I saw Spencer talk about $20/site per month somewhere else.

Also not sure what lies behind the preference for Adsense as the monetisation method – doesn’t affiliate marketing offer greater revenue potential?

Spencer Haws

It all depends which pays more. In MANY markets, adsense is the best route by far. In other, affiliate marketing is much better. Obviously in almost all markets, owning your own product is the highest paying option…

Spencer Haws

That’s correct, I may spend anywhere between $500 to $1000 to set a site up. This may be less if I decide to write some of the articles myself or do more of the link building myself. Buts that a feasible range. Right now I have 2 ideas for sites, one is adsense based, the other is info-product based. I’m working on the first right now. They definitely don’t need to be adsense based sites.


$500 per month adsense earnings from 1 site is definitely doable, but it is a lot of work!

Im almost tempted to go the Pat Flynn approach and focus on a handle of super authority sites. Have you seen his earnings this month. I almost puked they were so high!


Spencer I like the new aproach. Now that it appears that an EMD isn’t important, has anyone considered using expired domains as a starting point to build a niche authority site especially if the content is similar to the previous site. The existing back links and domain age might provide a good head start to ranking. What is your opinion?

Spencer Haws

I’m sure this has been considered by many. I know I’ve thought about it, but I prefer to just start with a clean slate…

Matthew Allen

I’ve considered an approach similar to yours for a few of my domains, except that I don’t do this full-time and don’t have that kind of time to put into this. I was really excited at the prospect of building small sites then letting them sit and watch the passive income roll in. It seems Google is giving a lot more credit now to larger sites that are updated more often. Definitely time to re-think strategies going forward and figure out a way that passive income can still be created with niche sites despite Googles latest update. Looking forward to reading more about your strategies Spencer.


Quality content has nothing to do with it any more. You’l find that as soon as your niche site hits 100 visitors a day you’ll get a slapdown. Google is now loving forums and answers types of site. So start a forum!

Spencer Haws

Hmmm, interesting thought. Not sure I can agree with this without some hard evidence though.

Randy Layman

Completely disagree with that theory….

Google is now loving news style sites that are fluid.


From the looks of my website, it seems I’ve lost many of long tail traffic although maintaining my ranking for my main keyword, which is an EMD.

I don’t understand how that works because isn’t an EMD penalty suppose to target my exact keywords. I’ve also just realized how much traffic I’ve been getting from long tail keyword.

Has this happened to anyone else?


I launched 2 new niche sites this weekend, both EMDs with low competition. Both of these sites have already made it to the 2nd page of google with no back links and a couple of articles.

My theory is that google took away the EMD advantage AND penalized EMD sites with shady back links. Avoid the shady back links, have decent quality (answer your visitors query) don’t overdo the ads, and we all should be fine.

I’ll post updates as I’m further able to test my theory.

Sunil l Building Passive Income

nice update Spencer.

the EMD penalty hit some of my websites. I do agree that it is not a penalty rather disqualification of benefit. but that said, if the site was built with KW in mind then the impact could be/has been devastating.

on the other hand, this will encourage people to focus more on branding, establishing a title/name that makes the most sense for their business rather than developing content strictly to answer specific search engine queries.

Google indeed doesn’t want a single entity owning/running multiple mediocre sites. rather, the focus is clearly on favoring larger sites that are truly authoritative – and to make a site like that one needs to put in the time and effort, automatically reducing the time and effort taken to create other web properties.

essentially in all of its moves, it is clear that Google is cornering online entrepreneurs (in a good way) into establishing large authoritative sites by leaving them with no other option.

wish you all the best with the change of direction and continue to keep us posted

Randy Layman

Thank you Spencer for your update.

We were fortunate that our sites didn’t take a hit and actually a few increased in ranking. I’ve been skeptical about EMD since the Panda/Penguin changes. Primary reason was that it appeared to me that Google was starting to put a lot more emphasis on quality content and fluid websites instead of small EMD with little solid content that were also static. It appears that a lot of those who took a tremendous hit were the EMD static sites with little content. IMO, the future players will be more authority sites with fluid content (ie news sites) that Google values as a solid resource for their searches. That being said, I still believe that there is a market for the smaller niche sites if they are providing quality content that continues to be fluid instead of static…..


Good Points Randy. I’ve been studying some of my Competitors sites and I’ve been taking mental notes as to how the site flowed and what my experience was. Some of the sites obviously put ads before their visitors and I can wait to build something much better.

Spencer Haws




Would you mind elaborating on your site structure and what you might be doing different that has contributed to your success.


Hey Spencer,

Most of my EMDs have 1 page of content (800-1200 words) and 32 sights got tanked and 15 survived. Do you think adding more content and targeting related keywords to the ones that survived would make it an authority sight? Thanks

Spencer Haws

Its possible, but its also likely that the site is over-optimized for that one keyword. Perhaps tone down the optimization both on-page and off-page for that one keyword and then add additional content targeting other keywords.


I think this is the right strategy. All of my niche sites with EMD were hit – except for those with a lot of original content.


What did you have on the ones that didnt have original content then?


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.

That’s clearly a case of exact match domain as iPhone 5 is a huge keyword

Ming Jong Tey

Hi Spencer,

My gut feel is to avoid exact match since they are getting targeted. We never what’s the true meaning of “low quality” in the eye of Google.

I am sure there are a lot of rater from Google start flagging the EMD sites and those sites will be undergone manual review.

I will be choosing generic domain name just to be on the safe side.



I cant believe that Google have actually targeted EMDs as some of them can be perfectly valid.

What I do believe is that they have removed and reduced the EMD bonus, so that its more about your content determining what your site is about and not the domain.


Hi Spencer,

I really like your site and and am drawn to your authenticity, honesty, and intelligent insights that I see in all your posts.

My question is: So what about all the newbies who bought the longtail pro during the 7-day promo? Your videos/ training are pointing us toward the direction of making niche sites with emd, 5-10 pages of content, and other strategies that you seem to be scrapping off already based on this post.

I’ve just started following you and was really planning to ‘do it the way you did it’. But with all these changes that you are planning to implement, are you at least going to update the longtail prog pdf and the training videos so that we won’t be wasting our time building websites ‘the wrong way’?


Spencer Haws

The PDF and training videos are brand new (2013); its current stuff. This post is old.


I think it is having EMDs with crap articles and links that is the key to the slap.

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