Maybe I was an Exact Match Domain algorithm false positive?
I was still struggling with figuring out why all of my sites lost traffic on September 28, 2012. My sites aren’t exact match domains, and the content had never been affected by Panda (as far as I could tell). It is possible that with Panda 20 some factor that was helping me before got taken out, or something new that is now hurting me was added.
I kept reading on Webmasterworld some reports of people recovering from the Exact Match Domain by moving their sites to a different domain and doing a 301 redirect of the entire site. There were only a few reports, but they seemed positive so far. With other penalties, people have frequently reported temporary improvements after a domain redirect, only to find the penalty would catch up after several weeks, and usually the site was in even worse shape than before the redirect was done.
I would understand if an exact match domain recovered some after moving to a new domain name. I’ve always wondered whether it was possible that my domains somehow got classified as exact matches, even though most of my websites affected were not targeting the words in the domain name. Maybe just having too many links to your site with anchor text that matches the domain name was enough to trigger the filter?
I finally bit the bullet on this domain, moving it a few days ago. I was particularly irritated when I found out that my site was getting filtered for a search for “Sigmoid Freud”, showing only near the end of the search results. What the heck is that about? I’ve never done any active SEO for this domain, at least not any off-site optimization (ie, link building). However, I do run one of the SEO plugins to help with page titles and trying to avoid duplicate content, etc. I am not sure when that filter kicked in, but that seems like a ridiculous filter for this domain to have incurred. Like all of my other domains, this domain lost about 50% of its traffic instantly on September 28, 2012. I tried a few things but nothing helped. I’ve now changed the domain name, did a sitewide 301 redirect, and I went ahead and notified Google webmaster tools that I changed domains.
I did make a few other changes when I moved the domain. One thing I did was run a link checked to make sure I had no broken links. I did find about 15 links that were either broken or have since been redirected. I did fix those. I also had initially set-up a Google Plus account for Sigmoid Freud, but then reviewed their pseudonym policy and decided not to keep it. I may at some point claim authorship with my “real” identity, but I’m resisting that.
After about 5 days, Google has only included about 25% of the pages (according to the site: command). It seems today I’ve had an increase in traffic – getting more than double what I would normally get on a recent Monday. I’m cautiously optimistic that moving the domain may correct whatever “penalty” my site was getting from the Panda 20 / EMD update. I’m wondering how long to wait before I can be sure that the filter doesn’t follow to the new domain, as I’m thinking I may switch domains for my other sites that dropped on September 28. I hate to give up my long established domain names, but they don’t help nearly as much as getting good rankings in Google.