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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.


2 thoughts on “Maybe I was an Exact Match Domain algorithm false positive?”

  1. As an update, as of today Google Webmaster Tools shows that the sitemap submitted 87 pages/posts, and so far 66 are indexed on the new domain. Under the traffic tab under search queries, it shows that there were 500 impressions and 16 clicks on 6/11/13. For this low traffic site, I think that is probably pretty close to what was typical before Panda 20 / EMD update. In comparison, before I redirected the domain, the old domain was recently getting under 50 impressions and less than 10 clicks per day.

    I went ahead and tried redirecting one of my other websites that was impacted on 9/28/12. We’ll see if I get a similar recovery there, and most importantly, I’ll have to wait and see if this recovery lasts.

  2. This site had continued to do very well with growing traffic until August 25 when it showed a loss of about half of the traffic. It’s still a bit early to tell, but the traffic is better than it was before I redirected the domain, but it seems that something about the site is causing it to loose traffic when Google does certain updates. Perhaps the content isn’t fresh enough, or some of the topics are things that need a higher trust rank (or something like that) in order to stay ranked. I wasn’t convinced that this particular site was a casualty of the exact match domain as the old domain didn’t really have any keywords in the domain name. At this point, three other domains I’ve redirected are still doing okay. One did have a slight drop on August 25, but not nearly the same extent as this domain. The other domains I redirected I would understand being exact match domain collateral as there are potential keywords in the domain names, even though the websites aren’t about those keywords. Of course, this was the first domain I redirected, so the others may soon follow with a loss of traffic too.

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