Google’s Sneaky Vince-like Update

At the end of September and early October people were all atwitter about Google’s Exact-Match Domain (EMD) update. For years if you had an exact match domain for a popular keyword it took very little effort to rank out highly for that keyword. So, if you wanted to rank out for “buy shoes” your chances of ranking highly would be greatly increased if you had a site on For a lot of small time marketers and people who make money on affiliate sites, this was a pretty big blow.

But during all of that hubbub, Google has continuously been launching updates to Penguin and Panda and we really started seeing these results in October for some pretty generalized commercial searches. For example, a huge retailer like Dick’s Sporting Goods wasn’t going to show up for a specialized retail term like “Alabama apparel” where the rankings were stacked with University bookstores and specialized retailers like Crimson Tide Planet.

If you take a look at this search now, you’ll notice a lot of big name players showing pretty deep interior pages.

alabama apparel serp

Hello big brands!

Oddly, I’ve heard very little about the effects of this update. Granted, Matt Cutts has gone so far as to say this has affected a very small percentage of total search queries, but those that have seem to be favoring big brands much the same way the Vince update did in 2009.

Interestingly, it seems domain strength is likely a deciding factor in the changing SERPs. A look at the Target page above shows zero links in Open Site Explorer, but the Target domain shows a staggering 94 in terms of domain authority. I, for one, have felt this was a glaring fault in the Google algorithm for years, as deeper category pages for big retailers got shut out of the game almost entirely. There still seems to be a healthy mix of specialized results and big brands, so hopefully this balance can be maintained.

A slightly more odd variation of this recent change in the SERPs happened when I was speaking with the marketing team at Manitou Pontoon Boats (admittedly a client of ours) when we noticed the sudden appearance of eBay near the top of search rankings. This came from literally nowhere – though to a degree it makes sense. The top of this SERP was dominated by the major manufacturers as well as a few sites for shopping for used pontoons. eBay, of course, is a massive marketplace for used boats so it makes sense. But it was pretty jarring as they literally vaulted from complete obscurity to a top three listing.

Is this Vince Junior, or am I losing it in my old age?

Adam Henige

Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage Marketing, an online marketing company specializing in SEO, PPC and social media. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and SEOmoz.

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