Been doing a lot of research over the last week since the 'EMD slap' and I think I can now see what's really been happening. It started after I noticed that some of my EMDs had actually gone UP in the rankings - one in particular that Google really used to hate and outright refused to rank at all is now #1 for it's keyphrase after the 'slap'! So, have EMDs been 'hit' as such? No - they've just had the artificial boost that came from the EMD phrase removed. As an aside, Bing/Yahoo are still rocking like it's 1998 - no slap there. In fact, the whole EMD slap started at least two months ago and what we're seeing now is just a bigger rollout of the same. What HAS really started to be pushed by Google is Link Authority - big time. Niche sniper EMD sites normally don't have any kind of incoming link authority - they're 'fire and forget' most of the time, and that's why they've suffered in particular. Sheer number of links does not equal link authority, although it helps. What's really required is page authority on the linking sites, and very few blogs/article directories/bookmarking sites etc. provide that. It's also the reason why Wikipedia/Livestrong/eHow have done so well - they're internal linking pages usually have loads of individual page authority so they've benefited out of all proportion to any content quality they offer. So, bottom line, it's still all about links. EMDs absolutely do still offer advantages, but only where they're well linked with a good proportion of incoming keyphrase links (that's another red herring that's sent loads of people on the wrong road). Those Webmaster messages we were getting from Google really were important - sorting out link quality now needs to be an absolute priority. And as for social signals, I can see absolutely no linkage between them and the SERPs at present. That will doubtless change next year, but it's not there yet.