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"The Ides of March" Google Update
twinsrul




msg:36515
 12:01 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Like many others, my network of sites has been hit hard by this latest March google update. I have not been able to tell what has changed in the google algo & why my sites are ranking lower. Anyone here been able to beat this latest update? Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

 

Silent_Bob




msg:36516
 10:40 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm well and truly stumped by it. I've tried everything I can on-page - de-optimised some pages, over-optimised others, played with h1 and h2 tags etc.. and its done nothing to change my rankings at all - neither up nor down no matter what I've done. This suggests to me its more off page factors that are being given greater weight.

My main site is a shopping site. We have many competitors and we all sell pretty much the same items. No matter which item you type in on both the .com and .co.uk the same sites are appearing at the top. There's one site which we've basically switched places with. We were ranking 1-3 and they were ranking 10-20 and now its vice versa. Its not as simple as just PR though as all of us in the top 10 or 20 have PR4 or 5. A lot of the sites at the top for my keywords in the UK index at least are ones that dropped after Florida - spammy kind of sites. If google's efforts are to reduce spam, then they aren't doing a very good job of it. Nor are the results getting any more relevant.

My site offers an affiliate program, and one of our affiliates have basically created a whole site that just links to us with the affiliate url (we are going to put a stop to it in fact). I'd call it an affiliate farm, and yet they rank higher in google than we do. I'm getting pretty bored with google now. I think if yahoo's new search engine provides good results they have a great chance of taking over at the top.

DoppyNL




msg:36517
 10:52 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the change in the algorithm in march has to do with the quality of links to your site.

I've got 3 site's running, all using the same cms, in result only the content of the site's is different.

1 of those site's crashed to the end of the search results for my no 1 keyword for that site.
The results for the other 2 site's didn't change at all!

The site that dropped, links to about 40 different site's wich are all low quality in design and content. They also link back to me. Most of those site's don't even come up in google when you search them and if they do show up, it's not very high.
I can't do a thing about those other site's and I have to link to them, since that's what the entire site is about :)

Anyway, yesterday the site slowly increased a bit back to the top, and started turning up on the first 20 results.
Today it's back where it was again, and in some cases even better!

So it has probably to do with site's you link to and site's that link to you when you got hit just recently.
But if the site has value to users it will turn up again in the results, no doubt about it.

percentages




msg:36518
 10:55 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

>If google's efforts are to reduce spam, then they aren't doing a very good job of it. Nor are the results getting any more relevant.

No they are not!

Yahoo and MSN are showing largely the same results that Google showed in 2002. Google became popular because of these results.....and now it's two biggest competitors has them and Google doesn't.

Google has blown it big time in its war on SEO's. Google you need to learn from this lesson, if you survive it, move on to bigger things than fighting a few people who are trying to attract relevent users for relevant sites!

The Google PHD's went to war with the SEO barrow merchants, the barrow merchants have kicked their butts.....but will the Google PHD's learn?

irishaff




msg:36519
 11:00 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Off page factors:

1. The neighbourhood linking to you
2. The Semantics of the page the link is on
3. PR of the page.
4. Anchor text.

Anything else?

My own experience that is shifting around due to tweaking
off the page factors.

Irish

DoppyNL




msg:36520
 11:04 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't agree with the idea that Google results were better in the past and that they are losing ground.

Fact is that Google is working on his algorithm to filter out spam-site's.
This resulted several times in other site's being dropped in the results wich everybody screamed about.
but NOBODY screamed again when their site's came back up!
I've been dropped twice now, and on both occasions they came back on at least the same positions in 2 days!

This is a typical example of the negative being remembered better then the positive!

Lots of people are also forgetting that Google shows extremely recent search results, almost every time I search I can see the date of the items and lots of results where crawled in the last 5 days!
Both MSN and Yahoo! don't have this at the moment.
MSN is showing pages for my site wich are OVER 5 MONTHS OLD!
Yahoo! appears to be a bit more recent then that, but they don't come near to Google with this (yet).
Recent results are a MUST when it comes to good results.
I don't think both MSN and Yahoo! are at the level of Google in 2002, they are way more back, especially MSN!

Silent_Bob




msg:36521
 11:05 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Everyone is saying that quality backlinks are what is counting now, but explain this one:

I've just looked at the backlinks of the site that sits at #2 in the serps for most of my search terms. They have around 80 backlinks - 78 from themselves and 2 from the secure server their payment page sits on. How is that quality backlinks? No dmoz, no relevant sites. They have PR5 and rank higher than my site which has a dmoz and google directory listing, and around 40 quality links or pr4 or higher. Google have lost the plot.

DoppyNL




msg:36522
 11:19 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

@Silent_Rob:

It's not only the backlinks.
There are also other factors important.
The content of that site might be much better in Google's opinion.
If a site doesn't have backlinks that doesn't mean it can't be ranked high!
Perhaps you should get some backlinks to that site, it might be even ranked higher! (if possible). ;)

percentages




msg:36523
 11:20 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

>I don't think both MSN and Yahoo! are at the level of Google in 2002, they are way more back, especially MSN!

Well what can one say? MSN (Ink) isn't Google 2002.....well my SE reports says I had 28 of the top 30 sites on Google in 2002 and the same 28 in the top 30 on MSN today.

Odd thing.....but the same 28 show on Yahoo, ATW, AltaVista and AskJeeves....today......only ten of them make the top 30 on Google.

What is and isn't relevant is very subjective. All I know is that is that if the majority of SE's say it is relevant then either they are all wrong or Google is!

ntrance




msg:36524
 12:34 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Personally I get really annoyed with Google now, my sites fluctuate wildly for 2 keyword terms virtually every day. 3 KW terms we are rock solid.

Last year it was reasonably possible to look at a site above you and say "oh yeh, they have twice the backlinks" or "their PR is better than mine" or "their kw density is much higher" or even "damn thats a good site".

Now I have no idea why people are making page one anymore. It seems entirely random. If I didn't know better I would think IT IS entirely random...

hawk




msg:36525
 12:55 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Network of sites is surely penalized. Not matter if the theme is different. Cross linking hurts. Outbound/cross links to penalized sites hurts. No tricks needed as such. Google is doing this to discourage link exchange.

If someone links to you, u r professional. if u link back to him, then u r classified as friends. No fridnly neighbour hoods needed anymore. Why r u killing the bot.

Go for buying paid links and get all profesional recommendations. No use making friends.

Cheers

caveman




msg:36526
 2:04 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

The Google PHD's went to war with the SEO barrow merchants, the barrow merchants have kicked their butts.....but will the Google PHD's learn?

Based on twenty-something years of practical experience with a bunch of large companies, probably not.

It will need to come from one or more very senior managers with 'street smarts' -- math won't help them with this problem.

metrostang




msg:36527
 2:36 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Did someone say that Google is showing fresher results that MSN or Yahoo. Not the ones I see. When Google does show a fresh page from my site, it reverts to a previous version within a couple of days. MSN and Yahoo are both showing newer pages than Google.

This update (if thats what you call it) looks like a dial back to what Brandy was initially. Traffic and conversions are up in the past 24 hours, so it's a good thing. I'm just tired of the inconsistencies (subject of another thread).

My son-in-law told me he was researching a vacation destination one day and tried to go back to the same search the next day and couldn't duplicate it. He thought he had just forgotten the search terms he used. I told him he was seeing the new Google and to get used to it or try Yahoo.

Silent_Bob




msg:36528
 3:05 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)


It's not only the backlinks.
There are also other factors important.
The content of that site might be much better in Google's opinion.
If a site doesn't have backlinks that doesn't mean it can't be ranked high!
Perhaps you should get some backlinks to that site, it might be even ranked higher! (if possible). ;)

Its not my site actually, its a competitors - I probably should have made that more clear. Their site is just product descriptions copied from the various manufacturers. Our site is the exactly the same except we also have an articles section (which should surely mean we offer better content than they do?). Apart from our articles and the page design (menu and pictures) the two sites are almost identical. Before 12th March we were #1 and they were #2. Now they are #1 and we are #10-20.

SyntheticUpper




msg:36529
 3:15 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

One good thing about the Ides update was that my spammy competitor went off the radar, and I took his high spot. But he's back today - he just put a load of blank space below the part of his index page that appears on screen to the user, and inserted this crappy 'site map' with multiple links and mentions of manufacturer's names. (Imagine you sell car tyr*s - he's got: car t*re for this model, car ty*e for that model, car tyr* for that model... there's about 50 of these links. And they're all the same t*re.

So he's back - In prime position after a couple of days thought.

For heaven's sake G, whatever you're doing, it simply ain't working ;)

Why no put it on hold, work out how to do it *reliably* and *properly*, and then try again in a year's time.

It's just looking silly at the moment. And the decent sites are suffering.

[edited by: SyntheticUpper at 3:21 pm (utc) on Mar. 22, 2004]

HarryM




msg:36530
 3:20 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Until recently I thought changes to the Google algo were affecting commercial sites the most, and as the traffic was increasing for my own non-commercial site I was relatively safe. But no longer.

On 16 Feb I did a search on "kw1 kw2 of kw3" (a well known non-commercial phrase), and my page on this subject was #4 in SERPS and seemed to be logically placed.

But on 20 March the same search put my page at #7 and I could see no logic in the results. The #1 page was on an unrelated subject and merely mentioned kw1 and kw2 in the text with no mention of kw3. None of the new pages above mine were as relevant as mine which is actually about the subject and has the phrase in the title, the meta title, the h1 header, and in the text.

But today my page has climbed to #1. Naturally I'm pleased, but it does make me concerned that I am vulnerable to further tweaks in the Google algo.

percentages




msg:36531
 3:26 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

>It's just looking silly at the moment.

Ain't it just!

Google had an algo that largely worked over 2 years ago. But no......their PHD's have to get too smart for their own good and come up with some new ideas.

So they come up with the semantic web, they come up with ignoring page titles, they forget the user and they proclaim war on SEO's.......where does that take them?.....down the PAN!

Now Yahoo and MSN show quality results and Google doesn't!

[edited by: percentages at 3:28 pm (utc) on Mar. 22, 2004]

SyntheticUpper




msg:36532
 3:27 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Sometimes I wonder if G has actually lost control of the serps.

Such a situation must be easy to exploit by spammers, and even turn previously honest webmasters into spammers just to keep up.

I've held the line so far, but if G doesn't understand quality control, then why should I care about it?

If spammy 'site-maps' pasted onto index pages do the trick, then that's what I'll do - I have little choice if I am not to be sh*gged by those less honest than myself.

That's the tragedy of this, so-called, 'progress.'

Oh, and BTW, if G cared about link farms / multiple cross-linking / link schemes / affiliates etc. then why are sites like Am*zon and K*lkoo dominating the serps in areas they never previously did before?

It doesn't add up. But of course we all know that.

Spica




msg:36533
 3:42 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I noticed that if you search for keyword1 keyword2 (without the quotation marks, which most people never use), Google does not give priority anymore to sites that actually have the 'keyword1 keyword2' string. They used to, which made the results much better for the average surfer when 'keyword1 keyword2' refers to something very specific, and pages that only talk about keyword1 and keyword2 are irrelevant. It's probably a consequence of the new algo giving priority to sites that are 'authoritative' on either keyword1 OR keyword2, but only mention the other word in passing. As a consequence, the current results for this type of search are often extremely bad.

Chndru




msg:36534
 3:50 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

please dont make every google thread, "i hate G or love G" thread.
We just had one, last week Google results better again? Or worse? [webmasterworld.com]

GoogleGuy




msg:36535
 3:50 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hey SyntheticUpper, the last time I saw a post of yours I checked the email and spam report queues to see if you'd sent in any reports. You hadn't, so I suggested contacting us if you wanted us to see specific feedback. I just checked again and still no emails or spam reports from you. If you'd prefer to post here with no details about the searches you do that's your choice, but the offer still stands if you want to send specific searches or spam reports to be checked out. I'm curious which searches you and ILuvSearchEngines dislike so much. :)

I wouldn't call this an update, because no new algorithms have been pushed. In an SEO world in which search engines update their index every day, there's always going to be new data going out. That's one of the reasons that I advise people to spend less time on their toolbar PR, rankings, or a single keyword phrase and more time seeing how they do across several search engines, seeing if they can be relevant for diverse phrases, and on looking at their logs to figure out what keywords users are typing to really find the site.

sarahp




msg:36536
 3:59 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

My site was hit by the "March Update" but nows its back... well back to number 2 from position 80 or so... was number 1 before March but i'll settle for 2...

Anyone else seen there site come back?

GoogleGuy - i'm surprised to hear there was no change to the algo since my site dropped from 1 to 80... I understand that new sites are added but theres no way the 79 sites previously above me were more relevent to the subject than my site...

allanp73




msg:36537
 4:01 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just can't understand why Google is sticking with these crappy results for so long. "City widgets" searches are the most affected and produce the worst results. For non-filtered niche terms Google is as good as ever. The thing that amazes me is the level of filtering. I kept track of my competition for several years for hundreds of terms. Both my sites and theirs were affected the majority of the top 200 sites are gone (I mean out of the top1000). Searching results in hundreds of directories that point to these lost sites. My daily information research requires me to search on city terms, now Google is useless. It has forced me to use Yahoo. I hope that people cut their advertising on Google and more people start using Yahoo or other alternatives and make Google see the error in their ways.
So far my traffic would have dropped 60-70%, Yahoo's top placement helped to make the total loss only 50-60%. The problem is #1 Yahoo and #1 Google are not comparable. A #1 on Google provides four or fives times more traffic than Yahoo's top placement. I feel that the only way to recover is to get Google back to normal.

What does Googleguy have to say? Do the complaints of SEO's even matter?

Zeberdee




msg:36538
 4:04 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

"Google had an algo that largely worked over 2 years ago."

I too subscribe to that view. I would say it worked very well until last year, but since then the standard has declined steadily and noticably.

I know too little to speculate why, but as a user I was far happier with what Google gave me 12 months ago than I am now.

allanp73




msg:36539
 4:11 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Googleguy wrote:
"I advise people to spend less time on their toolbar PR, rankings, or a single keyword phrase and more time seeing how they do across several search engines, seeing if they can be relevant for diverse phrases, and on looking at their logs to figure out what keywords users are typing to really find the site."

I look at hundred of phrases. The problem is my business requires a city keyword or phrase. For these types of searches Google is entirely useless. I am not complaining out of sour grapes but just stating a fact. The results are terrible, only slightly relevant directories are listed no actual content sites. Googleguy, is Google moving away from recommending content and prefers directories? I am surprised you are saying "...seeing how they do across several search engines" are you recommend that people just give up focusing on Google. If the users started diversifying their searches, I would do this. Actually, my sites rank very well on MSN, Yahoo, Wisenut, AlltheWeb, Looksmart, etc. only Google seems to have a policy which de-values content.

SyntheticUpper




msg:36540
 4:16 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi GG,

Hey SyntheticUpper, the last time I saw a post of yours I checked the email and spam report queues to see if you'd sent in any reports. You hadn't, so I suggested contacting us if you wanted us to see specific feedback. I just checked again and still no emails or spam reports from you. If you'd prefer to post here with no details about the searches you do that's your choice, but the offer still stands if you want to send specific searches or spam reports to be checked out. I'm curious which searches you and ILuvSearchEngines dislike so much. :)

Much appreciated, and you seem a fair person. But this level of spamming is too minor for Google to deal with. You people like to deal with this at the algo level - and the algo(s) is (are) the problem. It is deliberate borderline spamming on his part, but unfortunately the serps now seem to be full of it.

I have reported this site before, twice, through the 'usual channels', but now that he's removed his hidden text, there's little anyone can do - he is just playing the algo for all its worth.

My point is that his little 'tricks' shouldn't be working in a sophisticated algo. He also uses bare URLs as links, containing keywords. Once again though, not exactly 'hidden' - just way off the bottom of the page, where no-one will ever scroll down to.

Your problems with the algo appear to be links based - I do wish you would sort it out.

Thanks for your concern anyway :)

varya




msg:36541
 4:23 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have definitely noticed changes in the serps recently, as a surfer, and not good ones.

In February, I researched the bibligraphies of a couple of hundred authors.

Early in March a bizarre hard drive episode corrupted my file (which I hadn't backed up as I was still working on it), and I had to repeat my research.

I had a much, much harder time finding the information the second time.

There was a particular case that really disgusted me. I was searching for "authorfirstname authorlastname bibliography." The first result was on a domain with the word sex in it (this is a children's book author). Upon visiting the page, there is no content whatsoever. There's a list of search results, along the lines of "Find your 'authorfirstname authorlastname bibliography' at xx.com" and "Buy your 'authorfirstname authorlastname bibliography' at ****.com".

And a big ol' Adsense skyscraper down the side of the page.

AS for my own primary site, it has dropped from #1 to #13-14 for the most relevant phrase. Every one of the sites listed above has, as it's only content on that topic, a link to my site.

SyntheticUpper




msg:36542
 4:28 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

varya

<<Every one of the sites listed above has, as it's only content on that topic, a link to my site.

This is a sad story.

It's about time someone finally 'shot the messenger' in this algo.

metrostang




msg:36543
 4:53 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>>Googleguy - you said - "In an SEO world in which search engines update their index every day, there's always going to be new data going out."

The changes we are seeing now may in fact be due to Google adding different pages to it's index. That makes sense with some of what I'm seeing, but the different pages don't appear to be fresh in many cases. Three days ago these searches showed fresh pages, but now are showing previous versions and some are no longer in the index.

In the past couple of weeks, my site has been crawled extensively, fresh pages show up and then revert back. Is Google having database problems or is there some logical reason for this?

adfree




msg:36544
 5:33 pm on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Getting tired of all this chasing of trends up and down, high and low, I have only concentrated the last couple of months to establish links across my sites that really do make a lot of sense for users, referring related info to each other, adding content where valuable etc.

Also I am spending more time to remove cross-linkage and bad neighborhood links.

Now, I am not growing but don't decline either and hold my positions in terms of overall traffic and revenue generated.

Not panicking and doing the right thing, especially not spending too much energy on the single keyword wastes less time and becomes more rewarding cuz less stressful.

Eventually it will contribute to a much better set of sites that make sense to users, this is what SEs will perceive valuable today and in the long run.

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