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A real Google conundrum
Established site losing all its Google traffic
diamondgrl




msg:769984
 1:07 am on Mar 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have a well-established site that over the past few days has lost almost all its Google referals. I think I know what's wrong but have no idea how to fix it.

First some background. The site is a well-established, deep-information site with many, many thousands of pages and a PR 6 on the home page. While we have attempted to get some links to us, most of the hundreds of links to us are spontaneous from a variety of professionals who find our content useful. Therefore, we're not at all dependent on the "latest" SEO tricks - totally white hat.

Up until this week, we got >15000 Google referals a day. We are not dependent on ranking for "blue widgets" or any other identifiable term - our referals come from thousands of different keywords a day which reflects the diversity of our content. Therefore, only a massive drop in the SERPs across the board can cause a >90% drop in referals, as we are seeing.

We still are in the index with the same number of pages and our backlinks don't seem changed. We still have the same PR showing throughout the site (for whatever that's worth since if there are changes, they probably wouldn't show immediately anyway).

Here's the kicker: Another site we own, let's call it widgetville.com, is showing up ahead of our real site, widgetville.org, in the SERPs when you search Google for "Widgetville". The higher widgetville.com site is shown without title or description. Widgetville.com has been 301 redirected to widgetville.org. Widgetville.com does have a backlink or two out in the world, but not the hundreds that the real site, widgetville.org, has so I don't understand the higher ranking.

If you search for "a bunch of widget words that you find on the front page", three other web sites who quote our mission statement appear on the page and our page doesn't. However, if you click on the link to show "omitted" results, we are listed as the omitted page.

In a way, it seems almost like our home page has been hijacked by our own non-functioning site. And it also seems to be like the whole canonical root problem that trips up some site owners except in our case it is between two domains, not a problem of Google getting confused between widgetville.com and widgetville.com/index.html.

We've had this problem before - a year ago - and I queried Google about the problem. I was told that it was a problem on their end, not mine, and they would fix it. The widgetworld.com listing was removed and within weeks, my traffic grew from a trickle to where I started hiring people to deal with the blossoming new customer base. Now all of that is threatened.

So, anyone want to take a crack at explaining this or giving advice on how to handle it?

I have taken one step to see what happens. I've removed the 301 redirect from widgetville.com and put a simple sentence on the page that says to click on the link to widgetville.org. I did this to disassociate widgetville.com from widgetville.org in case Google was somehow seeing duplicate content from the 301. Not sure how that would happen exactly since that is the prefered method of dealing with pages that are no longer valid, but this whole thing throws me for a loop.

 

Spine




msg:770104
 6:30 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wow, my pre-coffee grammar was awful in that post above.

I also have a re-direct, in my case from non-www. to the www. version, it's been there since fall.

I did have a dmoz listing that pointed to the non-www domain for years, but I had them change it on February 18th of this year. The Google directory doesn't show the change though.

Just a week or so prior to loosing most of my traffic on March 23rd, I moved my deliberately mid-nineties code into the 21st century. I used CSS for layout and text attributes, where as before I'd only lightly used it for text in the past.

I thought a basic style old school site with valid HTML was a good way to go (KISS), but I moved to CSS to make the site look better for visitors, and to reduce some minor tables related code clutter (it was already fairly clean).

I've since moved back to the more vanilla html version this week, although my gut tells me this drop and the September 23 drop have nothing to do with my on-page site factors, and more to do with Google, since others dropped around the same time.

arubicus




msg:770105
 6:30 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

Neither have we. I looked at your site europe and did a site:www and site:without wwww and notice that is displays correctly for you.

I myself had this fix for years (301 being sent) but doing site:www and without www it is just a plain mess where it used to display correctly.

[edited by: arubicus at 6:36 pm (utc) on April 20, 2005]

cyberfyber




msg:770106
 6:35 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

EFV,

(just to throw my 2 cents worth in),

Likewise, my visitorship dropped 75% on/around the March 23 date. Since then, without doing anything 'cept continuing to add more content as I always do, I'm now back to 50% of my normal numbers.

Of course losing loads and loads of money, but here's what I think:

You know things are still awfully awry with Google when:

- When a site that's replaced your #1 rank for a key phrase has that phrase only in their page title and nothing which even comes close in the mere 4 sentences they've got on their page....LITERALLY!

- When a search for a HIGH LEVEL Well Known National Military Event in my area brings back as #1 a site focused on a nation which may or may not be our enemy and whose page has nothing more than links.

- When searches for other relevant city's events brings back within the top three, a site that's got no creative / original value 'cept the skill of being able to frame every other relevant Legit site under the Sun in that City...something which pretty much anyone can do!...well, almost.

I could go on and on, but these sorts of indicators are what give me a heck of alot of hope that things are just temporarily wrong with Google.

arubicus




msg:770107
 6:40 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree. But if these changes brought about any penalties and drops from the index, it can be a loooong time before sites can get back in.

[edited by: arubicus at 6:43 pm (utc) on April 20, 2005]

europeforvisitors




msg:770108
 6:40 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

I myself had this fix for years (301 being sent) but doing site:www and without www it is just a plain mess where it used to display correctly. At that old coming back. New content on old 301 url's

It's a mess, all right. I'm seeing 1,540 unwanted site:www.mysite.com results (mostly without descriptions) in Google today, compared to 578 yesterday and 759 a few days ago. At least the number of non-www pages has been declining, as it should be (since Google has been listing a number about three times greater than the number of pages on my site).

If Google is using a black box these days, that black box needs more human supervision.

Spine




msg:770109
 6:45 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

Reasons like that are why I'm using Yahoo! right now.

I have a site that is all about current events, and Google is giving me no love these days when I'm doing research.

If I want more information about something current, Google only returns a few 'bbc' 'cnn' type resources these days, and some irrelevant spam or semi-relevant outdated info.

With the other guys you get the news sources, but you also see other peoples 'joe average' sites that are relevant, sites that have been recently writing about a topic and don't have SEOs or people to worry about PR and thousands of backlinks.

I'm not just throwing this out here from a mindset of sheer bitterness (well maybe a little), but I really can't find as much info on some things as I'd like.

arubicus




msg:770110
 7:37 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

EPV - Yours is pure clean compared to mine!

Just a heap of a mess. Still nobody explained why the 301 redirect url's are showing new content. This just floors me. If google treated 301's correctly then this shouldn't happen. If it does it gets me to wonder if it can be penalized in some way or even eliminate the real page. If if it can or there is something else screwy, then 301 www fixes can also carry the same results thus removing the main urls or penalizing them. Creating a pagerank, association, or penalty trickle down effect or just a site wide spam/dupe content penalty. Enough of these 301 redirects on sub pages can do the same.

If they ARE associating the 2 pages, removal of one may affect the other. So if I 404 or 410 the redirecting URL the other may be considered gone also. This is one of the things I suspect may have happened but still not sure.

Musicarl




msg:770111
 12:34 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I had a similar experience to what Diamondgrl went through. We have over 4000 pages of deep, diverse content, and until about mid-March, Google was rewarding us with a steady increase in referrals. We were doing well enough to buy our own server, and as soon as we did, our traffic took a 60% hit. I guess it will take us a lot longer to pay off that server.

The good news is that this has made us do a lot of housekeeping. We'll get those 301s set up and change our relative links to absolute.

Question:

If we have a test site that contains the same content as the main site, will Google punish us?

Example:
www.domain.com/contentpage.asp
vs
www.domain.com/test/contentpage.asp

arubicus




msg:770112
 1:46 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't chance or just keep google off of one of them.

taps




msg:770113
 8:17 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Musicarl: I think they will punish you for duplicate content if there is the same content in test as there is in /.

But this could be easy to fix: Set up a robots.txt and disallow /test/:

User-agent: Googlebot*
Disallow: /test/

Make sure to check the robots.txt with a good validator. Check the syntax three times and read about robots.txt.

After that use Google's url console to remove the duplicate content.

Oops - almost forgot: Check if Google has any pages of your /test/ indexed. If not, your problem may be otherwise.

janethuggard




msg:770114
 2:37 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

It could be that the 60% punishment was as simple as putting up his own server. According to Google, hosting company and length of domain reg is a part of the neighborhood sector.

Major hosting companys and long term domain registration show stability and dedication to the business.

A new server, new to the web, would be viewed as unreliable, and not nearly as favorable as a long term icon of the web. This might be reason enough for a drop in rankings.

Just a thought. Sometimes people in WW tend to over intelluctualized a problem, and miss the obvious.

Romeo




msg:770115
 9:28 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

A few days ago I wrote here that I tried to get rid of some old convenience-301 URLS which should not be in the SERPs, but still show in the Google index with old cache data for many months.

After reading the thoughts of Arubicus and others here, that by nuking an old 301ed URL thru the Google's removal tool, the actual page the 301 points to could be at risk, and after reading some even more alerting comments in [webmasterworld.com...] about this, I stopped.

So far, the Java-bot came for 2 days every 4...6 hours to check.
It now finally got a 301 again and the removal-request status in the google/removal list changed from pending to denied.

I want to retract all I ever said about sending crafted 404/410s for old 301-URLs to the googlebot.
"Don't try this at home, kids."
Sorry for having added to the confusion.

I now will live with those old phantom URLs and silently hope, that Google once will get it and remove that old mess by a mass drop action of that long gone zombie stuff themselves.

If they would implement the 301/302 more correctly by not mixing up old URLs and actual URL or a page, the index quality would get better in two ways: no old gone zombie stuff showing up, and the saved space may be re-used for even newer and fresher content.

Regards,
R.

diamondgrl




msg:770116
 12:39 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well, good news. As of Friday night, Google referals are back to "normal". No idea why it suddenly got better.

Since new Google threads haven't been approved this weekend, maybe lots of others are seeing major increases but it seems like some knob was flipped to fix whatever was ailing my site. I frankly don't notice any difference in the SERPs.

joeduck




msg:770117
 12:56 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great news for you Diamondgrl!

We've not been as fortunate and have lost almost all G referrals since Feb 2. Down from 50k to about 1k daily despite G telling us "no penalty on your site".

Was your main change putting up the 301 redirection?

europeforvisitors




msg:770118
 1:52 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Diamondgrl, I'm glad to hear of your site's recovery. Thanks for posting the news--it makes the thread a lot more complete and useful, not to mention reassuring. :-)

diamondgrl




msg:770119
 2:17 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

EFV,

No change with you? I was planning to PM you since I know you had your own canonical problems.

I frankly don't really know what the issues were in my case despite a eureka moment in which I thought I knew what the problem was. I know that canonical issues could have been it in theory but the SERPs didn't show any problems specifically.

Visit Thailand




msg:770120
 2:22 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think I am in a similar situation to diamondgrl
at least it seems that way at the moment. I did not make any changes to the site.

diamondgrl




msg:770121
 2:31 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Oh yes, joeduck, my main change was a 301 as described here.

But as I just indicated in my response with EFV, I'm not positive this had any effect. The first 1000 listings in the SERPs didn't show any evidence of "sickness". A handful of URL-only listings but very much under control. No actual evidence of the ills that my 301 were intended to address.

There was a visible PR change in the midst of this crisis and nothing changed.

The main change that I see is that before, I would have a page title that said "OBSCURETITLEWORD1 OBSCURETITLEWORD2 OBSCURETITLEWORD3" and a search of Google for "obscuretitleword1 obscuretitleword2 obscuretitleword3" would result in a lot of pages above me that had these words in no particular order in a big document. They were awful results from a user's perspective.

So the only visible change I see is that Google restored proximity as an important measure of whether this site belonged. However, I don't know if that's because the proximity knob was turned back to some more reasonable level or whether my site was punished somehow so that proximity was not as important a factor as some other mysterious factor.

arubicus




msg:770122
 3:34 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

We haven't come back completely. Just a bit. Haven't done much of anything but major cleanup. Everything looks as smooth as silk. 1 full crawl should take us back. We were worried for a while because our index page would get crawled but not show up. It FINALLY appeared in the serps last week!

europeforvisitors




msg:770123
 4:20 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)


EFV,
No change with you? I was planning to PM you since I know you had your own canonical problems.

Google is still showing the same number of spurious www pages that it's been showing since May 15. (And that's a higher number than it was showing back on April 16 when I started keeping track.)

The Bourbon update has taken most of what's left of my Google referrals--offhand, I'd guess that my Google traffic is down 90% to 95% from before March 23. If it weren't for Yahoo, MSN, and direct referrals (both inbound links and repeat traffic), I'd have cobwebs growing on my pages.

max_mm




msg:770124
 4:55 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

The Bourbon update has taken most of what's left of my Google referrals--offhand, I'd guess that my Google traffic is down 90% to 95% from before March 23. If it weren't for Yahoo, MSN, and direct referrals (both inbound links and repeat traffic), I'd have cobwebs growing on my pages.

Ditto that! across 7 web sites i run. 4 of them are well established sites about 4 to 5 years old.

While some continue to receive *some* google traffic (as opposed to thousands of G referrals p/day only 2 months ago) they just continue to lose g referrals bit by bit. The latest update only made things worse.

And i am not talking about losing position from page 1 to page 3 on the serps. I'm talking about completely disappearing from serps or only come up for very obscure key phrases.

It's a shocker really....few more weeks like that and i will have to pull out my dusty resume .

Thanks allot Scrugle!

P.S.
Anyone sees any relation between loss of G traffic and adsense code on the pages affected?

joeduck




msg:770125
 5:17 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

maxmm -

not sure what you mean by "relation to adsense code"?We've run adsense on every page before and after our G traffic meltdown from Allegra update. My understanding is that adsense has no affect on one's ranking.

arubicus




msg:770126
 5:39 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

"I'd have cobwebs growing on my pages."

Well, we lost good 6 digits per month of google traffic and now have ohhhhh maybe mid 3 digits. lol. It dosen't help that most of our pages are missing.

Good news is that google is crawling pretty good today. Let's hope we get some of those pages back.

"Anyone sees any relation between loss of G traffic and adsense code on the pages affected?"

People were talking about iframes and popup windows may be one thing affecting ther site. One person has rose in rank to a #1 position and she has adsense. I really don't think adsense has anything to do with it but who knows. Scrapers are known to use bad advertising schemes and things of this nature. It could possibly be on google's hit list.

reseller




msg:770127
 5:56 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

arubicus

>"Anyone sees any relation between loss of G traffic and adsense code on the pages affected?"<

I have AdSense spots on all my pages. I really can't see any logic in Google penalizing AdSense publishers. Why should Google do that?

Majority of sites on the web have ads spots on them of some kind or are promoting or selling a product or service and there is nothing wrong in that at all. There is a house rent to be paid ..you know :-)

RobinK




msg:770128
 6:04 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

reseller,

I think it was max_mm that posed that question.

reseller




msg:770129
 6:14 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

RobinK

>I think it was max_mm that posed that question.<

Oh...sorry. Then it is a reply for max_mm :-)

arubicus




msg:770130
 6:14 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

max_mm posted the question. Since I have no answer for sure I just gave an opinion based on what I have seen and others have discussed.

Although rent has to be paid does not make unethical means of aquiring money a right! Just because I need to feed my family does not make ripping off my neighbor right. If google does not want to send their users to sites with 2 pop ups and 4 pop unders per page visited then that is up to them.

max_mm




msg:770131
 6:37 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have AdSense spots on all my pages. I really can't see any logic in Google penalizing AdSense publishers. Why should Google do that?

What you are saying makes a lot of sense. Yet it seems there is absolutely no sense in anything that G are doing nowadays. Except for maybe trying to raise sales for anti ulcer and heart burn products world wide. It just feels like a complete mess.

P.S.
Re: "pop-ups as a possible reason". Except for one site (which funny enough was not affected). I have zero pop-ups on the rest. Yet they continue to lose g referrals at an alarming rate (whatever G referals left anyway).

[edited by: max_mm at 6:40 am (utc) on May 23, 2005]

arubicus




msg:770132
 6:38 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am with you reseller - I really don't think google will penalize for adsense. Still you never know. Certain ad layouts, stacked ads, combined with other "scraper-like" qualities still can be a possibility.

If they don't like what certain sites are doing with adsense then they may as well dump them or at least tighten the belt a little more and go that route.

reseller




msg:770133
 6:47 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

arubicus

>Although rent has to be paid does not make unethical means of aquiring money a right! Just because I need to feed my family does not make ripping off my neighbor right. If google does not want to send their users to sites with 2 pop ups and 4 pop unders per page visited then that is up to them.<

But do you really consider a site with 2 pop ups and 4 pop unders to be unethical?

Isnt it the right of the publisher (site owner) to add as many pop ups/unders and AdSense spots to his/her site?

Please dont get me wrong. Im not saying that its nice to visit a site where you should spend time on closing pop ups/unders.

max_mm




msg:770134
 7:17 am on May 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just discovered the reason why one of my oldest sites (6 years old with approx 2500 G referrals per day, up to about two months ago) was loosing its G referrals steadily ever since.

A search for my my_site.com on G revelled 25,000 web sites linking to me.

The site is an old niche industry trading site. It always had good incoming links but never to that figure. I just discovered that there are 1000's of unrelated sites linking to it (kind of copying the G serps) to their link pages. With my site name and description in there. They all come up when i do a search for my domain name.

Is this the freaking hijack problem i was reading so much about here and thought will never happen to me.

Question asked. what should i do. Am i suppose to visit G now and delist every site that links to my site using the removal tool?. That's like 25,000 darn crappy sites!

Any advice would be much appreciated.

This 233 message thread spans 8 pages: < < 233 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 > >
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