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Fear Factor : Ranking the Updates

 3:13 am on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)


Worst update: Nov 2001?

3rd, 4th, ort 5th: Florida?

Other biggies:

Altavista: Too many urls Dec 1998 (?)
Altavista: Black Monday, August 1999
Excite: Density tweak (Dec 1997)?
Inktomi: Over submission update Spring 98 (?)

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 7:25 pm (utc) on Dec. 2, 2003]



 3:29 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

I wasnt around for the inktomi big one, but as far as all the Google updates go.........this is a killer!

Im still getting dribs and drabs of traffic from the Google but the traffic I now get is rubbish and does not convert!

So my votes for Florida :(


 3:42 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hopefully, everyone will wake up and realize that no search engine is your friend. If you have spent any time even thinking about how you might rank higher without paying money to the search engine, you are the enemy and you will be irradicated.

I was not really sure if I agreed with this statement, however, after reading it over and over...there might be some validity to it. Google may not take away free listings all together but they can certainly make it harder for your site to rise to the top.

I have to say this last Florida update has been the worst for me. I was number one for the last 2 years for "mycity+Keyword+Keyword" and now have disappeared in to a black hole.

The results for this search use to give you about 15 other local competitors but now has only one local company listed in the number one spot. The remaining top 20 results are directories, link pages from other websites that linked to my site and other competitors, affiliate sites, and even a website for a popular singer who is now dead - (the web design firm who designed this site used CSS to hide a layer filled with spam).

I was also ranked in the top 15 for 5 other search terms, which were not highly competitive but maybe moderately (each returned 2-5 million results). These search terms are very competitive in the AdWords and Overture.

We cannot really afford any PPC campaigns for these terms; however, we may need to bite the bullet if things do not change.

We re-optimized our main index page. The only thing I can think is that maybe we were "over optimized" with anchor text etc.

I have saved the original page just in case I want to put it back up.

None of my clients were affected in this update - then again none of them are targeting fields that are highly competitive in Google AdWords.



 3:49 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

AV's two booboo's rank far above this one. They had real impact across a wide sector.

I'd give #3 at best.



 3:52 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

So was "Black Monday" the point when AltaVista lost a lot of their users? AV used to be relatively popular from what I remember. Then, at some point, Google stole the show.


 4:13 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Update Florida:

Google told all the struggling webmasters that they would have to think seriously about careers in pizza delivery, whilst removing all their websites from the top ONE HUNDRED! listings, and redirecting all their lost income to large corporations with big adspend budgets.

There simply is no competition. Florida affects so many people's lives.


 4:28 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

The timing of this update is what's really notable to me - right before the Christmas rush. Many people make enough money for many months during this period.

The fact that they pulled the switch at this time speaks very clearly to me - especially as it is obvious this is something they've been working on for months.

They were after webmasters, trying to strangle their budgets.


 4:33 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Florida, IMO.

From heini...

The problem is that Google not only produced lots of collateral damage. The problem is they ditched tons of targeted seo'ed sites in favour of untargeted seo'ed sites. Or, to speak googlish, nuked targeted quality spam in favour of untargeted lowkey spam.

That is *exactly* how I feel, but I couldn't have put it into those words. In many cases, the "untargeted lowkey spam" is just noise without seo.

I'm unhappy with the results as a searcher and actually using that alternative .org engine when I want to find something.


 4:36 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

> rationale behind deciding

Number of sites affected in relation to the number of sites listed.

Total sites listed v total sites affected? OK, Florida's not even close. These's a ton more sites now than back in the day, that's like an unfair ranking advantage weighted backwards.

OTOH, if you limit to total sites that bring in leads/revenue/sales to anybody outside of Amazon & pals? Definitely FL.

I'll admit I'm also feeling a bit forsaken by Larry & Sergey. Always worked by best practices as defined by Google [google.com].

I'll still work best practices but the authority on best practices is now this set of guidelines [webmasterworld.com].


too much information

 4:39 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would have to say that Florida is the most noticable for me. Although I don't think it's over yet, I think we've just seen the first wave. I think it will clear up in the next wave or two, but I definately don't think we've heard the last from Florida.


 4:40 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

What would be of GREAT interest to me is whether a *truly independent Google searcher* (not a webmaster, site owner or tall poppy cutter) finds the results after Florida any worse.

One of my phrases (both single and plural) has 3-4 pages straight of nothing but subdomain doorways starting from the second page on, all leading to the same large directory portal. It's gotten worse since Florida, when Florida first hit it ws a bunch of different mega door way sites. Now it's just one covering ALL the listings basically. I really think the users are noticing that since they can't get anything but that one site from page 2+


 4:46 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Nov 2001...AV...lots of turmoil. Webmasters recalibrating all over the place.

Thing is, all those past updates/changes, whether foul ups, algo changes, or partnership changes, were acceptable business activity. It's acceptable to change dance partners. It's necessary to constantly combat spam by tweaking algos.

And *maybe* that's what is going on here.

But instead, this feels *dark* becasue:
1) the Mother of All Web entities appears to be flat out attacking businesses of the small and mid-sized variety;
2) 1000's of true innocents, along with 1000's of clean sites whose only crime was participating in e-commerce, have been executed without warning or trial.

Ugly behavior, and the timing with respect to Christmas and IPO make it all the worse. If this is an unintended consequence of an anti spam offensive, they should have said so weeks ago. G's silence seems to confirm most people's worst suspicions.

One more time for all you youngsters: Companies are not your friends. Companies are in business for one reason...to make money. (Not a criticism, just a fact.) And this is especially true of public companies or those aspiring to go public.

Anyone who thinks of Google in a familial way hasn't been in business long enough. ;-)


 5:01 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Heini: I don't think this is the worst - but it could become the worst in hindsight.
That is if Google really applies this filter across all searches and not just select keyword combos. If this happens, then the impact will indeed outrank anything ever happened before.

Absolutely. Many of those who have seen little difference are simply in industries that haven't been reached by the "Florida Filter". For instance, my arts and music related sites are fine. But my e-commerce site selling a popular product has gone. I've no doubt that if the "filter" was applied to other industries the impact would be catastrophic.


 5:11 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

I've now read all of the grumbles about Florida but got to say that I've asked a lot of "average Joe's" and there seems to be general agreement that they've not "noticed" any degradation in the quality of results.

Most moaning about it are webmasters who can no longer find their pages...I think this all suggests that Google is still at the top of the pile and very likely to stay there for a long time to come, despite what some might wish.


 5:21 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't think this is the worst - but it could become the worst in hindsight.

completely agreed with heini. the damage we are facing now is minor compared with what could happen.

dark is the outlook:
- why just index-pages? (I have seen the filter applied on subpages)
- why just two-word terms?
- why not all of the $$-keywords harvested from adwords-data?

Once the shark has smelled blood...

During the last days I've been starting Adwords campaigns - for the first time on a larger scale. Bummer, I am seeing my adwords spends and realise: I am one of thousands to give Google a good reason to continue like this.


 5:22 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

It's funny but I don't remember a lot of previous updates. The late 90's updates I was a web user (rarely) but not a developer, so I was oblivious to any updates.

Florida is the first big one I have seen since 2000. It's one that will stick in my mind. 2001 was not as bad as Florida.

I have heard rumours that Microsoft were going to buy Google. Then, MS said they had not spoken to G. Maybe Google got a bit upset about this and decided to make their latest update run on MS servers, using a MS bug that creates irrelevancy. MS may be interested in buying Google, now that it is up to their standards of quality control....;)


 5:36 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

It's a bad update for traditional SEO and a great update for Googles Adword coffers, that's the reality.

I'm surprised Google has pulled this off, time will tell if it has.

Currently though, it's pay to play the Google way.




 5:39 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well this Florida update is the worst ever, but i guess there will be much more suprises in the future.

I have been hit with this florida update really hard.
I have been thinking about their stratagy - If they are NOW after the money and forceing people to go for AdWords - this will be their end.

I personally do not belive what GoogleGuy say that this florida update will prevent spam, since i have noticed that spam is still out there. I assume lotsa people from this forum has submited spam report - but no actions taken against these sites (80%)?.

We need to send email to GoogleGuy and then this sites will be removed? Funny but okey i can live with that.

Florida bottom line:

Search results - horrable
Spam - still exist - google does not respond on spam reports

One more funny thing which i have found: one really popular keyword - *ECOMMERCE* related - 2,110,000 Results - Police website from one country apears in TOP 5 results!
#6 Bisexual website
#7 Site closed - 1 page indexed PR5 with dmoz link
#8 Travel & Tourisam

I hope this is good example about google & quality after Florida :)


 5:47 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Definitely 2001 PR0 Cross linking.

Florida was a real nice update. Across my sites traffic up by an average of 20% Income has also increased.

I would also say that I think that on the whole Florida hasn't damaged the quality of the Google SERPs and that the only area where they need to tidy up is in with the directories and price comparison sites, which seem to have benefitted disproportionally in this update.

In these cases the results are not always bad though there do seem to be many cases where the directory results in the SERPs are actually less relevant than the Google results and there are price comparison sites showing up for products that they don't actually do comparisons on.

Ducks - runs for a well shielded bunker to escape the fallout


 6:03 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

<Human Memory is directly proportional to how recent the event is> :*)


 6:20 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

> old av forum?

Closest we can come is the Paid Inclusion forum:
(go to the last page of the forum):


(sorry, I distinctly remember nuking alot of that old AV talk because it was laced full of 4 letter words).

Bummer the article mentioned in this thread isn't still around:


Check out the excitement over the Inktomi reinclusion:


 6:38 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

For me this florida update is the worst. Most of my sites (all are innocent) have pushed way behind in ranking. The results that I see above them are mostly irrelevant or less informative.


 6:41 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well I have never experienced anything quite like this……

"Some go Up some go Down" that platitude is not quite enough…..

Well I hope they are chuffed with their results also I think they can get away with it for a while and they know it JOE The Surfer as we seem to have named him takes what he is given and does not know a lot better, However Goggle started with a whisper and a nod from webmasters and of course enthusiasm, youth, freshness and first rate Public Relations.

Search is not unlike politics when a party and a leader has been in power too long they are apt to become tyrannical. Result the people start to turn against them especially those who were avid followers, until finally they are deposed, in politics this is often illustrated by a party coming in to power that has been sidelined for a number of years.

Primitive tribes as those of you who have read Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero With A Thousand Faces will know, would only allow a man to become King if he was prepared to sacrifice himself at the end of a seven year rule their idea of sacrifice was rather extreme. The idea behind this was that someone who was prepared to take on the role of Kingship and serve the people should comes from a place of a true desire to serve and make a better world for their subjects with no self aggrandisement.

This is they way things happen, and have happened throughout history it is deeply implanted in the collective human subconscious mind, for example Caesar – Brutus and more recently Margaret Thatcher - Geoffrey Howe. Think about it and you will find many other examples.


 6:50 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

If I may add, I think this is a nice thread. I've never seen anyone do a comparison like this. Normally it is done with bad storms, comparing the storm of 99 to 03 or something like that. Just wanted to add my 2 cents.

Oh - I agree that Florida has most impact in terms of economics for e-commerce sites.


 7:25 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, it seems everyone still wants to comment on the last update alone. We are trying to put this all in perspective, that it is just another in a long history of se updates that have left webmasters wanting...


 7:42 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Florida is definately the worst overall. I am involved in several industries and they've all taken a beating like never before. Oh well. Time to figure out how to beat Google again...


 7:42 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

“Although Google's Florida Update is fresh in everyones mind, it ranks as low as 4th or 5th for all time update impact by many old school SEO'ers.”

Many of the old school SEOers have experienced bloody noses in the past and learnt from this experience and tend to now create sites that ride these storms and vagaries of search alogos.

This is my first bloody nose in this business, and I doubt its the last, do I care do I heck.

I feel grown up now, joined the ranks of those who are serious about this game.

The big positive about this is I have learnt so much recently, Oh boy here I come, its going to take a lot more than a piddly little alogo change to keep me down, Yup fightin talk!


 7:50 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Well, it seems everyone still wants to comment on the last update alone. We are trying to put this all in perspective, that it is just another in a long history of se updates that have left webmasters wanting...

Brett, I have recovered from all the other updates, but not yet from this one, so my perspective is still jaundiced. I suspect it depends on who's ox was gored and whether the ox is still bleeding (with Florida we won't know the health for a while) or whether the ox actually dies, as did many in past notorious updates.


 8:31 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Nah, don't agree Brett. This is more fundamental than any previous update and to be honest I think many of us feel somewhat alone this time. Anyway, collectives are made up of lots of opinions.


 8:41 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>>not unlike politics when a party and a leader

I have this theory I call "sheeple magnetism". It's a process whereby certain forces come together to align or "line up" and polarize people/sheep to head in a particular direction.

>>>What makes Florida worse than all the others is the fact that Google spent so much time preaching to the Webmaster community that they would be rewarded for staying withing Google's published guidelines.

>>>Now they come along and dump a ton of sites who bought into the PR campaign. Meanwhile, the agressive SEO that all the die-hard Google loyalists have fought against is flourishing.

>>>Hopefully, everyone will wake up and realize that no search engine is your friend. If you have spent any time even thinking about how you might rank higher without paying money to the search engine, you are the enemy and you will be irradicated.

Once again WebG comes out as the voice of reason. His advice hasn't failed yet in all the 3 years I've been here.

>>>>Any other big updates that any one remembers?

Seems to be every six months they do something. This one is dramatic though. Behavior modification.


 8:54 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

I guess it is all a matter of perspective.

The AV "too many urls" affected everyone - everyone. Not just a few.

> that they would be rewarded for staying withing Google's published guidelines.

Well, we will have to disagree on that one, because only Google could say for sure if they did or they didn't. I think from the sites I've seen get the boot, a strong case could be made that G did stay within the guidelines. There is no indication that the sites that got the hook, were a tad on the spammy side of life.

>excite tweak in 97

Where's old SEGuru at. I can still remember him screaming about that one.


 8:54 pm on Dec 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

When the Emperor rules with a sword the people become devious.

Ancient Chinese saying, anyway goes something like that.

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