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Major Shift in One Word Search Results
Continued from original post of May 24

 11:21 am on Sep 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Original Post:

Major shift in one word search results

Hey Guys:

I thought that this post was pretty important becuase somehow it ended and folks just stopped posting to this - but months later we are still seeing this original effect - therefore I feel that this is very important to keep.

I first noticed this shift on May 25th and it still seems to be in play.

With 20/20 hindsight now... it seems to all be related to the following topics in WW:
September 2007 Google SERP Changes
Is Google Classifying 'Types' of Websites and Search Terms?

But specifically - I wanted to address the issues surrounding 1 KW searches and SERPS here.

If anyone else can add their experience for 1 KW results here it would be helpful for everyone.

Thank you.




 6:56 pm on Sep 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

In this thread: Is Google Classifying 'Types' of Websites and Search Terms? [webmasterworld.com], Robert Charlton mentions the issues that come up when one keyword has different uses in different niches. This gets intense with brandnames and trademarks that duplicate common vocabulary: Windows, Neon, Explorer and the like. Look to market variations in the ppc ads for one cllue.

A lot of what I see seems to be attempts to sort out this kind of thing for those ambiguous short searches. No longer are we seeing a single algo across all sites - instead, representative urls from different classes of sites are being "forced" onto the first page of results.

There could be a lesson here for people picking names for new products and businesses: even though an already existing word will be easy to remember, you may be better off inventing something new.


 6:22 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would agree. We saw a drop of about 10 spots for our top(and only) 1 KW term about a month ago. The term is extremely competitive, however first page SERPs have been fairly stable for the last 6 months. Though there is now the addition of news results, it seems as if the quality of the results has decreased. That is to say, there is not a significant broadening of types of sites, just poorer results, ie younger sites, fewer bakclinks, etc.

All of our multi-term keywords have remained stable.


 6:25 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Try your search (1 kw) with an asterisk in the front and see what you get.

As an example: *keyword


 9:07 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whoa. What is that? Virtually the pre-update results for our site, certainly better results overall.


 9:15 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)


There seems to be a story here but I'm unable to tell what that is...

I stumbled across this last night just out of sheer frustration and in doing so... I noticed that the results were actually almost as good as they were a few months ago.

The asterisk seems to be taking a filter of some sort out of play.


 9:48 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Isn't the asterisk just making it a wildcard search?

Searching for "*ball" will just show results for a wider range of topics like "monster's ball", "lucille ball" and "crystal ball" etc.

I don't think it's a case of filters being removed or anything, just that you're performing a much vaguer search so a wider variety of results are being pulled out.


 9:57 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I thought the wild card didnt work on single term searches.

From Google Help: [images.google.com...]

"Please note that wildcard searches work for whole words or phrases only;"


 10:59 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

The asterist is a wild card search.... but that doesnt seem to explain why the wildcard search would produce lets say a result that has a comma, or period and then your keyword..... in a set of results that are actually cleaner than what you would get without the asteristk.


 7:56 pm on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hmm, I also think something is up. My site has never brought in traffic from one word searches in the last five years. Now all of the sudden this month I am seeing considerable traffic for one word searches, even on very general terms. While the traffic is nice I'm pretty sure those visitors will never convert to sales of any kind.

[edited by: tedster at 8:07 pm (utc) on Sep. 11, 2007]


 2:04 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

One word searches are important to certain markets particularly pharma terms; on word searches effect traffic (and ctr/conversion)by factors of 5x IMHE.

The key is that you have to have scholarly content on the pages that high power, legit, recognized sites (such as universities, professional journals, trade associations, legit .gov's)link to.

Even then - you can expect yo-yo'ing on a regular basis.


 11:15 am on Sep 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

Using the asterisk turned up great results!

My site was on page 2 where it hasn't been all summer...fell to number 57 (probably be lower tomorrow)for no earthly reason that I could figure out..just a family friendly site that has been on the web since 1997, ALWAYS white hat.. Makes me want to just cry when I see it keep going downhill for nothing.

I guess Google no longer likes clean, user friendly and well made mature html sites that are kept maintained.


[edited by: tedster at 2:13 pm (utc) on Sep. 29, 2007]

Robert Charlton

 6:55 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've noticed in the past couple of days that an interior page I monitor for a single word search has suddenly dropped from about #12 to #60.

In the past year, the home page on the site has consistently ranked #1 or #2, and occasionally this interior page moved up to page one to cluster behind it. Since May 24, the inner page has mostly hovered up at the top of page 2.

There's been no accompanying movement at all on other interior pages in the site (nor any for home page searches). Since the link quality profile is more or less consistent across the site (oversimplifying greatly), I'd guess that Google might have 'turned a dial' for one word searches only... but of course there's no way to be sure. This could also be just a temporary shift.

This is not something I dwell on, but this kind of volatility on single-word searches can be a leading indicator of other changes that might come on competitive multi-word searches.


I guess Google no longer likes clean, user friendly and well made mature html sites that are kept maintained.

ann - I see that the movement we report is similar, but I feel the causes are likely to be more complex than whether a site is "mature" and "kept maintained."

Again, there are questions of ambiguity in one word searches. Perhaps, for ambiguous terms, Google is raising, say, the linking threshold within various niches, and then trying to normalize the percentage of results over all niches combined. As always, the results that are lower down are less stable than those at the top.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:10 pm (utc) on Oct. 6, 2007]


 9:47 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm having the same experience as Ann -- a sqeaky clean authority site with a ton of naturally-developed inbound links and lots of original articles that's been sliding downhill.

With the asterisks the results look great and my site is back on the first page where (IMHO) it belongs.

Robert Charlton

 11:33 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

With the asterisks the results look great and my site is back on the first page where (IMHO) it belongs.

Regarding the asterisks mentioned above, we should reference this other discussion, also about what the asterisks (and slashes and asterisks) appear to be doing....

Adding /* to a regular Google search term - what does it do?

I note the same effect others have mentioned here on single word searches, with some interesting signs that were being discussed in the other thread. One thing I'm seeing is that the search order of your single word and the asterisk can greatly affect how the asterisks change your rankings.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:59 pm (utc) on Oct. 6, 2007]

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