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This 172 message thread spans 6 pages: < < 172 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 > >     
Google.com SERP Changes - July 2008 part 2

 4:53 pm on Jul 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

< continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >

I run a large, well-established website that has been around for years, generating millions of visitors per month across millions of pages of documents. We have always been diligent about tracking all of our website metrics so that we understand user behavior, where our audience is coming from, and can use the data in order to improve user experience.

Recently we have been experiencing *very* erratic Google organic traffic which jumps up and down by 30%-80%. The cycle has now repeated itself 6 times over about 6 weeks time. While there have been times in the past where our Google organic traffic has increased and decreased, it always has done it in a measured manner; we have never before seen erratic behavior from Google.

Here are the traffic specifics:
•June 3, Google organic drops by 30% vs. normal
•June 4, Google organic traffic returns to normal
•June 9, Google organic again drops by 30% vs. normal
•June 17, Google organic returns to normal
•June 19 , Google organic again drops by 30% vs. normal
•June 27, Google organic returns to normal
•July 9, Google organic again drops by 30% vs. normal
•July 11, Google organic returns to normal
•July 12, Google organic again drops, but this time by 80% of normal
•July 13, Google organic returns to normal

While we are constantly in the process of refining our site, the only major change over the last couple months has been to our “related articles” component which does what it sounds like: if you are looking at article A, here are a handful of other articles that are highly relevant to the one you are viewing. Over time, we have been tuning the algorithm that generates these links so as to improve relevancy.

I have also noticed some other artifacts:
•Google bot spidering activity has increased, reaching a plateau of about 140% of pre-link change levels; on some days approaching 1 million pages/day.
•The number of page indexed in our Google Webmaster site map reports jumped by 12%.

Any ideas about what might be going on here?



[edited by: tedster at 8:03 am (utc) on July 15, 2008]



 7:40 am on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I mentioned I lost #1 ranking for a phrase after adding lots of content. Actually I disappeared virtually completely. So I did an experiment. I reverted the page to its original content pre development. Yesterday I returned back to #1. (Reversion uploaded about a week ago.)


 8:04 am on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

*** Should not matter about which IP served what. ***

Google has several quite different sets of results on the go if you poke around several of their IP addresses. Some of it looks like it is down to older data, and some of it is likely down to a different selection process to build those results.

I get an odd glitch here. I get a set of results. I hit 'reload' and I get something very different. If I keep hitting reload, I continue to get the second set every time. For the first set, there were less results; it's like they are incomplete or something.


 8:26 am on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I get an odd glitch here. I get a set of results. I hit 'reload' and I get something very different. If I keep hitting reload, I continue to get the second set every time. For the first set, there were less results; it's like they are incomplete or something.

This is exactly what I am experiencing...One minute one of my sites is #4 for it's target phrase...2 hours later it's #14. Another phrase I target I'm anywhere between 4-7 and 2 hours later I'm #20 or #21. Funny you should also mention refreshing the results and getting the exact same set over and over but during your first search it's a completely different set.

Is this the future? Is Google going to constantly be fluctuating? This has been going on for a few weeks now I've noticed as well. Nothing is set in stone from what other phrases I follow as well.


 9:06 am on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have seen incomplete results sets before.

One occasion, a few years back, I showed that all of the Supplemental Results were missing. Was that some hardware fault, or a software bug, or a deliberate test?

I don't remember the exact circumstances (they are in an old thread here though). If the time taken was less than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds, then the results were fine. However some results were taking more than half a second and maybe nearly a whole second to return and those had the 'fault'.

That isn't the case here; I'm just saying that there are often other clues that can help.

Pass the Dutchie

 3:58 pm on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Since June 5th our site was hit hard and we had a significant drop for mainly single KWD's (widget)and plural KWD's (blue widgets).

Now our site is back in the same position it was prior to the start of June. Because the site was going off line once per month we moved the site to another host. Otherwise we didn't change a thing.

Very happy for now but still very confused.


 5:48 pm on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Interesting, have you moved the site to a host in another country? Since this penalty (June 4) is not IP based I had success removing the old site and moving it to a completely new domain, but I think it won't last long.

[edited by: SEOPTI at 5:49 pm (utc) on July 19, 2008]


 5:59 pm on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have new website, i get everything from google more than 150 visitors by keywords today only 10 visitor/keyword , whats happening? anybody have idea?


 9:04 pm on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

< moved from another location >

Is this a penalty?

My well established 5 years old website seems to have hit by this minus penalty but by initial reserach and analysis I am not able to conclude if its that stupid penalty.

About the website in question
- Its a 5 years old site
- plain HTML 129 pages site, all indexed by google. No supplemental results
- most of it is original content
- 150 daily referrals from Google for target KWS
- Its a corporate website, brocuhure kind of presentation. No scrips.. nothing
- Has a Link directory with selected link exchanges. Most of them swapped year/s back. No recent activity there.

Before 17th July 08
- Site used to be #1 for company name (which is a brand in itself)
- Site used to be #1 for "my site"
- Site used to be #1 for "example.com"
- Site used to rank in top 10 for desired niche KWS mostly 2 and 3 word phrases.

after 17th July 08
- Site is at #53 for company name
- Site is at #44 for "my site"
- Site is at #24 for "example.com"
- Site has gone down to 3rd/4th/5th page for th KWS it used to b in to 10 results.

I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope it isnt a penalty as such. Advice from members and veterans most appreciated.

[edited by: tedster at 2:21 am (utc) on July 20, 2008]
[edit reason] switch to example.com - it can never be owned [/edit]


 2:09 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

It sure sounds like a penalty - especially losing first place for the search on example.com. The other possibility is that it's an accident of some kind and it will reverse itself soon, but that's less likely.

As I advised in another similar thread just now, this kind of treatment is usually handed out for backlink manipulation of some kind.

If you haven't been buying or selling links that pass PageRank, then engaging in other kinds of link schemes, then the first thing I'd do is use automated software to pull every outbound link from your page's source code. You may have been hacked and are now hosting links you don't even know about.

milan oberoy

 5:11 pm on Jul 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

< moved from another location >

I am facing strange penalty (I am not sure whether it is penalty) lately. My blog hosted on blogger.com was getting 40-45 visitors from search made on Google. It was getting #3 for extremely competitive keyword. 20 out of 90 posts were PR1 or PR2.

For last 4-5 days there has been no traffic for even a single keyword. PR of all posts, including home page, is zero. Let me tell you what I have done recently.

>> Tried to exchange link at digitalforum.

>> Burrowed an article from my friend who deleted his entire blog. Before publish, I checked the post content with copyscape and didn't find anything wrong. Also checked Google cache for his blog and it was not showing the content.

>> I published a post with search-result images about how my different posts are getting #3 ranking.

>> A month ago I started paid blog (self hosted blog on wp) and giving it link from free blog (But it was not in excess manner).

>> Replaced self written unique article with article from article directory (Credit links were not removed).

>> [This is something I did long back]Articles, taken from free article directory, were published. Articles were published as I was instructed. i.e credit links were not removed. Yet posts were ranked.

Posts are still indexed. Post burrowed from friend has been removed today.

Any suggestion about what went wrong or how can I get rid of it?

How about importing all the posts to my paid blog?

[edited by: tedster at 2:26 am (utc) on July 20, 2008]


 2:27 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Milan, some of what you say sounds like a rather new blog. Is this true in any way?


 5:18 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

It sounds like geo-locating is not working along with Google properly classifing keywords for websites. Something is broken.


 8:59 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Everything is broken! Tell me what's working.


 10:30 am on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

""If you haven't been buying or selling links that pass PageRank, then engaging in other kinds of link schemes, then the first thing I'd do is use automated software to pull every outbound link from your page's source code. You may have been hacked and are now hosting links you don't even know about.""

- Honestly no buying or selling of links, I dont need that as such since the compitition for my business and therefore for targeted serach phrases is quite low.

- Yes I used to swap Links till 14 months back, majorly swapped with same industry related sites. No activity recently for sure!

- by hacking did you mean some malicious scripting running on another website and hacking my domain/content?


 4:24 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hacking would be someone adding links to bad stuff from within your site, by breaking and entering, and then editing things.

Check that that hasn't happened.


 6:15 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

"Hacking would be someone adding links to bad stuff from within your site, by breaking and entering, and then editing things.
Check that that hasn't happened."

I shall carefully look into HTML of all my pages and make sure there is no such script or anything that could give control of my content to anyone else. Visibly my pages are free from any such stuff.

Is it possible to have been penalised for any link appearing in directory "now considered as a bad link" which I added months back? Can the whole site be penalised for that?


 8:20 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

"Hacking would be someone adding links to bad stuff from within your site, by breaking and entering, and then editing things"

I Checked all the outbound links using Xenu and could not figure out any suspecious link which could hack.

Do we rule out the possibility of Hack/bad link?


 8:50 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

This sounds like a good sign that you're not being used as a parasite host - not 100% proof, however. Xenu will usually catch the outbound links, with a couple excpetions that are worth mentioning.

1. Because Xenu crawls the site via links, it won't see completely orphaned pages on the domain. So check a list of all your domain's urls too, to make sure a totally orphaned url isn't hanging out causing trouble.

2. Some hacks insert scripts that use a combination of cookies and cloaking to hide the parasite hosting from owners but not from Google. So if you can't find a cause, you might look a bit closer for these factors. However, since you say the site using no scripts at all, any script should jump out at you.


Since you do have link exchanges, here are a couple more factors to look at. The nature of the domains you link to may have changed since you first added those links. Domain names do change owners - so a 404 check will not catch it, if a domain you link out to has become shadier than they once were.

Also, Google may be valuing reciprocal links less than they used to. Still, that wouldn't cause all the symptoms you describe, just a drop in keyword ranking.

However, Google continues their campaign against paid links that pass PR. If one of your link partners got pegged as playing in the paid links market, they may now be sending you lower or no link juice. Again, I wouldn't expect that to give your site a penalty. However, in some competitive markets there is suspicion that now you can get hurt by having a natural link from a site that is also selling links.

So even though you say "Most of them swapped years back. No recent activity there." - I'd suggest scrutinizing those link partner sites. In fact, it can't hurt to check out anyone linking to you, whether you link back or not. Good knowledge to have, no matter what the case.


 9:44 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

...there is suspicion that now you can get hurt by having a natural link from a site that is also selling links.

By having just a real natural link, or by exchanging links?


 10:10 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Emphasis: what follows is THEORY, it is NOT PROVEN! The ranking changes that generated the theory were first noticed on July 2 in one of the most highly competitive markets.

FACT: Some well known sites with long term strong rankings were hurt badly on July 2, and some were even completely dropped from the keyword SERPs.

SUSPICION: Google began using alogrithmic approach - looking at sites that are already known to be selling links that pass PR. Then some kind of action is taken any site that has an outbound link from that known seller. It might be a natural mention, or a reciprocal link. But the "logic" would be that the source is tainted, and you are in some kind of business arrangement with the tainted domain.

Is this pure paranoia? Is there any truth here? The issue is not settled.

I mention this so we can look at our own sites, and either find places where it seems it may be true, or find counter-examples and put the idea back in the closet.


 11:36 pm on Jul 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, my site is listed in many paid directories and it is suffering badly. I don't link back and I never paid for the listings, my traffic didn't drop off on July 2 though, it's been slowly dropping off a little more each week since around Feb. Oh, and there are other possible issues as well as the paid links...


 1:07 am on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I am not sure if what we are going through is part of this mess but maybe my information might help others or maybe someone can help me.

- We moved servers so new IP on July 11.
- July 12th, google came to visit and cached.
- Sometime July 13 or 14 our positions changed. Our front page moved from the first to the second page on most our major keywords. Our site name still ranks in the first position so that implies no penalty. (I hope) But our lower pages have crashed badly.

We reacted by switching BACK to our old server (old IP) on Monday the 14th. In the meantime, we looked around to see if there was anything else that could be going wrong. WMT was showing a high number of Short Meta Descriptions which we have fixed up during the week. By Friday, the 18th, we had returned to our normal positions. Our cache is still showing for July 12 but Google tends to visit once a week. (approximately)

So now here we are, July 20th and as of a couple hours ago, we have crashed again. Same sort of results as last week. I do not know yet if Google has come to visit recently as there is no updated information yet. Sometimes it has that "20 hours ago" grey writing below the index info but that has yet to change.

It seems strange to us that we switch to a new server, we crash, we switch back and return in about 5 days. Now I dont know if it has visited again for a new cache yet but we are starting to wonder that if it has, and sees the old IP again, it has to sort itself out again?

The only reason we wonder this is because a few years back we did a server switch and BAM, we got hit. Yet it just so happened to fall at the same time as one of Google's large *updates* or whatever was going on. So I am possibly thinking that since we went and made this switch during yet another google fiasco, it brought attention to our 8 year old PR 5 site and nailed us.

I don't know if any of this makes sense but it is quite frustrating. I am starting to wish we had left it on the new fancy server because it might have been sorted out in those 5 days and now it sees we have switched back and it needs to go through it all again. OR, it has nothing to do with this and we are in a whole other mess that we can't figure out.


P.S. We don't buy or sell links. Never have and never will.


 8:32 am on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

YES! I have had tremendous headaches from Google's SERPs recently. I came aboard as a contract SEO manager and the site had duplicate content, rubbish page names and no meta descriptions. It's a big company in a competitive environment and gets a lot of traffic on brand terms. The titles on a few new campaign pages were added and descriptions were added and we received a massive surge in natural traffic. Then last week a massive dip lower than before I arrived. I am baffled! Any suggestions?

Any ideas on what the problem could be?


 11:24 am on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I am seeing a large dip in traffic as well. About 25% loss since July 2 or 3.


 1:34 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wow, I seem to have received several -50s all of a sudden. I have no idea why I should receive a penalty, so it may as well be an algo glitch... Could this also be related to my sites being only 3 or 4 months old?


 1:56 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've had several big hits too. On one of my sites, my WMT link count went from about 700 to over 5600 since last Friday. I guess Google found the last couple of month's worth of links all at once. Oops. :)


 2:49 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I was hit heavily by the June 4th Algo-switch, and recently I cleaned up some SHORT META TAG DESCRIPTIONS as well as several DUPLICATE PAGE NAMES, as indicated to me by WMT. Upon fixing these several weeks ago, my ranking have plumetted yet further, and I am now at new lows across the board. Maybe these WMT tools are nothing more than a trap ?


 3:45 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I remember reading that tweaking and "fixing" title tags and meta descriptions can cause a drop in rankings all on their own. That G may see this as further trying to manipulate the serps. I believe I also read(here on ww)that, depending on the page, it has to earn its trust back. Tedster, is this not true?

I have several short meta descriptions according to WMT and I'm leaving them alone unless something bad happens..


 4:01 pm on Jul 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

My analytics account now shows the full on sine wave action - google referrals dropped to a new low - a whopping 2 on Saturday. Only appear to be ranking in the top 50 for our domain keywords - which are still at #1.

Not sure all the tweaking everyone is doing is having any impact - we keep going in and out of the SERPS on just about a weekly basis with no real changes. One week in, one week out. We were in last Monday afternoon until Friday morning. Been out since. If the pattern continues we should be back in sometime later this week or next Monday.

Curiously, seeing 1 other site from the front page on our top term moving with us. Also, seeing some bad geolocated serps on that term. Just 1 usually, but for generic adjective + keyword, we keep getting Virginia +keyword, or California +keyword. We're in Texas.

Site profile- we do have 2 old/insignificant paid links that are no longer paid, but have not been deleted on the other end. Only other non-standard issue in the sites history is a 301 when we upgraded our domain name. Latest change made to the site was the addition of a subdomain - this was a number of weeks before any trouble began though.


 9:40 am on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

in WMT I can see 22 pages reported with dupelicate Title Tags, I hope this cant be the reason for a heavy handed penalty.


 1:18 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)


Be wary of fixing these "problems". I just went through an exercise several weeks ago: fixing duplicate Titles, and "lengthening" titles that were deemed to be TOO SHORT.

Since these changes, I have never been lower in rankings, since these changes were applied. I reacted to fix these after being decimated in the SERPs on June 4th. I am going to wait another couple of weeks, but am seriously thinking of rolling out of these changes.

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