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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]



 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.


 1:33 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think the June 4 update was meant to hit dynamic created local sites.

In the meantime I have created two new local sites and both have been hit with a -950 during crawling/indexing.

So now I'm sitting with about 20 local sites, all of them have been hit hard.


 2:11 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)


Of my sites that have been hit, none of them are dynamic or local in nature; so, I do not fit that bill.


 3:54 pm 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.

I strongly doubt it. I work with sites that see reports like that, but none of those sites have a penalty for it.


 4:30 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone, posted on here a couple of times about the yo-yo scenario that my site is having. For the first time in ages I took a look at Google WebMasterTools, on there its showing that I have 3000 Duplicate Tittles which I never knew about. I am now starting to think that this maybe the cause of my fluctuations. Has anybody on here fixed there duplicate tittles and recovered from the Yo-Yo effect?


 4:59 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

On May 1 all my sites lost their high rankings (#1 on some keywords) and traffic dipped about 75%. The sites that replaced me were generally junk sites or adsense covered indexes that pointed to useful sites (like mine). I had made no changes. Every day I looked at adsense or analytics was a depressing one.

Until yesterday. On July 18 my traffic spiked. I checked yesterday and see that I have regained my rankings on all sites for my keywords. Traffic is up 1-200%. No changes to the sites.

What changed? Very annoying. 2.5 months. I was just starting to really surge before May 1 too, so hopefully that surge will recover as well.


 9:33 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm testing at the moment to see if the June 4 penalty round has to do with incoming links from different countries.

If your site is hosted in US and targets US market but gets most of the links from Europe or other countries, this could be a wrong signal.

Or if your site is hosted in Europe and targets US market but gets most of incoming links from Europe, this could be also a wrong signal.

[edited by: SEOPTI at 9:33 pm (utc) on July 22, 2008]


 11:10 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a sneaky feeling that this algo change is looking at similar duplicates not just exact ones. For example if you have 3 or 4 pages related to blue widgets then instead of G listing the one with the most in bound links like it used to, now it just simply says "these guys are trying to hard with these 4 similar pages "Slap" get back down the SERPS where you belong.

This would make sense for what a lot of what people on here are seeing.

I will be do some full tests over the next week. Fingers crossed the results will help.


 11:28 pm on Jul 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

c41lum, very interesting theory which would support the theory database generated pages have been hit hard. But why do they slap all URLs (the whole domain) and not just pick the less similar ones?

[edited by: SEOPTI at 11:30 pm (utc) on July 22, 2008]


 12:54 am on Jul 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

In the thread that discusses Amit Singhal's article [webmasterworld.com], IanKelley made a comment that really lit me up:

If Bill publishes information that is more valuable (relative to a given search) than anyone else's information then a good search engine will strive to put that information in front of the searcher.

It will try do this in spite of Bill's experience level in development and SEO.

I think this may be exactly the framework we need to understand what Google's recent changes may be attempting.

[edited by: tedster at 4:38 am (utc) on July 23, 2008]


 3:37 am on Jul 23, 2008 (gmt 0)


How is that different from how it's always been?

I'm concerned about Google's decision to provide information to webmasters calling them out for title tag length (too short/too long) without any consideration or warning for how sensitive Google's algo can be to title changes.

Tedster, you've pointed this out before from your own experience and other webmasters have experienced the same thing. I remember in the 950 thread somebody said changing all your site's titles can get you 950d. (I think maybe less than the entire site could get you penalized.)

Do we know that the team responsible at Google for the Webmaster Tools is either in the same team or is in the know about ranking effects and penalties? Somehow it seems unlikely.

Most webmaster changes to titles are for optimization and how does Google's algo suddenly distinguish between the webmaster who is overoptimizing and the one who is trying to heed the supposedly useful information that a title is too long or too short?



 4:53 am on Jul 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

You're right that Webmaster Tools is a dedicated team - that's where Vanessa Fox used to work. But they are in the know about the basic ranking algo.

With regards to changing titles - to handle duplicate and near-duplicate and "too short" problems, I recently changed about 30% of the titles and descriptions on one site, all at the same time. The result has been improvements on the SERPs,

How is that different from how it's always been?

In specific, I'm thinking about the SERPs that show intense cycling, and those where urls appear suddenly that were never before contenders, and don't show any signs of SEO savvy.


 3:01 pm on Jul 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

I thought this was just happening to me!

I first had this problem on May 9th, virtually every page dropped 10 places and it was like this until May 27th then everything returned to its normal place. The same thing happened again on July 9th and most pages are still down 10 places, which has caused a drop of more than 90% in organic traffic.

I have checked Google Webmaster Tools and I do have a lot of duplicate titles and short meta titles, so I've decided to correct them all just in case it is this causing the problems.

I will let you know if and when the site returns to normal.


 5:33 am on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Seeing early evidence that the shuffling effect is now migrating to a larger number of SERPs.

If this does happen then we may have to rethink any beliefs that this was some sort of test...


 6:03 am on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

In specific, I'm thinking about the SERPs that show intense cycling, and those where urls appear suddenly that were never before contenders, and don't show any signs of SEO savvy.

This is suddenly what I am seeing again...Last night I thought it was clearing up with the cache date issues but now it's back on again....INTENSE cycling to say the least. One minute your #14, next your #2. And then I'm seeing these no-namers showing up with absolutely nada on the allin's and they are in the top 10. It's like WTH!? In fact one site has duplicate metas for every single page on the site and it's ranking in the top 10....And all these years I've been hearing that duplicate meta's will get you penalized...NOT on these SERPS.


 9:05 am on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is there anyone here that has no meta errors showing in Google Webmaster Tools but has still dropped down Google?

Maybe Google is penalizing sites that do not correct errors!?!?


 11:03 am on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Google has been adding "Related searches" to the top of the SERPs, with about two search strings. I take issue with its choices.

For example, a search for John Edwards just now:

Related searches: john edwards mistress john edwards love child

John Edwards for President
Official archived presidential campaign site for John Edwards includes testimonials, positions on issues, press, event calendar, photos and video clips, ...
johnedwards.com/ - 9k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Is it fair or right for the public to see these unproven allegations which besmirch a man's reputation or assassinate his character as the first results at the top of a page?



 1:33 pm on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)


We have lots of errors in WMT, and we have been yOyOing all over the place. I the think there is a defo contection between WMT Errors and this effect.

I also think that G is knocking sites that have several pages which have similar Tittles.


 2:25 pm on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

I put the following post on the Google.co.uk thread today but just incase you don't read that thread I'll put it here as well...

'I have seen a drop of around 10 places for each search term for my co.uk website on Google.co.uk in May and July but my site is actually hosted by NTTCommunications in their Frankfurt Datacentre.
Maybe I've been dropped due to the site being hosted in Germany even though it's a co.uk domain - I contacted NTT today to ask if I could move to the London datacentre but was advised that they now only have a datacentre in Frankfurt.

Maybe it's time to move to another provider in the UK!'

I have read a few reports saying that .co.uk sites have now started ranking higher on google.co.uk since the change in July but my .co.uk site has seen the opposite. Maybe it is because I'm hosted in Germany. Anyway, I've decided to move to a server in the UK.

Maybe .com sites should be hosted in the US if you want to rank well on Google.com

Could this be a possibility? What do you guys think?

Martin Ice Web

 3:17 pm on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)


sites in Germany thatz are hosted in Germany havelost their rankings, too. So it should not be a "localize" error in their system.

Maybe the google engenieers are in vacation and now the trainees are taking over the serps and tweak it a little here an a little there.

Yesterday, 2p.m. google switched the data center. It was judgement day! All my sites were lost in serps. Today the sites are little way back. The only thing that is queer, the datacenter google yesterday switched to, has now is turn again and the sites are quite ok. Does google switch the algo or does google switch the datapool?


 3:29 pm on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

StevieB: NTT closed the London centre - we were in the same position - however I can't honestly say that we have seen any change in ranking. We were moved to Frankfurt some months ago.


 5:48 pm on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)


The ten sites in front of me on google.co.uk for one particular search term are all on UK servers. I was in front of them all until 9th July.


 7:14 pm on Jul 24, 2008 (gmt 0)


we made arrangements to move to a UK host if rankings were affected - we monitored the positions and the move was found not to be neccessary.

They are moving us again this weekend to another data centre in Frankfurt.

I wouldnt say we were happy about having a co.uk in germany it but given the resource cost of moving the data and the site against a percieved non-loss in positions...


 2:04 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think I'm on something regarding the June 4 drop. They possibly consider 'thin' URLs with a repeating navigation element redundant now.

Reduntant content across your website. I'm now checking all my sites for content redundancies (thin URLs + navigation element) and group URLs where possible or introduce more different content on these URLs (content rotation, news).

[edited by: SEOPTI at 2:10 am (utc) on July 25, 2008]


 2:56 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)


Can you elaborate on your theory ? What do you mean by thin URL's ? Small websites ?

And what do you mean precisely with a repeatable navigational element ?

Sorry, but your descriptions are not obvious or intuitive to me. Can you provide some simple generic examples ?

Thanks in advance.


 2:48 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have a question about serp for keywords. I have been on the first page of google for some serps. I was on the first page of google for about 8 days for one serp. All the sudden the keyword suddenly disappeared. I am toggling between 1st and 2nd page of google now for this, and sometimes it will disappear all together.

I publish unique content daily in the blog which is saved under the domain name. So my website it getting updated daily usually with 4 to 5 articles a day. I also get questions daily from readers. I have noticed my competition does not post anything and they stay firm withe there serp for the same key words.

My site is PR 4, and about 9 months old. Is there a seasong factor with my site for this type of flucuation for keywords ? Plus these key words are very competitive, but that does not scare me.

[edited by: tedster at 7:01 am (utc) on July 25, 2008]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]


 8:59 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)


You are lucky that you haven't seen a fall. Fingers crossed you don't see one.

I've just compared todays top 20 results for a popular search term on google.co.uk with the top 20 results that were displayed at the beginning of June. Here are the results....

One site dropped from 1st to 11th place (mine), one site dropped from 4 to 15th place - 4 sites moved up 3-4 places and the remaining 14 sites are all new entries.

18 sites in the top 20 are either .co.uk or .com and the servers are based in the UK. The two sites that dropped are both .co.uk but are in Germany and the US.

Makes you think....


 9:55 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

18 sites in the top 20 are either .co.uk or .com and the servers are based in the UK.

Yep, I reported seeing that about a month ago therefore I launched a test UK hosted .co.uk site to try this out and it has come straight into the top 10 for all keyword phrases in Google.co.uk plus is doing ok on Google.com too.

N.B. This was done using a 15 year old .co.uk name however it is significant that a 10 year old UK hosted .com site I have is still strugglling to recover even after being highly placed for years.

Another significant point is that my UK hosted .com 15 year old trade widget directory site still ranking #1 on Google.com for thousands of keywords has been demoted on Google.co.uk for some of its most important phrases by .co.uk sites which are, and being unbiased, totally useless to the visitor.

One small image, the keyword and nothing else does not scream authority to me Google.


 11:38 am on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)


Fingers crossed ? - I think the fingers have been crossed for about 10 years ! makes it rather difficult to type sometimes !

Seriously - its really difficult to pull out one element as being THE factor in any fall or otherwise. If I see any major change downwards I'll be the first to de-ice our move back to the uk.

The other thing to to consider is if you really think location is important to your site then move, its a judgement call as only you know your site,

<edit>to make some sense !</edit>


 2:16 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

doughayman, I mean if you have a site with state/city and the city URLs contain just one or two businesses across thousands of URLs this could be redundant content.


 9:14 am on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hello All

cj94111/Greg wrote:

""Google picked this up and our external link count went from about a half-million to three and a half million and then our partner fixed it and our link count went back down to a half million. That happened some weeks ago. We only discovered this when we saw our external links report in Google Webmaster console. Since that system will only output 1 million records (and we had 3.5 million), we weren't able to fully confirm that all those links were coming from our partner, but it sure seemed like it from the million we were able to review""

I havea notice here, i have a small website, but almost same of what your saying happened to me, one of my friends linking to us, we have about 50 thousands backlinks from his community, the link removed by mistake, we lost those links, which is about 70% of external links in the webmaster tools, and the search results positions for our main words, droped from # 3 and 4 in first page to pages 2, 3 , 4 and more.

the strange thing, that these words, still showing good position in top search queries, not only that, in the last 3 days, 2 updates happened to these positions, and were for better!, this means my webmaster tools show the words going better positions in top search queries, while on the ground, the serach result positions is going down.

yesterday, i was trying something, to search for the words many time, refreshing search page, lets say im searching for the word (X) , its position on top search queries is 4, i search 10 times, 8 times i see it in page 3, and 2 times i see it in the first page 4th link!

I hope this is just a shock because of the lose of the external links, and situation will return good again.

dont know what u people think.


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