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Google.com SERP Changes - February 2009

 6:18 pm on Jan 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

Stuck in my daily work, I have not paying too much attention on Google lately - maybe tired of PR discussions, dupe checks, etc. But with today's glitch [webmasterworld.com] or the reports here [webmasterworld.com] over the last days of several updates [webmasterworld.com] here on the board, I was reminded of Tedsters prediction on Pubcon in November: they are up to something.

First: Traditionally seems January to be a big update month for Google. I was kicked or blessed in January in the last 7 years more efficiently then in the rest of the year (except Florida).

Today, shortly after the glitch with the malware report, my indexed pages doubled.

Problem is: i have also changed a lot on my major site in the last 2 months after pubcon, so I do not know if that is just me or the rest of you, too?

However: IMHO is something cooking and I have not yet figured out what. I expect major changes in the additional Video and Images results and also in the "Related searches"...

The additional image searches are now at a different place in the SERPs? Isn't that displayed differently now?

Someone with more ideas?


[edited by: tedster at 8:34 am (utc) on Feb. 2, 2009]



 8:42 am on Feb 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

Judging from the low volume of posts in January, it seems like I was wrong, pontifex. I also have not seen major changes - just the expected jiggling. So I'm guessing that no major earthquakes were released - yet.

Either that or the membership has become stoic about ranking changes ;)


 2:12 pm on Feb 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

There is definitely a rumbling going on in many very competitive phrases, but for whatever reason a lot of SEOs just aren't seeing it yet. It's a glitch of sorts that is promoting .edu & .gov googlebombs.


 6:33 pm on Feb 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

While I haven't seen a lot going on with the high competition queries, in some less comepetitive areas I watch - even some low-monetization single words - there's a roller coaster that keeps swapping many results between page one and page two. So the more informational searches seem to be in an experimental mode of some kind.


 2:07 am on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

@Joe - I've seen this too in one moderately competitive result. First one .edu and then another .gov that would seemingly have no claim to the first page are bouncing around in the top 5 or so.

@Tedster - Same SERP from mentioned to Joe, a lot of churn in slots 3 - 20 or so.


 3:30 am on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

There are some extremely competitive phrases that I watch where there are far more subdomain .edu and subdirectory .edu than relevant commercial results...by a 4-to-1 margin no less. Granted, most activity is off the first page, but pages 2-100 being junky isn't really a good excuse for G allowing it.


 2:47 am on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

Last Thursday Google banned my index pages and stopped sending traffic to them. Did anyone experience the same?


[edited by: tedster at 4:26 am (utc) on Feb. 3, 2009]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]


 4:52 am on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I have one website. Till the December we had very good ranking for this website and suddenly after 15th December I lost my entire rankings on Google. PR of the website is 3. We have 37 pages indexed by Google.

We have done on-page optimization and reciprocal links for this website, but we did nothing that will affect badly on rankings. Please give me your valuable suggestions. What can I do to achieve my rankings back. Donít understand Google has penalized me or what.
Please advice.


[edited by: tedster at 5:42 am (utc) on Feb. 3, 2009]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]


 5:49 am on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

A couple reports now of completely lost rankings for some smallish sites. It's not usually an algo change that causes a site to lose all its Google rankings and traffic. The first thing I'd check is whether the site has been hacked by this relatively new epidemic of hacking that cloaks the hacked content so the normal visitor doesn't see it - but it does get served to googlebot.

See Hacked Servers Can Hurt Your Traffic - detecting and fixing [webmasterworld.com].

That thread is available in the Hot Topics area [webmasterworld.com], which is always pinned to the top of this forum's index page. There are other very good discussions in Hot Topics about rankings that also are worth knowing about. And if you don't have one already, set up a Webmaster Tools account and see what kind of information Google has in their about your site.


 4:56 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

If with your web hosting account you don't have access to the root host file, which I believe means that you can't access your robots.txt file and .htaccess file can you still have problems with hacking to your site by cloaking or by hacks to the robots.txt file?

Also, since you can't access the robots.txt file and .htaccess file to look for anything unusual, is there any other way of checking these files? Can you ask the web host if everything is ok?


 8:13 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

You certainly should talk to your web host's tech support. There may be a way to get access that you are not aware of. However, if your hosting is on some kind of service that does not allow that access and the website is anything more important than a personal hobby site, then I would move to another host - and right away. You need these tools to run a proper online business.


 9:17 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I just went to a site that was hacked my virus protection caught it but it looks like a javascript hack. Is any of your content or navagition using javascript?


 9:31 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'll ask tech support if there is some way to get access to those files.


I am not sure if that question is directed towards me but if it is, I believe my content and navigation use CSS and HTML.

Adsense has Javascript.

Is there any way of checking if everything is ok without looking at these files (robots.txt and .htaccess)?


 9:57 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I am not sure if that question is directed towards me but if it is, I believe my content and navigation use CSS and HTML.
actually is was directed to all to look into, but since you answered if your not sure how your site is presented to the server for display then get with whoever built it and find out.

gouri do you have ftp access to the site?


 10:02 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

We're starting to wander from the topic of this thread - that is Google SERPs changes for February. There are other active threads here about checking on whether your site has been hacked.


I've been watching one particularly volatile search term for quite a while, and the past three days have seen three very different sets of results, apprently being served from different Google IP addresses. The thing that strikes me about it is the wide variance between the three. Only 3 urls are common to all of them, and only the top two are stable (the sitelinks "authority" site and wikipedia in #2).


 10:18 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)


What do the pages 3-10 look like in terms of .tld saturation for this competitve phrase?


 10:34 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's a mix of mostly international tlds - com org and net with just a few edu biz and info. Nothing spammy at all, just very different sources and opinions. This particular keyword is the name of a person whose death last Novemeber was of international interest, but got little coverage within the US.


 11:04 pm on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm in the UK and I have two comuters in my office, each one with a different ADSL line. For a very competitive phrase I get different results on each computer, and these are not only substantially different but they both change throughout the day so there are very volatile results at the moment.


 2:06 am on Feb 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks Tedster; the phrases I'm watching most closely are the ones that XSS spammers were most interested in for the past couple of years...there's a certain flaw in how edu webmasters took care of their exploitation situations that Google is messing up on.

[edited by: JoeSinkwitz at 2:07 am (utc) on Feb. 4, 2009]


 2:20 am on Feb 4, 2009 (gmt 0)


In August-September-October I read many posts at WebmasterWorld related to impact of Title change in SERP, and that was absolutely true. I did final change in page Title and meta Description in November, and started to wait...

BTW, I lost 90% of traffic in September-December, and I suspected (and I am still absolutely sure) it was related to page Title changes...


(subject also relates to recent posts regarding dropping results in site: query)

However, Google did technology changes: Googlebot accesses my site concurrently from few (3-5) IP addresses now, already 2 months. I had 200,000 pages indexed in December, now I have less than 10,000, but traffic went up.

And, for some keywords I am in top-10 (about hundred of such keywords) regardless on whether I change page Title or not. For instance, for a single keyword "Widget" which is also part of domain name I am #5, and during a week I changed title few times (added "Widget" to title, then removed it from Title; and added two other 'generic' keywords to title). Next day I have updated SERPs (with updated title) and link is still number #5 without any penalty. Same is true for another keywords (not a part of domain name) and deeper pages; change in Title does not mean anything now at least for my simple site.

Regarding [site:] query. It is very natural... since Google crawls my site concurrently from different IPs now.

Each [site:] query in a huge cluster is performed on a single server, so why... it requires time (few months?) until all chunks of data will get replicated, especially if I recently (September-October) changed URLs to more than several hundred thousands pages.

Anyway, traffic goes up, [site:] goes down, and change in page title does not play any role anymore; at least in my specific case.



 3:14 am on Feb 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is my current conjecture on what Google may be experimenting with. There are at least two types of "flags" that can be assigned to a query. For easy shorthand, some have been calling them QDF (query deserves freshness) and QDD (query deserves diversity.) It looks to me that it is these two factors of freshness and diversity are what Google is modifying.

In the case that I mentioned in my post above, the diversity angle seems obvious. This particular personal name has a similarity to two other names - those other names are less promintent, and seplled slightly differenylt but still of some note. The reults I see getting alternated in have various degrees of presence for those two alternatives. However, there are never any disambiguation messages. It's as though search results for "key word" sometimes include "keyword" and "key words" and sometimes not.

The freshness angle also seemed to be in play for a month or two after this person's death - but that is now fading away and one set of results is much more like what we saw in October, before the death.

In addition, there seems to be a shift between results that feature negative editorial content and those that don't. This facet of the shift is not something that I can attest to quite as clearly But if it is as I suspect, that could mean a degree of "sentiment analysis" is at least experimentally in play. Given how hard a problem sentiment analysis is, that would both amaze me and trouble me.


 10:30 pm on Feb 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing quite a bit of volatility on a one keyword, very general term with 140M indexed pages. We are showing up #2,3,7,8,9 depending on the time of day, ip, ect. It's a highly commercial term and like many here have posted, it seem like two very different sets of results. One is very 'brand' heavy showing major retailers. The other is interesting. The sites that dominate here very viral sites (also commercial) but are sites very prone to getting fresh IBL's on a daily basis.

All I know is that they better pick one quickly and settle on it so I can either get to work fixing the loss or kickin back and having a beer!


 7:14 am on Feb 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

In my analytics account, I'm seeing a very sharp increase in traffic from google.com...
NOTE: This is not the same as 'google / organic'... rather, it's listed seperately as 'google.com / referral'

There is no keyword information available on this referrer. Checking the landing pages, it's diverse and it's not a sudden spike to a particular page. This referrer was alway there but only one or two per day... now is up to 50 - 100 per day. Can someone clarify what I'm seeing here?

Google / organic remains unchanged at 1,500 per day.

[edited by: Asia_Expat at 7:16 am (utc) on Feb. 5, 2009]


 8:14 am on Feb 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

It might be related to this thread:

Google AJAX Powered Serps Kills Referals [webmasterworld.com]


 3:50 pm on Feb 5, 2009 (gmt 0)


I see the same thing. From 100 google.com/referrals per day to 800 (about 5% of our natural search traffic). I started seeing this on Feb 2nd.


 6:12 pm on Feb 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Here's what I'm seeing one one SERP - and it's been pretty consistently repeatable for a week.

Search for {moderately competitive phrase} and my page is number 3.

Repeat for {same phrase in plural} my result is number 5.

Repeat for {phrase in singular again} SERP reshuffles and my result is number 10.

This SERP has several video results and these get preference in the reshuffled result set -- including bringing in another video result not shown in the first SERP.

I'm not clear on hoiw to tell whether the 3rd SERP is comming from the same datacenter as the 1st SERP, or what that would tell me anyway, for that matter.


 10:54 pm on Feb 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

@RossWal: Google detects that you have queried the term before and gives you a set of personalized, alternate results with your second query.

Edit: I haven't tested this, apparently you can disable this by adding &pws=0 to your query.


 3:42 am on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Dear friends;

Could you please help?

My site has many pages ranked for many years on top 5, but most of them now suddenly dropped down to page 5 or 6, only some of them still on the page 1.

Is there any changes in Google recently? This happened before around Jan 20 for about 5 days and back to normal and now again dropped in SERP.

Please kindly help.


 4:35 am on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hello SunnyHanoi, and welcome to the forums.

Although Google is always changing (even every day) I don't know of any change in the ranking algorithm that would create such a dramatic fall. My guesss would be that you have some penalties on specific keywords.

I'd suggest reading the threads in the Hot Topics area [webmasterworld.com], which is always pinned to the top of this forum's index page to collect some ideas.

A fall that big often has to do with backlinks, not anything on your page. Read up on the -950 penalty [webmasterworld.com], also called the Over-Optimization Penalty or OOP. The fall is not always that number, but it is often involved in a big fall on some keywords and not others.

Also helpful for further research will be our Site Search [webmasterworld.com].


 6:22 am on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thank you so much Tedster for your information!

If penalty, I guess it would be for some of the keywords that we might have over optimized, not all like we are having now, most of them dropped and only few remained.

We recently changed our home page content with more links on it, these links are the old ones from the inner pages, we just want to make it convenience for our guess to find the pages.

Highly appreciate any of your support.

Sunny regards.

[edited by: tedster at 6:27 am (utc) on Feb. 10, 2009]

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