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Google Updates and SERP Changes - July 2009
tedster




msg:3943983
 11:24 am on Jul 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

I received a communication last night that discussed a buzz going around that Google is going to shake up how it deals with backlinks. Specifically that Google is going to give less weight to less relevant linkage. This source also heard from another direction that a big change was coming in the next few days.

Anyone know anything?

 

StarryEyed




msg:3948766
 10:50 pm on Jul 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hi guys- I hope I am in the right thread...I haven't had to join in a Google serp change thread in almost two years...but alas, my 8 year old site has completely disappeared from the serps today. :( It has been so steady for many, many months, well years now...but as of today, - I do not rank for any of my 10 major search terms....my extremely poor Adsense earnings today was my clue that something was wrong.

I have not made any major changes...have not been SEO'ing and no link building. No link building for 4 years.

2 years ago or so I received the dreaded 900 penalty for 30 days. Someone in Poland had suddenly put up 10,000 with my site's title and with links to me... I started reporting these what I called made for Adsense spam pages to Google as spam in the index and explained that I was in no way connected with this site and didn't understand why I was penalized. I kept this up for weeks. Then I noticed they removed all of the spammer pages and my site was miraculously back in the index- on page one for most terms. Yippee. Since then- nothing has happened rankings wise to me and I was starting to feel like a "Google Darling"- until today.

I'm still in the Index just not in the serps. Am I having a major heart attack too soon? Somehow I don't think so...

So far I haven't found any spammer pages I can blame it on...and I'm not sure if I'll be back in tomorrow since this appears to be so drastic-I don't even think I am on page 900 this time..I've read the majority of the posts in this thread and my head is spinning...I'm not sure what to do this time.

With a change this drastic - what should I start looking for -especially when I haven't changed anything?.. I'm discouraged to say the least. Can anyone suggest a good starting point for me with this? Since my site is out for all search terms - I imagine a switch was flipped and I'm caught up in it.

I'm still in Yahoo and I'm also in Bing, but we all know where most of the traffic comes from...:(

tedster




msg:3948808
 12:07 am on Jul 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

StarryEyed, that sounds like either a terrible bug or a penalty (either collateral damage or for real). I'd say the first stop is Webmaster Tools - especially to look for messages directly from Google, and also to look for any startling error reports.

Another key step is to figure our where those pages might be showing up currently - even if it's now on page #99.

Other clues may come directly from your server logs - for example, are there any visitors from Google Search at all? If so, Google sends them to which url and for which query terms?

And certainly, investigate your backlinks (use mmore than Google's information) and check your site for any possible server hacks [webmasterworld.com] - the current scourge of the web.

StarryEyed




msg:3948837
 12:30 am on Jul 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks Tedster...since my post I've been in Webmaster tools...nothing odd in there today and zero new messages...still shows my page one rankings too...*sigh* I will check it again tomorrow.

I've found three pages so far..for search term 1 the site went from page 1 to page 48, for search term 2, the site went from page 1 to 62 and for search term 3, the site went from page 1 to 92...many more terms to check..haven't even checked the long tails yet.

...and thanks for suggesting server hacks...that hadn't crossed my mind - I've been lucky with that stuff so far - maybe not anymore? :( I'll start checking my backlinks as well. If I find something interesting or end up finding nothing, I'll post back. Thanks.

aroon




msg:3949167
 1:29 pm on Jul 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

page 2 on google from page 4
page 2 on yahoo from page 5
page 1 on bing from page 3

without doing anything. sweet

potentialgeek




msg:3949465
 6:39 pm on Jul 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

Google News still has a bug in it. I look up a news item and instead of giving localized-priority results, it gives me the UK and India. lol.

Love2Blog




msg:3949708
 3:48 am on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just some quick observations that I have made after closely studying the SERPS for the 3 sites of mine that fell to Page 5-7 over the last few weeks for their home page/sitewide keywords.

For a total of 8 keywords across all 3 sites every single site from Position 1 to Page 5-6 where my sites are now is at least 3+ years old, most far older at 5+ years. And this is for every single keyword.

There is only one instance of a brand new site that is showing 0 G links and only about 6 Y links. And the SERPS for these keywords were not that way when I was on page 1, and my sites are only between 1 - 1/2 years old.

Another interesting aspect that is different than before is that several of the ranking sites are not using the keywords in title, instead they are bolded in the meta descriptions as displayed in the SERPS. Not all of them but quite a few.

tedster




msg:3949739
 4:50 am on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

instead they are bolded in the meta descriptions

Have you checked the actual meta descriptions in those cases, or do you mean Google's description snippets?

Love2Blog




msg:3949887
 9:58 am on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

@Tedster
No I did not check Meta, I meant the Google snippets, could have been Meta or not, they show my Meta for my site.

Hissingsid




msg:3949898
 10:08 am on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

When Matt Cutts said that Google had been treating certain links differently for over a year and no one had noticed the research I've done leads me to believe that that was a deliberate un truth designed to confuse us and waste our time.

They may have been planning it for a year but the hit came around 4 weeks ago. Links from what used to be known as "quality directories" became very devalued. Run of site links from footers became virtually worthless. I can understand the rational for this and am willing to accept that it is pobably a good move although its a PITA for me.

I've got one inner page that gets very few backlinks (shown by site-explorer)from outside the site. It was #1 for ever for a 2 word term. It is now at #3. The interesting thing is that when I compare the backlinks with the new #1 with my page they are very similar, so similar in fact that I can cross most of them off both lists. This narrows down the backlinks that are influencing ranking to a very small number.

In my case what is left is backlinks from footers on another site I run. Whereas they have recently bought a small text block with a link in it from the RH column of an on topic home page. It is that simple.

I'd be very happy if someone could demonstrate that I am barking up the wrong tree or confirm what I am seeing by their own observations.

Cheers

Sid

UK_Web_Guy




msg:3950055
 1:56 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Sid

I'm not seeing what you are seeing, I don't think footer links is the issue.

I do agree I wouldn't beleive what Mr Cutts says, nothing personal to him, but Google like to spread FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt!

engine




msg:3950143
 3:58 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'd like to make an observation, not based upon my sites but, of the SERPs in general.

The last 24 hours have been SERPs packed full of spammy, weak, but relevant sites. I don't often see this last very long, however, it's been longer than normal, and i'd like to think it'll clear up rather quicker than this.

Today, I cannot say i've found what I was looking for on Google.

cangoou




msg:3950145
 4:04 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Well, the problem is that at the beginning of June people where saying the same, and now it's almost 6 weeks and nothing really did change.

doughayman




msg:3950193
 5:12 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

"I do agree I wouldn't beleive what Mr Cutts says, nothing personal to him, but Google like to spread FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt!"

He seems like a nice enough guy, but it amazes me how webmasters hang their hat on everything he says. Understand, he is the Google PR guy, and nothing more. He says precisely what Google tells him to say. Whether that is honest or deceptive, lies purely on Google's shoulders.

"The last 24 hours have been SERPs packed full of spammy, weak, but relevant sites. I don't often see this last very long, however, it's been longer than normal, and i'd like to think it'll clear up rather quicker than this. Today, I cannot say i've found what I was looking for on Google."

Yes, same here. I continue to make Bing my search engine of choice. For example, I was able to find a printer accessory that I needed today on Bing; Google was of no use on this - the spammy sites it returned were amazingly weak, and not pertinent to my search. Times are a changin', that's for sure. As a student of the Roman Empire just reminded me the other day, nothing lasts forever.

signor_john




msg:3950199
 5:17 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Understand, he is the Google PR guy, and nothing more.

Dang, and I fell for the story that he was a techie who heads up the Google Search anti-spam team. :-)

Hissingsid




msg:3950204
 5:26 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Dang, and I fell for the story that he was a techie who heads up the Google Search anti-spam team. :-)

Nah! what you fell for was thinking the had another solution to spam other than PR ;)

Cheers

Sid

mrguy




msg:3950227
 5:45 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Understand, he is the Google PR guy, and nothing more.

I've been following Matt since he first posted on here as Googleguy. I'm going to agree that since they went public, what Matt can and cannot say is very limited since it now has to be filtered through lawyers as all public comments for any public company.

That said, I'm sure he is still head of spam, but he also has other duties, like getting webmasters to turn in other webmaster for spamming. Makes his job much easier.

I've got a few sites that seem to of been caught in this latest wacky flux but I'm not doing a reinclusion request nor am I changing anything. The sites have done nothing wrong.

Seems like every summer we have wacky serps that settle out torwards the end of summer.

signor_john




msg:3950300
 7:44 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

The sites have done nothing wrong.

I sense an opportunity for a bumper sticker:

"Sites don't spam. People do." :-)

tedster




msg:3950316
 8:08 pm on Jul 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've been hearing some conjecture about that change in backlink scoring - that it involved semantic analysis of the entire linking page rather than what it was previously (essentially anchor text + title + nearby text). That would be subtle enough to escape immediate detection, at least in many cases.

I'm not sure how to go about analyzing this idea, but it is interesting. I suppose the main result would be a devaluing of backlinks from off-theme pages.

Love2Blog




msg:3950440
 12:33 am on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

Has anyone noticed a changes in the toolbar PR? Two of my sites went to PR0 from PR3 and PR1, today or yesterday.

The one that went from PR3 to PR0 still ranks page 1 for all keywords, and the other is very new.

Is this a penalty on me personally? Glitch? Or another update? Does Google update sites individually?

trinorthlighting




msg:3950492
 2:38 am on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

I saw a PR increase today on all of my sites. This month has been very wacky.

Love2Blog




msg:3950507
 3:40 am on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

@trinorthlighting

You're not kidding, spoke with some webmasters and browsed some sites I frequent and they have PR updates as well. BTW, 2 of them are selling links and they lost PR.

I am not selling links and I lost PR, but site still ranks and has not been affected by the SERP issues, unlike my 3 other sites.

cangoou




msg:3950665
 3:02 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

2 sites that have been recovered at least a bit are gone again today to 350+... Seems the update is still running.

christine dawson




msg:3950672
 3:18 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

If Google does this, they will be making a mistake. Sure, we all know the secret. Backlinks hold more weight than anything with the google algorithm. However, when a site gets legitimate backlinks - it truly shows popularity and creates new authority sites. I guess we'll see...

tedster




msg:3950678
 4:37 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the forums, Christine. You're right that backlinks are critical - both for ranking AND for penalties. Google is quite ticklish aroound the area of linking!

mrguy




msg:3950682
 4:55 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

However, when a site gets legitimate backlinks

And getting an algo to try and figure out which are legitimate and which are not, is the trick.

It appears they are having a problem distinquishing the two and throwing spammy links at sites can actually hurt a site which is great if you want to knock off a competitor.

I'm conducting a test to confirm this theory against a competitor. If it turns out to be true, then things are going to get pretty bad around here when everybody starts to do it.

signor_john




msg:3950709
 6:39 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

It appears they are having a problem distinquishing the two and throwing spammy links at sites can actually hurt a site which is great if you want to knock off a competitor.

I wonder if it's really that simple. If I were Google, I'd use questionable inbound links as a "negative signal of quality" that could affect some sites more than others. A site that was already teetering on the edge between "spammy" and "not spammy" would be more vulnerable than a site that was clean as a whistle in other respects.

tedster




msg:3950713
 6:48 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

I agree, and I think the algo is already quite complex. But from recent comments ("there's almost nothing a competitor can do") I get the feeling that sometimes things do go wrong.

Hissingsid




msg:3950716
 6:55 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

tedster,

I have to say that giving links from on topic pages a greater weight is an excellent idea but didn't Teoma have that idea about 5 years ago?

Didn't the spark for PageRank come from the way that academic papers use as reference other academic papers? You would only use as reference a paper on the subject that you were studying if it had authority or provided a specific piece of information for your own paper. And you would never refer to a paper that was not relevant to your own study. PageRank had this assumption hidden within it but then people stopped sticking to that rule and site owners started buying and selling links and a backlink could no longer be trusted to be a true vote, the assumption became false.

If they apply semantic analysis to pages and only count links between pages that are on a similar topic then buying and selling links becomes restricted. Buyers will only want to buy from on topic pages and on topic page owners may be more picky about who they will give links to. You don't want to dilute your topicality.

This would explain much of what I am seeing. Perhaps it's not that links are in footers that is the problem it is the fact that the rest of the page is not on topic. The sudden rise of large brand sites is probably because those sites are shining beacons of a particular topic and if they have carefully aimed links at particular on topic pages they can blow the rest of us out of the water.

Very though provoking.

Thanks tedster!

Cheers

Sid

cangoou




msg:3950717
 6:56 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

As long as there are penaltys which can throw you back -50 or -350 just for getting the same anchor text in an amount of links or getting links from sites google recognized as a site-network, you can defenatly harm a competitor. How should google be able to tell if you want to optimize (and overdo it) or you want to harm him? If you can get kicked-back your own site, you can do it with other sites as well.

whitenight




msg:3950719
 7:02 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

If they apply semantic analysis to pages and only count links between pages that are on a similar topic then buying and selling links becomes restricted. Buyers will only want to buy from on topic pages and on topic page owners may be more picky about who they will give links to. You don't want to dilute your topicality.

Ok, the classic example.
Related topics associated with Michael Jackson's death:
(Let's call the article title tag "Michael Jackson Dies" for argument sake)

- Music
- African American
- Caucasian
- Elephant Man
- elephantiasis
- chimpanzee
- child abuse
- court records
- medical prescriptions
- lawsuits
- attorney
- bmw
- europe tour dates
- thriller
- horror movies
- vincent price
- magic johnson
- graceland
- adoption
- Jehovah Witness
- wardrobe malfunction
- debt
- peter pan
- amusement park

etc.
of course i can go on and on, but tell me how Goog is supposed to figure out "semantical relevance"?

(And you'll see such "non-associated" keywords linked to seemingly irrelevant topics in Wiki all the time)

You are right. The relevance of the original PR was the anchor text keywords.
And it still is.

Goog has no way to figure out "relevance" outside of the words used in the anchor text.

Hissingsid




msg:3950723
 7:30 pm on Jul 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

Goog has no way to figure out "relevance" outside of the words used in the anchor text.

I'm sorry but I don't buy that although Allinanchor:[search term] is currently returning almost identical serps to [search term] for the term I covet most.

I guess that I'm searching for an answer that I believe in. In a way it doesn't really have to be the whole truth just something that I can use as a direction. Something has changed, perhaps just for commercial terms, but something has changed and I want to do something about it.

Cheers

Sid

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