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Google MAYDAY Update - SERP Changes May 2010
pontifex




msg:4125391
 12:53 pm on May 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

Now, as the dust settles from the last days and my panic is under control :->, I thought I share some ideas here.

Basic infos:

1. Nature of site: eCommerce

2. Type of link building: across the board
specialties: our sellers get subdomains, minimal link buying, majorly press, partners, etc.

3. Pages on domain: somewhere around 3 Mio. pages,
majorly product details and listing pages of products


History: Until Tuesday we ramped in around 200k Uniques a day - very strong long tail traffic, 65% of the landing pages are the product details.

What happened: First the site lost one PR point from 6 to 5 in the last update. Traffic went up, so I did not care at all, but maybe it completes the picture.

Tuesday, April 27th: solid and good traffic, but slightly lower than last week.

Wednesday, April 28th: first noticeable drop of around 10%

Thursday: 25% loss of traffic to Tuesday

Yesterday: 27% loss of traffic to Tuesday

Think this is the current status: Lost around 25% of power/traffic somehow.

--------------------------------------------

What happened?

Hard to say really, but here are some cents for the collective thought pool:

a) Keywords I monitor are still where they were, but these (around 20) keywords are not really LONG TAIL

b) Some merchants selling strong in the past weeks dropped out of the sky and vanished from our top sellers list: that could be the reason.

I looked here in this senseless long thread :-) and found the following quotes spark a clue:

I think the loss of long tail is more to do with Google's incredible improvements in Adwords relevance matching. - internetheaven


Well, my loss in traffic is majorly long tail - so that area fits at least.

Long tail traffic in most cases relies on internal link juice, this is how it works. - SEOPTI


There is so much insight in that one sentence, I love it!

And I can relate to it in my case:

The few top sellers vanishing from the list are providing thousands of niche products for very specific purposes. They lost the traffic and that whole picture falls in to place:

If this is the Caffeine update, IMHO the following happens while we type:

Deep content is gathered from domains not crawled so deep before. The amount of pages with long tail keywords doubles, tripples or just magnifolds and changes the game as a whole.

If internal link juice is now weaker or stronger: Link building has now a different meaning.

Link juice must be handled under a differen perspective.

Even if we can build up 1,000 named backlinks to a page, it looses its power on 3 Mio. children quite quickly.

If there are major authority sites unlocked by Caffeine with "before 100,000 pages" and after "10,000,000 deep pages" we have now

9,900,000 new enemies in the long tail....

That would explain a lot to me and I wonder what you think?

P!

< the active thread for this discussion is here: [webmasterworld.com...] >

[edited by: tedster at 7:44 pm (utc) on May 22, 2010]

 

mrez74




msg:4125897
 1:14 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Can someone shed some light on when we are going to see one set of SERPs that is consistent all the time? Whenever I search for my keyword (3 word term) I get presented with two different SERPS on google.com. One is very similar to the datacenter IP 209.85.225.103 ( which I believe shows Caffeine results and I rank much higher) and then there is the other dataset I get that shows my sites anywhwere from 3-15 spots lower ranking depending on each site. It seems to me that is 50% one set and 50% the other set. By the way I'm in the US.

When is all of this is going to settle down once and for all? This is has been going on now for like 3 months or so. I mean before it would be like once in a blue moon where I would get a different SERP listing for my keyword, but most of the time it was the same set of SERPS. Now whenever I check my traffic and notice an increase I assume that good set of data is being shown for that particular audience at that time and then next hour it goes away.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4125900
 1:19 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

What happened: First the site lost one PR point from 6 to 5 in the last update. Traffic went up, so I did not care at all, but maybe it completes the picture.

Tuesday, April 27th: solid and good traffic, but slightly lower than last week.

Wednesday, April 28th: first noticeable drop of around 10%

Thursday: 25% loss of traffic to Tuesday

Yesterday: 27% loss of traffic to Tuesday

Think this is the current status: Lost around 25% of power/traffic somehow.


This makes complete sense. Google continually revisits pages on your site so when the index PR went down so did it's pr passing ability to your internal pages. When those were later crawled and your link structure was updated within google those also fell a little. Ultimately some pages were close in PR to a competitors site and your drop became their gain in serps. It's all connected together and it affects everything in ripples, not all at once.

Since you can control how much PR is on your index page (example: all pages link to all pages = flat link structure = all pages rank the same vs all pages link to index but not each other = high ranking index and category pages etc) you can either get more links or offload some category level pr onto the index and article pages. Do this by interlinking articles together a little more, more related items etc. Whatever you change will take a long time to propagate on a site that large but it works.

tedster




msg:4125906
 2:05 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hello mrez74 - and welcome to the forums. You ask:

Can someone shed some light on when we are going to see one set of SERPs that is consistent all the time? ...When is all of this is going to settle down once and for all?

No one here can possible know when, or even if things will settle down. For all we know, this might even BE the new way Google works (shudder!) I kind of doubt it, and I'm moving forward on that assumption.

But IANAGE (I Am Not A Google Employee) - and I'll bet even those people couldn't say "when" very accurately. Caffeine seems to had defied even the insider's predictions of a timetable.

tedster




msg:4125907
 2:11 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

it affects everything in ripples, not all at once

Absolutely! Sometimes we tend to think as if this were still Infoseek in the '90s. We would like to make a change and see every effect of that change show up in the rankings within hours. Not so today - it's ripples, and ripples upon ripples, and then Moiré patterns as the ripples all interfere with each other.

Import Export




msg:4125956
 6:51 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Looking at the surface of analytics I notice some sites doing better and others doing worse.

There may be something to the niche site vs general site debate earlier in the thread.

cangoou




msg:4125964
 7:13 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Has somebody an idea what happened in the field of the single-keywords? I got some strange results here as well, sites swaying around from Top10 to somewhere at 50 or 150, sometimes coming back, sometimes staying there for the last 4 weeks while they had been in Top10 for some years(!) before. Is it still the chaos of the update or do you think there is something we can do right now? I would prefer doing something, because this all in going on since January now and as I noticed with horror we are in May now...

tedster




msg:4125970
 7:58 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

In recent times, widely oscillating rankings can be a sign that the backlink profile is either getting stale, or is too narrow in its variety. By variety, I mean focused too heavily on blogs, or directories, or social media, or article syndication, or press releases, or reciprocals, or... fill in the blanks. I'd work on that angle for a while. A wider variety of honest backlinks certainly can't hurt.

designaweb




msg:4125981
 8:55 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's another observation, allthough I am not sure whether it's related. I can't really see the connection, but perhaps other find this usefull.

I've got a niche location related site, 3 levels deep and available in 16 languages. On 21st of April, traffic was down roughly 80% on some of these languages. On the 27th traffic was back up, but still 30% less then before. Not all language sites were affected:

EN-US
EN-UK (possibly affected)
DK
SE (affected)
FI (affected)
NO
IT
FR
ES
PT (affected)
PL (affected)
NL
BE
DE-AT (affected)
DE-CH (affected)
DE-DE (affected)

First ones I spotted were the DE-* variants. I am using rewritten content for the AT/CH versions, focusing on different phrases (synonyms), so I thought Google thought of these 3 pages as duplicate content and penalized them. However, the Portuguese, Polish, Swedish and Finnish sites are also affected, and although the content all derives (translated) from it's EN-US source, they are all unique, and still affected. I am using 2 seperate servers (on completely different IP's, but no pattern can be found in this either.

Still clueless, will post back here if I find some more hints on what's going on in my case, but for now I hope this helps anyone.

[edited by: tedster at 10:48 am (utc) on May 3, 2010]

y0z2a




msg:4125982
 9:21 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

EN-AU is seeing some quite varied changes in results.

/y0z

[edited by: y0z2a at 9:31 am (utc) on May 3, 2010]

mrez74




msg:4125983
 9:27 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Right now I am seeing a totally different set of SERPs for many of my keywords. Recently it had been 2 sets of Serps, but now I am getting a set which has several of my sites ranked much lower. I am seeing this in California.

internetheaven




msg:4125990
 9:46 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google's "did you mean" database has been expanded immensely and has been given a green light to take over results to be "you probably meant:" rather than "did you mean?"

We've lost considerable traffic from this point as Google is very wrong on most occasions. Some keyphrases that are close to brand names now return that brand rather than a selection of results for that keyphrase.

g1smd




msg:4125996
 10:10 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I hate the "you probably meant" feature.

It often specifically gives me exactly what I was not looking for.

maximillianos




msg:4125998
 10:14 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

That is a good point internetheaven. As a user I find myself clicking those "did you mean" links at the bottom of the first page instead of going to page 2 of the results. That could definitely explain some loss of traffic for sites with a lot of pages hitting on page 2 of SERPS.

pontifex




msg:4126000
 10:17 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

@Sgt_Kickaxe: ripples - agreed, good point.

@tedster: ripples of ripples - yeah and the understanding of it is good SEO, I guess.

I already started to work hard on the internal link structure to make it (more) flat, released 2 press releases (in German and English) to get more link love, etc.

In a situation (and I have been there Florida & BD) like this, it is hard to focus on the long run and ignore such sudden changes in traffic and ultimately money flow. I also agree that it is not a nice business to rely on G for traffic, but hey: most of the sites do.

Now back to work: more content, more links, better weighting, improved internal structure... don't we just love the game ;-)

P!

TheMadScientist




msg:4126017
 10:57 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I hate the "you probably meant" feature.

It often specifically gives me exactly what I was not looking for.

g1smd, I don't like to be the one to have to tell you this, but:
You probably meant it's almost time to switch to Bing... LOL

And somehow I'm sure that's specifically not the answer you were looking for again... :)

angiolo




msg:4126038
 12:08 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have the same experience with google.de.

A site that was ranking fine for several keywords moved from the first page to the third page. It seems to me like a small penalization: most of the page had been cached two-three days ago. Only the index had been cached one month ago!

What I recently did were some press released but nothing that could be defined "spam".

I hope that it's only a temporary glitch.....

wmxpert




msg:4126065
 1:15 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google is getting crazy against large websites. I am also experiencing huge decline in traffic.

After mid of march and start of april, I got 3rd shock from Google last friday, when our traffic goes down by 25% over the night. Till date we've loosed up to 45% of our traffic in comparison with january.

Google is crawling our website aggressively. I've noticed another thing that "site:" is not returning root page of our website as well as of some of our competitors websites.

pontifex




msg:4126073
 1:33 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

The strange "site:" results are across a lot of major sites, including ebay, amazon and strangely enough - google, too!

arizonadude




msg:4126096
 2:00 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

The site: result returning a lot less pages would certainly account for the long tail searches missing on a lot of different sites since those pages are no longer in the index.

I've got several sites that had over 10k pages indexed but now show less than a 800 in the site: command.

Sounds like Google has decided that a site should only have so many pages in the index thus giving their database much more room to add many more websites.

Smaller micro niche sites genrally don't have that many pages indexed which is why they are probably doing well.

Those waiting around for things to settle are going to be waiting for a long time.

This is the new Google like it or not.

pontifex




msg:4126112
 2:17 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

arizonadude: i am not seeing LESS pages - in fact, I see a couple of 10thousand more compared to last week. But www. dropped to page 2 and subdomains took over!

Andylew




msg:4126120
 2:21 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

New here but felt this important enough to post. I too have noticed a 90% drop in traffic since 1st may, however I belive this is likely to be temporary.

It happened like this:
30th April: webmaster tools started to reduce the 300k pages it was reporting as indexed on the sitemaps by ~50k every couple of hours. So by the end of the day it was reporting no pages listed. Also on 30th april traffic reduced by around 50%.

1st May: Webmaster tools started adding pages ~50k every couple of hours upto a new total of 600k. Traffic reduced by 90%. A site: search still reported the 300k pages.

2nd & 3rd may a Site: search has not changed, an identical number of pages are being returned equal to the number at the end of april. Search terms return the site much further down the listings. Previously the site: search would fluctuate and be identical to the number reported in webmaster tools. Webmaster tools sitemaps fluctuated by ~10k pages which is as expected.

My speculative theory, on 30th april google switched webmaster tools across to caffine system. Webmaster tools now reports pages listed on caffine but the caffine search has not yet been fully activated. Once a site has been transfered that site has a snapshot taken which is used on the old search system, no further updates are done so it slides quickly down the listings.

I belive the reason the clean well seo'd sites are feeling the effects first is that these are the easiest ones for google to digest and update (onto caffine) but doing these first results in reduced positions until the final switch.

A further piece of speculation, the 90% drop only happened on the site that used webmaster tools, I have another which does not use it and has been unaffected.

TheMadScientist




msg:4126127
 2:27 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi Andylew...
Welcome to WebmasterWorld!

Nice 1st post, and good information, but I'm not sure I understand this point:
I belive the reason the clean well seo'd sites are feeling the effects first is that these are the easiest ones for google to digest and update (onto caffine) but doing these first results in reduced positions until the final switch.

What do you mean by feeling the effects? Are you talking about WMT numbers, or are you thinking something else, like thinking they are migrating data from one storage type to another?

Andylew




msg:4126131
 2:45 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

What do you mean by feeling the effects? Are you talking about WMT numbers, or are you thinking something else, like thinking they are migrating data from one storage type to another?


Im thinking that if I were google, at some point for the new system to take over, the old one will have to be switched off as it is unlikely there are the resources to run both concurrantly. So in order to switch I would update all the well seo'd sites on the new system first, as this would be fastest, then no longer update them on the old system (resulting in the position slide) - this is likely to be the most important sites, google, amazon etc plus those that have good seo (wmt members amoungst others). Then the old system would be switch off resulting in resources to recrawl the less well seo'd sites to add them back to the bulk.

TheMadScientist




msg:4126133
 2:52 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think you have a good thought on a small scale, but it doesn't work on a larger scale when you're serving billions of searches a day, because there would be too little accuracy in the results, plus they have the resources to pull a data center off line and continue to function, so what they do is create a live working version and then take one (or more) data center 'offline' or 'out of the loop' and then update that data center while still serving the old dataset on the rest, then they repeat the process until they've 'rolled through' all of the data centers... This is why Caffeine's been visible off and on, but is not available all the time yet. (AFAIK)

Basically, right now they have two full working versions of data they are serving results from and they are moving through data centers, removing the old dataset (Big Daddy) and replacing it with Caffeine while the data center is unavailable for public view, but when the switch over is complete the old datasets will be gone from all data centers and Caffeine will be 'live' all the time for all searches and searchers.

So, right now Caffeine 'jumps in and out' because people hit different data centers on different searches and some have Caffeine installed and others are still running Big Daddy.

cangoou




msg:4126137
 3:02 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks tedster, I will try to get more variaty to my backlink-profiles.

A site that was ranking fine for several keywords moved from the first page to the third page. It seems to me like a small penalization: most of the page had been cached two-three days ago.

Thats exactly what I see without any hint of "why" and no overoptimization was done here (on some sites nothing was done for month). Some of them are coming back, some are better then before, but some are still just "gone" - no matter if it's a money keyword or if you just needed 4 links to get to the top.

Lexur




msg:4126159
 3:35 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Disclaimer: This post is only for those who think Alexa is not useless; otherwise, skip to the next post, please, and do not try to explay why those data are not valid at all.

Take a look to the Alexa graphs for giant sites, those suposedly affected by this "update": most of them have a break in april 27/30. We are not alone; i.e., cnn.com seems to lose almost 20% of its traffic in four days.

designaweb




msg:4126163
 3:42 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

A further piece of speculation, the 90% drop only happened on the site that used webmaster tools, I have another which does not use it and has been unaffected.


Neh, I have both affected & unaffected sites in WMT, and also both affected & unaffected sites who are not in there. No correlation afaik.

zoltan




msg:4126167
 3:46 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

And, one more thing. Asian traffic suffer more than US and UK traffic.
My US, UK and Canada traffic dropped "only" by 19, 16 and 14% while China, India, Pakistan and UAE traffic dropped by 39, 23, 25 and 24%. While countries like: South Africa and Turkey seems not to be affected (+1, -1%) and Australia is only -5%.

[edited by: zoltan at 3:46 pm (utc) on May 3, 2010]

Andylew




msg:4126168
 3:46 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think whatever is going on it hasnt finished, the number of reported pages in webmaster tools on sitemaps has always matched the site: search until may 1st and until it does once more I for one will not be altering anything.

renoirm




msg:4126172
 3:50 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good to see this post is live.

I run a pretty decent size website (600k uniques) and we started seeing this problem on one on of our subdomains on April 19. It had an outage due to high amount of http calls from googlebot. We corrected issue but saw about a 15% decrease in traffic only on the subdomain. Then on Apr 29th bam....down 20% on main site (high amounts of calls via googlebot) then down another 50%.

We run chartbeat which allows for real time visualization of the traffic and literally at around 10pm est the traffic began to drop at a 45 degree angle for 3 hours.

Then on May 1st at around 6pm EST we saw all of our traffic return. We were relieved until yesterday morning noticed the traffic was back at -70%.

The sad thing is since Jan 1 we've been rising at about 5% a week and were hoping "skys the limit" but then this hit.

I am pretty active in tech community in NYC and called a few of my friends who have websites. 2 of the people run websites with names you'd know. All in the long tail niche. PR6-PR7. All have said they saw a drop ranging from 15% - 30%.

I assume this is temporary due to the fact of Sataurdays return for 6 hours of traffic but if it's not it'll mean for plenty of work for my team and I.

We've read thru all the theories and the things we've seen consistently is:

1. Began around Mid April - May 1

2. Seems targeted at midrange sites (200k - 2mil)

3. Googlebot is giving sites a bit too much love

4. Numbers range in decreases (15% - 90%)

5. Doesn't appear on all data centers (Singapore traffic is great..even though I am an American Company)

Oh and 1 final thought and proof it's going on. In Google analytics I went to Benchmarking. Compared our site to various other sites. All have a unique user outage. Now I know the Benchmark isn't the best tool but it's interesting to see comparable in various niches with traffic drops. (all the drops I see are on April 28th.)

pontifex




msg:4126178
 3:57 pm on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

@renoirm: thanks for sharing. The 5 point list is a good summary. I looked at a few top 500 from Alexa and saw no changes in their traffic flow. There do not seem to be obvious drops for that subset - the opposite seems true, but that data is so unreliable!

Quantcast and compete data is not up2date.

So lets wait and see how that turns out or if Matt is willing to share some background when he is back from holiday...

P!

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