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Google Referrals Way Down Since the SERP LayOut Change?
this is not about the algo update - this is about the design update

 12:18 pm on May 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

The last week was the biggest single change in our referral profile graph since florida 2004.

Anyone else seeing major changes in referral numbers since the new serp layout last week?

(this is not about the algo update, but specifically with the new serp layout)



 4:39 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Elsewhere, at least 2 people have established poor previews are caused by blocking CSS in robots.txt- the logic being Google cannot create a "snapshot" without the style sheets. I expect image folders and other resources that are sometimes witheld from bots will cause similar problems

Thanks for this information. No css for this site is blocked, but I have blocked most of the images to prevent a flood of unwanted traffic from Google Image Search. I may unblock the images for one or two pages as a test to see what happens, although I think I might have to wait a while since Google's image indexing can sometimes be slow .


 6:40 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have a site which has the same problem, what I think it is besides blocking CSS on your robots.txt file, it may be that you have your style sheets file in a folder, example: themes/mytheme/style.cess this is fine when you have a reference to it from your pages as <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="themes/mytheme/style.cess" /> (relative path) for users or bots who are on site, but if fetching it remotely, the relative path does not have a domain name and it can't be fetched, so for previews I think, you have to write it like this: <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="http://mysite.com./themes/mytheme/style.cess" /> with full URL just like if distributing images on other sites.

The same problem may also be for images. Remember also if you fix it as above, you need to wait for G* to fetch it again as they are serving it from the cached page, so it may be 24 hrs or few days depending on the site and its importance to G*. If you disallow image hot linking, not sure but that may cause a problem for images being shown on G* images, need someone else to confirm this.

The only drawback I think is when other sites scrap your content, with relative paths, they have to manually change to the full URL otherwise they'll have a page looking like it is on Lynx browser, with this fix, it is is ready made for them, however that is not a massive problem for most sites anyway.
I implemented this today, hopefully to morrow/day after with a new cached page the blank page problem disappears from the previews feature.

I know you may say if this was the case, a css-less page should show at least, and you may be right and could well be a security precaution you implemented (mod_security for example), we are in the same boat and I'll be checking until I see it fixed.


 9:06 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Dusky -- Thanks for the information. I hadn't thought about hotlink protection as a possible problem, but really don't want to get rid of it for this site.

It's really an imposition if Google forces people like us to change our blockages and protections so they can display previews of our pages.


 9:17 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just did a few random searches using the preview option, and from what I saw, would estimate that Google shows blank rectangles for at least 15% of the previews. So evidently a lot of websites will be affected by this problem.


 9:22 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)


I've noticed that it often takes a refresh to get all the preview images to show.

Also, even when the image doesn't show, there can be an invisible hot link where the image should be.


 10:36 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

What previews?

How/where do I get previews?


 12:13 am on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

What previews?

How/where do I get previews?

Its on the left hand side navigation under "All Results" it doesn't show for all queries though.

<edit> Actually after you select it from a Query that shows the "Page Preview" option it shows up for all queries even the ones it wasn't available for.</edit>


 1:49 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think that Google's new interface is moronic. It is, no doubt, inspired by people who think that the end user wants all the bells and whistles when in reality the only thing that the end user wants is results. The removal of the "pages from $country" option is a massive mistake for Google outside the US. The other aspect is having the tool bar on the left hand side. Most people are right handed and use their mouse with the right hand. This means that to click on one of the toolbar options the right handed user has to move the pointer all across the screen. Referrals are down on some of my sites. But that might also be due to that equally iffy Google site speed estimate that does not even bother to take into consideration that one of the things slowing down sites is Google Analytics. The Google interface has been unchanged for years because it works. Now Google decide to break it. It is the webmasters who have to deal with the damage.



 2:30 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)


I think the new update is crucial and makes the matter of dominating SERPS a lot easier in my opinion. Let us assume that you can now create targeted images, named after specific keywords. Say you have blue widget as your keyword.

People read left to right so they will see the video, news, create a free book with lulu, create a blog to get a discussion going, twitter it and there you have it. More options. What has definitely happened is that SERP results below #3 must be getting creamed as the options in the eye tracking hot spot are picking up more traffic.


 2:40 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

> Have you compared positional click

Yes, no discernible rankings changes on top 200 referrers.

>through rates across differing date ranges in WMT?

wmt is a inaccurate for us. I am utterly befuddled by it. It is off by a factor of 20-30 on big keywords. We do more in a day than they say we have done in a month. For me, the only thing wmt is good for, is for GoogleBot errors.

> I think the new update is crucial and makes the
> matter of dominating SERPS a lot easier in my opinion

I think it makes the decision to spend more time on SMO and less on Google a lot easier in my opinion.

... I find I get more sleep when I forget Google exists. It helps to switch your default engine to something 'not Google'. Seriously - try it for a week.


 3:30 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I also blocked google images in robots txt to prevent unwanted traffic from Google image search but it doesn't stop Google from making a thumbnail of my pages, which is ok.


 6:01 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

From what I see on alexa, craiglist has been hit too by the google mayday update...


 7:24 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

... I find I get more sleep when I forget Google exists. It helps to switch your default engine to something 'not Google'. Seriously - try it for a week.

LMAO... Too True! I switched mine a while back, in fact I deleted G from the drop down so I couldn't go back easily, and now when I read about the garbage results sometimes I'll start to search and then remember I'm not using the right SE to have any idea what people are talking about... Every once in a while I'll actually do the search and think: '#*$!? Are they talking about, I'm not getting anything like that...', then it clicks... Oh, yeah, this is Bing. LOL.

I honestly don't mind the switch a bit. It took me a few minutes to 'learn how to search' using a different engine, but once I did I could find about whatever I was searching for easily... If people are thinking about switching, I highly recommend taking the time to see what differences in word order and other variables in searches do in whatever engine you try, because I've found once I know what works it's fairly easy to find things. Sometimes I think people are so used to Google if they type something in exactly the same way they expect exactly the same results and if they don't get 'em they think it's broken, but I've found there are 'nuances' to searches and for the most part can find what I'm looking for fairly easily once I understand what search generates what type of results.


 10:02 pm on May 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I might have discovered why the Google Search Preview option shows blank rectangles instead of screen shots for one of my sites.

In looking at the site's error logs, I saw that my hotlink protection has been blocking webcache.googleusercontent.com.

I don't know for sure if this is causing the problem, but I have just changed .htaccess to allow access for this, and will see what happens.

[edited by: tedster at 12:24 am (utc) on May 15, 2010]
[edit reason] clarify the blocked domain [/edit]


 6:26 am on May 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Dusky -- Thanks for the information. I hadn't thought about hotlink protection as a possible problem, but really don't want to get rid of it for this site.

That may and it may not be, in any case, wait until the page is cached again as I suspect they are fetching it from cached pages. If they cached a page with different CSS and image locations, the problem will still be there until they update, I could be wrong on this, I am just making an educated guess!

The problem for some people may also be just refreshing a couple of times, but it seems is real for most and those thumbs are not accessible to G*. I have also seen a weird problem which made me think they are using cookies and they are blocked. G* was blocked when I went to my adwords analytics account under site overlay which is probably an JS/ iFrame using cookies, it gave me the message:
G* analytics: 20000: Access denied. Please try relaunching site overlay from the report.
That could be from my FF privacy / security settings or may be from my server's mod_security, not investigated it yet, I know there is a cookie there as it's annoying when you go to your site again it's all blur and have to delete all cookies to get rid of it, so a similar thing may be causing this as well, who knows.

 4:25 pm on May 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

> ... I find I get more sleep when I forget Google exists. It helps to switch your default engine to something 'not Google'. Seriously - try it for a week.

I wonder if Google use could go down with the Spam Version of Google Results. Man it is so cluttered now. It's been geekified--engineers with too much time overcomplicating what should be simpler. Seriously, I'm not switching to another SE, but I'm not as inclined to use Google as much. It's like being offered a Neurotic Shopping Assistant every time you enter a mall. A greeter at the door is okay--occasionally--like at Christmas.

Didn't web usability expert Jakob Nielsen once talk about giving users a limited number of options? Wasn't there once a time when your website was supposed to be better off with a few choices instead of many in its basic nav structure?

Google doesn't even have the argument that the changes are a cool design even if they are cluttered/annoying/weak.


 7:13 pm on May 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

After waiting a week to collect data it looks like the change has had little effect on our sites.

I guess the only thing to do now since it looks like we need to live with it is learn to use the new features to our advantage.


 11:12 am on May 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing referrals down from google.co.uk. One theory I have is that I operate in a space where Google is still defaulting to American spelling "ize" vs "ise". The colloquial evidence I've seen on non-technical forums suggests that users no longer know where to find the "Pages from the UK" option which corrects the spelling thus seem a swathe of US results. I'm sure if Google got back to localising the spelling for users of Google.co.uk, certainly in my case I would expect things to be business as usual.

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