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2:Google Updates and SERP Changes - June 2010

 11:10 pm on Jun 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

I'm currently looking at an e-comm site where sales for the four complete weeks since May 16th are down 77% compared to the previous four weeks.

So far, I have no additional words of wisdom to add to this thread, and not much of a clue how to fix it.

Traffic levels haven't fallen by much, but instead it's as if Google is sending completely the wrong type of visitors.

Number of pages reported by site: search kept on falling, but in recent days have started to go up. Sales returned for two days, and then dried up again.

[edited by: tedster at 12:05 pm (utc) on Jun 15, 2010]



 11:30 pm on Jun 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

it's as if Google is sending completely the wrong type of visitors

There are many of these observations in this thread at this point. Has anyone analyzed the keywords of their Google traffic to get more of a handle on what's gone wrong?

There were other comments here that Webmaster Tools is showing very wrong top-level keywords for their site. That might also be a reflection of whatever this particular screw-up is all about.

I'm also wondering how it might be related to the "better sites for long-tail traffic" goal that Google says they are trying to achieve. Robert Charlton mentioned above that Google should be working to "tune" their data better right now, and I certainly hope that's true. Some members have seen signs that it may be the case.

None of the sites I'm currently working with are showing this kind of disturbance, thankfully, but I certainly see really poor SERPs when I use Google search. They look like those Bing "search overload" TV commercials sound.

If Google doesn't tune things a whole lot better, and VERY soon, they're actually helping those Bing ads to achieve their aim!


 11:32 pm on Jun 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, the WMT keyword reports also return crazy stuff for this site.


 12:05 am on Jun 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

@g1smd - I'm see exactly the pattern you are seeing. Sales down - traffic the same or higher. I can go to my awstats, then search on hundreds of long and short tail key phrases and I'm ranking in the top 3 on nearly all of them, yet my main pages are not being hit. It can be dead silent (I have audio counters on my main pages) all of a sudden traffic is back, then just as quickly it's gone for 16 to 24 hours, then back a few, then off, yadda yadda yadda... I'm at a loss as well.


 5:46 pm on Jun 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

If mainly "brands" are dominating the top 10, then what list of items do they have that G is looking at? or could it be manually selected (by G staff) of 10K - 100K sites that get the G trust to dominate? One of the sites we manage is a "brand", but got hit from #2 to #11/12#...

Also where could we find a list of trusted sites to get back links from?


 5:56 pm on Jun 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

There's an odd disconnect in the SERPs lately -- more error message pages seem to be ranking than I remember for a long time. Those that I've seen are "soft error messages", in that they serve a 200 http status even though the on-page text content is an error message.

With Webmaster Tools now alerting site owners about soft errors, you'd think that Google has the technology in place to trap these pages and not rank them, wouldn't you -- not even for the long tail. So it seems to be another sign that a SITE quality dial is cranked way up, and page quality or page relevance measures are dialed back.

I would have thought this kind of thing should not have slipped through Google's pre-rollout quality checks, but apparently it did. Or maybe I'm just unlucky in the sample I see and it's not an index-wide problem


 6:43 pm on Jun 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks to all those posting in this thread - it has been a comfort to me knowing other web masters and seo specialists are trying to solve this as well.

The 51 sites I manage and do SEO for were all hit hard.

Likely that is because over the years I have found what used to work and I kept repeating it. So what ever combination I was using with either on page SEO or link building has tripped something in Google to drop the sites. Hence all my portfolio has dropped.

Most are small, highly target sites with all unique content. Most written by my main writer, a retired Prof. from UC Berkley, so I know the quality is not an issue.

I have been experimenting with related keywords to the main keywords based on some advanced software that does social word relationship analysis for "story telling" as a beta tester and will see the results.

At first I thought the drop in the sites was a de-valuing of some of the link sources I like to use because in the past they worked well.

Anther thing I am looking at and testing is too many on topic anchor text links as opposed to top of the silo anchor text links - e.g. Computers or laptop vs. "pink apple notebook" - for that anchor text, if I am trying to rank for "pink apple notebook". The site that has maintained its #1 spot has more top of the silo anchor text links instead of the long tail anchor text links which I am trying to rank for. That is one observation. It seems like a small point but it may be very relevant. I am building new links with all top of the silo keywords now to test on one site.

Again, nice to be here and I am looking forward to making new friends here.


 6:59 pm on Jun 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

its easy to slag Google for their problems and that music search example is pretty poor, but I just tried it on Yahoo, Bing and my fave IXQuick and its all the same sites showing up for each.

Google is no worse than any of the others there


 7:02 pm on Jun 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

A note about "quality" - it almost certainly is not what a human being would intuitively call quality. It's an algorithmic something or other, apparently a site-wide factor, and as we're seeing this algorithm is sometimes a fail.

A friend tells me that the error pages he's seeing in the SERPs are not soft errors - they are returning the proper status codes in the HTTP header. And what's even crazier, these pages are making it into the Google cache:

Martin Ice Web

 11:59 am on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google is no worse than any of the others there

Thatīs the point. Former google was better then other search engines, now google is one of those. Silly step backwards.

If i look for an adapter switching german plug to swiss, i donīt want to read a blog with 3 lines and adsense on it.
Itīs ridiculous, picture search matches 100%.

From former results they must have stats about bounce-rate. I think, if you now could have a look at it, you will probably see it growing.


 12:25 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

My site was "switched on" for most of yesterday and was at normal sales levels, but after about 4pm CST, the switch was turned off again. Very atypical of traffic / sales patterns as compared to the past 5 years. Not sure what today will bring. Slow start so far.

I'm still seeing a considerable amount of jockeying around in the SERPS, so perhaps the re-indexing is still underway. At a quarter million mile high pile of paper per day, you'd think they'd have re-indexed the entire web already. By the end of 30 days, the paper pile will have reached 7,776,000 miles high, enough to circle the Earth 312 times.


 1:01 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

They didnt say that each site now takes up a 1/4 mile of paper, so 30 days = 30 sites. :)

We are seeing thing impove by the day atm, still nowhere near april levels. Pages seem to be returning to the index, there is certainly a massive re-index happening.


 1:34 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

My site was "switched on" for most of yesterday and was at normal sales levels, but after about 4pm CST, the switch was turned off again. Very atypical of traffic / sales patterns as compared to the past 5 years. Not sure what today will bring. Slow start so far.

I saw the same thing for one particular site I use to monitor what's going on. It's like they either turned off some filters or added old link data for weekend. The site in question was #1 for the weekend, now it's not in the 1st 3 pages again.


 3:02 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Some minor changes in my micro niche. One page that I observed getting a -10 penalty (probably human imposed) a few months ago that reappeared on Mayday has now regained its penalty. I wonder if they have folded back the previously human assessed spam report penalties.


 3:10 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google's index is switching to a more story based approach. The search results are reflecting the 'story" regarding the keyword that google thinks is happening regarding the users. This is the direction of their algorithm I believe. Hence we see all the tinkering.

They didn't have strong or fast enough DCs in 2003 but now they do and that reflects the significance of Caffeine. Caffeine is measuring the "story" and based on that Google wants to give users the search results.

That is why over optamized sites are taking a hit. The keyword structure is not part of the "new story code algorithm" that they are using.

Seo is moving toward more Keywords in related silos where the keyword we are trying to rank for also fits in that root silo. So now one needs to see which Root Silos the keyword is in and use that as part of the SEO with less emphasis on the keyword you are trying to rank for. This is my observation of the changes and where I see it has gone and is going to go further.

Sites or writers that have done this naturally are not taking a hit. Yet it will take time for Google to sort this all out.


 4:55 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)


Personally I went through all of that after Florida. Now I aim for my my pages to have relatively low repeats and density of keyword I'm targeting and keep this near the top of the page so as to have high prominence score. Then I use a rich closely associated language with synonyms and semantically related words later in the page. The whole site then needs to build on this semantic richness.

Anchor text within the site has become much more important in this algo change and sites that either have javascript or CSS dropdown nav systems of those big link panels above the footer seem to be doing better in my niche. Someone suggested earlier in this thread that semantically rich anchor text is important and I now think that we are talking about the same thing if I haven't changed what he said in my mind to match what I'm thinking.

As we get a better understanding of what is going on I think that the opportunities, which are bound to be opened up, are becoming more apparent.




 5:45 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)


I've noticed that since the end of May (in the UK) that Google's original Geo location problems are back in full swing. Any US SEOs may not be aware, but last June there was uproar at the amount of irrelevant foreign websites appearing in UK searches - for example flower delivery from New York or DVD rentals in California. Coincidentally, Google announced the release of Caffeine a few weeks later - conspiracies of a big testing ground can wait until later.

However, you may be interested that I've noticed the following being returned for '[Location] restaurants'. Now [Location] is a beautiful place located in central London...that is London... in England in the UK - not Australia. Even after clicking 'pages from the UK' it still returns Australian results. There is nothing from with my connection (no reverse proxy), I am searching from a UK IP.

What are your thoughts on such a irrelevant, useless result? I can provide hundreds of them to be honest.

Also - has anyone got any feedback on the data that I supplied the other day. Anyone else seeing this type of pattern? Keyword within domain (not saying that is a ranking factor, more likely the keyword within the anchor text) for all those URLs rising and a really poor selection of backlinks. Not to mention all domains are hosted in the US and some products are inaccessible due to my IP.

Anyhow, would welcome any feedback, thoughts, opinions. Is Google that arrogant they couldn't care less about the UK Serps?

[edited by: tedster at 9:50 pm (utc) on Jun 14, 2010]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]


 5:50 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is a joke. I searched for Greece (from USA) and the FIFA page of Greece vs S Korea match is #1.


 6:07 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I suppose this is a part of the MayDay update though it kind of occurred only a couple weeks ago. One of my strongest keywords which ranked steadily at #2 (for years) would occasionally fall to 3 or 4 when some change happens whether it's Caffeine or in this case MayDay.

But I noticed that what site leapfrogged me was a JCPenny page selling the same type of product. I checked that pages backlink profile and 1.) they have several thousand less links than my page does, and 2.) the majority of their links are located in small areas off to the side pretending to be "Advertisements" or way at the bottom on footers you can barely see and they're on sites that I would immediately click out of without even a thought. These sites have little to no PR as well.

My page on the other hand are well linked internally and externally via many different linking, from articles & blogs to legit asking for links or reciprocals.

I'm just a bit concerned because my boss is completely on my case for that keyword falling one or two spots in the rankings. I don't know what to tell him. :(


 6:12 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)


This would explain our "normal" levels of traffic yet our HIGHLY abnormal sales conversions.
Within about 6 hours of the initial hit on midnight May 17th, I had two sales, one from Pakistan an the next from the UAE. We have NEVER had sales in those location yet two within minutes of each other. My site is US based, Midwest.


 6:29 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is a joke. I searched for Greece (from USA) and the FIFA page of Greece vs S Korea match is #1.

Do you think maybe number 1 is not the end of all searches moving forward? I found quite a bit of information on the country when I searched, and skipping over the first result was fairly easy for me, so maybe they expect people will actually start reading a bit more of the page to find things or something if they rank the right results for everyone somewhere on the page?

I doubt if the end user really cares that they had to look at the results below the indented FIFA links to find information on the country, in fact, I would guess the average end user could care less what number the result they were looking for was at, or even if it was an ad, as long as they can find what they're looking for somewhere on the page.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 6:42 pm (utc) on Jun 14, 2010]


 6:42 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Personally I went through all of that after Florida. Now I aim for my my pages to have relatively low repeats and density of keyword I'm targeting and keep this near the top of the page so as to have high prominence score. Then I use a rich closely associated language with synonyms and semantically related words later in the page. The whole site then needs to build on this semantic richness.

Have those pages suffering now with Mayday? or have they held? I think since you are here they went down?

Just curious as part of the narrowing of what has happened.


 7:32 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is a joke.

It certainly is - our site is dead today, yet still ranking high everywhere - how can this be?
I'm getting ready to call it - after MayDay, my site is dead.


 7:42 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sorry to hear that backdraft7...

Do you think you're seeing personalization and others are getting different results or do you think people are finding competing products on the page (including in the ads) and clicking / buying them more than yours?


 8:05 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, I am able to actually see my competitors sales (he copied my site, so I know how it works)and he's doing no better, in fact worse. I am not logged into Google, so should not be getting any personalization.
There really isn't any other competition in my niche.
Not to sound like a broken record, but my traffic levels are actually higher than last year, but last year I was doing several sales per hour, as an example:

Monday 6/15/2009
sales at 2:15am, 8:09am, 8:11am, 8:37am, 8:58am, 9:42am, 10:54am, 1:15pm, 3:40 pm, 5:15pm, 5:40pm, 9:11pm.
Monday 6/14/2010
one sale at 7:38am.....that's it!
The traffic now just seems to be NON-TARGETED.

Also seeing different results between and DC's


 8:15 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)


I would guess targeting has something to do with it, but does the economy also have an impact that could be causing issues with actual sales?

Also, you probably know, but even regular searches are personalized by default, so make sure you clear cookies and stuff when trying to find 'clean' results to give you an idea of what others are seeing... One of the tough things about personalization is you really can't tell what other people are seeing unless you're them, which IMO makes if very difficult to diagnose when traffic is the same.

Have you made any changes to the site since last year (design, checkout, cart, processor, etc.) or thought about trying some split testing to see if layout changes, edits, etc. could help you increase the sales numbers and trouble shooting your end a bit more extensively?

I would double check every aspect of the sales process repeatedly to make sure there's not an error there where only a few people are getting through, because I've seen issues before where people were trying to do something and simply couldn't for one reason or another, even though things were working the way they should for a few people.

I would think with traffic, if the economy is not stonewalling you, it might be possible to increase sales through site changes and onsite trouble shooting... It would suck to see you go down while having traffic, so I'd try to find a way to work with what you're getting somehow, even if you have to simply accept advertising or something until you recover.

Seriously, if you find everything is working the way it should in the sales process and you can't increase your own sales with design changes, process changes, etc. then shift gears and forget about capitalizing on your specific product for a bit and figure out how to capitalize on the traffic, maybe with 'related but not competing' products or advertising... IOW: Think about capitalizing on the site and traffic more than how to capitalize on your specific product(s) with something 'complimentary' or 'clickable' that could help keep you going until the sales come back.


 8:42 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

@Backdraft7 Doesn't it seem normal in todays G world to expect the Junk traffic? I mean, you search for something and get junk results, doesn't it stand to reason that your normal customer base is getting the same thing hence your not getting buyers, just IP addresses that G seems fit to send your way...

Combine that with what seems to me to be G's ability to throttle traffic your way or my way at thier whim it all makes perfectly good sense...I think!?



 8:50 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am not logged into Google, so should not be getting any personalization.

You might want to read the Google post in the link below if you haven't already.

personalized-search-for-everyone [googleblog.blogspot.com]


 8:51 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)


The site was converting excellent right up until midnight May 17th.
May 18th was my first zero sales day in about 5 years.
No site changes at or around that time.

Again, traffic levels seem to be normal.

For some odd reason, my Adwords ads don't even seem to be producing.
My impressions are also down.

My quantcast numbers are about right for this time of year (same or a bit higher than last year)

I've check keyword trends and that seem down a bit. But why more traffic?

There are also times when the site just seems to pop back online.
BTW, I run Alert Site monitoring, no issues reported.
My site is dedicated with up-time monitoring.

As far as checking position from a remote location, there are several rank check sites that will let you know your position and those indicate #1 or #2 for my main keywords. I've been clearing cookies before searching and having friends across the US do searches for me...same results #1 r #2 position.

In a normal world, this would all add up to "the site works", but after MayDay and Caffeine, I'm afraid we are no longer living in a "normal" world.


Yup, mine is off. "Customization based on signed-out search activity is disabled."


 9:02 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7 etc:

We picked back up last week and were really busy with solid targeted traffic. We got orders all weekend. Monday? Disaster. Not one shopping cart for the first time in 3 years.

Through the grapevine we're hearing that the big dogs in this 30 billion dollar industry are all smarting from the changes too. For the first time ever I see a top competitor out of NYC paying $4-$6 a click for adwords. I can't make money running far more efficiently so the fact that they are all doing it tells me they are seeing a tremendous drop off. These people have NEVER once paid for an ad and they boast that fact at every tradeshow.

Guess what? It worked! Google has now produced some bing like search results. Customers cannot find what they want, I cannot find what I want, and as a result we all have to use adwords where we pay $6-$10 a click in an imaginary bid system where none of us know what the other guy is bidding. We all could be bidding $1.50 a click but we'd never know it.

Come on Department of Justice...time to get off your rear ends and take a close look at what is going on.

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