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Google Updates and SERP Changes - December 2010
scottsonline




msg:4237241
 5:35 am on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

I know tedsters has stressed this but what we see ourselves in the SERPS doesn't always help. We are getting pummeled by traffic on one keyword that is relevant. I can't find it and neither can any friends buts it's converting at a great rate. When I perform that search i get no results. Oh the games....

I'd say 20% is a close number compared to two weeks ago. Google traffic is off 35% over these days last year. Yet business is strong, and the bounce rate is low.

The shopping SERPS are impacting more this year because exact matches are turned down. Theres s bunch of products that we were 1-3 on last year where we are gone and so is everyone else, replaced by unrelated stuff...think:

Product whiplash from Appalachian co

Returns
Man falls from tree in appalachians suffering whiplash
Walking the Appalachian trail
Blah bla x 7

The exact match of the product name yields no results in holiday search 2011.

I was laughing tonight when I saw a site on amazon that sells helmets also is selling tools. They rank near the top on many items in google. They have no ratings and appear to just dump feeds. #1 in google, ahead of the manufacturer and a world renowned climbers site. That's the lunacy in all this, amazon isn't an authority on rock climbing helmets, crucial memory, or even sweat socks sold by 3rd parties.

This is as bad as the earlier wiki is 1st which was adjusted out. An unknown third party selling on amazon using content that's identical on 5k websites prior...doesn't make amazon the expert.

Im betting a lot of lost traffic went to amazon. They were up 25% yesterday, a lot of us were down 25%. Thanks google im sure amazon needed that boost.

[edited by: tedster at 6:51 pm (utc) on Dec 1, 2010]

 

netmeg




msg:4241494
 3:13 am on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not seeing the exact match title behavior listed above across approx 250 sites of varying sizes. FWIW.

tedster




msg:4241496
 3:40 am on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

As I understand the above reports, this is the pattern:

1. A URL is ranked well for an exact phrase in the title element
2. That ranking drops away dramatically
3. A new word or two is inserted to break up the exact phrase match
4. Rankings now return for that phrase, even though the exact match is now gone

Have I got it right?

brinked




msg:4241503
 5:27 am on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

tedster, that is what I have seen. I have a PR4 site that was ranking #7 for a 2 word phrase, dropped to 20-25 on oct 22. I just edited the title last night, so lets see what happens in the following days/weeks.

scottsonline




msg:4241512
 5:59 am on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

SERPS getting worse. Watching a movie with a bunch of guys and the age old question regarding the female stars previous roles is asked. Good returns malware, 12sdewaq.com type domains then a wikipedia page around 8th.

Ramble your titles
Give google more to work with

scottsonline




msg:4241538
 2:13 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Explaining the changes:

For years if you wanted to find the filmography of an actor you typed in the name. Just recently and usually when it's a female star tons of spam is returned for non work friendly sites if you get my drift. These aren't well known sites but dhsgabsan.com type random names. In some cases imdb is getting pushed way down the page.

It seems to me googles anti spam
Efforts have made it hard for mostly white hat small businesses to thrive while pure spammers do well. It mirrors laws in real society where the casual offender gives up but the hardened thieves are still going strong.

Binge results didn't have the spam.

Has caffeine made google worse by finding so much more junk)

walrus




msg:4241548
 3:26 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I find Google getting better for local but for general search is worse, maybe for that reason, more junk being found.
I have one site that had very steady traffic for years, then fell off a cliff in feb 2010, still havnt been able to regain anywhere close to traffic levels maintained for 5 years or so.
What i find really odd is that it was after taking google suggestions of using analytics, webmastertools,adding sitemaps, not repeating keys in titles etc,i got washed, even after adding more unique content, and still not good enough for their directory, while adsense ridden sites that broke TOS were showing top ten. I reverted to spammy 3 key titles, dropped the sitemaps, changed the flow of the links and still nothing changed.
I can understand that, its a wild vicious game, I may have pushed the limit with similar pages, or got bowled,poisoned, redirected, server fked, who knows, but this weird steadiness of either high or low with little fluctuation just seems really unlikely almost mathematically imposssible without human intervention.

So, my main gripe against Google is their lack of coorespondence. There is basically none except the dissatisfied with search forms, DMCA or google groups, even for a 6 year publisher. To me that is rather BOGUS.

maximillianos




msg:4241553
 3:43 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think G's lack of correspondance is more related to the reality of the situation. Every change they make will positively affect some webmasters and negatively affect others. They know this and they expect webmasters to know and accept this. I think it is a reasonable expectation. Which is why I don't track SERPS anymore. I just focus on maximizing exposure of my content. Focus on what you can control. Don't let fluctuating SERPS distract you from improving your core business/service.

scottsonline




msg:4241562
 5:05 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google doesn't tell us what's wrong or what we've done in wmt because they know how arbitrary their enforcement is. For every penalty we all could list 1000 sites prospering while breaking that rule. It would open a pandoras box of potential litigation.

steerpikegg




msg:4241594
 7:33 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

@walrus

I sympathise deeply - this is exactly my story. Something went badly wrong for me at the beginning of February 2010 and since then, we have never regained anything like the traffic we had for the past 3 years. This year has seen incredible lows matched with hopeful looking increases for a week or two and then back down to a flatline level. I cannot fathom the reason - I have, like you tried everything possible in terms of ensuring compliance, fixing canonicals etc.

It feels almost like G has singled us out as a kind of lab-rat dangling on a piece of elastic this year. I am really hoping that I can just write 2010 off and that we may find some stability in 2011. If not, then the boot really is going to be on the other foot and I am going to set up a new site using every dirty trick in the book to try to claw some cash back in before our business disappears down the drain.

Google are trying to compensate for a fundamentally flawed search engine by constantly moving goal posts and adding worthless bells and whistles to polish their 'turd'.

If you told anyone, layman or expert that you were going to build a search system that deliberately avoided showing things that match your query, they would just laugh and think you were joking. Google are definitely not joking. They seem to be obsessed with making it impossible to 'game' the search engine, and if this means results that look like they've been run through a bingo machine then so be it.

Their unhealthy obsession with localised results also grates with me. I could count on one hand the amount of times I search the web for something 'local' without adding my location to the end of the query. The clue is in the name - WORLD WIDE web.

maximillianos




msg:4241598
 7:57 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

[begin foil hat]

Maybe they are just showing random garbage results to folks they know are webmasters to throw everyone off.

[/end foil hat]

netmeg




msg:4241600
 8:15 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Or maybe they just don't feel any particular obligation to boost or assist any company but their own. I mean, c'mon. I hear this from clients all the time too. WHY can't Google just rank us for what we sell? Answer - they don't wanna.

backdraft7




msg:4241603
 8:32 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

@steer - I hear ya with the hopeful increases and then return to flat line. We've had a slow steady growth since 2000, but this year (post May 18th) has been a disaster of ups & downs. I'd say we've lost over $20,000 in sales. Imagine the collective damages due to Google's tinkering.
Things were recovering last week, but Friday, Saturday and now Sunday have been a bust.

eferg




msg:4241608
 8:57 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

steerpikegg - Well said. I sense and share the frustration behind your humor.

The whole attempt on Google's part to second guess where you are and what you want is ridiculous. It's as if Google has decided the average user is too stupid to articulate a search phrase.

As far as the serps goes, I'm more convinced than ever that Google has jumped the shark and biased the organic algo to maximize their ad revenue.

What else can it possibly be? All the junk sites are left as-is so the honest store owner gives up and buys ads.

Bing is not perfect, but they are much better at filtering spam. Google could do the same if they wanted to. But they can't; unlike MS they really have no other source of income. To find the motivation, just follow the money.

I hate to repeat myself, but I believe at some point webmasters will have had enough and start openly endorsing other search engines on their web sites.

Ed

brinked




msg:4241611
 9:08 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

If the results are really that bad, there is a "give us feedback" link at the bottom of every SERP. Report any sites you feel are too low quality and non deserving of ranking there. I did this for 2 sites and in about a month they were both gone.

There will always be changes to google, if you cant adjust your game you will be left behind. This applies to bing as well not just google.

If crappy low quality sites are outranking yours, try to find out WHY they are outranking your site. Maybe it is YOU who is doing something wrong. Have someone else take a look at your site, a fresh set of eyes can spot something you cant.

I get so many webmasters come to me claiming how they have "no idea in the world" how they were penalized, dropped down etc and then when I check their website its apparent almost immediately.

If your website is crap and has had success, dont get mad if one day google finally discovers your website is crap.

I am not saying this is the case, and this does not apply to everyone, but even if your site should rightfully be ranking higher, google obviously found a reason why it shouldnt. It is YOUR job to find out why. If you can do that, you will be successful in this game for a very long time.

backdraft7




msg:4241612
 9:18 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

@brinked...some sites are seeing a different problems than rank. I rank within the first 3 positions for thousands of keywords (about 8,500 to be more precise), yet traffic quality fluctuates greatly. A "crap" site is typically not going to convert at all...unless it's just an MFA site and people need a way out through Adsense links. When a 10 year old site converts well for 9 of those years then 2010 comes along and everything goes to pot, I gonna venture a guess and say it's not the site owner who messed it up.

BTW, I've tried that feedback link hundreds of times and it never produced jack squat. I've also used the webmaster tools version and no help from Google.

brinked




msg:4241615
 9:37 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

backdraft, I understand right now its tough. I know how google traffic is very spotty these days but I really feel this is only for the holidays. Every year there is some change that gets everyone upset and then things go back to normal or even better in jan-feb.

the give us feedback works if a site is a MFA site. If its another problem they were try to "algorithmically" correct it which can take a while if they feel its worth correcting.

brinked




msg:4241617
 9:47 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

BTW, I dont know if anyone else has noticed this but google is showing slightly different results depending on how you search. I am getting slightly different results in chrome than I do FF (both have web history disabled). I also sometimes get different results in FF if I go to google.com and search vs searching directly through the firefox google search bar.

eferg




msg:4241621
 10:10 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

...if your site should rightfully be ranking higher, Google obviously found a reason why it shouldn't


I understand that argument and I take a critical look at my site in comparison to my competitors. I feel that on Bing, the sites in the top 10 for my KW are positioned about right. I'm #5.

In Google I'm #15. For example, I see a thin client site at #7 that just points it's product images to another site's order checkout page. Their "Contact Us" page has no info (says "Under Construction"). This is what I'm talking about. Been there for a year and I've reported it via WMT three times.

So yes, Google has found a reason why my site should not rank as high as this guy. But that reason has nothing to do with uniqueness or quality. I think it has everything to do with bogus links and ad revenue.

And I don't say Bing is better just because they rank my site higher. I also purchase materials, supplies and tools for my business off the web. Since switching search engines, my shopping experience has been much more productive.

Ed

brinked




msg:4241630
 10:51 pm on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

eferg,

also dont forget, rather than looking at reasons for why your site is not ranking high, start thinking about why it may be pushed back. Maybe you are in a small filter/penalty due to over optimization, too many suspicious looking backlinks, repeated words, dup content etc.

scottsonline




msg:4241652
 1:03 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Brinked in every case the only ones that outrank us are cheaters violating the wmgl to worst. I'm not paid links, I'm talking doorway pages, redirects, duplicate sites using different keywords. Google doesn't read spam reports. You are wasting your time.

Whatever changed is coincidental. They didn't demote the eyeglass criminal after thousands of spam reports. It took a ny times article.

The same goes for products like merchant where huge adword spenders are the only ones getting away with cheating. It will take the next article for google to say "gee golly we don't know how this one advertiser got away with murder."

Bing is going to win this battle not because they were better. They will win e e rising because they didn't soak up the extra 40% of the web that was mostly garbage. The minute google flipped the switch on caffeine is the moment this all went to heck.

imbckagn




msg:4241660
 1:24 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

BTW, I dont know if anyone else has noticed this but google is showing slightly different results depending on how you search. I am getting slightly different results in chrome than I do FF (both have web history disabled). I also sometimes get different results in FF if I go to google.com and search vs searching directly through the firefox google search bar.


Not only that but I am positive there are two data sets out. For the last 5-6 days I can do a search for "blue widgets" and see my site in 1st then click search or refresh and see my site in "4th". The number of results under the search box changes for each search as well.

I found this out because I noticed certain phrases starting to fluctuate a lot in Analytics. These are phrases that have always had the same traffic give or take a few until the last 5-6 days.

maximillianos




msg:4241663
 1:33 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think caffeine gave them way more data than before. This in turn is allowing them to manipulate SERPS based on way more data, which is causing more fluctuations. It is not a bad thing. Just a different thing that we all need to get use to I guess.

scottsonline




msg:4241681
 3:30 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Results are horrible tonight. Do a search for what we are all taking about (business) and the word directory. I just had my friend call and say "you have to see this" One of the top results is a site that doesn't work. Most of the top sites are junk. This is a pretty big term I think.

It actually seems like each day it's getting worse. What is really going on with google?

Another Sunday another set of tough articles in the papers. I really think the worm is turning and what google thought was cool......as the paper said today "in truth it is a creepy multi national company that spies on us."

A year ago when there were google issues we could say "but the search engine is good" now all we can say is "it was good in 2009"

Remember google helped wipe out the papers but I think the favor is being returned. Hows it going to look when a paper writes an article with emails showing feeds or advertisements removed for some companies while others that just happen to be big advertisers skate by with the same "violations."

They need to get things together quickly. Seems to be spinning out of control.

brinked




msg:4241696
 4:20 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

searching for business directory brings up location specific matches. I live in brooklyn so its showing me brooklyn business directories.

as per google:Google will always provide the results that we believe are most relevant to your search. Location is one of a number of factors that we use to provide these relevant results

scottsonline




msg:4241705
 5:29 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm just east of you and it correctly has my location. One of the top sites is mfad. Dot net. The site doesnt work. Jigsaw is one page two, linkedin page four.

The third result I and others see tonight isn't geotargeted. They should focus on getting the base results most correct. I think we will be seeing a slew of anti google articles in the coming weeks which puts pressure on the SERPS.

eferg




msg:4241715
 6:20 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

...in truth it is a creepy multi-national company that spies on us


Which is why I don't use Gmail.

I feel weird enough that I give away a bunch of personal data via Analytics, and of course I can remove it at any time. But in spite of sharing the data, I do get some benefit.

On the other hand, knowing that they mine data from email, I'm staying away.

Jez123




msg:4241731
 9:40 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Which is why I don't use Gmail.


Which is why I also never sign into google unless I have to. Same as I rarely use WMT unless I have to. I have lost trust in google over the years and they are doing nothing to replace it! :-)

Anyone got any ideas for a catchy name for facebook page to bring any of what we see to the general searcher? Or has anyone already started one?

steerpikegg




msg:4241747
 11:26 am on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Probably a bit long for a facebook page, but the lyrics from a Police song would say it all: every breath you take, every move you make ....... I'll be watching you

scottsonline




msg:4241777
 1:42 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think one of the reasons so many spam sites are near the top again....drums...they must have ingested a ton of spam sites into the algo. Now we do the dance of waiting a fee days while results suffer. When my friend was doing that search Saturday he was looking for sites like linkedin. That site didn't appear but was replaced with a hijacked site offering a bad request 500 page. I waited a week to post and for the week it has been in the top 5 as a defunct site.

The article In the dailymall was interesting. The wsj article yesterday hints at some
of the favorite playing we all see. I like the quote "...our goal is to give users answers.".

How about webmasters that follow your rules and get slaughtered by those breaking them?

The only time we ever hear from google is if our adwords payment didn't go through. Other than that we can never reach a real person.

walrus




msg:4241804
 3:27 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

When a 10 year old site converts well for 9 of those years then 2010 comes along and everything goes to pot, I gonna venture a guess and say it's not the site owner who messed it up.


Exactly, we have all been on a rollercoaster for years but it never hit the ground before.

@steer, thanks, good luck, seems to be a factor in the algo this year


openly endorsing other search engines on their web sites.

I wonder if many others have done that. Ironically enough when I added an ask search box ,they announced the retreat from the search engine war a week or so later.

I get so many webmasters come to me claiming how they have "no idea in the world" how they were penalized, dropped down etc and then when I check their website its apparent almost immediately.

Good point, many are victims of their own device. I am still correcting things that may have contributed just never seen anything like this before. Aside from my own mistakes, or losing a few quality links, facebook is gobbling traffic, G added the left nav and all the other stuff pushing results down their homepage which meant even #1 is #8 half the time.
I am convinced with enough quality links, you could have a blank page, no doc type, no meta nothing, just a picture of a running shoe with an alt tag, and with enough links especially from authority sites, it will rank #1 for running shoe. IMHO Googles algo gives to much weight to inbound links.

backdraft7




msg:4241931
 7:32 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have lost trust in google over the years and they are doing nothing to replace it! :-)


...and it's ironic how they want us to be squeaky clean and trustworthy. At least that's what they say, what they do however and the (garbage) sites they have been ranking highly lately is another thing.

I think everyone is quickly losing trust and any other warm fuzzy feeling with their erratic, wacky, hair brained service. I used to love them, now I am quickly learning to loathe them.

Quality in the in the past 4 days has been terrible. High levels of traffic, but to all the wrong places...and NO, I'm not making site changes to adjust to anomalies in their system. Today I'm switching to Bing as my SE of choice.

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