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Google Updates and SERP Changes - December 2010

 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

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]



 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.


 12:55 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm assuming by the relative silence here that either business has picked up for those who have been experiencing poorly targeted traffic, or you've all given up. Hope it's not the latter. - It's been another dismal day. sub pages are getting hits, but the home page and key pages are getting nothing but chirping crickets. Competitor site looks slow too (I can see their total sales - lol).

My longtail is definitely taking a hit this year and a traffic monitoring service I use shows a slight decline in fall / winter traffic from that in the past two years. I am usually on a nice increase now with an overnight BOOM on Christmas day. I'm not expecting that to happen this year.

Talk about your manic depressive inducing SERP's!

@scotts - we're still being usurped by Amazon ans wikipedia on a major single word (four letter) keyword.
I was sickened today when I saw a major "ezine articles" site with dozens of vaporous articles targeting my niche. At least two were from my own affiliates, so you KNOW people are trying that route to game the system. Said ezine site is experiencing a meteoric rise in traffic. No big surprise.


 5:08 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Backdraft every day is mayday. Others have confirmed via pm they are seeing the same junk.

There have always been few day periods where bad results occurred. It now seems there are mainly bad results with a few days of good data.

On a personal level I gave up trying to buy stuff online for the kids. One of the top google sites was flagged as unsafe by norton and is unsafe. The rest were a mess of information, just as easy to hit best buy. At least with their search engine if I type in ps3 I don't get a twitter feed of someones third ps like I did on big g!


 8:23 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I gave up. Long ago. This situation is making me Ill with worry & I've had enough of it. What with Royal Mail messing up just about every delivery due to a bit of snow & a VAT rise to 20% due in January (in an already weaker than weak economy) I can't say I'm looking forward to 2011. As has already been mentioned-when a 10 year old site has nothing but problems in the last year(well, 6 months-ish!) you kinda know it isn't anything you did. Sure some on here say adapt, adapt to what?! My last throw of the dice with be to get a pro SEO company in next year.

[edited by: ohno at 9:16 am (utc) on Dec 14, 2010]

Martin Ice Web

 8:34 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Up to now, i didnt want to take an active part in this discussion. Im located in Germany. Since tonight traffic at day has been quiet stable with -50% conversion. Best traffic has been at nights. But tonight all has changed. Ghosttraffic, traffic from brasilia, india ...
IMO google has changed their synonym table to a christmas based table. EG a query that former delivered some technical or shopping pages will now produce serps with gift based pages while big players are promoted.
This would explain the nonsens we are seeing. If some poeple at google made a list with widgets that maybe christmas-gifts and now connect this table to the queries, this will produced crap.


 9:08 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

/\ exact same here & has been like that every time things go pear shaped. This will hurt the economy in a BIG way, I was going to be buying a new colour () laser printer this week-not much point if there is nothing to print! Stock orders are well down so it will be hurting my suppliers, I was going to go out for a nice Christmas dinner this weekend-not any more. The knock on effects with this situation can be huge.

Anyway, good luck everyone and have a good Christmas!


 9:18 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm assuming by the relative silence here that either business has picked up for those who have been experiencing poorly targeted traffic, or you've all given up

Given up looking at my stats!

I gave up. Long ago. This situation is making me ill with worry & i've had enough of it. What with Royal Mail messing up just about every delivery due to a bit of snow & a VAT rise to 20% due in January in an already weaker than weak economy i can't say i'm looking forward to 2011. AS has already been mentioned-when a 10 yeart old site has nothing but problems in the last year you kinda know it isn't anyhting you did.

I am busy at the moment with the Christmas trade but I too am seriously worried about next year. The last few months have actually been a struggle to find enough money to pay the mortgage so with the increase in VAT,... well I just don't want to think about it. It will be a year since I moved to this house next week :S

I know people will say I was stupid to be as reliant on google as I obviously am but when you are flat out at max capacity with what one avenue brings you there's no time to explore others. Plus the fact that being flat out with what google provides there was no way to cope with more work. A bit of a catch 22. And when google whips the rug from under you it really hits hard.

I have some other ideas and hopefully I can get by. Well, I just have to, there is no option to lay down and let it wash over me.


 9:25 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

/\ Jez, you hit the nail on the head there, flat out from Google means you can't look at other avenues until you are forced to (too late?), a situation I now find myself in.


 11:59 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Wow! I was hoping I was wrong...I hate to sound like Chicken Little, and not to swerve off topic, but perhaps the sky really IS falling.
This is all winding up to a perfect storm of economic disaster. Governments perpetuating wars, an economic drought that rivals the Great Depression and from what the market news says, another on the way, high fuel prices, wacky weather, tax increases, government uncertainty and the general inability to cooperate and get anything positive accomplished. To top it all off, the last bastion of free enterprise, the internet, is clearly broken. It's not just Google either. Has anyone else noticed how slow and lockup/crash prone Firefox has become? I switched from IE because that was too buggy, but no way I'm switching to Chrome. Then "they'll" be able monitor my every move.

It' 2010 for God's sake, you'd think the world world would be running smoothly by now, but it all just seems to be getting worse, never better. Perhaps the ancient Mayan calendar is right - I'd say the end or a huge collapse is just a year or two away.

Good luck living in the new stone age my friends!


 12:32 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Nah. It's not worse. We're just more aware of what isn't working, thanks in large measure to the WWW.

The beings that make things "run smoothy" are sent to other planets. Humankind is an entirely different experiement.


 1:05 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Webwork you're entirely right but google seems convinced that we are all ones and zeros that fit into neat packages. What they are finding is they are wrong and worse for them that humans don't like being lab rats. We are all just lab rats with wallets to google now. They hooked us by being the first to effectively search our content and now they milk all of us like cows each day.

It all makes sense to me now. They really don't care that the results are terrible. That light shade of off white that says "ads" says it all. That a single ip can click on one of our ads 30+ times every week and nothing is done about it says it all. That it took the ny times to embarass them on an international level in order to make changes despite dozens of spam reports says it all. They don't read our spam reports.

This company cares about the money they can make. A lot of you were instrumental in the success of google by providing great content that they served to the public. But they don't care about you, it is 2011 and they still won't tell you if you are penalized for something someone else did. They don't care if your business fails and you lose everything because someone half way around the world doesnt understand you. We spend six figures a year in advertising and the only time we have ever heard from anyone at google was when we changed accounts and a payment was late by a day.

They've never answered a single other communication of any type anywhere. It was only when THEIR money was missing that they cared.


 1:13 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Scotts, I think that google checkout pretty much sumes up how google operate these days. Hook people with low transaction charges and once people are users and have set their sites up accordingly, hike the charges! I bet most people would have rather stuck with paypal over google but were tempted away by the semingly fairer charges!


 1:17 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Lol, we offered GC and it NEVER got close to PP, like a lot of think G does a great idea that seems to get left on the sidelines...

Thankfully it is one of THREE payment options we offer(cards/PP/GC)

God help anyone on their new OS!

I guess we just didn't give G enough through GC for them to care, was still 4 figures per month though.


 1:39 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't expect Google to care one whit about my businesses. I don't particularly care about Google's business (except as it affects mine) Google *is* a business, and of course its own bottom line is always going to come first. They also have a history of (usually) taking the long view, rather than short term money grabs. But there's always collateral damage, and that's what you have to guard against.

Also, for what it's worth, if my site was purring along fine in Google for 9.5 years and then suddenly tanked, I would not be so quick to determine it was Google's fault. A LOT has changed in the last ten years; I can barely keep up with the changes in the past six months.

I know it seems like Google has singled out you or your niche, and there are definitely some screwed up results out there. But in the grand scheme of things, normal people (i.e. people who are not us) generally still think Google works pretty well, and in fact is improving. My 79 yr old mother is *delighted* she can do all her Christmas shopping in Google.

When these things happen, I try to look inward (what can *I* do about this?) rather than outward (what did Google do to me?) because ultimately, it's my business, and I have to control it. Not Google.


 1:48 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

/\ You have no control if Google controls who visits you! If this was a bricks & mortar town it would be akin to having a steward direct you to only stores he felt you wanted to visit (and sending you to a shop that sells oranges even though you asked for apples!). Ironic that you use 6 months as the timeframe, roughly May time yes?! ;)

This would be easier to swallow if Google communicated instead of the snippets of riddles we get from Matt Cutts.

What I'd love to see is a switch to "Google Classic" on the hompage, I wonder how many searchers would go back to the old style given the choice?

Sure we can use this time to look at our sites & make changes but the sinking feeling I get is the 10 year party is all but over.


 2:43 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

The worst part of all of this as just like in real life nice guys finish last. We followed everything Matt Cutts said to the letter and have been ruined by those running duplicate sites, doorway pages and buying paid links. By following his words and thinking google actually took the types of actions against those google crimes we got whipped. We are all fools. They never had the ability to stop these things they wanted us to think they did so more would comply.

What we see now is rampant spam winning and silence from google. Even as they are embarrassed by the media they stay silent offering no explanations.

Google has the resources to snuff out spam. They have the resources to answer spam complaints but that isn't profitable. Send in 1000 spam reports and you will see nothing and hear nothing.

It's 2011 almost. How can google think a defunct site is the next best option on the search i gave the other day? Been like that for a week are they testing to see if we like offline sites?


 3:56 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

This thread is about tracking Google updates and SERP changes - its title is not "Google Complaints".

Google "Noise"
Generic editorialising, whether pro or con, may be removed. We're not here just to vent, we're here to help each other understand. The noise level editorializing creates makes it difficult to filter through threads for information of real value.

Google Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com]

From here on we will remove "Google Noise".


 4:33 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

My last throw of the dice with be to get a pro SEO company in next year.

Seriously? Do you feel that a big invoice will solve the problems? I can assure you I have pro SEO companies ringing me every day asking for advice, SEOers I have taught the basics to now working in "Pro Companies" and they have no idea.

You have no control if Google controls who visits you! If this was a bricks & mortar town

I'm playing a bit of Devil's Advocate here, is this not a huge part of the problem on The Net? Too many companies selling the same products to a possibly less-interested audience and Google has to "try" and interpret the searcher's query the best way it can?

Yep, I know about the crap results and so does Joe Public, I have watched JP surf and I have a feeling that satisfaction with their exisiting supplier(s) is playing a big part and I have watched them check something new at their known supplier, look elsewhere and then returned to the site from which they started...this is known as customer retention and unless one is offering a big incentive to move, it is unlikely they will not.

Apart from the strange post-Thanksgiving Day non-bounce and my missing images, my traffic etc is very much in-line with previous years, AdSense is just down on 2009 however that is only a small part of our business, the real meat and guts of the business, at the moment, is going through the roof since everything we do is so well-ranked etc yet we are in control of what we do, not Google. We still participate, at great expense I must add, at international trade exhibitions every year.

What we do not do is promote other producers products and let them have the chance, or a well-heeled major selling outlet, come along and whip the market from underneath our feet.

Seriously, just how many ipods, ipads, ithingymajigs does one person need? My wife said last night, "Just why would I buy or need a Kindle at GBP 109.00?"

I know if we'd been having this conversation in 1999 many of the corporate sellers would have been saying "Interwhat?" however the real-world manufacturers were well happy to sell to the start-ups just to see what happened...the corporates are usually slow to pick up the baton but when they do they usually get it right through sheer weight and money power.

netmeg wrote it succinctly:

When these things happen, I try to look inward (what can *I* do about this?) rather than outward (what did Google do to me?) because ultimately, it's my business, and I have to control it. Not Google.


 5:02 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ok, I'm still seeing the same rewriting of my title tags, but today shows up some vertical sitelinks.. that don't have anything to do with the specific query, although they are relevant to the title that Google changed to. I'm also seeing some really goofy inflated TBPR rankings on internal pages that make no sense whatsoever. I know I know, TBPR doesn't mean anything. But it looks really strange to have pages with tons of links at PR2 or lower, and pages with NO links at PR4 all of a sudden.


 6:12 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

If Google is rewriting tags or replacing content with stuff they think is "better" (that is THEIR own content) then "Houston, we have a problem here". The problem is that Google is now starting to compete with paying advertisers and we have as big a chance to win that battle as a one legged man at an a$$ kicking contest. Would this not constitute anti-competitive behavior? Why would Google try to step in front of the government legal artillery? Does Google think they are now above anti-trust law?
Has Google BECOME the government? (they started out with DARPA funding)


 6:33 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

If Google is rewriting tags or replacing content with stuff they think is "better" (that is THEIR own content) then "Houston, we have a problem here".

I think I am only seeing this on my main sites' index pages and not the smaller sites.

Could it be that in Google's eyes my example.com is seen as sufficiently strong as not to warrant the titlebar text? IMHO that's bad since I have no snippet shown whatsoever in the titlebar and that is the first thing I scan when searching.

Would you expect to submit to a business directory and expect your titlebar taxt to be featured or would you expect to be listed under your correct widget category?

Is Google trying to turn into a type of Yahoo! ?

Whatever it is I know the direction I am developing new sites which I have proven will rank at the moment and they are definitely keyword domains full of unique content.


 8:25 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Today the directory search I mentioned has changed. In spot 1 we have a new site that returns an error. Spot 2 is a respected directory. Spot 3 is another disabled site. Out of the remaining 7 sites I know none of them. Gone are jigsaw, linkedin etc replaced by I'm not sure?

There are changes rolling through today as foreign traffic is heavy. It is targeted and is converting. Other traffic is flowing in dozens. There are 40 new google visitors in five minutes about 5 times an hour that alternates with little or none. That traffic is not converting.

Other anomalies, article sites seemed to suddenly have been bumped back up. In many varying searches I am finding 50% plus are article sites.

Tedsters advice taken but I don't think it's bad from time to time for google to hear the complaints. I think all of us would love to post specific issues on the google webmaster forum but are afraid of retribution. I appreciate the warring.


 8:26 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google is getting worse at identifying part numbers very similar to another part number in returning results and making suggestions. This is the pattern I used to search and where I ended up:

1. Search yyy-yyyy-yy-yyy

2a. Returned pages with yyy-yyyy-yy
2b. Google suggests >> Did you mean yyy-yyyy-yy-y
2c. click the part number that is not what I meant

3. on this page, the part number returned wasn't the one they suggested previously.


 11:21 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

As I look at the wreckage of Google search results, I see that the really big companies in a niche seem to generally do well. The small sites that have taken over are fitting one of several molds: somebody realized he could rank by getting a keyword URL; somebody realized that he could create multiple sites that are nearly identical but use different URL's, then link them together; somebody realized he could create dozens of throwaway scraper sites aimed at a particular phrase or niche, throw them at the wall and see what sticks; and other dubious tactics.

It's tempting to chase these techniques, but doing so with my primary site is just too dangerous. Google is a business and, as such, will react to customer displeasure. I'm an experienced surfer, and I can't find simple things that should be popping up in the first five results. The public is beginning to notice, and Google will have to change or they'll die.

It will come back. The question is when.


 12:01 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

@db - knowing my luck, it will come back one week after they foreclose on my home.


 1:45 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Dick trying doing a basic search for fixing a car problem. Not an example but reprogram homelink on 2010 Lexus xyz.

What you will find is no relevant results. Nowhere is it more clear than on these types of searches. Google will return programming articles about a 2005 Lexus xyz, tips on other models but not the exact match. The algo misses the nugget that a 2005 Lexus xyz article may be very close, but the car systems have changed in the last five years. The older pages have better ranking so they are returned even though they are useless.

I disagree they will figure it out by clicks. There are no useful results usually in the top few pages so I end up on end user sites finding the information skipping google entirely.

This is one of the many issues right now. Google doesn't get that program homelink 2011 Lexus rx123 is 100% different than the results it often returns from 2006. They detuned exact matches and it's really hurt.


 1:49 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think they need to do a 3 year roll back. My own personal searches return horrible results, irrelevant information or amazon affiliate bs websites.


 2:17 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

The public is beginning to notice, and Google will have to change or they'll die. It will come back. The question is when.

The market cap of Google was at one time larger than General Motors. I assume it still is (haven't checked). At any rate, the stakes are very high and competitors are emerging. In my experience, Bing has the best chance of being a strong #2. Google would be hard to beat, especially when your name is also a verb: "Google it".

But like General Motors, they could make some major blunders that take the company down. It's got to be a fine line between maximizing ad revenue and providing search results people want.

The problem Google has is that almost all their revenue comes from ads. A small downturn there could really hurt earnings. Microsoft of course is diversified and can afford to fund and grow Bing for a while.

I think what we're seeing now is the result of internal pressure to grow ad revenue. The algo lost control (feedback) and went "open loop". Just like an electronic amplifier that goes "open loop", it oscillates. I'm willing to bet there are some internal struggles going on at Google right now. Their product performance says all is not well.


 3:47 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I saw something that may be related to what netmeg describes a few weeks ago when I searched for [brand seasonal event]. The SERP contained three organic links and one from Google news. The full complement of AdWords ads and the suggested search links all targeted "[brand] coupons," and nothing related to [brand seasonal events].


 4:15 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Interesting article in the Dec 12 Wall Street Journal about Google's promotion of its own content over others'.

Google's response is that their algo is unbiased. Hmmm... we'll see what the EU investigation reveals.

Let's see, we have:

Google Product Search (was Froogle)
Google Maps
Google Finance
Google Health
Google Mortgage & credit card comparisons
Google Place
Google Boutiques
Google Hotpot
and a planned Google travel-search site.


 5:28 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's an odd symptom that we see ranking URLs that are duplicates, auto-generated spam, don't resolve, contain malware, etc. The continued SERP shuffles during holiday buying also are something we haven't seen much of in past years.

Here's a thought experiment (it's NOT established fact.) Imagine that for some time the complete algo has included a degree of automated self-adjustment. Then imagine that there are certain key personnel who really know and monitor this self-monitoring, automated adjustment facet. Further imagine that these key personnel are temporarily on another assignment and the self-tweaking modules are a bit out-of-whack right now.

Might that describe some of the inscrutable observations in recent days? Some kind of an uncorrected feedback loop gone unstable?

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