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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2011

 11:19 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

< continued from: [webmasterworld.com...] >
< active thread: [webmasterworld.com...] >

Related AdSense Farm Update < continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >

It's a new month and our regular SERP watching thread has been neglected a bit lately. Most of the posting right now is on dedicated threads focused on specific changes - especially the Scraping algo change [webmasterworld.com] and the promised (but not yet active) campaign against Content Farms [webmasterworld.com].

But Google's perpetual update machine keeps on turning. I'm particularly wondering about sites that publish a lot of legitimately syndicated content rather than a lot of original content. Did your rankings and traffic wobble with the "dupe content update"? If they dropped, did they rebound?

I'm watching one such website and though they are mostly republished content, nothing seemed to change.

[edited by: tedster at 6:00 pm (utc) on Feb 4, 2011]

[edited by: tedster at 8:38 pm (utc) on Feb 26, 2011]



 2:18 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

It does look like a punishment toward in bound link situation. Whether it was too many, too fast, or bad quality, or good quality, this algo update is about links - one way or the other.

But now, I can work as a spam link hitman, taking out websites like a contract killer.

Nothing personal, it's just business.


 2:24 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Anyone check different data centers? I am seeing the same old results on a lot of data centers in the U.S, are they possibly testing on some data centers and not others?


 2:25 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can confirm that MANY sites with super paid links are still in and ranking high. I guess depends on what Google tagged as paid--assuming this is it.


 2:27 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

In my observation,

Any links that came in the last 12 months, your site is punished.

Sites that have old links, and not much new link activity in the last 12 months, were not touched.

The one with new links in the last 12 was hit bad.

BTW, I just bought 50,000 profile links to mattcutts dot com

Not. But it would probably work if you wanted to take someone out.


 2:35 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

That's my observation - either inbound links are been depreciated or penalized or the "keyword stuffer finder" algorithm is broken.


 2:41 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

This update majorly impacted our site.

We are in the home improvement domain. Site is 4 years old. We use only white-hat techniques. Other web masters in our niche do give us sitewide links (but these are not paid for nor reciprocated - we market our pages as value-add for their readers). We consistently ranked in the first page for a wide variety of terms. We got totally hosed. Even pages that had no inbound site-wide links got hosed in the rankings. We used to rank close to the top for terms related to hardwood flooring where we have some of the best content available on the web, now we're either at the bottom of page 1 or on page 2. It is super discouraging, after spending so much time developing content and "doing things right" - not resorting to paid links, not selling links, etc etc etc. I feel incredibly demoralized right now.


 2:48 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Did you get hosed or were others 'unhosed'. Did you take a look at the sites that are in the top 10 now for some of your key phrases? Looking at results I find it hard to believe these are the final serps.


 3:00 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's official, see [googleblog.blogspot.com...]


 3:01 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

GeraniumV, we are good friends with other independent webmasters in our niche. It looks like a lot of smaller sites got penalized. All use white-hat techniques. It is hard for me to believe that this isn't a more major, lasting change to the way Google values sites...

I just don't get it. Our content is BETTER than these other sites. It is better organized, we update relevant content almost EVERY DAY. We have worked hard to get non-paid links. REALLY hard. We have NEVER paid for a link. It is frustrating when tons of sites just go buy links by the hundreds, or even dozens on targeted sites. They offer a couple hundred bucks or even less. We never do this. We always ASK people to link to our content and try to sell them the VALUE of what we write about to their readers. We frequently market to bloggers who put site-wide links to our content in sidebars. I wonder if this is what is killing us? Is Google saying these site-wide links aren't valuable?

We have tons of in-article links too from people who write articles about our content... even these pages seem to suffer... pages that have NO sitewide links from other sites coming in and ranked in the top 2-3 positions for search... all completely obliterated with this update.

I just can't write enough here about my frustration. I sure do hope that this is temporary or that when google looks at the magnitude of this change across the board they will reconsider the algorithm and revert back and make different tweaks. Penalizing sites like ours just disincentivizes us from writing good content. It feels like we'd be better just spending time on black hat techniques.

Now, I'm not going to do that - just speaking out of frustration...


 3:06 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have two sites that have been hit by 30% today. Most terms have dropped 7 or 8 spots in the serps.
Both run adsense (not too agressive).
Both are authority sites from 1998.
One site has 325 deserved dmoz listings and numerous references from wikipedia.
Both have daily updated content.
Both are very useful and get / require a lot of attention.
If the cream eventually rises to the top, I'll be very relieved.

My theory is that google has devalued links such as dmoz, possibly implenting an "expiry date" for inbound links, and maybe taken away the extra points for having an "aged" website.

It also appears that it's only the US data centers that have been hit. I can see the original rankings on the .ca / .co.uk versions of google.


 3:06 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's some official word on the update:

Google's Blog
in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what's going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.


Danny Sullivan Interview Coverage
Officially, Google isn't saying the algorithm change is targeting content farms. The company specifically declined to confirm that, when I asked. However, Matt Cutts — who heads Google's spam fighting team — told me, "I think people will get the idea of the types of sites we're talking about."


Danny is calling this update the "Farmer Update" and the earlier one the "Scraper Update". Not exactly hurricane names, but they do make the distinction clear.

[edited by: tedster at 3:07 am (utc) on Feb 25, 2011]


 3:06 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

So, if Google said everything in this post, essentially this is war on keyword stuffing and low quality sites.

"This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. "


 3:09 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Walkman, I can assure you that this algo. impacts more than scraper and content-stuffer sites. We produce 100% unique content on our site and always have. We use all white-hat techniques, and our site just got trashed in the rankings... We've been at the top of years and now we've fallen big time. It is very frustrating.


 3:16 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Same here, like I've commented before there are sites which purchase content (actually was approached by a large news type distribution site about buying their content) which we don't do and never will do because it adds no value, but sites which do this and republish word for word are still ranking strong.

Have not, and have never purchased a link. Content gets linked to naturally, and if there is a weakness it's that have not been actively seeking links. Very old established site so has links but only natural ones. Maybe that's the problem.... who knows this one is certainly the worst I've seen in over 10+ years.


 3:16 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Seems like a lot of decent sites got smacked. And it looks like this update is permanent according to google.

Has anybody seen an increase in traffic to any of their sites? I would like to see a general description of the type of site that has risen in the serps to replace these so called low quality sites that got whacked.

This is quite the algo update google.


 3:19 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google will tweak this over the weeks. I am 100% certain that all my content is written and updated daily by me. None of it copied or populated by a database.

So I have to go and change things here and there.


 3:26 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wow, quality improvement?

I guess that's why I'm seeing some 'advisor' site rank on position 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 with an identical page respectively on their .ca .co.uk .com .com.au and .com.sg sites.

Well done Google!


 3:28 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

"Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does."

I am seeing keyword stuffed scrapper articles ranking high... fail google.


 3:29 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can't believe this is a perm change. If it is then this may be the first time I may be able to game the serps - at least from what I am seeing. Worst case at least 3 of the sites inserted above me for my biggest key phrase are using hidden text - which I think id a felony in Goog Worls - I could turn them in?


 3:36 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Did anyone else see their traffic stop at around 3pm this afternoon or was everyone else affected yesterday?


 3:47 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

We produce 100% unique content on our site and always have. We use all white-hat techniques, and our site just got trashed in the rankings... We've been at the top of years and now we've fallen big time. It is very frustrating.

Check your links. Even if they are unsolicited natural links, if they've been monetising with Adsense and are in any way "general" or personal blog sites that yak about everything under the sun, they could have been taken out. If the sites linking to you have been devalued, then your site will drop too, even if it is pure white hat with good content.


 3:53 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I see a lot of spammy .info websites ranking higher than real quality content. Also pages from major news websites even if not-so-relevant seem to score higher.


 3:56 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)


This algo can't stick for long, these results are full of old sites that haven't been updated in years...


 4:12 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I see a lot of spammy .info websites ranking higher than real quality content.

This is my concern.

Add all the reports today on this thread about legit sites tanking, and almost nothing about any sites improving in the serps, I'm wondering if the Farmer Update did more harm than good.

Also, one has to wonder what qualifies as quality content going forward.

Would a PhD in English be sufficient? Or is a complete list of references at the end of an article required as well, just like in college.

I'm really really hoping the legit webmasters and site owners who have been putting out decent content over the years don't get destroyed financially, assuming they're doing this full time for a living.

That would be tragic. Imagine the years of work just being wiped out. Could be nasty.


 4:20 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Question: how did google do this? Is the domain blacklisted for good or is it content based and upon re-indexing it will change?


 4:21 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google thinks this an improvement for quality sites? Wow, this would be a worse miscalculation than New Coke.


 4:22 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Jessica97 - we are absolutely with you. It seems like Google has decided that some sites are better than others for some topics... Just wish we knew what the new "rules" are.


 4:23 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's an algorithmic change, so I hope there will also be
an algorithmic solution.

Same as with the -950 reranking which is also algorithmic.


 4:32 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Watch Google stock drop due to income loss from Adsense, maybe they will will turn the dial back a little.


 4:53 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wow, a certain site that starts with maha.... ranks #3 (from my town) for its own name.


 4:56 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

What blows me away is that the site doing best in our niche (taking up the top 3-4 places in serps for 90% of searches I test) is an un-moderated forum. There is a lot of bad stuff on this site. This site started 3 years ago by copying content daily from all the other main sites in our niche. They copied thousands of posts for months. We called them on it and they finally stopped copying our site, but they continued copying other sites.

So after that, and seeing what goes on in their un-moderated forums, to see them rewarded with the top 3-4 positions for nearly every search I am testing is making me literally sick to my stomach.

It is almost like one of the G engineers accidentally programmed a "0" instead of a "1" in some logical expression, and the copy-cats are being boosted over the original source.

I just don't get it. A few months ago my site was recommended by a federal agency as the top quality site in my niche. My site is almost 11 years old and I've run it proudly and cleanly for all those years.

Today we are being buried beneath the same sites that copied/scraped our content 2-3 years ago to get their start in the business. I said this before, but it is worth repeating, one of the sites ranking HIGHER than us we filed a DMCA against for copying over 10,000 of our pages. We filed it with Google. Google eventually removed them from the index for a year. They were then let back in and now apparently have become a quality site somehow in Google's eyes.

How can Google kick a site out for a year who had copied tens of thousands of pages, utilized link farms from hundreds of their own spam blogs, and then let them back in and reward them with a boost in serps?

Ugh. I am tired. Sorry for the rant. =)

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