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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]



 12:22 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Are most people watching TV this week because of Super Bowl? I see traffic drops by 20-30% starting yesterday.


 12:40 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@SEOPTI - Whatever it is, it is destroying traffic on many sites. You'd think the entire population had been turned to "Zombies". [webmasterworld.com...]
We keep seeing the complete drop off of paying customers, but SERPs remain mostly unchanged.
It's becoming infuriating. 3 sales all day on a day that usually gets 30+.


 2:41 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Huge snow storms = Internet is out = Less traffic.


 3:06 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@imbck - makes sense, but much of the slow down many are seeing was two days prior to the storms arrival.
I hope you're right though and tomorrow is a better day.


 4:09 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7, I have a feeling that you are missing the obvious in these zombies...do a search as a normal user and you will then be able to find out what is causing it...


 4:54 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@indy - do you mean logged out of Google?


 6:13 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

"two thirds of the nation facing downed power lines" - now I know traffic will come back.


 6:51 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

logged out and without any personalization is preferable...

and again i would reiterate that it is vital for you to keep a close tab on the geographies of your traffic at various times of the day...and if you have any contacts in those geographies, take their help in doing the search...


 8:29 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Re: storms & traffic

Powers only out for 100's of thousands.
Even if it were 10 million, that's only about 3%.


 2:39 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing some very weird Google.co.uk SERPs for some of my products with strange forum boards outranking well-established factual pages, other Googles seem ok...what have they shaken up now?


 3:08 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Indy -
@backdraft7, I have a feeling that you are missing the obvious in these zombies...do a search as a normal user and you will then be able to find out what is causing it...

I've tried, logged in, logged out, personalization on and off, I've even tried standing on my head!

I have friends and colleagues all over the globe who have helped out in checking my top search terms and even a bunch of long tail searches , and you know what? I'M LISTED EVERYWHERE! That's the maddening paradox! It's also why I coined the "zombie traffic" phrase.

Geographically, 90% of my traffic is coming from the US, I can drill that down to all the major metro areas...yet, traffic, still, is on and off.

If you've followed my frenetic posts and those of others experiencing the same issues you'd know that most affected sites are over 5 years old, (mine is 10+) and those sites experienced steady, growing sales for all those years, then May 18th or last year, the SHTF.

I think many sites that rely on only GAW revenue may be still doing well. But is seems sites that actually have to convert a sale or service are hurting by the frequent drop outs.

This may be due to the fact the the GAW revenue sites are those scrapers that G wants to filter out, but seemingly can't. Who knows?

With all due respect, I was hoping your suggestion was offering something new, but it points me right back to square one. Thanks anyway.

I still leaning on a theory that a family of rats is chewing on a specific critical portion of the internet backbone cable. LOL!


 3:23 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

You may consider them to be your top search terms but it could be that people don't always see it that way...I am not sure how you are asking people to test this.

You will have have to just describe what you want to find and then let them decide on how to go about searching it. I hope you are not asking them to search by giving your "search terms".


 4:07 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@indy - I use two resources to discover what keywords / phrases people are using to find my site. The first is Google webmaster tools. The second is AWSTATS, So far for the month of February , I show 1511 distinct keyphrases that people have used to find my site. That's for just the first two days.

Last month there were a total of 13,255 search key phrases which was down from the year before which had 16,244 for January. Still, the top 100 were pretty much the same keywords. Long tail has been clipped a bit but not enough to account for the dramatic drop.

Do you think they are finding me using some other method? telepathy perhaps? Sorry if I sound brash, but man, I've tried to look at this so many ways that I'm going cross eyed.

Oh, wait, listen! My first token sale of the morning is coming in...at 10 am! (Usually have 6 or more by now)...gotta run to celebrate. Cheers!

Update...it was another Zombie who abandoned the cart. My abandon rate when the green light is on is nearly zero.


 4:10 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am not sure why or if Google has filtered a page I have used for 12+ years for product information. I started the page and at one time it was even indexed in ODP to help explain terms for like type products often called the same key word.

It was/is used my many of my competitors in the past to change product descriptions. It ranked first or second in the key word phrases for all that time and now is now where to be found. Google seemed to have filtered it out as "spam"?

Many of the other key words for other products we sell seem to be holding up or improving in standings. But this page was a huge part of my traffic and it is gone. Still shows well in Bing and else where but Google k-lined it.

Has any one else seen this type of filtering starting around last Friday the 29th and gone by the 31st? Has Google started to filter site pages they think are spam?

Our site has been on the web site 1995 and has always been highly relevant with information about our line products and services. It had become the bench mark of what most of the industry was using for terms. I have always had good faith in Google but this last change has me wondering.

Anyone else insight would be helpful.


 4:23 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sorry if I sound brash, but man, I've tried to look at this so many ways that I'm going cross eyed.

I never take it bad and I know how you feel...infact I see you here everytime you are struck by your zombies...

A few day earlier you had some company here and I am not seeing them here anymore.probably they discovered who is driving these zombies and how to deal with them. I hope you soon unravel these mysteries too. good luck to you mate :)


 4:25 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Tymax, aren't you seeing this anymore in the google index?


 4:30 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Indy - I sure wish there were a way to deal with them...so far the only effective way is to "sit and wait" for the changes to shake & bake. You are correct, when thing go back to normal...you don't see me on the board too much. I hope I'm outta here soon! That backdraft is sure a whiner! LOL!

BTW, have you seen OHNO on here lately? Last word I heard from him he was throwing up his hands in surrender. That or the new arrival has his hands full -literally. Cheers!


 4:56 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@indyank No I do not, it is as if they are no longer indexing the page.

Does not make sense, since Friday last week is has disappeared, but shows in Bing and Ask


 5:03 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

When I rechecked it does show, buried deep and has this on the end of the url ?ref=Klasistanbul.Com what in the world is ?ref=Klasistanbul.Com?


 5:14 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

That is interesting. Are you sure that you haven't been hacked? When i did a google search for that, i see a lot of pages with urls ending like that? Klas? Istanbul?

I am coming across it for the first time...


 5:33 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I did not think so but I am checking, no other pages seem to have this ending. Odd I aw what you saw as well with that on the end of some urls other than mine.


 11:44 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've tried, logged in, logged out, personalization on and off, I've even tried standing on my head!

I have friends and colleagues all over the globe who have helped out in checking my top search terms and even a bunch of long tail searches , and you know what? I'M LISTED EVERYWHERE! That's the maddening paradox!

Backdraft - use the following free Adwords preview tool to see the SERPS unbiased:


You need to put your keywords in the top left and select your datacentre in the top right


 12:00 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

@AlyssaS - Thanks, I've used that one before...but the results are the same as that through my browser. I've also tried doing searches using FF, IE, Opera, Safari, Chrome and I'm still listed very highly. I guess everyone in the world just stopped buying. 10+ years or work down the drain. Time to go get in line at the unemployment office for a job that doesn't exists I guess. Welcome to the future.
As you can tell, I'm pretty frustrated 'bout now.


 12:15 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Bottom line if Google smells you sell things via order forms, shopping carts, etc they want a cut of your proceeds no matter what people tell you. In another words unless you plan on flooding them with pages or already have Adwords is your fix.


 12:35 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Outland - not sure what you mean there, but my site is no more than 100 pages. One adwords ad in the right column and I have had a running adsense account to supplement my organic listings since day 1.
This must be a major, major algo update, so I guess the only thing to do is sit back and let it shake & bake.


 1:02 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Backdraft - if you are in the same spots in the SERPS for your main keywords, and your total traffic is the same, but it's just not converting, it looks like the problem might be medium to long tails? They are ranking you for new long tails where you arn't as relevant, and not ranking you for the old terms?

The only real way to check is take your analytics for today (when the day ends) and compare it to the same day last week, and try to cross reference phrases to see where there has been a drop or rise. It could also be some individual pages have been dropped by Google and they are featuring other less useful pages on your site - the only way to tell is to pore over the stats.


 1:36 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'll add something to the conversation that I hope maybe helps others out there who are wondering if something is up with the algo. I had a separate thread going, but as Tedster suggested, I think it may be better to post here.

I have a website that has been active since 2003. For the last couple of years it has ranked really well for keywords in my niche market, as well as long-tail keywords. My business is derived 99% from our website.

Today (February 3rd), I started off the day by checking our traffic and was stunned to see that it was almost non-existent. We don't get a ton of traffic, but what we do get is highly targeted traffic specifically for our industry. I usually have 80 visitors to our site by 10am, 100 or so by noon, and we usually get an average of 200 to 240 visitors per day.

It's now 7:15pm, and looking at my traffic we've only had 61 visitors today. Our site rankings were completely obliterated overnight. Monday through Wednesday we had our average traffic. Yesterday was a little light, but I considered the weather being a factor. This morning, by 10am I had only had 21 people on my site. I did a quick search through some of the keywords we always place well with, and we either weren't in the results or we were on the 3rd or 4th page. These were keywords that we always showed up within the first few results.

I'm sick about this, but I'm determined to work it out some how. I had been contemplating for a while about converting my site over to Wordpress, because I felt it may be better for SEO purposes, and it would be easier to make updates and simple changes. I hadn't done it, because it had always ranked so well, and I didn't want to upset anything. I rarely make changes to my site, but that has never seem to hurt. I don't do anything shady, and it is full of information pertaining to my industry. I'd say my weakest area is inbound links, because I definitely don't have many. Still, I don't know what would make such a huge difference in our rankings, literally overnight.

The whole thing is very worrisome, but I can't waste time on worry. I'm doing my best to stay positive. I don't blame Google because I know they are trying to make things better, but it is frustrating. It is especially frustrating when you see a site at the top of the second page of the results for the most critical search term, and it has a PR of 0, and is comprised of two paragraphs on a blank page with just a bunch of random talk about the keyword subject. It would be like this:

Search Term: widgets

Top of the 2nd page results has an organic result that links to a site with essentially this:

"Widgets and are of vital importance nowadays. As someone once said: "He who owns widgets, owns the world." But now you need not only to own the widgets but you need also protect them. In our world we are dependent on widgets. What if you lose your widgets? What if you can't find widgets? Solve all these tough questions with the help of our widget items.

There is a sufficient number of widget items available on the market. They perform easy and quick.

When you have a trouble with widgets welcome to the site about widgets. Our widget items will help you.

Widget items - Best widget items for you!"

And that is it. No links, no graphics, no pages, nothing. That is literally some of the text that was on the "site". Nothing substantive at all. I think that made me the angriest. Here I am, in an extraordinarily competitive niche industry, and I actually offer substance, and information and I get bypassed by some site that I have no idea what it is.

Anyway, that's the end of my rant. If anyone else is experiencing weird results, or a slow down in traffic, maybe you were hit as well. I'm kind of at a loss as to what to do now, because I don't want to make any rash decisions in case this is just a temporary fluke. However, I am taking action and rebuilding in a different format, within a subfolder, so that if things don't come around I can start over with a fresh site with a mix of old and new content. Right now, I'm going to wait and see what happens for a few days before I make any big changes.


 2:47 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)


I can't remember the details or how it worked, but some years back putting ?ref=your_domain.com on the end of outgoing links to top level (aka 'popular') sites would pull you way up in search engines. That was probably 8 to 10 years ago.


 3:29 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

backdraft, I too get the same feeling that you are not ranking well for the right ones.

[edited by: indyank at 4:00 am (utc) on Feb 4, 2011]

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