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This 195 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 195 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 > >     
Documenting my attempt to re-rank after "Farmer" update

 1:58 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ok, so for the sake of all who have been hit by the so-called "Farmer" update, I thought it might be useful to document my own attempt to increase my website's "Quality" measurement (whatever that means,) in an attempt to gain back some of my previous good ranking in the SERPS.

My site is rather small compared to many mentioned on these boards –– just 700 or so pages –– and at it's peak it has never made me more than $1,000 in any month period, but in this economy that lost $1,000 is kicking my butt.

The site I am referencing is built on Wordpress as a CMS, has been copied copiously by scrapers in the past, and is a review/news-type sight, where I post long, honest and well-written reviews, news, how-to's, etc about my favorite types of widgets.

I have never paid for a link, and I do not run any sort of linking campaigns, though the site is plenty popular, gets a fair amount of natural links, and has nearly 7,000 RSS subscribers.

Obviously, we know very little about the particulars of this latest Google update, but the concensus seems to be that this a radical change in the algo, and we can't expect our ranking to just suddenly reverse any time soon.

With that said, I thought I'd document my meager attempt to gain back some of my good graces with Google.

After reading as much as I can find on the subject, I came across this article posted in one of the other threads here, and it seemed like a good place to start.

[searchengineland.com ]

The quote that jumped out at me was this:

Sites that believe they have been adversely impacted by the change should be sure to extensively evaluate their site quality. In particular, it’s important to note that low quality pages on one part of a site can impact the overall ranking of that site.

With that in mind I decided it was time to clean-up my site... but where to start? Like most of the good folks here, I tend to think everything I write is pretty good, and I certainly don't copy and paste other people's work etc. To the extent that it's possible, my pages are unique and well-written.

I finally decided to go through my Google Webmaster Tools account, and take a look at exactly which pages lost ranking, paying particular interest to the pages that lost BIG. I'm talking drops of 50, 100, even 200 or 300 places.

Luckily there were only a handful of these.

As I began to dig through them, it became apparent to me that at least 80% of these pages were very obviously "thin." Much thinner than I even remember writing.

So, for lack of a better idea, I canned them; my hope being that by removing entirely the pages that have suffered the most in this update, my entire website will look better to Google.

All told I threw away approx 40 pages. Now this is Wordpress, so "throwing away" just means moving them to the trash, where they are no longer viewable online, but can be easily retrieved should I decide I want them indexed again.

I can not think of any other ways to "clean up" my site... I long ago blocked things like Tag Pages, Category Pages, etc from being indexed, so there is really nothing extraneous from my site in Google's Index.

Now I just cross my fingers and pray. Nothing I've done is irreversible, so what did I have to lose.. my already tanked rankings?

I'll let you know how it turns out.



 8:23 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Unless they aren't sharing results....

Geeze, ya think that might be the case? :)

I'm guessing that anyone who figures out how to "fix" this issue, or how to work around it, probably sees that process as a potential gold mine and isn't likely to be posting the process in an open forum any time soon.

At least not in language any clearer than the typical talk from a G employee.



 8:24 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

walkman, I'm still waiting for new cache. I'm hoping that once that happens, my changes will have some effect. I know that you and others have already seen new cache, so it's hard to say if there's a time element involved, or if you just chose the wrong things to change. Once I see a new cache, I'll let everyone know if anything at all happened as a result. But yes, it would be great to hear someone see a change.


 8:32 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Fixing your site? - I tried merging thin pages and two days later the ranking was even worse, so be careful of what you are doing. In my belief now, deleting thin pages/bad pages may or may not help, but merging similar topics onto one page definitely made it worse for my main site.

I'm cycling out some pages I don't like but I'm not touching anything else.

My other solution is cut out specific sub-niches and rebuild it all into dozens and dozens of smaller websites. But I'm only contemplating that for now.

All the sites that got hit with a 40 percent knock down might have been collateral damage and see some roll back. Those that got hit 90 percent were targeted and might as well start over.


 8:39 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

There is something strange. The solution seems to be removing low quality pages. We remove them, but nothing happens.
That suggests the low quality pages is not the (only) problem or google does not rerank nothing in this moment.


 8:46 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

serenoo, I think expecting Google to re-rank things immediately isn't realistic. Personally, I'm only making changes that I think are GOOD changes for my visitors.

That way, no matter how Google looks at it, I come out on top.


 8:49 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Dead_Elvis I believed that they implemented Caffeine for fast calculations.


 9:00 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't really know, but I have a gut feeling that Google probably won't want webmasters to immediately know what fixes have helped their sites –– if that happens we'll all know how to game the new algo.

That's just a feeling, but I doubt changes made today are going to make a page rank any better a few days from now.


 9:15 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Dead_Elvis I believed that they implemented Caffeine for fast calculations.

When you have a trillion or so pages to score based on 200+ on and off page factors, any time this month is fast, imo. They can actually update the index in seconds now, basically on-the-fly, but I would guess for 'deeper processing' (EG re-classifications, etc.) it's going to take some more time.


 9:33 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

You guys might be right on that delay on getting re ranked after making changes. They might have a delay of weeks if not a month before we see what the changes made actually did. Thats the problem with making too many changes at once.

Always keep a backup before your changes were made so you can go back if you have too.

Id be careful about completely removing all thin content pages as it may end up doing more harm than good. I have one topic in my site that deals with laws on a subject and I have a seperate page for each state. It may be thin, but its organized in a way so users dont get lost and its easily readable unlike the Gov website where you can get lost. My users like it so im gonna leave that alone.


 9:46 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Tim Carter, Founder of AsktheBuilder.com, filed the following complaint with Google:

"I'm a smoldering cinder from last week's Napalm Strike - better known by many as the Farmer Update. I've lost at least 50% of my traffic because of the algorithm change. Here's what's so troubling. First, Google for years has held me up as an example of stellar content - high quality that others should strive to achieve....My content is as original as can be. It doesn't try to sell products. It tells real stories about home construction and remodeling that helps homeowners get things done the right way. Using AdSense to bolster the content, my visitors can often click through to find the exact products or services that I write about. It was a win win win win. Can a Google Search Engineer *please* explain to me why the algorithm would need to be adjusted to change that situation?"

Does anyone familiar with his site see anything wrong with it that could have caused its problems, or changes that he has made to get his ranking back? Is the Adsense near the top of the content a problem? What could it be? Poor guy is now losing maybe $15,000/month.


 9:52 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't think we're gonna do specifics on sites again so soon after, you know, Overstock.


 9:55 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've followed Tim's site over the years, but one thing really shouted out at me recently. Very busy with ads. In fact some of the category pages have virtually no content above the fold and I browse in 1600x900. I don't think he's touched it since the update.


 10:02 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

potentialgeek - see page three of this thread


 10:10 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Has anyone had any luck putting a noindex meta tag on shallow content just for googlebot? Some pages that have been dinged still get decent traffic in bing etc.


 10:14 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I see plenty, but won't go into specifics due to the forum TOS and the recent Overstock Thread debacle...


 10:30 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)


This is what breaks my heart, a real person with real heart and soul poured into his site turned arse over in this algo (vs. VC backed remixers). I've been watching another 11 year old site (that was probably one of the top 3 authority sites in its niche back in the day...before bloggers took over the niche, took his content ideas and spun 'em prettier) got its pants pulled down too.

If there's one message shot loud and clear here: there's no "easing up" after building a site for years and years, your site is never safe. It needs to be fed & watered & TLC'd from start to finish.

The good news is that none of it is a done deal, tweaks can be made to bring a site back. If it's ads within the content that is sending a "spam" signal to google (and I don't know for sure if that actually is being considered), then it may just mean removing them from pages (or moving to sidebars). If only certain sites got a pass on this (high converting method), there'd be hell breaking loose so no one getting a pass on this is fair to me.

I haven't been hit with this algo yet (on my main site) but I'm not so sure that it's because my site is in the clear or if it's because much of what was "in my way" got hit (with me moving up by default).


 10:52 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

re the builder site..

Took him an age ( actually I don't know if he ever did) to fix his incorrect spelling ( pedistal ) on a page that was mentioned here ..and if that page was anything to go by it was full of inaccuracies as to the technique of installing said "pedistal" basin..and was so obviously just thrown together to get visitors to then inadvertently click on disguised ads ( there were about 12 ads of various sorts on the page , most of which could only be spotted as ads by watching the status bar at the bottom of the browser "on hover" ) ..I would imagine that the advertisers noticed a very high bounce rate from "mistaken" or "tricked" clicks..maybe Goggle got wise .

The rest of the site gave me the same impression..put together to get tricked clicks ..and far from expert in the subjects..but if you haven't built a few houses for yourself ( and worked as a laborer to pay your studies many decades ago ) you'd never know. ;-)

I never understood what Google found good about his site ..then again I never understood what Google found good about many of their "example" sites ..they all smacked of the above ethos ..

Most looked spammy and designed to confuse the visitor into clicking on what they thought was "editorial" text or images or nav ..but was in fact ads..

Watch non tech surfers ( I do so a lot ) we here are by definition not non tech ..we have what could be called web grammar and structure learned ..most folks don't )..when they navigate a page they usually don't realise what is navs , what is ads ..and the more busy and confusing and thin it is the more they click around haphazardly looking for real information ..they rarely click the back button ..but they do click the close page button ..

Google obviously follows closely from search query to serp to landing to what the surfer does on page and on pages that they click to from the landing page ..they added into the mix the "does the site look attractive when seen in preview" or does it look chaotic and designed to make the user confused as to content and ads ..

ehow doesnt ..and the fact that its content is usually spun from other sites and shallow doesn't enter ( yet ) into the equation ..Google is cleaning the obvious junk first.

And yes ..none of my sites went down ..they mostly stayed where they were, well positioned in the top 3 or 5 spots for all the keywords that I had targeted ( where I had put them by making them visually attractive and full of real original information about subjects I know about ..not ersatz spun about things someone paid me to write copy for ) ..some actually went up and picked up number 1 spots ( others were already there ) ..most of them I haven't touched in the last 5 years ..except to add new content ..

ehow passed me on just one subject area on just one page ..using respun stuff of mine ( including a typo that I never fixed ;-) ..I stayed at number 3 they came in at number 1 the site which was there fell out of sight ..

Some of these have less than 10 back links ..and are in the top 3 out of hundreds of millions for their keywords .some are single page sites ..keyword in domain name and copy written to match ..they don't move.

Since before "Florida" ..

This is why I had to ask Tangor in another thread where the sites he was seeing as fallen were ..as mine didn't get hit .

Mine are hosted all over and in diverse languages ..the only thing they have in common is they were built with the idea in mind that I should build the kind of site that I would like to land on for the particular query ..

Subjects range from health to finance to tech to travel to art passing by pets and decor even some specialised ecommerce ..et encore..

( the greater the subject "split" the less one has exposure to particular algo "culls" )

Competitive subjects..and no I'm not "telling"..nor interested in reviews or impressions ..only their visitors impressions and what they do when they get there matter to me.

I post this here not to say hey I'm untouched by this ..but to say why I think that is the case ..compared to ( some others ) ..some people have been hit as collateral damage ..maybe this will help give them some ideas to "tweak" them back into what Google calls quality ..

And as always ..if your financial life depends on Google ..it shouldn't ..and as you rebuild ..fix that too.

<added> I was typing this ( and doing other things..cooking dinner ;-) ) and missed many comments about not going into specifics ..I began typing just after potentialgeek posted ..if my comments are deemed too specific re the builder site..mod or admins edit ..but it is hard to "compare" / analyse without actually comparing to / analysing something tangible ..<=hopefully you'll see what I mean there </added>


 11:32 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

You guys worried about thin content are barking up the wrong tree. Many thin content sites, like Demand Media properties, have benifitted. Our own sites would have to be described as fat content. Most pages on our fifteen year old site took WEEKS to create, and it has less than a hundred pages total. Several PR=6 pages in the mix, and still got slammed.

Either it's duplicate content issues or our site infrastructure just isn't "retail" enough to please Google. No Adsense running either. Maybe HTML is considered untrustworthy:-)


 11:44 pm on Mar 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

You guys worried about thin content are barking up the wrong tree.

Content_ed, all any of us know is what we see.

On my site it is quite obvious that "thin" content was targeted. Thin pages were the only ones that fell.


 12:08 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

You guys worried about thin content are barking up the wrong tree.

No one is saying thin content is the only thing they are looking at. On average more meaty content seems to be being doing better. How ehow survived is "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

Ehow should do a series of article on how to be the worst of the worst content farms and survive a Google content farm purge. That is probably the only thing they really are seriously qualified to write about.


 12:34 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

What I don't understand about the thin content theory is how so many ecommerce sites have stayed in the same spots or moved up. The ones I'm thinking of have a sentence or perhaps two about the product, and then a few specifications lifted directly from the manufacturers' sites.

The sites I'm thinking of have enormous amounts of traffic, and I've long believed that traffic has been one of the cornerstones of good rankings. The catch-22 is that a site that ranks well in part because of traffic loses traffic because the rankings dropped, which then makes the site lose rankings further because the traffic dropped. If it really works that way.

Could it be that there's different rules applied to ecommerce sites?


 1:26 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

You folks that have "thin" pages, why aren't you just adding content to those pages? They must have gained age by now. Seems a shame to be throwing the babies out with the bathwater.

And those who are combining thin pages - you're just increasing the chance of duplicate content issues, unless you 301'd one of the pages to the other.


 1:33 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Could it be that there's different rules applied to ecommerce sites?

Rather than "rules" think of it as large sets of criteria ..and the "weighting" of each individual criterion will be changed depending on what kind of site /page it is being applied to ..

So yes an ecommerce site would not be subject to the same mix with the same weight applied to the individual components of the mix as a purely informational site or a review site etc.

Makes sense ..

Plus not all "ecommerce" sites sell things manufactured by someone else ..resellers do ..and if they don't bring "added" value into the mix ? ( compared to the actual manufacturer or other resellers ) will probably fare badly .

Many ecommerce sites make or design or produce what they sell themselves ..why would they fall ?


 1:48 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Regardless of the new update E-How blends quite a bit of their Adsense with the content to fool you into clicking. It has fooled me a few times. Even though many sites use similar methodologically Google states it is emphatically against their guidelines. In other words E-How should have had their Adsense program yanked long ago. That lack of enforcement alone tells me its all about the money when Google maintains it isn’t. There’s enough ammunition there for a class action suit regarding unequal treatment. But who in reality wants to argue fair treatment for the “big boys” when the “little guy” gets his rump kicked enough to know what Google is all about.


 2:06 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Without making it into a review of them ( and I don't like their respun stuff any more than yourself I suspect ) I can only find 3 blocks of adsense on their pages ..two are image ads ( with the G logo in the usual place ) and one block of text adsense ..below the fold ..blended ( by using the same colour and font for the ad headings as they do for their own nav ) ..the G "ident" is at the bottom below it ..but I can't see how they are over blending or breaking G TOS ..

I also can't believe I'm sticking up for ehow ( pinch me ..or slap me with a haddock ) ..really.

I don't like their ethos ..but I can't fault them on the TOS ..and it does look attractive and clean ( very good use of white space and typography and design and images ) and nowhere near as spammy and chaotic "tricky" as those who have fallen who use the same model ..

The day G takes on the spinners they'll fall and I won't shed a tear ( may even do a little dance )..but their graphic designer ( as near to my original profession as makes no difference ) knows their stuff..and their nav is good ..easy site for Joe and Jane average surfer .

I can see why they didn't get hit in this round .


 2:43 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

The problem now with article sites is nobody is going to use them for their site's content. You were allowed to copy the content under their syndication rules if you kept everything the way it was and didn't tamper with either the text or the links.

Now, presumably, every site that used the article content "legitimately" as opposed to scraping, will be hit by the algo update. Since this update can poison your entire site with just one copied article, it's unlikely any webmasters will take the risk.

My question for the engineers is: What's the maximum length of text can you copy in a quote from another site without being penalized? Without a clear answer the new algo is going to have a chilling effect on authors who want to publish legitimate research articles.

It's interesting how the Search Team is policing the Adsense Team especially with respect to Premium Publishers. This update puts to rest the claims they work closely. :)


 3:25 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

nowhere near as spammy and chaotic "tricky" as those who have fallen who use the same model

To me, using Javascript for links to external resources, references and the authors page in order to make it unreadable for search engine and hoard Google PR is quite the spammy practice. Users see one thing, search engines see another. That's black hat cloaking.


 3:40 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I hear you Koan, and don't disagree with you ..

But your average surfer doesn't know , see or care about any of that ..what we might care ( and I do ) about may not be on Google's hit list for today .

I mean "spammy" as seen by your average user ..the sort of folks that Google says they asked about attractive sites ..not us the sort of folks who hit view source and run browsers with add ons to detect stuff and look at headers etc .

We are not G's "customer"..they care about "their customers" experience and perceptions ..and how it affects their bottom line and their other long term aims at the plex ..they are very long term in their thinking ) ..our individual webmaster experience is incidental ..there'll be more of "us" along all the time ..and if they want to bend their "rules" sometimes ..they aren't going to stop it because we complain ..( doesn't mean I don't complain about what they do sometimes though ) ..but I don't delude myself that they'll change to what I think is right ..unless it suits them.

We have to live with what we see them doing now ..unfairness and all ..

And try to depend on them less / as little as possible .


 3:54 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

And try to depend on them less / as little as possible .

That's the name of the game now. I'm working on an ambitious new strategy that Google can't even gank.


 4:36 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Many thin content sites, like Demand Media properties, have benifitted.

Do you have a source for that info? What I read (on the most recently linked CNN article I know of) said two of their 3 sites were down, eHow being the one that moved up.

... but I can't see how they are over blending or breaking G TOS ...

Fascinating ... It wasn't the ads I thought were the issue either ... I think quite a few people are looking in the wrong direction for answers on this update ... IMO they could remove every single ad from the page and it wouldn't make a bit of difference ... Maybe the biggest problem people are having 'pinning the issue down' is there are so many different directions to look and the real answer is specific to the page(s) effected, not a 'single' issue?

IMO: If you're looking at other sites to find the issues with yours you're looking in the wrong place.
It's going to be a site-specific problem and fix ... Sorry, but that's all you get for now ;)


 4:46 am on Mar 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I predict that Google will do a re-calculation on 3/22-24. Why? Every month they do one around that time from what I can tell. I remember many major changes starting the last week of the month.

This 195 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 195 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 > >
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