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Google Updates and SERP Changes - Mar 2012

 3:39 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Something very odd just happened. I searched for my top keyword term. We have been at #3 since Panda, previously #1. My listing had disappeared completely, nowhere down to page 10 (in 10s). I did the same search on a different browser with no history on it, same result. Other terms were where I expected them.

Then 2 minutes later I'm back at #3.

What's going on?

Sid (In UK)

[edited by: tedster at 3:28 am (utc) on Mar 2, 2012]



 10:25 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Huge changes in the UK... results seem completely non logical. Very scary to watch but makes me think this can't be over as they are so poor.


 11:25 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

One of my sites I use for indexing purposes only - 10 pages of spun content has moved up 10 positions onto page 1 for a US based commercial term.

Dont really want it there really as it looks out of place next to Macys.


 11:33 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

driller41 I have some sites which have never spent any time on with links, content, or otherwise, currently outranking the main site.

The results are so inaccurate I just can't see this working long term.


 12:10 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Agreed Petehall, these pby wont stick, just feels like standing there with the noose on the neck waiting for the trap door to open.


 1:08 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

The issue here seems mainly on long tail searches (3+ words). Would you agree with that driller?


 1:13 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Our one site relies on long tail, it's deader than dead.


 1:24 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Our site took a hit on long tails in February, but we've seen a further hit last night. Last night's change also seems to have hit some of our big keywords, in the worst case down from #5 to #15.


 1:36 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

In my case it is a question of quality rather than long tail - a site I expected to be dead has rose quite high - may be a fluke


 1:41 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

for us, US ecom, we are seeing the zombie swings become more protracted with fewer periods of high converting traffic. I am seeing this in my personal searches as well - now I know what it feels like to be a zombie.


 1:52 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

To Scottsonline's point about above the fold, I just did a search for a very competitive 2 word keyword (48,000,000 results). I am also at 1600x1200, so, my fold is about as generous as they come. I can't even see 1 complete organic result on the page (it gets cut off at the snippet).

I have 3 premium ads across the top with a local map to the right. Under the three ads I have 7 local results. Relevance is very poor here - my search was food related and i got a payless shoe store and a steel distributor. Underneath the local results was the title of the first organic result with, as i mentioned, only on line of the snippet visible above the fold. Under the map were 6 adwords.

So, to summarize, gogle is serving us up 9 ads, 7 poor local results and less than one organic result. Since most users are looking for organic results when they go to google, isn't that their "content". How do you think they would rank our pages if we had only one line of content above even a 1200 pixel high fold?! Obviously they want us to "do as we say, not as we do". Each day I lose more respect for google. What a shame.


 1:55 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've lost all respect for them. One thing is for sure, if this sticks we are out of business. If that happens I won't go quietly, I'll be contacting my local MP so they can see what the worlds biggest search provider is doing for the economy. It's gone beyond bad, this is a total piss take.


 2:01 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

My Apache access logs show higher volume in the middle of the night than during daytime hours. This has NEVER happened. Whatever algo update is presently being digested in one of the biggest ever. It's making May Day look like a good day. My #1 term now is #5 on page 3. I'll wait a few more weeks to see if this settles out, then it's on to some drastic site changes.

Note to self, buy Amazon stock (since they appear to be dominating the serps).


 9:38 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

< moved from another location >

Seen some quite drastic changes up and down today on a few big sites but I've not seen any comments on twitter etc and not much other chatter

Most of the sites are normal, just a few that have had the big rankings change


[edited by: tedster at 2:03 pm (utc) on Mar 23, 2012]


 2:08 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am moving down too, now i have some reserve in bank account :)


 2:09 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@wingslevel - also looking at Local results, if they don't have enough Places results to return they'll bung either 3-7 results from the "place's" own site or stick mega site links on the website to push other local publishers off the page - disgraceful.


 2:15 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@davedm - sounds like last month's "Venice" algorithm change:

Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.



 2:25 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

That the thing though isn't it? I feel like a puppet with a huge Google hand up my ass! How many of you went out & upgraded your servers when they hinted server speed would become a ranking factor? I know I did! Yet their homepage now has so much crap on it half the time my search is missing the first few letters because the page hasn't loaded! Now we'll all go out and spend £££ on site redesigns in the hope their latest algo will like us again. that is until the next time. A SEARCH engine should connect users with the sites they want, not what Google THINKS they want(littered with adverts). Come on, it's like they don't have plenty of revenue streams without now killings the SERP's!

Talking of which the SERP's have now looked the same for me for over 24hrs.


 2:33 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tedster - Yup it does sounds like it, but only hit here in the UK in the last few days. Whatever it is, the quality has taken a nose dive - seeing results for places *miles* from the correct one. Algorithms no substitute for local knowledge.

I've looked outside my niche as well; things are getting worse and worse - simple queries for technical queries ("what does this PHP error message mean" type things) etc throwing up absolute garbage.


 2:39 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

re: Venice - the local result set that i saw in my example query occupied a whopping 570 pixels of precious above the fold vertical real estate. The 3 premium ads got 300. Total vertical pixels (net of toolbars, navigation etc.) were 920, so, the "content" on the page got 50 pixels - we'll call it 6%. Think my pages would rank well with 6% of content above the fold?

Comparing the same query on bing, they served up 4 premium ads in 325 pixels, then the first organic serp complete with 8 sitelinks, followed by a small local map w/ 3 results which occupied 75 pixels, then 2 more complete organic results, then related searches, then a fourth complete organic result. To summarize, out of 980 available pixels, bing gave me 575 pixels of the content i was looking for we'll call it 60%. So, that is 10X the amount of content on the google SERP. Wow!

Try it yourselves.

@davedm, i am in NY metro area, so, i think there are definitely 7 local businesses that were relevant to my search.

In fairness, one of the 3 bing local results was for an electronics retailer - no possible relation to my food related search. Both engines, in my view have poor relevance on local results.


 2:53 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

ohno I have been seeing serps like this on and off since the start of March and always starts on a Friday, then returns to 'normal' by mid week.


 2:55 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@winglevel it is a shocking difference isn't it. Bing's results are far from perfect, but I think they're actually starting to get the edge over Google... more to the point, there is more variety there, so if their local results are rubbish at least I can find some other content easily.

I have yet to understand the point of the seemingly arbitrary (and often wrong) 7-packs other than to occupy space in the results.

My opinion is Google aren't actually motivated to return reliable local results - far better to let people realise the only reliable way to put your business in front of searchers is to give in and spend on advertising.


 3:21 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

How many of you went out & upgraded your servers when they hinted server speed would become a ranking factor?

Google said that
site speed would become a ranking factor. Site speed does not equal server speed - not by a long shot. In most cases it represents the tiniest sliver of total site speed and there are huge gains to be had elsewhere, instead of just a few score ms. from site speed.

You've got to catch the ball before you take off running down the field.


 3:24 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@davedm, i agree all except the motivation. i don't think even google can be so arrogant as to think they can get away with serving up bad content and treating their hard earned users like zombies.

i think with 10s of thousands of engineers and who knows how many teams of eager young engineers anxious to make their mark, that they have just lost their way. i don't think there is any other explanation for it. their machine learning apps must be telling them that the local serps are rubbish. but there are so many thousands of signals and parallel initiatives each with their own advocates. I think it is Amit's job to referee these and show leadership and direction - somebody needs to balance all of these forces with some common sense.


 3:43 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Good points, wingslevel - even essential points!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled discussion about SERP changes. Has anyone seen a pattern so far in these UK changes?


 4:00 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

tedster there seems to be absolutely no pattern, which is the scary thing. And has only really affected a single site that I work on.

Even stranger is enquiry levels are perfectly normal! I thought traffic was down about 30% but it was just a quiet morning I think.

It seems people are still finding this site and making an enquiry regardless of the positions, which have dropped a fair few places. Where the site was position 1-3 it's often 5-10, with very random sites occupying the space above (by random I mean different companies on different search phrases - no consistency - none of which appear to optimise for the phrases either).

There is one pattern and that's for the past few weeks I have seen these results on a Friday, then it rectifies around the beginning of the following week.


 4:38 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@wingslevel - perhaps I was a little harsh there, but I do think it is in their interests to keep things as uncertain as possible for all but advertisers. I genuinely don't think they care - look at Google+, everyone knows nobody wants or needs it - but they persist in making it more and more prominent.

@petehall - I'm seeing exactly the same; can't see any rhyme or reason to the results that are showing up. Lots of instances where there many pages from the same site - and only one is really relevant.

There seem to be a lot of exact match domains at the top again; especially in local - search for "widgets" and you'll get the "widgets.com" homepage followed by a 7-pack whereas before you'd tend to see 2-3 deep pages from relevant sites. Weird.


 5:06 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Anyone elses sites in the UK gone ape #*$!? Our one domain has been hammered with traffic, started around 4.00pm. VERY unusual for this time of day on a Friday!


 5:31 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

For primary keyword combo, my 9-year old site is not showing in one index version I'm seeing from a few of my computers, while my wife's computer sees a different result with my site at the bottom of page 1. I've seen a drop in traffic, registrations and orders since the 17th.

I don't really push SEO anymore. Basically I just let my site and the content do the work. I hope not to be penalized for having "old" content... there's only so much you can say about the subject I target and regurgitating content sucks.


 5:46 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

You've got to catch the ball before you take off running down the field.

What a great Friday afternoon line!

When I did some changes to a site a couple of months ago I forgot to enable gzip compression in my .htaccess file. I'd been using this for ages before. It didn't seem to have any effect on speed as measured by WMT. Now I've re-enabled it again I can't see any real change on the WMT labs speed chart.

I guess that speed is relative.


 5:56 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hey ohno. Glad to hear things are looking up for you. Just for reference, we transitioned from the zombie index to nicely converting traffic (I am referring only to organic google referrals) at about 10am eastern US time - with our recent time change, I think that makes it about 2 hours before you in the UK


 7:39 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I can confirm here in the US something went haywire.

This is not a specific search but do a plain English search like how much does xyz cost and see what happens. Xyz can be a service, product or anything else. The results are not even close especially if the product or service can have other meanings or is a brand.

This 391 message thread spans 14 pages: < < 391 ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 [9] 10 11 12 13 14 > >
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