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Google Updates and SERP Changes - Apr 2012

 4:34 am on Apr 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Going, going, GONE!
After over 10 years of consistently ranking between position #1 and #3 on page one for a single four letter word search term, the month of March (starting on the 10th) has resulted in falling to below the fold, then to page 2, then page 3 and today I have been completely removed for that term.

In place is nothing but garbage. Branding obviously has lost traction. I'm thinking whatever they have done is meant to stick. I checked to see if I had been over optimized for the term, but with a mere 4 occurrences on my page and my need to use that term to describe my product, I really don't know what they want from us anymore...

The effect of lost traffic has set off all the "Big Traffic change for URL" warnings and the anayltics charts have nose dived. Anyone else seeing this type of situation on their long established sites?

Lost income from March updates is just about $1000 / week.

I'd almost guess that Google is just removing older authority sites in favor of nothing but news articles and blogs.

[edited by: tedster at 4:54 am (utc) on Apr 1, 2012]



 2:37 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@garyr_h As you said before.... - That's how the search results work. Whoever takes your spot in the search results gets more money. :)

By the way Australian SERPs are changed too, my sites positions improved a little...


 2:45 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Reminds me of the good old days of the Google dances. If they still do things like some of the older updates, it means they roll-out the main algorithm and then add filters on top of that. The things we see during the update process potentially give clues to what the various filters do. I've never been smart enough to sort it out, but it is interesting to watch.

On a separate note, I had a very odd result occur this past week. I finally went ahead and decided to claim authorship content on my site, starting with the three most popular pages. I linked my articles to my "about me" page on my website, and then linked that page with my Google + account. Prior to doing this, my "about me" page ranked 3rd for my name for months to years, after my linked in profile (two spots).

Now - my about me page is no where to be found when searching for me! I just did this a few days ago, so maybe they think that I was spamming my own profile page with so many internal links with exact anchor text (my name). I definitely think they turned up the knob on exact matching anchor text. Three links changed to my profile page and adding one link to my Google+ and it's gone from the results?


 2:49 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@gary h in the last two hours we had more conversions and quality visits than the previous 12 hours. Thinking about 7pm some of the flux filtered thru.

All the hallmarks of a major change today:

1. International traffic increased
2. Bing dramatically increased indicating user frustration with google
3. Dramatic drop in buyers
4. The walking dead websites rise to the top, doorway sites, keyword domains etc.

This isn't just hitting black or white hatters. No seo at all got hit today. But I don't think it is a real hit I think it is the "google dance" as the change shuffles through the datacenters.

What is tough is how fast these changes come and how disruptive they are for a day or two when they happen. imagine if someone just took away 90% of googles business for a day due to someone moving their office around or changing their office? That's akin to what they do during these updates even for the sites with no changes up or down. Just the 12-36 hours of flux really hurts.


 2:53 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hopefully this is not the final version of the update. I have lost rankings for my own site which is myname.com. I have lost all positions:

my name + my city
my name + my linkedin
my name + my profession

This site had 5 backlinks and 4-5 pages. I doubt I was gaming the system. Other sites are also affected and Wikipedia+YouTube are dominating.


 2:53 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@garyr_h i hope this not temporary man. we suffered a lot on Panda.

I checked other websites as well similar to mine but in other country. They have the same result as mine.

menntarra 34

 2:54 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Now i'm trying something, cause i want to test something... Google is saying, they trying to stop "cheating websites". There are topics about over-optimisation. I think google can find a lot of actually well optimizied sites as cheating sites.
For example: i have a lot of pages where i'm listing some products, i did put a lot of work into making all my inner links to have title and alt attributes on my site. But for example i have 20 product on my site, and the link titles and alts are like this: "check out this fancy cheap ##productname##"

And i have like 20 of these per page... Correct me if i'm wrong but i haven't seen any proof that title and alt attributes affect ranking at all... But if that is the case then my site can easily be marked as a spammy website.
So now i changed all my inner links on my website, i also payed attention, to even avoid duplicate simple words on my pages. What do you think? Can these these link title attributes have any effect on ranking?


 3:11 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@menntarra 34 they did in the past. I think they still have very, very little impact on SERPs. ALT definitely does, but it is more for image search, IMO and haven't seen much effect on SERPs unless it is spammy. As long as the title and alt aren't spammed, then I think you should be OK.

However, if you changed all your links, your will definitely see changes on your website as Google reconfigures your site...


 4:18 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I too have lost rankings across a number of sites, some worthy of it, but others not so : including my own personal name site. Never threw a dodgy link to that, ever. Never did link building for it either. But my own name, an exact match .dom, is now down in the 3rd to 4th page.

I hope this algo keeps evolving and this isn't the end result. They'll be taking out a lot of innocent bystanders if that's the case.


 5:29 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

including my own personal name site

There appears to be a shift on exact match domain rankings which are not authorative. I'm seeing it on a large scale network.

PS - update - another exact match premium keyword domain I've noticed has also been hit. Could be widespread.


 6:28 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Unrelated, but I'm also seeing increased traffic from Bing.

I am seeing this also.

My Bing and Yahoo traffic are through the roof over the past 3-4 weeks.
- BaseballGuy

Mine is NOT through the roof but is increasing significantly.

With results like the #1 spot on .com for "make money online" (was #10 when webmasters first complained on Matt Cutts blog) -
makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com - which is an empty Google blog, are we seeing as shift in users to Bing and Yahoo?

I think these results are far from settled. Google usually favour their own products for a short while during a shake-up so I have no doubt that this site will eventually drop.

However, with the results having been influx for some time now, and a mess IMO, users may be noticing and trying to find what they need on different search engines.

FWIW the pixelated image I mentioned is still ranking high in my niche with other spammy sites joining it after the latest "wepspam" changes.

Since yesterday results in the UK have been shaken up a lot. Page 1 looks completely different for several queries I have been monitoring (and not for the better, unfortunately).


 6:45 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I got to say that even though there is INSANE COLLATERAL DAMAGE, Google has done a great job getting rid of spam websites. But in order to do that they have fried tens and thousands of webmasters. I guess that was the only way to get rid of junk.

Good thing is that beside being hit by an update there is also that other bug going on where you site can be considered as a parked page and lose further rankings.

As mentioned by irishsolar, that blogspot website is ranking for MMO keyword with an empty blog.


 6:49 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@irishsolar: I love your 'money' example. It's funny to see the excesses g's 'penalty happy' algo is capable of.

I'm sure things will get better in time. But have things really gotten better overall since about 2003?


 7:20 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)


I agree theres been a big shake up with the UK serps but its all gone the wrong way with spam taking over - these are the worse set of results I've seen for years and all they are doing is rewarding the spammers - if they want to turn webmasters over to black hat they are doing it the right way with this .....one of my top keywords was a blog related term, thats been knocked to 10th and the site replacing it has a blog posting of 2009 ! now thats what you call keeping the serps current


 7:41 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Guys the MMO example shows that off-page factors are very much the driving force of these latest updates and not on-page factors. I think we could spend weeks tweaking sites and see only minimal results.

Looking at the MMO example - makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com - it redirects to a.co.uk blogspot site - makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.co.uk.

This site has no content bar the title "Make". It has zero backlinks.

But according to OSE the original .com site has 9,352 backlinks (in real terms about 93,000).

I think we need to be looking at those backlinks for some clues about what is going on at the big G. Unless anyone seriously thinks on-page factors are helping this site rank number 1 for a term that is worth millions of dollars per year in the right (or wrong) hands.

I am having a quick review done of a sample of the backlinks to see what percentage is using the URL/exact anchor text and other keywords. Hopefully this will help shed a little light on what is going on.

BTW is anyone else seeing an increase in yahoo and bing traffic like me, BaseballGuy and garyr_h.


 7:44 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

To quote Danny Sullivan's piece about this update:

Somewhat related, is this the “over-optimization” penalty that Cutts warned was coming last month? Yes and no. It is the update he was talking about, but Cutts is clarifying that now somewhat infamous over-optimization statement.

"I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post,” Cutts told me.

Having kept my ear closer to the ground lately with various dips and scares, I was close to "De-optimizing" a bunch of stuff as many I have read here have done. For a company dealing heavily in semantics you'd think Matt would choose his words more carefully? How many of you who've frantically anticipated this update find it doesn't apply and you may have done more damage than good?

Robert Charlton

 7:49 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)


Normally we don't discuss specific websites, but there isn't too much to say about this one. ;)

Search is [how to make money online], and it's ranking #9 (at least in the San Francisco Bay Area).

Total text content is "make"... so it's not completely empty. This example has gotten a lot of attention online... possibly working as additional link bait.

I'm pretty sure that "make" on the page is a way of getting around the Google Bombing filter. See discussion here...

Long Live the Search Bomb!
With somewhat near discussions regarding Google Bombing..
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3317800.htm [webmasterworld.com]

My comment in the last post, I believe, explains why "make" is enabling it to work here... almost exactly five years ago today.

Robert Charlton

 7:53 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

It has zero backlinks.

PS: Irish, there have got to be backlinks. ;)


 8:07 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@patc I think Matt Cutts knew exactly what he was saying when he said it. IMO there could be lots of reasons that may account for him backtracking on the statement.

Whatever the reason it doesn't stop the SERPs from being in a mess and I doubt that has anything to do with webmasters de-optimizing their sites.

ATM it doesn't seem to matter what we do because the SERPs are in flux. However, watching what is happening can give us a great insight into what changes are occurring so we can best address those issues when the dust settles.

@Robert Charlton If you click on the actual link from the SERPs it is listed as a .com but redirects to a co.uk.

There are no backlinks on the .co.uk site. BUT there is a redirect coming from the .com site which has a ton of them.

It the index I am getting it is number 1 in the SERPs.

The MMO site in question has its backlinks broken down as follows (please bear in mind this is from a sample not the entire backlink profile):

About 60% of the backlinks are divided between blog comments and embedded links within blog posts.

The backlink profile is varied with footer links, blogroll, articles, forum posts etc., etc.

As for anchor text:

20.8% - "how to make money online for beginners" - which the blog also has #1 spot.

9.8% - "Grizzly"

9% - "make money online"

6.6% - "make money online for beginners"

5.6% "how to make money online"

5.1% - "make money for beginners"

3.6% - "how to make money"

3.4% coming from images.

2.5% - "grizzly make money online"

33.6% - various lesser keywords

What do you make of that?


 8:07 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Mods; can we merge the webspam update into the dedicated thread Netmeg started

And stick it on the homepage?

Robert Charlton

 8:10 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Majestic's Fresh Index shows, as of 21 Apr 2012, 7,499 External Backlinks from 525 Referring Domains.

Anchor text for top five backlinks (we will not identify referrers) is...

how to make money online
ways to make money online
how to make money online
ways to make money online
make money online

Mod's note: Let's avoid further specifics.


 8:11 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ranking Increase = squidoo, blogspot, forums
Ranking Decrease = exact match domains, sites with lots of backlink from spun content sources


 8:18 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Robert Charlton Does this data not show that exact anchor text is most definitely not dead? Or am I missing something?

Could this over-optimization penalty have to do with the keyword percentages of backlinks being built?


 8:25 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Worst day ever yesterday... we seem to have been further punished. What's going on, there is no logic anymore. Just in one niche though, all other are fine!

I'm guessing still not done, but how do you survive an update like this?

The larger dataset is now HUGE. My search which was returning 3,000 results the other day, and 1 million prior to this, is now returning almost 2 million results.

Robert Charlton

 8:38 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Irish - IMO, it's been clear for a while that anchor text is "most definitely not dead".

One thing I should have mentioned for future reference regarding the blogspot "site" (just in case it disappears) is its title element...

"Make Money For Beginners"

It's an EMS (exact match subdomain).

Mods; can we merge the webspam update into the dedicated thread Netmeg started

Shaddows... great idea. I need to get to bed. Will try to get a mod or an admin in a different time zone to split the thread (maybe as far back as scottsonline's post, as there's constant overlap in posts) and splice it to the dedicated thread. If you've got a better idea where to split it, please post your suggestion.


 8:54 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

My top site just seemed to have got smashed.
It took a bit of a hit by Panada 12 months ago but recovered. This is much worse. For some search terms I've been in the first 1-6 results for a number of years, I've just disappeared off the planet. some other similar search terms thankfully seem unaffected.
Winners in this niche (like Panda last year) seem to be online UK newspapers


 9:11 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you've got a better idea where to split it, please post your suggestion
Well, MSG#4444834 references the same update- I'd go with that.

 9:30 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Has anything changed with regard to using a 301 to pass on spammy links from one site to another?

I've spotted an example of a penalised site for which the penalty might be caused by the spam links pointing at the site with the 301 on it.

I guess this could be something that has been going on for some time and I've just not noticed it before. Or it could be that this is part of what "Mr Cutts Sir" is talking about.

I really hope they don't introduce a brown nose penalty because if they do I'm stuffed.



 9:47 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

There is definitely a lot of movement going on. One of my sites is ranking in the top 10 for some very competitive gambling phrases when it was not doing so before. One of these keywords has risen 8 places in a day. It seems like non-keyword anchor text is helping.


 10:05 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I sure hope this mornings results aren't final. Two of my top site have dropped 80%. These sites aren't spam site, not over optimized and all original written content that have been listed well for years.


 10:11 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here we go again! KW's are dropping off the face. Was going up last week, gone this! Happy days


 10:13 am on Apr 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am also seeing fluctuations in may of my websites keywords, also for the keywords which were ranking on the first page for atleast last one year, now these are on of 2-3 page

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