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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]



 3:48 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I never solicited links either, In fact, I've got less than 10 outbound links from my site, but unless you've been living on the far side of Pluto for the last 10 years, Google has been ENCOURAGING keyword usage and it's been common knowledge that making sure your key phrases in your title, description, keywords and content were all tied neatly together. This has long been a well known and NON blackhat way to rise higher in the serps. Look at a optimization report in software like IBP, if offers white hat suggestions to this end.
My point being, in case it flew past the hairdo, is that now Google appears to also be frowning on the common "normal" optimization techniques we've ALL used for years. (if you disagree with ALL, show me your high ranking page that does not use meta tags)

Yeah, I know all well that their target is the "over optimizers" their announcement letter of the latest update contained a few ridiculous examples), but again, unless you've been living in deep space, you should know all about Google's slash & burn approach and false positives.

As we build according to the rules, they seem to keep changing them, hence engineered for failure.

@DD - I agree with you on the apparent traffic quality issues, you and just about (apparently not all) everyone else have been experiencing. I've lost a lot of love for Google since the May Day update. I'm not a hater, I just call 'em like I see 'em.

[edited by: backdraft7 at 4:00 am (utc) on Apr 26, 2012]


 3:58 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Think cutts just confirmed there was a Panda refresh on the 19th.

yup, believe a Panda data refresh on 4/19. I don't think @rustybrick asked us about it; we sometimes wait for him to ask. :)


 4:06 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I guess if you work for Squidoo or the like, you're pretty happy with the latest results.


 4:35 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

You mind jumping off my back again, my statement is most definitely true.

@backdraft7 That over encompassing exaggerated statement may hold SOME truth but it most definitely is not 100% true. Not everyone did that and some still managed to rank in Google regardless of SEO ignorance. Some sites just had that certain something everyone loved and linked to and Google picked up on that too. Granted it wasn't the norm that ranking sites weren't playing to the SE algos, but it wasn't an absolute either.

What you could say which is more accurate is that sites in highly competitive areas that didn't cater to and attempt to manipulate the algos didn't rank, which I'll pretty much agree.

P.S. Be respectful of the other members, esp. the ladies, it's a discussion and nobody is 'on your back'. Discuss the topics and not the people.


 5:14 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm at a total loss. Traffic is way up from google, 50% since the 20th. But the traffic is wrong. I cannot say exactly how or why. I think we are getting people looking for something somewhat related so they hang around for a bit but not the laser sharp customers bing sends us. Brand widget pole is the product we may get searches for telephone poles, or political polls if the name of the product brand is even remotely close.

To me it seems the more they reduce exact matches the less targeted the traffic is and indeed my personal searches return mostly trash. Searching for medical conditions I'm suddenly getting sites that require me to sign up so they can email me videos? Major medical sites are down the page beyond irrelevant YouTube videos?

It seems to me that googles algorithm is like windows nt. it's gotten so big with so many fixes on top of fixes changes are having unintended consequences. Mr Cutts indicates this influences 3% of searches but I find it hard to believe they can calculate that figure. Every search I do seems to be changed right now so what are the other 97% people searching for the color yellow?


 5:26 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@scottsonline people look at the 3% of all searches and don't think about how huge of a number that actually is. It is something like 90 million searches a day that it impacts.


 5:35 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

A large % of all searches are informational and not very commercial or competitive. Just my guess.

And then there's all those navigational searches, people who type, say: 'amazon' or 'facebook' into the search box...

Could be 30% of all commercial searches affected. Just throwing numbers out blindly...


 6:07 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

ok google has manually removed that infamous make money online blogspot blog...


 6:16 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

competitive key term in the financial sector, ranking top 3, unrelated to the topic, ranks only because it links to a relevant site using invisible links in the footer.

I see a similar example in the automotive niche. A completely unrelated charity site ranks for an automotive money-keyword just because of an anchor text in the hidden link to an automotive store. Looks like a hacked site.

What's even more funny, that the site it is linking to, the one that has many more hidden links like that (on other, probably hacked, sites) is ranking even higher!


 6:56 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm still not ranking after the 20/19 roll out, but a positive out of this is within the serps I monitor 3 VERY spammy sites are ranking all over it - all that have used black hat & keyword loaded generated pages and these sites are so spammy you mite as well put a tin of spam on the index.

What this tells me is this is far from over as normally all 3 sites aren't anywhere to be seen ....I'm going carry on working and keeping an eye on the quality


 7:18 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have few info websites that have been affected by the change web spam update on Apr 24. The changes are both negative and positive. If you have created a "website" and left it as is without any marketing or search engine optimization, it will probably see positive movement. If you are an established forum or info website with a lot of natural strong links, you will see good movement. If you are a small to medium info website with weak back link profile, well good luck salvaging whats left of your website. That's what happened to one of my websites.

- The website I have only ranks #1 for one term now out of the 50 I monitor
- Its on 3rd page for its domain name without extension
- when I do a search for some phrase from negatively affected pages, my page comes last in SERP and all those ahead of me are people who scraped text from my website, social bookmarking sites, etc
- I have a new section added recently with absolutely no link pointing to them, these pages are close to 50 and they are doing great right now as compared to existing pages. If I do a search for a title of one page from the negatively affected pages, I usually get these new pages ranked ahead of the main page with the title I'm searching for.

The punishment looks like page wise but it also has some singes of manual penalty. I guess not showing for my own brand is a sign for manual penalty? But then again one page survived and the new pages i added are also doing okay.

There is all sort of weirdness going on right now. I really dont know what to think any more. I have been penalized before and I have also learned about it by example from others. But what I see right now is totally confusing.


 7:21 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@incrediBILL @nutmeg @backdraft7 I think backdraft7 is spot on the money. How many sites does anyone know of that ranked for a competitive search phrase prior to this update that did not do some sort of SEO?

Before this update it simply wasn't possible to rank for any type of keyword worth anything without doing SEO - either on-page or off-page or both.

Matt Cutts has openly encouraged webmasters to ensure their keywords were visible on the pages that they wanted to get ranked.

I find it difficult to believe that you guys know of sites that were ranking for competitive keywords that never engaged in any type of SEO. With all due respect and without wanting to offend anyone I think it's a ludicrous claim.

Look at the SERPs now - this is what happens when sites that do not engage in SEO are rewarded with rankings.


 7:40 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I find it difficult to believe that you guys know of sites that were ranking for competitive keywords that never engaged in any type of SEO. With all due respect and without wanting to offend anyone I think it's a ludicrous claim.

I mentioned it earlier, but I'll repeat it since this thread is so long. I help manage a friend's old FrontPage Express site. It's a horribly coded mess, lots of dead outbound links, and she really hasn't updated it in years and couldn't care less. Yet, her site is unquestionably the leader in her niche and traffic just keeps going up, up, up. That in itself says to me that SEO doesn't carry much weight when up against an authority site. If your site is popular, the search engines will rank it warts and all.


 7:43 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Play_Bach what about off-page SEO? Does her site has a lot of links coming in?

Is her site in a competitive "money-generating" niche? Is there any real competition or is every other site using the same approach?

I would like to see a site trying to rank for credit cards or bank loans having the same success with no SEO strategy.


 7:52 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

> Does her site has a lot of links coming in?

Yes, because her site is the authority, she has a ton of websites that have linked to her. However, she never solicited any of those links, people just like her site and recommend it.


 7:58 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


This update...least so far is all about neglected sites ...hence my dead friends site ranking - but I also looked at a few dropped projects I started and didn't carry on with a and they are all ranking and have not been touched for a few years - no links, no content.....so basically throw a site up point a few links then forget about it and repeat ..is this really what G wants !


 8:05 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Play_Bach my guess is that site sits in a non-competitive niche that is financially not worth a lot. Therefore I think anyone with any SEO knowledge has not invested any time trying to rank for your friend's niche search terms and that would account for her being market leader.

I also strongly believe that if a site with proper on-page SEO for her niche terms had engaged in some targeted backlink building (prior to this update) they would have blown her out of the water - IMO.

If this is indeed the case then your example is not indicative of how search works. Just my opinion but based on 10 years in the game.


 8:09 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tigger do you not think this is still the flux? I find it almost impossible to believe that this is the final say with this update, there are just too many bad sites in the SERPs.

It is my belief that Google messed up on a few fronts with this update and are working to fix them. I honestly think it will not be as bad as it now appears when the dust eventually settles. The only thing that worries me (a lot) is how long that will take!


 8:14 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


Well, there certainly is money in her niche and hundreds of websites doing what she does. But her site was one of the first. She got in early and used the free version of FrontPage Express to make her site and like I said, pretty much has left it alone since. Popularity trumps SEO, no question about it.


 8:15 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


yes 100% ...I've been digging around further today and it doesn't make any sense to reward sites that are not being updated - if that was the case it makes a mockery of the internet

Question is as you pointed out, how long do we have to wait for a update, after all Panda doesn't effect Adwords, in fact only helps boost revenue


 8:17 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

What is the general consensus here of what happened on the 24th? Have you been hit with collateral fire or a penalty?


 8:23 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Play_Bach excuse if I am wrong but I think you are confusing on-page optimization with all types of SEO. Backlink building is SEO as well. In fact backlink building is often 80% of SEO work. Backlinks make you look popular whether they are natural or attracted through SEO work.


 8:27 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


No, I'm not confusing it. She certainly has backlinks, but she didn't solicit them. SEO is the furthest thing from her mind, I can assure you.


 8:36 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

The thing is, some people have two concepts of SEO, and conflate the two.

One is
"Everything that improves my site is SEO"

The other is
"Everything I do to try and improve my ranking is SEO"

The first means you claim credit for all good things, whether you meant them or not.

The other means you count everything you do as "optimisation" whether it is effective or not.

Then people wade into discussions without being clear which sense they mean, and lazily switch between the two depending on what suits their current purposes.


 8:40 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Then people wade into discussions without being clear which sense they mean, and lazily switch between the two depending on what suits their current purposes.

Like everything else in life Shaddows ;)


 8:41 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


In a nutshell, her site is a classic "build it and they will come" success story. She did what she did, people liked it then and people like it now. SEO was never in the picture and still isn't.


 8:48 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

My point is simple. IMO if there were other people in her niche that were using SEO, both on-page and off-page, then her site would NOT be the market leader.

I think she is probably in a non-competitive niche with very little "real" competition.

What should also be taken into account is that off-page SEO is designed to mimic what occurs naturally i.e. building backlinks deliberately in a way that would normally happen naturally in an ideal world.

I don't know of any site that had a good ranking in a competitive niche worth decent money prior to this update that did not engage in any type of SEO work EXCEPT where there was no "real" competition.

By real competition I mean webmasters who understand how to use SEO.


 8:52 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)


> I think she is probably in a non-competitive niche with very little "real" competition.

Then think what you want. I've told you otherwise, but you don't believe me. Not much I can do about that, sorry.


 8:54 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

In the UK. For one keyword I've slipped from page one to page three. I now have lots of images, news articles eg Daily Mail and videos ahead of me as well as sites that obviously I think I'm better than but they are decent and relevant sites so i can't complain.

However I'm also now outranked by:
An old US site that is nearly all pictures and the keyword is only mentioned twice on the site and the site content is not remotely connected with the keyword.
An obscure amazon product page where the keyword is one of the words in a title of a song
A site about giving birth - the keyword is used in the title and the text but really no one would be looking for a site on that subject by typing in just the keyword
A livejournal subdomain old site where the keyword is in the title and nowhere else. Again not relevant to people who just search the single keyword.
An article on a good site about some US legislation and the keyword is in the title but again not relevant to people who just search the single keyword.

So for whatever reason my site took a hit, the resulting serps are a mess. This tells me that even if Google did some good work with this update, what they've left behind as it is at the moment is not what they would want.


 9:00 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Play_Bach it's not that I don't believe you but your idea of a competitive niche and mine might be very different. Don't take it personally.

My experience in these things quite clearly shows me that on-page and off-page optimization is a huge factor in ranking and up until these recent updates it was 100% necessary to engage in SEO if you ever wanted to rank in Google for a COMPETITIVE search phrase unless you were Coca Cola or some other huge brand (where your on-page keywords reflected your brand and you got relevant, keyword targeted backlinks naturally anyway).

Perhaps your friend's site has such links and got them naturally. All I am saying is this: if a competent webmaster with SEO knowledge had decided to take her spot prior to this update then it wouldn't have been that difficult if your friend does indeed gave her site no attention at all.

I believe the competing sites in her niche have very little SEO done on them probably on-page and off-page.

You seem to be adamant that it is a competitive niche. Tell me, have you analysed the competing websites to see if they have been optimised at all?


 9:05 am on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tedster (where is he, anyway) said something years ago that stuck with me, to the effect
"There comes a point where it's easier to produce quality than to imitate it"

Irish, you seem to of the opinion that a polished turd should outrank an unpolished diamond, as long as the make-up man knows his craft.

I disagree, no matter what the niche.

For example, a "viral" video does not necessarily* have the production quality of its unsung couterparts, but does better because of its interaction with humanity. In the US election season, to paraphrase a classic slogan, "It's the connection, stupid"

*It might, of course. There's lots of money in producing "viral" videos.

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