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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]



 5:02 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Anyone notice a change in the handling of plurals? We used to rank for "widget" and "widgets". Now we only show up for the plural term. This holds true for over a dozen terms related to our site.

Does this mean that we should make more pages to get more traffic?


 6:53 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand mentions a name for the latest Google update, Penguin:
[searchengineland.com ]


 7:02 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Penguin...That will never fly..


 7:11 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Are you noticing a change in the behaviour of plural searches? Or have you not noticed the way plurals are handled before?

Have you experimented with pluralising each of the words in a two word term separately?

I've been hypothesising that one of the changes we have seen recently is targeted at the big $ search terms. ie it looks like they have a list of likely spam targets and are hitting them with a specific set of rules but less commercial terms are not targeted with the same rules.


 7:12 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I did see on Matt Cutts twitter page that there was a Google Panda refresh on April 19th.


 7:43 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Theory for you - Google Panda actively promotes some [possible] spam sites into good positions just to check user interaction data with those sites. If they get good interaction metrics they stay in the serps but dropping back to their correct position otherwise they drop away ne'er to be seen again.

My thoughts also , earlier in this thread ( or the spam "thread" they are very similar now, but it would be impossible to "blend" the threads )..the AI learning element needs "reaction" from users..some results that appear to be totally wrong..will trigger the "learning", and then be purged..swiftly..some may hang about between Panda iterations..and be purged the next time..

Panda interacts with other specific algo "events"..and learns..the "where did all the crap come from" that happens some times ..is when the AI goes from recognising the world ..to crawling..to walking ..to running..to riding it's first trike..to a bike etc..from time to time it loses it's balance, staggers and falls on its's ass ..so do kids ( we all were ) at each of those equivalent learning phases..none of us went from birth to riding a bike or a skateboard in one go ..it took many many falls to get really good at it..and would have been even harder if not impossible if the ground we were learning on was shifting and expanding and changing as fast as the internet and the pages on it change..

And toddlers have to learn to distinguish crap from chocolate..and what is good and nutritious and what isn't..some take years to know not to eat enticing looking crap, junk-food and not to be fooled,based on the wrapper or the hype around what is worthless..some never do ..

You can buy ads and gain some immunity from the AI in panda and algo revisions..but then you'll still be subject to scrutiny , or Google's whims vis a vis your campaign or landing pages etc..

It is like the weather..if you never know when the storm is coming ..and they will come..and wash away the road that leads to your door or cut the power ..build solid so as not to be affected by the storm directly, build alternative sources of traffic..links used to be for sending traffic down..not for showing off to Google..


 8:05 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google, whatever the algorithm, is just a spam finder. Failed spam tactics with one algorithm sit there waiting to rise to the top when Google changes the algorithm.

There's just one Google but billions of sites most of which have either accidentally or deliberately skewed their optimization and backlink profile in one way or another.

There are always 10 results in the top 10 and it seems to me that it doesn't matter what Google does half of them will not really deserve to be there and users will be disappointed when they visit them.


 8:13 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Weird I was searching

" world history "
" world history online "

for both queries I can see the website classzone.com in search results

But there is nothing about world history ( or anything close to that , even in content )


 8:26 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google tried for Artificial Intelligence and got it half right. They got Artificial Stupidity and they think they've done a good job. Kind of make you wonder.



 8:52 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@jmccormac as an ex programmer trained in (very) early forms of AI like fuzzy logic I can say that AI takes awhile to get it right. It learns as it goes. If AI is really at work then you will see a constant flux in the SERPs as the program learns.


 8:55 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think that they think they have done a good job, in that I don't think that they consider it finished, not by a long way, and along time..( although publicly they say they are happy with it so far..the so far" is important..admission that it isn't finished )..But as all children advance and then fall flat ( and appear to have become stupid to outsiders..but their parents are aware of the progress they are making overall ) ..eventually they become what we would take to be intelligent adults.. (OK a large percentage remain thick as two short planks ..but that is another debate, because if they didn't many of us would have no clickers and no customers )..

Google's AI is still at baby stages attempting to pull itself up to toddler..it in its primary version "Panda" ..is only just over a year old..how intelligent did any of us seem at a year old..

How intelligent at any of this "website stuff" were some of us in our first year..or second etc..some* who have been at this for years, still post or say the dumbest most naive things, here or elsewhere..

I'm definitely not referring to yourself there jmcc :)..but you read these threads and elsewhere ..how many "eejit" or naive misinformed remarks, or tech questions do you see from people who have been at this longer than Google, and who would call themselves pro webmasters..

Lot of things I don't trust Google on ( privacy etc, G+ )..but I think that on AI on serps, is it "two steps forwards and one back" often ( and that is too be expected )..but I think they are getting better year on year, even though there are cataclysmic WT(H <= another letter may be more appropriate there ;-) events that come up from time to time..

Irishsolar posted the same thing while I was typing ..an Irish moment here, Sláinte to you both :-).. the rest of you talk amongst yourselves .. ;-)


 8:59 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@mh_and I don't think specific searches are usually tolerated here but interesting nevertheless.

The word World occurs and all of the US states so a synonym of World as well. (British irony) Reminds me of that map that says "Them" on every country except one that says "US".

In my niche there are a couple of sites for a search like widgets service . They are normally optimised for the word widgets but are over optimised for words that are a synonym of service and under optimised for the word service itself. Its almost as though they have turned the synonym dial full over so in this case the word "service" doesn't help your ranking at all only synonyms and close semantic matches count.


 9:11 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

My clients sites were doing good but past month there sites were bouncing around like crazy everyday and last week they disappeared. Note, they do come up when I search there domain name.
Here is the interesting thing, Client had Google Analytics account with 14 websites in it. 10 of the sites were same category and 4 were totally different categories from each other. All sites are registered differently and diff ip addresses. I noticed most of the websites were linking to each other (not all) and all the websites had the same Google Analytics user account id number in there html (example, UA1234556-1 for 1st site, UA1234556-2 for 2nd site, UA1234556-3 for 3rd and so on).
I am trying to understand if google penelized one site, did they automatically just group all the sites together because they have same Analytics user account number and the fact that they may have linked to each other?
These sites are over 4 years old and have many backlinks. I have recently deleted all interlinking links between these site and removed the analytics code completely.
Should I submit a google request reconsideration? Any advice on what else I can do? Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you.


 9:13 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I hope MHs example stays. It illustrates what I'm seeing. Google has blown semantic understanding of what sites are about. They are doing it now with ours thinking we ARE the manufacturer sending us competitors instead of customers when we make it explicitly clear.

So our traffic is up 45% but it's all garbage. All we've gotten for two or three days is people complaining about the manufacturer thinking we are them. much like the world history example google misunderstood our site which is shocking as they can clearly see when they send the right traffic we convert at 25%.


 9:24 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Irishsolar Yep but the thing about Google's attempt at AI is that they have probably have a good set of historical data with which to kickstart their effort. And we don't know precisely what they are doing in terms of algorithmic development.

@Leosghost I've probably made more than enough of those eejit comments. :) But I'm not just a webmaster (though my HTML/CSS has been known to make grown web developers cry) - I also build country level search engine indices and am currently building an Irish search engine. (Approx 1M pages indexed with another 500K pending.) I've been closely checking queries and qualities on both. Part of the motivation was that I was looking to buy a whiteboard and when I went and searched on Google, the results were really bad - other continent bad. Interestingly the Adwords adverts were accurate to country level. After the compromised sites issue, the biggest problem with building a good index is the clone site/webspam issue. I developed a relatively simple algorithm to clean the index and it seems to work well. If I can do it then Google with its masses of experts should be able to build a better one as I don't scale well horizontally. :)


[edited by: jmccormac at 9:29 pm (utc) on Apr 26, 2012]


 9:28 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Kinda have to chuckle at all the talk of AI and G's being on the road to getting it 'right'.

IMO the SERP's 'peaked' around 2005, downhill from there...


 9:40 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

For all you WebmasterWorld old-timers, wouldn't this update qualify as a "Clear-out?" :)


 9:43 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Interestingly the Adwords adverts were accurate to country level...I developed a relatively simple algorithm to clean the index and it seems to work well. If I can do it then Google with its masses of experts should be able to build a better one

@jmccormac I've been saying for awhile that Google are becoming very transparent in their favouritism...I am assuming you hold a similar view. Is it just the Irish are more intelligent than everyone else or are we missing something important and actually dumber than everyone else? Lol


 9:48 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

For all you WebmasterWorld old-timers, wouldn't this update qualify as a "Clear-out?" :)

@jk3210 I'm not an old timer of the forum but I am an old timer in many different ways :) This seems to be a clear-out of quality IMO.


 9:50 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Irishsolar The thing about good search engines is that they have a very high bounce rate (>95%) because the user gets exactly what they want. Bad SERPs with accurate Adwords benefits Google though this is not to say that that they planned this. Perhaps we are just a bit more cynical. :)



 10:09 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

And why the proliferation of Those YouTube Videos in the search results....what are they thinking?


 10:12 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

And why the proliferation of Those YouTube Videos in the search results....what are they thinking?

Not just Youtube. I'm seeing videos that are not Youtube embeds show up. These are flash videos embeded on the site. I have not seen that before.


 10:42 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

<slightly OT> I wonder if the adwords..accompanying serps.. at a country level are not to a large degree self geo sorting and targeting..done via those who buy them and manage them choosing their markets, whereas the "organics" are much less "Geo focused" sometimes, ( apart from those who GEO target via GWMT ..which has got to be a very tiny proportion of over all webmasters outside of here )..I have been running very specific searched recently looking for very specific info from a "niche" I'm opening a business in..the organics are at best reasonable, usually crap though ..the ads are spot on..as long as I'm searching in English "worldwide" via Google.com forced to USA..

But as soon as I search the same specific niche in French , on Google.fr..the organics are much better and more accurate..but the adwords are a 50/50 split, between accurate ..placed by the online retailers..and really truly crap shopping engine catch all .."the subject" of the search "keyword or phrase" is nowhere to be seen on the landing page..frequently I get "you searched for..but we don't have it ..try looking at our ( comparison engine ) resources for alternatives"..and obviously the shopping engine is just an aff bidding and winning on all terms..NO QS "landing page" score seems to apply on the French adwords market..I don't see all countries getting the same quality of organic serps or adwords results</Slightly OT>

Might be that Google can deal with dupes and clones in organics but don't want to spend a huge amount on it in some markets, ( how big is Matt Cutt's team ? and how many countries do they deal with ? ) ..and they may not be as selective, or severe in others, or even "laissez faire"..

Panda rolled out to all areas ..but are the criteria the same in all areas and languages ? ..and when an "algo" update rolls, do all areas and languages get treated with the same criteria..IME..they don't..

But here we really only hear about the English speaking areas and markets..and even within them I don't see the exact same criteria in use either in panda or algo updates..and certainly all verticals and niches don't get treated the same, even in the same language area or market..even "local" within the same country does not get criteria/ variables and thus does not get the same "treatment" in every "place"..

I don't think for one moment, that Google shed any tears that this makes adwords the only "relatively" stable way of reaching page one..Qs scores not withstanding..

But I don't think that they need to "rig the game"..just the act of sorting serps via updates or Panda etc,( like sorting the wheat from the chaff the old fashioned way of tossing it in the air and letting the chaff fall away ) makes those who want stability think of adwords..meanwhile the number of pages is growing as fast if not faster than they can sort the wheat from the chaff..partly because they index so rapaciously..

Bing indexes far more sparingly ..an oft heard complaint about Bing is how few pages of some sites are actually in their index..so their sorting is easier..

So yes it may well be that Google are not averse to using the older tactic of "clearing out" sometimes..

Whichever it is..they definitely do not see the need for anything that they might view as a thin aff..so if one is..one's days are numbered ever smaller, with every run of Panda and every run of an algo ..whatever they name it at the time, in many markets and areas it's targets are reducing the affs..Google does not see them as anything other than competition for revenue..

Which if one thinks about it ..makes perfect sense..

Google itself is all the thin aff, many businesses, who are prepared to give money via ads or Commission in exchange for traffic, would need..

edited for typos..those I noticed :)

[edited by: Leosghost at 10:53 pm (utc) on Apr 26, 2012]


 10:46 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Supposedly Google has said this is not a manual penalty but an algorithm change, so don't bother sending reinclusion requests.


 10:52 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Supposedly Google has said this is not a manual penalty but an algorithm change, so don't bother sending reinclusion requests.

Same as Panda, not a penalty, just a change in ranking factors. There is good and bad in that statement.


 11:00 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

The SERPs look changed once again.

Last night: filtered out only unique domains. They were showing anywhere between 6-10 results per page, but only one domain got a spot.

This morning: went back to the old-style domain indent where the second result is indented beneath the first. Also showing TWO Images for Keywords bars/results/whatever you want to call them instead of the usual one.

Also seeing several different databases now: the old, the one I've been seeing, the old set plus indents and some minor differences but not many, and a new one, also seeing some of the same repeated databases but without authorship.

It seems like they are definitely testing stuff still. For one: testing user interaction with domains that have multiple-results, testing how they interact with the new image layout added (first image repeated twice? what's the point of that?), testing authorship, and I'm sure many other things.


 11:33 pm on Apr 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

AI? Do we need AI? Who defines the "I" in AI? To me it looks more like a toddler trying to learn how to read. For the first time EVER Bing has 35.3% and Google 28.9% of my search traffic.
Google says it's no a penalty, but if they don't like what you have, isn't that a penalty? I said in a SEO forum several years ago that one day SEO is not going to work since Google nad other SE's will fight everything you do. I was jumped on but look at what we've got today? Why can't they have just a poll like when you are logged in where you can LIKE the site or not.


 2:32 am on Apr 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

@gehrlek.... +1 for your SEO observation. I said it before, Google seems to be "Engineered for your failure"...

I think the lesson we should all be learning here is: What Google considers quality one day is not necessarily going to be considered quality the next. It's obvious that some are being hit harder than others, but even after all the quality updates over the past few years, I still see an awful lot of trash, outdated news and irrelevant results out there ranking on page one.

Why can't they have just a poll like when you are logged in where you can LIKE the site or not.
Because like everything else, it would be 'gamed' in about 2 seconds.

 2:53 am on Apr 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

They had a sidebar "review" thing a while back IIRC..don't remember it lasting long, any thing that we could vote on can, and will be gamed, who ( amongst the few who sing it's praises ) here has a G+ account for any thing other than marketing and promoting their sites ?

Facebook has "like" buttons..and we have a whole section here and there is a whole industry devoted to gaming and buying and selling clicks on them..


 3:10 am on Apr 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

Facebook likes are mostly meaningless for b2b. Twitter and g+ are the same and like the previous poster said are gamed terribly.

Google always did a great job of returning the results we wanted. When they stopped returnig exact matches the results started to fail. What did google forget? That the people running on the edge of gaming the system were the ones updating their sites and tweaking it to what their users wanted. Sure there were spammers that needed to go but far as I can see all the duplicate domains are still ranking.

What they left us with is sites people may not care much about or that aren't updated. I'd rather have to retype my search terms a few times vs have google funnel me to the wrong stuff.

Amazon is ranked 2nd on way too many terms. Amazon is like eBay. They don't need google sending people in herds for loosely related product searches. If it doesn't match stop showing it. If I type in "buy widget xyz" stop giving me a site at #2 where it's impossible to check out because there is no add to cart its "call for a quote." this site is ranking only because it's a fortune 500 for totally unrelated products. I am seeing this all over the SERPS tonight.

If amazon started selling airplanes Friday they'd rank ahead of Boeing and airbus because they're amazon.


 5:42 am on Apr 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

anyone seeing a shift in the uk serps? seeing some big changes and so far it looks like a bit of a roll back and a lot of my dropped terms have recovered - still a lot of sites that shouldn't be around but its looking better, least in my niche

Edit - scrap that clearly they are running between a few test results and its just reverted back ....

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