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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]



 1:32 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ohno did traffic drop or just conversions?

I think Ohno may concur on this... Traffic did not drop appreciably, but conversion fell dramatically.
Again, perhaps a little buyer savvy in there, but as of recent, the distracting number of options, tabs, services, social networking attempts and the everloving everflux continually destabilizes the serps.

The Venice update includes 40 individual quality updates? How can you expect stability in the face of that many changes?

It's Google!

[edited by: backdraft7 at 1:38 pm (utc) on Apr 2, 2012]


 1:36 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Bounce rates for me have been up since the first panda. Went from 4+ pages/view and slowly went down to 2.5 and has been hovering around there the past few months. During the hayday it was around 5 pages/view.


 1:47 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm not talking massive drops but what I am saying is on one day we can be 40% UP yet have zero conversions, the next we can be 40% DOWN but have conversions well UP on normal ("normal" being when I could draw the GA chart for the whole week on a Monday & be correct to +- 10 visitors!). Sometimes it's not even over the period of a day(which seems along time at the moment!)in the morning we can be well up or down other times it's the afternoons. Traffic spurts also lead me to believe this is Google, doing nothing all day a for a flood of sales & traffic to arrive in a small(less than 2hr, sometimes half hour!) window? That smacks of some kind of traffic throttling issue to me.


 1:48 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

The Venice update includes 40 individual quality updates?

No, it's:

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.


 2:11 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I stand corrected...Venice is "part" of 40 updates released in February...my point still stands...40 updates in a month ensures serp instability.

Google has rolled out a major change when it comes to local search in the form of the “Venice update”. This update was one part of 40 algorithm updates that came into effect in February. Google are calling the changes to the algorithm an improvement that will affect: “the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal”. The “Venice update” means that there will be an improvement in search results which will now show you localized results based on your location.

The aptly named Venice also ensures your site will drown under water.


 2:32 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

A decent part of this is the economy and petrol prices. People have stopped spending. Wait until May when the April retail figures are out.

But we see the same thing as all of you. One hour up 45% next hour down 45%. Had access over the weekend to a friends analytics. Totally different segment, B2C. Never a single paid link ever anywhere. He got hit last week too.

Conversions collapsed


 2:44 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

One of the B2B sites I oversee saw a very slight reduction in Google traffic last week, but we're talking only a couple of percentage points. I'm not terribly worried about that - yet. Plus we upped our email campaign investment and that's paying off bigtime.

One thing I am noticing across the board in all my ecommerce clients (who are almost all B2B) - more traffic this year, and more orders, but the average order value has gone down, in some cases WAY down. I'd love to pin that on Google, but I don't think I can.


 3:24 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

The Venice update includes 40 individual quality updates?

Not exactly - the Update Google code-named Venice was just one out of at least 40 that they made in February.


 3:27 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

the average order value has gone down, in some cases WAY down. I'd love to pin that on Google, but I don't think I can

Disagree. We get fed different traffic profiles from the SERPs- we're fairly familiar with the signs. At the moment, our "core" products are down about 5-10%, but peripheral products are up a similar amount (in aggregate). Now, that is dropping our average order value, and it's because of traffic shaping.


 3:51 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)


I think if we are all seeing order size drop
as gas prices skyrocket we have our answer. Some of this is macroeconomic and I say in 2-3 months we will look back and mark march and April as the start of a slower
economic time. Big businesses are still ordering. Small companies are cutting back.


 4:07 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sure there are macroeconomic factors, but in addition, we have different refferal profiles. Whenever there is an ecom shakeup (@ohno and @backdraft are the perfect markers for this happening), we get 3 different referral profiles cycling. One is "normal", one is zombie-ish, and one is counterintuitive ("Let's see if people like THESE pages- even though there's little traffic and precious few IBLs").

They used to take 2 weeks to cycle in and out in phase-shifted wave patterns, now they are on different and much shorter periods, causing fairly chaotic traffic stats.


 4:17 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yep I think you are spot on there too Shaddows.


 4:17 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

There's no "traffic shaping" going on by me.


 4:41 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Out of interest, has anyone else recently started to get visits from the Atlantic ocean just off the coast of Africa? In GA Real Time I mean. This started for me a few days ago and seems to be increasing.


 5:25 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Not exactly - the Update Google code-named Venice was just one out of at least 40 that they made in February.
- Yup, I correct myself a few posts before. Essentially the same thing though.

@ Scotts - I still don't buy the economic theory for two reasons. 1. I sell one paid content item, at one low price, so it has nothing to do with order size. 2.- My product actually helps people save money in tough economic times and in the end helps save the user gas. So, I SHOULD do better when the economy tanks. Those who know my business should know what I mean. LOL!

@ Shaddows - I believe you hit the nail on the head with that theory! That is the exact pattern we are seeing. When conversions drop off, we do not see any noticeable changes in serp position at all...we just see almost instantaneous ON and OFF cycles. In fact, traffic level can even INCREASE while simultaneously conversions dramatically DECREASE.

This started somewhere in 2010 (MayDay). In comparing say 2008 traffic vs. sales to 2012 traffic vs. sales, in 2008 we would get 1,200 visitors per day with 24 sales. Now in 2012 we get 2,400 visitors per day and only 12 sales.

Now I'm not so ignorant that I'm going to assume identical market conditions, competitors, social network distraction and the occasional scraper who gives our stuff away for free, but in the same time I have doubled our product offering for the exact same price. We should be increasing a bit, but we're actually going the other way lately.

One day we are banging away like pre 2008, then next we get shut down. It's a real paradox and enough to drive ya nuts! Luckily, you folks only really see me on these forums when things go haywire, which always seems to correspond to major algo updates. I was quiet right up till about March 10th when I saw a big drop in conversions.

Thanks for that info Shaddows...is there any way to track those referral profiles?

[edited by: backdraft7 at 5:29 pm (utc) on Apr 2, 2012]


 5:26 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)


just off the coast of Africa?

Any specific countries?


 6:15 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

jkdt0077, that point means "country not set"


 6:31 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

ponti - not necessarily... I am set to USA only...but when viewing GART, I see visitors from all over the world. I just had a visitor from Jakarta and one from Johannesburg SA. Just one more thing that appears to be busted down at G.


 8:01 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

What is going on? For our main phrase we've bounced around between 2-3 for a long time...now we're down to #10...NEVER been this low.

Any common demonstrators with the droppers? Are we talking off-site or on-site factors?


 8:20 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Backdraft your ratios are the same as ours and my friend in a non related industry. Interesting.

Smithaa, on site and off site I think. If you got IBLs for certain categories or silos all items in there seem to be hit. Or if you optimized or promoted that category over others. Let's say you have ten manufacturers and you favored one heavily on your site. That's bad right now, this to me is the seo hit.

We are busy as ever but in items not touched in 2+ years. The content was literally duplicate times 300 on the site. This makes sense and explains why boilerplate XML sites are slamming. Google in their attempt to slam optimized sites are instead taking out well organized sites and sending traffic for items buried deep.


 8:28 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

The google results are a complete mess now. They're returning broad results when you want specific and specific results when you want broad.

For example...say our site was about 'insects' and we targeted that phrase. We do a great job of talking about all different types of 'insects'... Google on the other hand thinks if somebody does a search for 'insects', then an appropriate result would be a site exclusively about grasshoppers or ladybugs...which is nonsense. Absolutely not what the searcher was looking for...yet we're getting jumped by these overly-specialized sites as well as a couple of thin user generated sites (wikis) with probably only a page of unique content compared to our hundreds of pages of unique content :(


 8:33 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Let's say you have ten manufacturers and you favored one heavily on your site. That's bad right now, this to me is the seo hit.

Couldn't agree more. This s why I've been thinking of separating out content into sub domains.

I now see yet more changes.

What in gods name is Google 2012 all about? This is madness!


 9:50 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Quick Observation: 6am to Noon CST - almost "normal" decent converting traffic. Noon to 5pm. Total Zombies. Lots of 'em too! 15 to 20 people on site at any one time all afternoon but no buyers.


 10:08 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have seen a BIG decrease in relevant results since sometime in April 2011, when I search for different topics. Its really becoming a problem when I need new info related to my job or sports, I always start with bing, then google to get so much info as possible, but I have noticed many times I have to give up, because I can not find what im looking for even when I have found it before 1.5-2 years ago.


 10:24 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I can say that I have a 6-month-old WP blog theme that has done well all along for its primary KWs. The <title> tags and on-page textual KWs were closely coordinated; worked out great. Then I on 29 March I did some on-page additions of those keywords and whack, I'm at -90.

I'm sure it's from adding too many instances of the keywords. The other KWs haven't changed.

Whether this is normal, or due to the Google's latest, I don't know.

I've removed the suspected overkill and am waiting, with a bountiful supply of liquor.


 10:28 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

@backdraft - a little different for us - we were zombied from midnight to 10am eastern US time - then very good converting traffic until about 5pm - as usual, total number of google organic referrals are about normal.


 10:43 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Looking at a few of the pages where we are seeing a drop in direct long tail traffic from Google, it's obvious to me that the internal anchor text has been discounted, as well as some kind of optimization de-ranking. (or a combination of both)

Formerly top ranked (1-3 serp rank, longtail) internal pages such as [brand widget model] that were linked only internally are no longer ranking in the top 20. The main homepage however, still ranks in the top 5 for the longtail. Since the website homepage still ranks in the top 5, it cannot be an "authority not passing" type issue to me.

SERP's in our world are dominated by made for adsense domains and sites for the past few days. Lets not kid ourselves, someone knows these dial tweaks are resulting in higher income in the plex. I predict another record earnings call next week from Google.


 11:20 pm on Apr 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

jastra - i hope you have got yourself a good single malt.

if some are scared of the exchange link thing, I can say so much in my category, there is no changes at all and all on the first 5 pages are doing heavy link exchanges.


 4:17 am on Apr 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Moderator's Note:

I just removed 10 posts that had nothing to do with Updates and SERP changes. That is the topic of the thread, not anyone's editorial opinion about Google. In fact, this entire forum is about Google SEO - not opinions of Google.

If you want to discuss Google Policy and Business Issues, we have another forum for that: Google Finance, Govt, Policy and Business Issues [webmasterworld.com]

Do not bring your soapbox into this forum, please. This monthly thread has been a source of useful observation for years - a place where webmasters help each other to notice key changes in the SERPs.

This entire forum is intended to be a place where webmasters help each other with SEO for Google. Let's keep it that way.

This is our forum's policy and guideline - and we will enforce it. Any time you lose touch with that, please re-read this thread: IMPORTANT - The Focus of This Forum [webmasterworld.com]. It's pinned to the top of the Google SEO Forum index page.

[edited by: tedster at 4:22 am (utc) on Apr 3, 2012]


 3:01 am on Apr 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

I noticed something about this update. Basically it is that older sites are targeted. Why because there are sites that slowly drifted back in the SERPS that simply changed their domain extension from .net and did a redirect all pages to .org or vice-versa .com etc. and ranked much higher. Exact same content no changes at all for years.

This is actually a tactic that has worked with every major GOOgle update including this one. However, be prepared for a decline immediately after doing this but the site will eventually rank higher than the previous one. By saying this I am probably goosing it, but whatever. Again you need to weigh the time that the site takes to come back versus lost profits etc.

Another observation is if your site had any quality problems that were flagged by GOOgle, they essentially turned up the penalty dial. Meaning your site got screwed more. This update really fells exactly like the April 2011 update, same organization, same rankings. Also subdomains "silos" were not affected even though other parts of sites, specifically pages with Adsense were hmm... Panda is achieving its objectives.

[edited by: tedster at 4:22 am (utc) on Apr 3, 2012]
[edit reason] thread clean-up [/edit]


 4:23 am on Apr 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well, after years of google changes hardly having any effect on my websites. I thought I would check again after reading this thread, and wow, things have changed this month, and mainly for the better. Terms that could hardly be found are now on the front page, its almost as if 90% of the competition disappeared.

I dont think its an old/new thing, as my old sites are still good. Some of my sites I could never get ranked for reasons I could never explain, are now working to expectations.

Whats funny is my positions in Google are now looking more like the positions I have in Bing.

I had already noticed sudden traffic changes happening last week, but not as much as I would expect for such position changes, doesnt seem to be local stuff, so I'm a little confused. (Im not logged in to Google)

To me, Google has made a significant change, I'm guessing they have removed a metric that they used to rely heavily on.

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