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Top of page one to page three and back again in one month

 7:31 pm on Nov 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Around October 1st I got slammed by Google and dropped from top of page one to page three for some of my most competitive searches. This weekend I noticed I returned to either #1 or #2 for these terms on Chrome/PC vs. bottom of 1st page on Firefox/PC, top of page 2 on Safari/Mac. Still on page three where I was for IE9/PC and on Android web browser. I checked on two different PCs and one mac, and two android phones...cleared the cache and restarted before every search, and was not logged in to any google service while browsing. It seems pretty clear that Google is segmenting the data by platform, browser, location, and mobile/non-mobile. I am wondering if this reflects data sent to Google about my site from Analytics...for example bounce rate or page load time for each browser? Or possibly the fact that my site is not mobile friendly? Or will all the data eventually match? Anyone else seeing this?



 7:55 pm on Nov 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

One other thing I forgot to mention...during that time I reactivated my Adwords account and started paying. I also cleared up around 1,200 pages which WMT reported as having dupe titles. It's now at 22 pages.

Robert Charlton

 9:26 am on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

ichthyous - Your posts raise a bunch of thoughts.

First, I'd discount the idea that reactivating AdWords would affect your organic ranking. I myself am convinced there's no cause and effect, at least not in the sense that having an account caused Google to treat you differently.

A symbiosis between organic clicks and AdWord clicks has been noticed for many years, though, so conceivably that might have some effect on traffic and user behavior in a way that's now measured by the algo and boosts rankings... but I think this would have been more widely noted by metrics people if it were so.

Reducing 1,200 dupe titles to 22, however, would likely have a direct effect on rankings, and a month (plus the recent update) could allow enough time for the algo to have factored those fixes into your rankings.

You make a fascinating observation about different rankings on different browsers. If I understand you correctly, you're suggesting that perhaps having a mobile unfriendly site might have caused your rankings to drop on mobile browsers.

That resonates a lot with a post I made in October, in this thread in our Local forum, about whether a mobile unfriendly site could hurt your rankings....

43 Percent Of Total Google Search Queries Are Local
http://www.webmasterworld.com/local_search/4504560.htm [webmasterworld.com]

...And in our last month's Google serps update thread, "a huge shift" towards mobile was discussed around Sept 20, 2012, with many confirmations that the traffic was not just local traffic from mobile phones, but also B2B on "mobile ecommerce on tablets, not phones".

Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2012
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4490381-14-30.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I don't think I've ever noticed so many such reports in one update thread. Sites that didn't have mobile versions were reporting lost traffic, and a high abandonment rate that could hurt them in Panda.

What you say about "IE9/PC ...still on page three", though, kind of muddies the water a bit regarding the browser/device correlation... but what really intrigues me is the idea that Google might be "personalizing" site rankings to fit their friendliness to a searcher's browser. This is thinking out loud, and I haven't thought through the mechanisms by which Google might do this.

I'd want more precise data before making any assumptions. As you note, it is possible in Google Analytics to filter your results by browser, etc, and you can pin down the correlation more tightly than you've reported it. The idea is worth following up.


 2:58 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the response Robert. The previous post is fascinating. I am not expert enought to make any real technical analysis, but I do know that my traffic has been fragmented and the results are without question being tailored to the browser/platform. What else would explain the huge disparity between results on mobile vs. PC browsers?

Another issue is the localization of the searches. If I change the location while I search my site comes up for many searches in my own local area when it didn't before, but it still doesn't show up outside of my local area. The overall effect for me is that I am ranking better for certain very competitive keywords that I wasn't found for at all before, but only in my own area. If I search in other parts of the USA a whole new set of local businesses crop up.

I'm sure that's not news to you, but I am still wondering what effect that might have on my site which heavily depends on queries with place names. I think its going to be very hard for any site to rank well outside of its local area unless it has hefty authority site status. As I read your post the shift towards localizing results is in response to the fact that 43% of mobile searches are local queries.

Anecdotally, the SERPS for my most competitive search term changed entirely in the last month. My site is a photography website, and the SERPS are now dominated by all sorts of local baby, wedding, and headshot photographers that came out of nowhere and are on page one and two now. Those have almost completely displaced sites about the subject itself.

I think what we will see is a fine tuning of the results where mobile searches reflect these types of local businesses and PC searches are hopefully more rounded. But from what I see right now Google has definitively tilted in favor of the mobile results across the board.

With regards to dupe content...I made changes in September to shorten my page titles which were getting rewritten by google. That change led to all of them getting classified as dupes.

I reverted back to longer more unique titles and the dupes disappeared. Within a month I am back on page one.

Obviously dupe content has become a critical issue for the entire site not just the page. I still have 800+ dupe descriptions, and I think I better work on making them more unique. I will report back on any changes I find.

[edited by: ichthyous at 3:03 pm (utc) on Nov 7, 2012]

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:38 pm (utc) on Nov 7, 2012]
[edit reason] fixed formatting to add some paragraphs [/edit]


 3:02 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

have you tried the W3C mobileOK Checker?
http://validator.w3.org/mobile/ [validator.w3.org]


 3:50 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

Great link phranque...it says my home page is 0% ready! Mostly due to the overal size of the page because it includes so many images, but also a lot of other issues. I'm afriad my current site will never be mobile friendly, I'll have to add a new site designed for mobile and redirect to it. I also struggle with the Facebook Like buttons. They add a huge amount of bloated code to each page and slow down rendering.

Robert Charlton

 6:52 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

But from what I see right now Google has definitively tilted in favor of the mobile results across the board.

I don't have time to dig out the Google human reviewer guidelines to quote them, but Google explicitly favors local sources, and local searches are increasingly mobile.

So, while both factors may be involved, I'm thinking that localization may be what you're seeing.


 5:48 pm on Nov 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

This doesn't explain the Mac, but I've noticed that Chrome seems to be used to test out new rankings. When I was recovering from Panda I often saw a large influx of Chrome visitors at a new higher ranking for a few hours (quite easy to spot when you had 200 uniques...) and then they went away, before that new ranking appeared a few days later for everybody. It was almost as if chrome was an advance party to test out the new position before rolling it out.
That might mean good news for you - how did your rankings work out?


 6:30 pm on Nov 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

This weekend I noticed I returned to either #1 or #2 for these terms on Chrome/PC vs. bottom of 1st page on Firefox/PC, top of page 2 on Safari/Mac. Still on page three where I was for IE9/PC and on Android web browser.
Is it just your site that is affected, or are the results higgledy-piggledy for all of them?
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