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Google Updates and SERP Changes - March 2013

 5:18 am on Mar 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

< continued from [webmasterworld.com...]

I'm seeing daily switching between 2-3 datasets across around 600 keywords. Seeing roughly 10-20 keywords swapping in & out of positions.

[edited by: tedster at 2:47 pm (utc) on Mar 1, 2013]



 10:44 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is anyone else still noticing blatant link networking going on with ranking sites. I'm talking a company/brand/what have you is putting keyword anchor links at the footer to their other sites and vice versa.

I think it has to do with transparency. They are not trying to pass these links off as editorial or links that do not belong to their sites. They are fully acknowledging that these are other websites in their network.


 10:51 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Okay, I can go with that, but keyword rich/specific (totally unrelated to the actual domain name) and multiple in the footers of every page?

Using that logic we get back to whoever has the most domains (biggest link network) gets the best pr/rank. This certainly would not be called natural linking.


 10:55 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

and multiple in the footers of every page?

Likely ignored from what I've read.

It seems many think any type of "overlinking" is an "automatic penalty" or should be, but from what I've read Google does [often] ignore it for scoring purposes which means the other links and factors are what are causing sites/pages to rank, not the BS links we all know are BS links.

mihomes, not trying to pick on you in any way at all, it's just something I'm pointing out since I think there are (and have seen many reports of personally) similar things to what you are saying, but I remember reading (or hearing) somewhere (I can't cite a specific source right now off the top of my head unfortunately) what you're talking about is often ignored or seriously discounted by Google.

What I remember about the type of links you're talking about is much like the most recently granted Google patent I've seen which talks about identifying and ignoring, not penalizing, hidden text on pages.

[edited by: TheOptimizationIdiot at 11:00 pm (utc) on Mar 18, 2013]


 10:59 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

They are fully acknowledging that these are other websites in their network.
You know, the proximity of words like "Other sites in our network" might just be the thing that keeps the links following it from being penalized if that is really why they get away with it.

I see what @mihomes sees, keyword stuffed links in the footers, but mostly internal links <-- this isn't a new development either.


 11:14 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've also heard the same thing about footer links being ignored, however, I have seen the opposite many times over.

As an example, I recently saw a fairly brand new site rank very well - its backlinks were composed of a footer link on every page of a totally unrelated site (assuming paid link as it was different owner) and a link network setup within its own other sites - that was it - period.

And, now that I think about it I did some domain cleaning myself not too long ago. I'm talking sites I haven't looked at in years. Well, one in particular I had used done this same thing we are talking about (I think most everyone did back in the day as it sped up the process of showing up)... well, removing the links and what not caused its pr to drop almost immediately. In this case I could have cared less as I didn't use or look at the site, but it backs up this point.


 11:27 pm on Mar 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

however, I have seen the opposite many times over.

I hear what you're saying, and I would actually guess we over-simplify things many times over, especially since "often" and "many" are subjective.

I think most everyone did back in the day as it sped up the process of showing up

No question.

I would guess most of it comes down to "algorithmic interpretation" meaning if a site scores in the upper 95% of sites without the links counted (or something to that effect) they're discounted, but if it scores 80% and has "other spammy factors" that could be added together with the footer type links, then there could be a penalty or severe discounting in overall score.

One thing about links is I have a site that outranks major brands with one "non-scraper link" I can find that's from a Twitter account I don't tweet from, so it's basically an absolute nothing link, but yet the site still ranks.

If I didn't have that site and know it ranks over some major brands which are not only in the niche specifically, but some are major brands in general, I would likely think links are more of a factor than I see them as.

I'm sure I'm rambling a bit and likely not 100% making sense, because some of this stuff is very difficult to even try to explain, but the bottom line is I think I would go with: It's all relative, including links and the more "things fit" in an "algorithmically natural" way, the less likelihood there is for a penalty and the better chance there is to rank overall for the terms targeted.

So, I think what I'm trying to say is: "algorithmically well matched" sites may rank with spam footer links while others may be discounted or penalized for exactly the same thing, or even for not having them, and it's all relative, so it would depend on what's "normal" for a site/page to have within a niche and not so much on "what's normal" for the web as a whole.


 1:12 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Alright, the pmd parked domain has disappeared from the SERPs now. SERPs are still unsettled.

Thanks arohan. That was fast.


 1:42 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ok, is anyone else seeing a huge drop in user interaction / conversion over the past 48 hours? I'm hoping this isn't just me...again.


 3:14 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7 CTR has been down consistently throughout the day since Friday. Ads are the same but advertisers are paying slightly higher which leads me to think they know CTR is going to be down and they're competing more for the clicks.


 3:20 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing greatly improved conversion rates since Sunday, no sign of Panda or changes in SERPS though (apart from the usual shuffling of stuff in & out of top 100).


 3:47 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well i saw some movement in the vertical I watch today. I have been waiting a while for this update because there were a lot of lower quality sites on page one. My site was ranked at the bottom of page one and I figured if panda wiped out these lame sites mine would go up. Well... Google wiped them out, but just replaced them with other sites and I am still in the same position. ;)


 4:17 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

backdraft: Ok, is anyone else seeing a huge drop in user interaction / conversion over the past 48 hours? I'm hoping this isn't just me...again.

Saw that Saturday/Sunday. Traffic levels were normal, but no conversions. Much improved today, though not all the way back.


 4:25 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Going to end up 30% - 40% today. Informational site. Still nowhere close to where I was 1 year ago.


 5:12 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Got skunked today by both google organic and PPC. First time that's ever happened. Really really strange. Traffic volume was normal but engagement was off-the-charts bad. Someone broke the google, including the paid side! Other sources were performing normal to above-average.

Martin Ice Web

 7:26 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

SEchecker, do you mean since December 2012 zombies are off and you have normal traffic?

Wihtout changing anything?


 9:01 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)


Since December zombie traffic is gone. Also the OFF periods went away, traffic seems steady all day long. What is new is that since January traffic rises 20 - 30% FR - MO, other days traffic is lower (actually same traffic we allways got) but steady.

Regarding changes, well its hard to say as our main site is alive, means contend added regular and changes to layout, readability and so on are done, improvement there improvement here, but all we change we change for the sake of our visitors or to promote our new services or products. So we are not doing changes by following some tactics (SEO) to satisfy G. Honestly, I think once you start to please G with changes it will never stop and G doesn’t seem to honor it anyway (experience from other sites we operate). Well, ofc all depends in what state (quality, authority) your site is in G eyes!

Our main site is penalized by penguin ( 7 reconsideration requests, no luck) and I personally smell panda on some subsides. However, nothing and nobody is perfect, might be that G looks the same on Websites? Might be that G tolerates mistakes but is suspicious on 100% G pleasing sites? Who knows :-)


 9:04 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Add: What is funny is since then alexa rank is dropping steady.. lost some 200k rank since then, but actually we perform much better than ever... that’s about alexa...well we all know how serious you should take their rankings, but still...strange...

Martin Ice Web

 9:22 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Sechecker, thanks for your reply.
but all we change we change for the sake of our visitors

I came to the same conclusion. And don´t care about google anymore (regarding SEO). Although I carefully look not to have any DC on the site. It seemed to work very well because we saw the same movements like you. But last thursday it went back. Conversions only at nights, high bounce rate at daytime. So, i don´t catch it, that g*s line of "quality" looks more like a cosinus-wave ( whenever )! Whats good today is bad tomorrow. I tend to look at sites in front of me. But that are mostly big brands that have multiple subdomains with same content and large link networks. I guess, if i would do it, my site would have been vanished right away.
I also took a look at the g* online spam-decetion and try to examine the sites that gets penalized or get out of index. Some are blatant but with some I realy don´t get the key why they get penalized. And if i take theses site for quality reason then half of the in front of me big brands should have been penalized, too.


 9:57 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

@MIW - Once again we are in the same boat. This is strangely similar to "Ohno", who regularly experienced the same traffic issues I had observed. My current issues started around the 21st of January after a very short seasonal high that always had started December 26 and (usually) lasts through mid April or May.
Then, this last Thursday or Friday my serps began to rise, a lot of upward movement and new positions, many at #1. I honestly do not like the #1 position, I prefer #2 or #3 since #1 get's isolated at the top, usually above the images where it looks like an Ad. Then on Sunday, which is my biggest day of the week, sales were beyond flat. Now it's like they have me clocked and my daily totals are almost always the same as the day before...very little natural variation.

Congrats on your recovery SEChecker, some of us only dream of that situation. I gave up on SEO a long time ago. I write for my users and that's it. I think perhaps if I had more time to work on new content and spent less time dwelling on watching the serps yoyo from week to to week,I might find some better results.

For now I'll have to live with this paradox of good listings, but zombie traffic.

Martin Ice Web

 10:18 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

backdraft, your are us based, this is right? I can only think that our sites "ride" close to the edge and every then and now we jumnp this way or that way.


 10:32 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Congrats on your recovery SEChecker"

I wouldn’t call it recovery, cuz I’m still quite sure we are limited, but regarding zombies so on it looks good...

It look like penguin and panda are not hurting any more that much, yet the overall traffic we get is not even the half we should have compared with other sites we operate. I’m referring here on the general traffic we always got and still get from G... it should be double at least. As our main site is relatively new (2 years) G traffic compared to other sites we operate is LOW.

It still seems we are in some kind of Sandbox as the incoming visits from G are split on subsites.

Means: If traffic grows on one article or page on the other hand traffic of other articles or pages decreases, that is a clear indicator that G ALLOWS us to have xxx traffic (no more no less). Especially I can see this when we had luck with a new article on top 1 position that attracts few k visitors, instantly all other articles and pages receive almost equal less visits from G....


 10:35 am on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing some quite significant changes in one very competitive niche. Surprising to see a Twitter page in the results...! Hopefully this is just Panda rolling out and not completing...

Martin Ice Web

 12:45 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

@petehall, is think its a partial roll back.


 1:45 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

@MIW - yes, US based paid content site.
@SE Checker - I am sitting at 1,000 uniques per day less than last year this time. I was getting about 2.5k uniques last year, and this year it's more like 1.5k - longtail cut by over 50% and we lost some really big targeted single key words...plus semantics and plural results are gone. Other than pushing us back about 8 years, it's all peachy.

The only "up" period all year was a short seasonal (expected) spurt between Dec 26 and Jan 12.
I can draw a line from Sun Jan 13 to each subsequent Sunday and traffic is progressively worse.
Here's the entire series of Sunday's - 1296, 1224, 831 (server maintenance), 1114, 1028, 999,1019, 861 and 835 yesterday. Previous year, this was up & down in a natural pattern, this just looks like a gradual, deliberate bleeding.

Is a recovery EVER possible? I'm going to realistically say no. Too many limits in place and the landscape has changed too much. People dumping wide screen PC's for postage stamp sized cell phone screen access to internet, scrapers diluting our content, big name photo sites dominating our niche with gobs of useless photos etc, etc...

When I thought it couldn't get much worse, it has....
My 4 visitor limit now appears to have been tweaked down to 2 at a time. If this sticks. I'm officially hanging it up and getting out of this business. I'm sure the day I do, my site will miraculously recover over nite. It's just the way things seem to go around here.

Oh, SE - just curious, is your site html or CMS based?

[edited by: backdraft7 at 2:01 pm (utc) on Mar 19, 2013]


 1:59 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Html, PHP, JavaScript, Iframe

All is our code. We do not use templates, popular cms & co


 2:08 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

SE- that is interesting - my site is also html. It just seems like CMS sites do the best while old html based sites struggle. My site started when all that was available was FrontPage 98. It has since been cleaned up some, but a lot of old "font size" and such exists. It's a 70 page base site with a 200 page blog in blog.mydomain.com - sometimes I wonder if my blog content is conflicting with my "hard coded" html pages. One thing I do know...when I finally gave in and accepted the keyword meta tag as dead, and I removed my keyword meta tags from the html pages, my rankings starting to lose their long time hold.

BTW - anyone have a link to the details of each Panda & Penguin iteration? I'd like to walk this backwards to see if there is something I might have missed.


 2:15 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ok, one more observation - while watching piwik stats this morning, I am seeing some ridiculous , non targeted keywords popping up - "gotomypc login" is one example and it's no surprise searches like that bounce. Something is messed up out there!


 2:25 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

... we lost some really big targeted single key words...plus semantics and plural results are gone. Other than pushing us back about 8 years, it's all peachy.

Sounds a lot like my site. The search results has become so diluted now. It is amazing the different results you will get by just adding an s to your keywords now. Before there was almost 3 classes of site Upper, Middle, Lower. Now with so many more sites showing up under different conditions (device, location, plurals, etc...) most sites now belong to the Lower Class. All the Middle Class keywords got spread around the Lower Class which means no one can survive.

Is a recovery EVER possible?

I hope so... Either Google has to get their algorithm under control or Bing and Yahoo have to start grabbing more market share.


 2:42 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Th dilution problem is a big trouble for my paid content business. My site could be considered an authoritative book on my subject, however, when someone searches for my topic, Google first refers them to the domain crowding "picture book" site first, then to thin sources spewed out by the "encyclopedia" sites of which there are many. Add to that mix several of my own customers who posted details about what they have learned from my site on their own personal blogs and we have a problem without a solution.


 2:56 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Either Google has to get their algorithm under control or Bing and Yahoo have to start grabbing more market share.

That doesn't look like it's happening any time soon. I just saw a report from Comscore stating that Google has hit an all time high of 67.5% market share in the USA. No matter how crappy we think the results are in our verticals, the general public seems to keep buying into what Google is providiing :(


 3:07 pm on Mar 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

the general public seems to keep buying into what Google is providiing

And that's that as they say...

As for the panda update (friday/monday as reported). Seems like they rolled something out briefly on monday and fairly quickly retracted it. nothing to back this up of course, just the way it felt yesterday with periods of heavy movement and then by late afternoon and into today the shifting seems to have stopped and results reverted back to those of late last week.

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