|The State of the Internet (2013) - Summarised perspectives.|
My personal observations, and summary of information taken from a number of forums, and the personal observations of 20 or so webmasters with a combined traffic of 10s of millions of visits per day.
I've tried (my best) to summarise what I've seen in relation to this, and not editoralise too much.
Disclaimer to newer folk: Take this for what it is, a set of observations - somewhat muddied by our personal experience and expectations. We do not work for Google, we only have part of the picture.
A fairly clear pattern has emerged: The fight against spam was HUGE. At some level Google failed to react to the crossfire generated, and collateral damage. It hit widely, but no one more than UGC (User Generated Content). In part made possible by the narrowed gathering of, and seeming reluctance to consider, wider-perspective webmaster feedback.
Why all this UGC?
We are normally an order of magnitude bigger than everyone else. Things hit us first and more noticeably. Our area is 'gray', both quality and otherwise. We fight SPAM at the site level and tend to see updates before others do (due to our reach and size). In some regards, we may signal what's to come for SMEs (small and medium enterprises).
UGC site owners are hurting (pretty much across the board).
Even StackOverflow seems to have been hit in 2013 (according to alexa*)
"Too many updates, they're being careless." - 500 a year according to Matt.
WebmasterWorld (alexa* again) declining since 2011 (it's safe, don't worry, we all love it here!)
Reported: Perhaps a general decline in search traffic via Google (now at #2 spot on Alexa - Facebook #1)
Quality doesn't seem to be much of a factor. Many authorities hit hard.
No clear examples (so far) of older UGC that survived.
Examples of things like 'blank' sites, double H1, '2005 black hat SEO' making it into the top 10 (a lot of this seems to be done at the bottom of the page) Read the thread, it's quite entertaining*
Bing showing very different results.
Panda provided a boost for a lot of us UGC. I saw my traffic rise through 2011-2012. (21.5 nov 12 corrected that.)
(Unsure) Custom software, or updating your look may have resulted in another inadvertant penalty (*cross-fire, sticking your neck out)
Non-UGC: Manual adjustments for keyphrases patching and semi-correcting the problem here and there.
"Hard to say where traffic drops are occuring, it's just 'everywhere'"
Links are at the centre of this storm. UGC Webmasters forced to No-Follow everything meant organic user preference from the wider audience was lost. Hurts everyone.
The google product forums have unintentionally become an abysmal way to keep us from getting answers. (Our experience as we ventured in there recently to hunt down some answers)
Brands may not be favoured, but at this level of chaos - they're more likely to survive it.
According to some people: Black hat has become non-viable. If that's true, it may have been done by over-reaching on too many signal patterns.
I've left a lot out (paid links), as I haven't personally been following it. This is just my own meandering personal perspective.
* "Cross-fire collateral damage." In a time when bullets are flying around you, keep your head down. In web terms, that would mean blending in with the crowd. "Use traditional software, don't do anything custom-made. No-Follow every link." That's not a great situation, that hurts everyone.
* Alexa works pretty well (in my experience) for large sites - those of us in the top 10,000
* Some entertainment: [webmasterworld.com...]
Fully personal opinion
I'm a white hat SEO, for 15 years. First website made in 1994. IMHO: Good content has never been hit so hard, and to this extent. Some may argue, the current state of affairs will result in the loss of smaller deserving businesses, those without the deep pockets to survive turmoil to this degree.
IMHO Focus on content, even now. Nothing else has a longer-term chance of survival.
I don't believe any of this is intentional on Google's part, I believe them when they say they don't favour brands. PPC would be a better place for brands in general (they are used to that and can afford it, everyone wins). Leave organic to a fair mix of SME and brand - then the ad space used above the SERPs would be acceptable.
Question to the community
Do we need, as a community, to establish better dialogue with Google? If so, a proper way to do that. To keep the signal to noise ratio down. Real Googlers participating, hundreds (not 2). I believe some inside the web-spam team might agree, please speak up.
[edited by: goodroi at 1:18 pm (utc) on Jun 12, 2013]
[edit reason] per author's request, added question to the community [/edit]
|3) Be blunt. Be concise. Be impersonal. |
This is really the quintessential advice. Google has limited time to read and listen. I'm a big fan of letting frustrated webmasters vent somewhere amongst sympathetic peers, but maybe we need to dedicate a particular thread to noiseless, unemotional suggestions and criticisms and let Google know about it.
I still don't see how any of Google's search strategies are supposed to be forcing us to buy Adwords. Only three websites can be in the top three positions, so you could argue that on every search phrase Google is trying to con all but three of the related websites into buying Adwords. And if all those websites buy clicks, still only the highest paying ones will be at the top each time. So most websites who can't rank are either going to give up or decide to look for sources of traffic other than Google, aren't they?
And that gets back to the lesson everybody should have learned by now: you cannot rely wholly on Google for traffic (organic or otherwise). I know, I know, in some countries it's 90% of all search traffic. But search traffic isn't the only way people find businesses. There are entire threads around here dedicated to how to make money without Google. And the funny thing is, at least in my limited observation, the better your site does outside Google, the better it does within Google. I think this may even be part of the "brand" or "authority" signals they're looking for - if you are relying entirely on Google for traffic, they may figure you're not really trying to build a viable, enduring business. I can't disagree with that view, either.
|you cannot rely wholly on Google for traffic (organic or otherwise) |
Hey diberry, this is very true for the majority of people, it's just not possible for people like us forums. We have links from EDUs, newspapers, the lot - we get perhaps 10% of users from that.
Without a strong SE a forum, that isn't hitting a specific demographic, is essentially useless :(
We're teaching people English, so our audience is 'everyone' - they have full lives outside of our niche. In the case of WebmasterWorld their audience is 'webmasters' - so we're back here constantly as this is a large part of our work day. (we have lives too ofc :D)
To be clear: If I was running a business that could benefit from outside-of-google traffic - it's all I'd be doing right now :D
Thanks hitchhiker for taking the time. I fully agree, too many points to quote.
I believe many webmasters were doing their thing, it was about content, design and the reader. SEs gained relevance but suddenly G got in the middle, it became about "what G wants" and then we just don't know what's going on but (1) G is still in the middle. I'm up to trying to understand before fixing things but now (2) is like gyppo says, sadly.
|(3) hitchhiker: Do we need, as a community, to establish better dialogue with Google? If so, a proper way to do that. To keep the signal to noise ratio down. Real Googlers participating, hundreds (not 2). I believe some inside the web-spam team might agree, please speak up. |
While I agree on that, I'm concerned on how this becomes 1 + 2 +3: now let's work for G. I don't like that.
|Whitey: With 500 algo changes a year[...] |
Terrifying, everything needs stability, even this. I don't want to sound like ranting but I would like to see people droping G for a while (I previously said "a day without G", perhaps a month to let them know the message: stop playing with the algo. Because at this stage that's what it seems to me, but the dependency many have relating G is huge in many cases.
@chrisv1963: I relate to that part of % (content and seo) now G add 80% of guessing what the game is about.
Mobile, traffic, organic, searches... etc. G is trying to see every search as a business, someone buying something (take a look at Adsense), that's wrong. Many mobile searches are just trivial, just because it's there at hand. And amen to the white whale. What's a search engine? indexing, finding relevance on the data regarding the search, etc. But G is trying to decide what's good and what's not good, specially what suppose to be good for us. When we search widgets we are not asking G to tell us what widgets they like the most.
I only hope G takes this seriously, I mean Webmasterworld and it's authority as a forum-community because this is not a group of people playing or scrapping.
I just say: stop playing with the dice G and stop trying to figure out what's best for people, what's suppose to be a good looking website (while we receive contradicting suggestions from you) focus on the algo.
I see it a little differently. From a strictly business standpoint Bing is on track. Sites are ranking as expected. So now there is Google and many of our sites are in chaos from a ranking standpoint. The reason is totally unknown. What's the most cost effective way to solve the ranking issue? Well you can chase Google which isn't offering many solutions yet. Or start a new site and hope you get lucky. Or just buy out the competition that ranks and look at the sites as disposable. As long as you can buy a ranking site cheap that might be the most cost effective route. Google will generate even more spam with these techniques. Also you see Google run companies being used to accelerate the spam. Look at the amount of blog spam and now I am seeing Youtube ranking well for what really has no ranking value. If Google is having issues handling the data now just wait until there are 10 times the number of spam blogs and millions of spamming youtube videos and millions of disposable websites that exist but are not the primary site anymore. Oh they will crawl them still. Bing and Yahoo have determined whats relevant while Google has decided to just churn data. Google may end up being their own worst enemy.
|Martin Ice Web|
I think the last two big updates from end april till know changed the user behavior. More and more poeple looking at amazon for buying as first place. Goolge made itself worthless for generic buying searches. The sad story about this next stage of internet is, that amazon, profits from the google boost now gets into business from its own sellers. In my niche they underprice their sellers in every item that worth it. Queer, that this overtaking of best price and serp changes come along to the same time. Since then all ( ALL !) small other business in goolge are downgraded to page 2-3-4.
I canīt believe that amazon is the only site in the whole internet that has a great UE? All other sites are junk? A you tube video has better UE than a 10 year old site with lots of input and information?
Why, when google wants great UE and great content, donīt they give a small hint in WMT like
If this, we could fix problems and give better UE.
But this secretiveness makes it look very noisy in regard of conspiracy theories.
Maybe, Google should get some pointers from Bing.
|Do we need, as a community, to establish better dialogue with Google? If so, a proper way to do that. To keep the signal to noise ratio down. Real Googlers participating, hundreds (not 2). I believe some inside the web-spam team might agree, please speak up. |
Like monopolizing the market. Even more interesting is the fact that 2 members of the Google board used to be associated with Amazon. Reminds me a lot of how Wal-Mart came in to small towns and low balled prices to drive small businesses out. Once competition was gone, prices rose.
|Why, when google wants great UE and great content, donīt they give a small hint in WMT like |
It's like a doctor saying "you're gravely ill, please do your best to get well soon". You would of course ask "WELL, what is WRONG with me so that I can try to help myself?" and they simply reply "you are still ill, please get better soon". It's frankly offensive to my sensibilities to be in such a dumb dialogue with a company drunk on hubris that says just enough to say "you have a problem" without a proper diagnosis - it's a complete and utter disrespect to businesses when you know you are wasting their time. Google know they are taking up all of our time and putting themselves at the centre of our concerns. It's heartening to read of so many people abandoning Google due to the recent PRISM scandal.
Google today does remind me of that as well. But they are like this place that sells me software. You call this place and they say "your call is VERY important to us, please hold" I was on hold 6 hours (seriously). The real funny part is they call every month wanting me to renew. Google is the same they have somebody from Adwords calling me at least every month. When you mention Penguin they are clueless (they say I have never heard of that) but they say we will have somebody call you back. Never hear another word on that part.
|Martin Ice Web|
|due to the recent PRISM scandal |
do you have input for me? Seems i didnīt catch that here in good old germany.
@COS, u pointed that out very well,thatīs pretty much the situation we are in. With one difference, google says u could heal yourself by buying ads.
No, that won't work either.
|With one difference, google says u could heal yourself by buying ads. |
Google bashing really doesn't help. We all have problems and issues to deal with. This thread is about trying to drum up more communication with them. Please keep it on-topic!
@explorador - thanks!
|While I agree on that, I'm concerned on how this becomes 1 + 2 +3: now let's work for G. I don't like that. |
Yep, I've also got major qualms with that. But, I think, since 2010-ish, we've really had no choice. Hands-off really doesn't work for a lot of us anymore.
|Terrifying, everything needs stability |
Completely correct, without it many businesses will simply die . Mostly only those with deep pockets will survive it. We absolutely need some stability, or we'll all be replaced by 'fly-by-night' players.
Hence the call for communication.
[edited by: hitchhiker at 8:56 pm (utc) on Jun 14, 2013]
|do you have input for me? Seems i didnīt catch that here in good old germany. |
|Google today does remind me of that as well. But they are like this place that sells me software. You call this place and they say "your call is VERY important to us, please hold" I was on hold 6 hours (seriously). The real funny part is they call every month wanting me to renew. |
Google were once seen as the company that were different. Now we see they are actually one of the most duplicitous companies we have ever seen. On the one hand, they are the best at search (by far), on the other hand, they use their
advantage so cynically to the point of utterly disrespecting webmasters, sending them on wild goose chases, deliberately being vague with the ever-ready excuse to protect their "secret algo". Businesses are making their mind up anyway and quitting Google as a business opportunity.
|Google is the same they have somebody from Adwords calling me at least every month. |
I have a Google rep in Ireland calling me every week about the imminent Google Products transition in the UK. He's been sounding desperate for the last 2 months. I have 500+ small businesses hosted. I told him they will make their own minds up, and most are already disillusioned with Google - far be it from me to push Google products upon them.
@ColourOfSpring - A lot of us feel your pain, but please stop the Google bashing (as mentioned above) - it's pointless, venting won't help anyone :(
All we can be relatively sure of is that the Webspam team (with whom I'm urging communication) do not appear to want to put people out of business.
I'm not ignoring the devastation going on right now, hence this POST! - it'll be a lot more likely they'll choose to communicate with us, if we're not screaming negative speculation at them :)
[edited by: hitchhiker at 9:19 pm (utc) on Jun 14, 2013]
|Martin Ice Web|
@COS, yes thanx, was in the news but only "on the fly". good old germany is a 99% google affine state.
@hitch, do you have any opportunity to communicate with g? How will u install a QA mode with them?
I saw a request from Cutts to give in questions for his vidoe posts from last year. Yet all the questions are still to answer.
|This thread is about trying to drum up more communication with them. Please keep it on-topic! |
OK, I'll mention it "google product forums".
|If anybody mentions 'google product forums' - expect 100 PMs and a 3 hour rant (from me, and other miffed webmasters) |
@Martin Ice Web
Nope, for 3 weeks I've tried a number of angles. I've used the product forums (I got 2 fairly vanilla replies from an engineer). I've tried tweeting / google+ / contacting people in the industry (quite high up) - nothing has worked.
It is my hope that WebmasterWorld will decide to host a weekly Question thread (with specific rules) that will allow webmasters with legitimate / well thought out questions to place them there.
WebmasterWorld of course has always said 'it's not the place to ask Google direct questions' - what i'm proposing is that at this juncture we're desperately in need of their help.
This site is respected / an authority / has championed 'causes' throughout the years and is considered to have an all-round well moderated and intelligent community.
IMHO - there's no better place. I've PM'd the mods, they were kind enough to reply - and I believe they're discussing it at the moment. Fingers crossed.
@bobsc - :) funny, so funny it hurts everywhere. *prepares to give 3 hour rant about how terrible GPF is*
|Martin Ice Web|
What about googleguy. He was supposed to be a googler? Is he still registered and if yes, does he login sometimes`? ( this is a direct questions to the mods, hope will get an answer from them )
He was, that was Matt Cutts (and possibly some other stand-ins) he hasn't posted since 2008: [webmasterworld.com...]
I don't expect to get Googlers posting on the forum (although yes please). I think, given the size of things today, plus that they don't control this environment; it's unlikely.
However, if we formed comprehensive, intelligent, targeted questions - they'd probably enjoy the chance to tackle those issues head on.
The webspam team do have a great track record for feeding-back, they just have a dated and inefficient way of organising it.
|@ColourOfSpring - A lot of us feel your pain, but please stop the Google bashing (as mentioned above) - it's pointless, venting won't help anyone :( |
Well, sometimes it's simply describing the way it is. Google DO lead us on a wild goose chase as I described. That is the state of the internet (2013) is it not? (the title of this thread). If that's not the case, tell me where I'm wrong and tell me where Google have the clear path to help webmasters work with Google in unequivocal terms that allows for recovery to their arbitrary penalties. I agree with you 100% that we need a "direct line" with Google if Google truly are interested in working with webmasters (if their paymasters allow it and it wouldn't hurt the Adwords bottom line). If we have to put up with irregular videos from some smiley bloke making vague statements, then I'll continue my efforts to market 100% outside of Google and recommend traffic streams outside of Google to my clients (makes sense anyway, how can anyone say that's not a healthy, robust business plan?). Life is actually nice outside of Google - kind of "laws of physics" predictable enough that one can apply his or her business skills in a way that isn't wasted like it is in the Google netherworld.
I've personally not heard anyone say that. It is a GREAT IDEA! If you can monetize outside of any SE's sphere of influence - more power to you!
|how can anyone say that's not a healthy, robust business plan? |
|the opportunities are plenty - won't you join me? |
Because I'm a forum, and we're dead in the water without well organised and efficient search :) Somewhere else I spoke about this in more detail.
|from some smiley bloke making vague statements |
I'm on board man, 1000%. I think if that aforementioned 'smiley bloke' knows his audience here, he'll do the best to give us what can be given.
The comments on YouTube under Matt's videos (probably the smiley bloke you are referring to) are tragic. They really do put up with a lot of crap. It's mostly incredibly embarrassing coming from a community (webmasters) that is meant to encompass the smarter people of our world.
Hence, WebmasterWorld to the rescue. Smart, intelligent, targeted questions - expecting at least the same in return. While understanding they must keep some cards up their sleeves (the enemy is watching).
This is the clear state of the internet. Google is being view poorly by many knowledgeable webmasters directly because of some of the algorithm changes that they have made that unfairly target select websites for no apparent reason. And to make matters worse Google seems unwilling to address the concerns. Nobody is complaining at all about Bing or Yahoo. Single biggest factor is Google's manipulation and their unwillingness to be upfront. Are they losing credibility?
|I'm on board man, 1000%. I think if that aforementioned 'smiley bloke' knows his audience here, he'll do the best to give us what can be given. |
We are in agreement in regards to what needs to be done, let's see how it unfolds. I understand you have a lot at stake with your forums relying on search engine traffic. Google is becoming an ever-decreasing concern to me over the last 16 months or so. I can't deny the volume of traffic it brings. But at that same time, the volume of traffic outside of Google is enormous from any single business perspective, and is there for the taking. Relying on Google is a disability (in a way) - it's like having one single client that pays well, but could drop dead at anytime. Wouldn't you want to win new clients and make your business more robust?
Sometimes... when I see gazillion websites with nonsense ads, and find webmasters complaining trying to be heard (me included) regarding this conflicting topic...
Then I see the irony, we deliver gazillion of impressions every week, we deliver lots of messages, sadly now lots google drive, google apps, google adwords, google whatever... and even worse with poor performance... and still we try to be heard... delivering G messages.
A campaign doesn't sound good but doesn't sound too bad in my head, not just removing the ads, but replacing them or at least one with a message: G, stop trying to define what's good content or trying to figure out what's good. You get the idea. Yes I know how that sounds, I'm not fully convinced but we are gazillion publishers delivering massive impressions per week, there is the irony on trying to contact G... a company that won't listen, they have been off for a while.
I still remember when they said were going to focus on blogs... and then the rise of the MFA, then the spammy web. And yes the enemy is listening. But this is not a rant, not at all. I'm a webmaster on my own and things looks confusing, I also work for a big media company and what can I tell them? "let's call a fortune teller?" besides despite there is no ROI the company is investing huge amounts of money on "social networks", OMG the web is broken.
@hitchhiker I'm not sure why Google would see any problem. Share price is up and advertising is up. Unless that changes I don't think webmasters here have anything to bring Google to the table.
@COS Duckduckgo just reported a surge in traffic due to the PRISM leak
In the chance Google may be prepared to answer a question here is mine:
"The disavow tool has resulted in few if any recoveries, please explain why this is, even when a machete is used ?"
How naive and self-deceiving. Google's broad agenda is very different from your agenda, actually conflicting. The rest is smoke and mirrors (deception) planned to distract you and keep you busy.
You are just asking for a higher dose of deception. You may even get it. These people (a large underground team) are extremely sophisticated and successful in their game.
Wolves and sheep around a table deliberating what to have for dinner? Good luck to you, not being a wolf . . . . . . . .
There is immense imbalance of power on the net at this time, and balance will be restored, as always is the case. Change will take place, as it has always happened, but at this time we do not know either when or how.
In the meantime, under the radar survival tactics, as each of us individually perceives them.
|Share price is up and advertising is up. |
I may be mistaken but didn't the changes they made during the Panda or Penguin decrease revenue? I choose to believe the Webspam team's only focus is the 'quality of search'. A hard thing to defend given the current state of things.
|I'm not fully convinced but we are gazillion publishers delivering massive impressions per week |
Well, personally I'm at 120,000 visitors a day (down 60k a day), the webmasters I've been speaking to via email represent another few million currently a day. Including some of the others I have less direct contact with - it's *somewhere* in the order of 10 million-ish visitors a day. You're in good company (volume-wise).
Power in numbers they say, well we have numbers. So please, join our little band of tired webmasters asking for 'better communication with the Webspam team'
@seoskunk, also thanks for the first question - I've paraphrased it a bit if that's ok:
"We tend to see very little evidence of recoveries via the disavow tool, and it's existence somewhat calls into question the current implementation of 'PageRank'. Isn't this just a 'hack', a somewhat clumsy attempt to fix larger problems; one that needlessly distracts and confuses webmasters?"
I would ask:
I believe 'Negative SEO/toxic links/disavowing' should have been something you vehemently guarded against. (The concept of any link or relationship as being 'negative' rather than 'ignored') No external entity should have been able to affect our websites negatively. Why did you choose to allow this to happen, when it has now clearly resulted in yet-another-way to game the playing field?"
This is what some of us are suggesting is our next step as webmasters. Forming coherent, perhaps 'tricky' questions and shooting them squarely at the doorstep of those who can best answer them.
To do that, rather than treat the Webspam team as some nefarious evil beast, intent on our total destruction - we should focus on dialogue as partners whose goal is to combat SPAM. We can help them with that.
|intent on our total destruction |
No, no, no - they are not colour blind : black or white is the opposite of sophistication. Shades of gray, and millions of colours, is sophistication.
Nobody wants your destruction. These people are not fools, they are smart. The name of the game is sharing the revenue pie 20/80 in their favour instead of 80/20 (and shades thereof) in your favour.
They have their own perspective, whether you like it or not, whether you realize it or not. Don't let them fool you to the contrary.
@heisje I understand what you're trying to say, and so many of us sympathise. Like you, a lot of us have been doing this a long long time - you must recognise that we have crossed and covered these topics countless times. Yet it's generally understood now, that 'Google bashing' delivers very little value. I'd like to think that we're neither naive, or foolish.
We have a holy chance in hell of hitting the target as it is. This type of rhetoric is like randomly adding an air viscosity variation after the calculation of a ballistic trajectory. It doesn't help. I urge that you keep this thread on topic. You're clearly smart, use that to help some of your colleagues get this job done (if you believe in the overall goal here) :( please.
Getting a more efficient method of communication with the Webspam team will help us all.
|I may be mistaken but didn't the changes they made during the Panda or Penguin decrease revenue? |
I'll try to leave my tinfoil hat off, but the statement where you heard is here, verbatim, from Matt Cutts:
|if you go back and look at Googles quarterly statements, they actually mention that Panda decreased our revenue |
Panda 1.0 was February of 2011. Here's the revenue line from that call:
Q1 2011 Earnings Call:
|Google reported revenues of $8.58 billion in the first quarter of 2011, representing a 27% increase over first quarter 2010 |
Further...in more detail
|Paid Clicks Aggregate paid clicks, which include clicks related to ads served on Google sites and the sites of our AdSense partners, increased approximately 18% over the first quarter of 2010 and increased approximately 4% over the fourth quarter of 2010 |
No mention of Panda or algorithm changes in the earnings call at all. Perhaps he meant the Q2/2011 call? Well, that one showed a 32% YoY increase in revenue, and again, an 18% YoY increase in clicks on search ads.
Or, in short, the truth seems to be the exact opposite of what Matt said.
It seems I was mistaken.
Either way, we're not going to get communication if we don't focus a call for it it somewhere. This thread is that attempt.