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The State of the Internet (2013) - Summarised perspectives.
hitchhiker




msg:4583410
 11:11 am on Jun 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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.

Summary

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]

  •  

    Play_Bach




    msg:4585437
     6:28 pm on Jun 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @Savanadry

    I did say 'about zero chance of happening anytime soon' (not never in a million years). If you think Google is going down, just let us know what your ETA is so we can look for it.

    Savanadry




    msg:4585473
     9:48 pm on Jun 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @ Play_Bach Lol, fair point and no idea sorry. I just hope I like what happens next :)

    kellyman




    msg:4585476
     10:08 pm on Jun 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

    The thing is until people actually stop using Google nothing will change, and to be honest i think that so much tweaking has been done they could not fix it even if they wanted to without reverting back 3/4 years worth of algo's and starting again (bit like some of us with our sites)

    Would love to see some kind of intervention or competition but if there is anything its a very long way off

    johnhh




    msg:4585478
     10:16 pm on Jun 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

    ETA, according to a newspaper report I read last year they had maybe 5 years left, impossible you may say ... until you remember AOL trying to take over the world, what was their valuation before it all went wrong ? I forget.

    mcneely




    msg:4585553
     2:46 am on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    At any rate, I'm hoping that the likes of DuckDuckGo, Bing, and IxQuick can do a bit of ground gaining in the market share area before Google realizes that it needs to hire someone that can do the math.

    I'm not a Google FanBoy by any stretch, but I will give it the same respect that I gave to Yahoo, HotBot, AlataVista, and others as the years went by. If Google falls, then so be it -- We'll all be able to say that we've been there - We've done that, to the next generation in this industry ..

    Martin Ice Web




    msg:4585603
     7:18 am on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @kellyman, if the mass of webmasters who sends out Newsletters add an short text about the alternatives to Google then there will be a great reach out. And poeple will try!


    content32




    msg:4585610
     8:03 am on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    whats the point of putting effort into websites and adding great content when the risk of getting a penalty for ......so many reasons. so google trying to make better content on the serps has had the alternative effect.

    dethfire




    msg:4585775
     3:58 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    For the first time ever, this week I am seeing duckduckgo consistently in the top 5 referrals in GA.

    diberry




    msg:4585779
     4:00 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    The payday loans hack was a big eye opener for me, too. I get tons of spam in my Wordpress comments, and have wondered why since I thought that tactic didn't work anymore. Now I feel like an idiot, because how cheap and easy is it to have software submit links everywhere for earn-n-burn sites? A lot cheaper and easier than what I'm doing on my sites built for humans.

    chrisv1963




    msg:4585790
     4:38 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    whats the point of putting effort into websites and adding great content when the risk of getting a penalty for ......


    ... too much ("thin") content ...

    CaptainSalad2




    msg:4585844
     7:29 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I CANT see it staying like this? I write 300 word pages minimum for all my clients but these have all been pushed back in favour of THIN content. To test I have thrown up some test pages with THIN content and they are scoring 80% higher than the in depth pages.

    Right now, today it seems keeping the text to a couple of lines per page, per keyphrase works, improved keyword density vs filler raito maybe? Thin pages with the keyphrase look more targeted/on subject to the algo?

    Currently doing "keyword clouds" is working VERY well for allot of sites, SEO looks to have been pushed back to "on page spamming" rather than off page linking IMO, nothing else needed just a keyword cloud in the footer. This just what im seeing from clients competitors across the board!

    Im tempted to stick a keyword cloud at the bottom of the pages like SEO 7-8 years back but surely this sort of thing is EASY to pick up as unnatural?

    HuskyPup




    msg:4585855
     7:44 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I'm considering testing a duplicate of one of my smaller sites, identical in every respect except I'm going to remove all the on-page text and simply leave the titlebar, meta description, h1 and a text repeat of the h1 under the image ... Bets anyone?

    chrisv1963




    msg:4585856
     7:50 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I'm considering testing a duplicate of one of my smaller sites, identical in every respect except I'm going to remove all the on-page text and simply leave the titlebar, meta description, h1 and a text repeat of the h1 under the image ... Bets anyone?


    Don't forget private registration for the domain name and hosting on a slow server somewhere in Eastern Europe!

    CaptainSalad2




    msg:4585869
     8:23 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I found you don't even need a H1 tag, NO links, title tag, one line of text on a brand new domain name. Easy, perhaps penguin is turned so high that brand new domain names, even sandboxed are seen as better?

    Its either THIN content or ZERO/FEW links of any kind because of penguin, I cant work out which it is but one or the other is working on all my test domains.

    Alex997




    msg:4585876
     8:39 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Those new at the top of Google SERPs in my space have almost no backlinks at all. Those they do have are all nofollow blog comment name links with just keywords in them from completely irrelevant industry sectors (food blog comments getting 1st place rankings on major finance search results!)

    hitchhiker




    msg:4585884
     9:00 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Sure would be nice if we had a big ally like 'DuckDuckGo'. Promoting 'Bing' feels wrong - so wrong! We'll just be back here again in 5 years :D

    Play_Bach




    msg:4585887
     9:09 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Bing is just not that strong or memorable a name for a search engine, sorry. I mean, who thinks 'Bing it' like 'Google it' ? Very few, if any. So many better names. Even Excite and HotBot are stronger than Bing.

    seoskunk




    msg:4585894
     9:27 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Wasn't it called BING "Because It's Not Google" ;)

    Play_Bach




    msg:4585901
     9:40 pm on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

    +1 seoskunk
    Thanks, hadn't heard that one before.

    Maybe I just have a preference for more syllables, who knows. Or maybe I just have a hard time imagining Bing was the best of the names Microsoft considered. Yikes.

    hitchhiker




    msg:4586021
     9:32 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    So I sent this email to DuckDuckGo:


    Hi, please pass this on to somebody (marketing or engineer) who will understand the details here.

    I'm an SEO, started in 1994 - more accurately I'm a webmaster. Right now, as you're probably aware, Google is killing off a lot of small businesses.

    [some links]

    There's a whole hell of a lot of horror going on.

    A boat load of webmasters are desperately seeking out an alternative, the most common comment is 'Bing' - but nobody really trusts Microsoft any more than they trust 'Google'.

    Get in there, start commenting - make yourself known now.

    Be: GOOD GUY 'DUCKDUCKGO'

    Unless you're a webmaster, you may not understand the significance of what's going down. SMEs are being shredded, people are losing their jobs / houses / lives. We need an alternative.

    Remember: We're the same guys who promoted Google back in the day, we installed them on 100,000s of computers at offices / schools / universities. We're a good bunch of people to have on your side. We're all extremely tech-aware, and we're not going anywhere - even if Google kills us all off.

    You should take a look.

    Cheers,
    Frank.


    This was the reply:

    Hi Francis,

    Thanks for your email. We are a hybrid search engine as mentioned here: [help.duckduckgo.com...]

    Cheers,
    Prakash


    Rofl :(

    heisje




    msg:4586034
     10:15 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    It takes billions in investment to compete with Google, not wishful thinkng.

    hitchhiker




    msg:4586038
     10:39 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Anybody fighting with money would lose against Google - they have more money. Common sense.

    It takes a simple, well executed idea to compete with Google (like a peer-2-peer app layer with an open source SE on top). Crowdsourcing and some seed money. Not billions in investment.

    Play_Bach




    msg:4586039
     10:53 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    > not wishful thinkng.

    Yup. I can empathize with those wiped out by Google (my sites got hit hard as well), but after lots of work on making my sites stronger, I'm finally beginning to see some improvement. The search engine landscape, unfortunately, looks to have changed permanently to reward themselves first, then brands and then if there's nothing else, organics. That's business and those not able to compete will simply die off, sorry. "Build a better mousetrap" or don't (really it's your choice, Google couldn't care less).

    turbocharged




    msg:4586050
     11:45 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    @ hitchhiker

    So duckduckgo scrapes other search engines to build their results? Heaven help us if a scraper search engine can do so well in traffic gains while original content sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

    SEchecker




    msg:4586053
     11:56 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    At least DUCKDUCKGO is NOT collecting user data. I believe this is the real purpose of DDG.

    If we wouldnt have allowed all popular SE to collect data abaout us we wouldnt be there where we are...

    heisje




    msg:4586079
     1:31 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    It takes a simple, well executed idea to compete with Google

    No. At this advanced stage only government regulation (break up, AT&T style). But don't hold your breath (see PRISM).

    .

    nick4u1




    msg:4586080
     1:36 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    I have always seen SEO at this point to be a bit like a race to the bottom. We can mostly agree that brands have done well, and cutting edge spammers continue to rank. Everything else in between (that's us) seems to have suffered, not all, but a sizable chunk of the SME community.

    So I wonder, whilst Google has been over-zealous in dialing down that signal, this signal, updating how it views another signal it has wiped out a lot of the middle ground who to some extent would have been relying on those signals to rank. And of course once you remove that middle ground, what is left? Brands, spam, news websites etc.

    I will admit that even though the sites I work on are extremely high quality, I once used a bookmark or 2. I once published an article on a article site, or listed a link on a directory because at the time it worked. Well, now that it doesn't and hasn't for a while, we have worked furiously to figure what WILL work and what is achievable for those who don't have deep pockets.

    On a side note, I had a domain with several keywords in, and it ranked very well for 3+ years, then it collapsed with the EMD update. I switched the domain out for a branded one and the main keyword returned - well, to top of page 2 at least but that was within a week.

    hitchhiker




    msg:4586205
     7:33 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    The latest video posted (Youtube WM) addresses this hot topic:

    "Why are some Google services not yet available in Albania?"

    Now, first off - my hats off to Albania, I understand how these things are annoying. I've lived all over the world, and being isolated SUCKS! - so there's that.

    But really? That's a slap in the face to all of us, a proper - heavy - slap in the face. It's hard to find more 'lower hanging fruit'. I can't wait to see what's next :(

    /facepalm for even thinking I could get real answers.

    @nick4u1 - thanks for that post, couldn't agree more. I hope things continue to pick up.

    seoskunk




    msg:4586215
     8:37 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Why are some Google services not yet available in Albania?


    Is it because the NSA has Albania covered?

    Savanadry




    msg:4586244
     10:50 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Why are some Google services not yet available in Albania?


    The most interesting thing about the video (which was only put up 1 day ago) is Matt is wearing a bullseye t-shirt - do you think he knows you're on his case hitchhiker? Or a reference to the payday loans saga? :)

    hitchhiker




    msg:4586333
     6:22 am on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

    None of us know him, we only know his work as Webspam's PR guy. In that regard:

    I *like to think* he's on the right side of things, but his hands are tied (a wild guess, based on the fact that I once really appreciated his input, style and commentary). That said he's 'head of Webspam' so some of these decisions must be his...

    If you look back a year ago, it was mainly just horribly ugly trolling. Now it's different, it's got more of a reasonable voice - and it's all aimed near him (because there's nowhere else to aim it).

    All we can hope is that the screaming from SMEs forces them to reconsider the whole thing.

    This feels and sounds like the precursors evident before the collapse of things like aol, gateway, netscape, palm, atari and others. That may be enough to warrant a 180'.

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