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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2013

 2:34 pm on Sep 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

System: The following 5 messages were cut out of thread at: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4598423.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 1:07 pm on Sep 2, 2013 (PST -8)

I've had two interesting situations lately which are very similar.

(1) One of my pages was #1 for "short widget phrase". Two weeks ago Google replaced me with a Wikihow page which actually took what I did and went a little further, as good competitors should. Last week, that page got an inbound from a hugely popular website (sent me quite a few thousand visitors), with the anchor text "here", as in "find it here". My position did not improve.

(2) Another page on another domain has been ranking well for "short phrase" and "less short phrase". These are competitive phrases. My page had fought its way up to #2 for both, which was exciting. Then it fell back to 5 and 10, and then lower. Then a popular Pinterest user pinned it late last night using "less short phrase" and it's bounced back a few positions already this morning. It's in flux, but it's averaging to 4 and 9 right now.

I'm starting to doubt there's *anything* to the algo but "count the links, check the anchor text." Google goes on and on about various signals, but when you get right down to it, actual ranking changes consistently happen ONLY in response to the addition or loss of links with the anchor text of your keyphrase. All else is a smokescreen, LOL.



 9:05 am on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just to let you know...

My site is pretty big (I think) = +800 000 unique visitors/day (for the moment; it was 1.3 mil UV 2 years ago).

Historically, our site was in the "test segment" for google alchemy.

We were always affected 3-4 weeks before the "official big updates".

Those official updates never affected us, only the "secret ones".

So... from what I see now, I can tell you to BRACE YOURSELF for a rough landing in November.

Another paradox is that on the 4th of Sept, big brands got a hit on my segment.
A lot of blogs, forums and new sites are up (as they have links)!

After the links spring cleaning, google devalued the brands now and they are putting a lot of weight AGAIN on links!

The links are very important, even critical for google Algo, but the spam and link networks were too big for Google only to erase => they forced the webmaster to clean the SERPS :)

Now, links have a lot of value (again)!
This is very frustrating for a site with thousand of pages (or millions) , as it's impossible to have even one link/page/product...

Only SUPER Brands are still untouchable.

It can be a new beginning for not very old sites to grow.


 10:39 am on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

My site has lost of 09/03/2013 to 09/04/2013 approximately 70%.
My site is EMD in Spain
I think the update of google has been for the EMD


 10:51 am on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Not specific EMD...
I believe it is Penguin + Panda put together :/
I see a new beast, with 2 heads...

P.S. It was not an local hit, It's global!


 11:00 am on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think the update of google has been for the EMD

Current results in my sector (niche service, UK) don't immediately support that conclusion, and other factors (e.g. keyword/key-term targetting) might account for the observed effect in your case. A lot of backlinks with exact-match phrase as anchor-text, or high count/concentration of exact-match phrase on-site could produce the same result without any specific targetting of EMDs.


 11:44 am on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Since Sept 4th, I also noticed a huge drop in traffic, falling like a stone. Drop in the number of search queries, while the trend was up the days before.

My site is a new/recent, white-hat, offering free time-related online services, adding new features, little by little. One ad, above the fold. User friendly links for navigation and carefully crafted interface. I paid attention to quality guidelines. Only a couple of backlinks, no scheme, no sollication, etc... No brand competition. International site, not country specific.

On Sept 3rd, I 'fetched as Googgle' my main page and had 'URL and linked pages submitted' to Google. On 4th, I fetched a couple extra pages and submitted them without linked pages.

I have checked webmaster tools:
- No site messages
- No manual actions
- No malware
- No blocked URLs
- Crawl rate a bit a above average until 4th September, no data since
- Sitemaps are fine, number of indexed pages did not change / stable
- Still some crawl errors since I have removed several pages about a month ago,
but no change in the trend/rate of detection.
- Accelerated drop in structured data items since Sep 3rd.

If anyone sees a recovery, can you let us know? Thanks.


 1:49 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

The nicest thing is that on the first page for my queries, I can find TPB links ;)

GG google! Fight piracy!


 3:26 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I believe Google has done something about big brands.

I have 2 clients that used to rank within the top 3 for their main keywords (2 word phrases non-EMD sites- US based-ecom), until google started promoting big brands, then they dropped to the bottom of the first page. Now all of a sudden they are back at their original position.

My clients sites are highly focused on the keyword phrases and rank for their home page, whereas the big brands cover multiple products and rank(ed) via one of their inside pages.

Maybe Google removed whatever benefit it gave the big brands earlier.


 4:01 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)


I have just tried a couple of test searches to check out your observation, and it looks like what you are seeing may affect google.com, but not google.co.uk (at least, not yet).

It will be interesting to see if it rolls out.


 4:21 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Penguin is off-page -- off-site [inbound links, inbound link text, natural links v. appearing requested / manipulative, etc.]

Actually, a small number of site that got hit hardly had any inbounds, and no one is yet sure why. Google has never said precisely what Penguin targets, so the best anyone can offer is informed speculation. What you're suggesting is probably the main stuff, but other informed speculation suggests that Penguin looks at at least SOME on-page factors, too.


 4:44 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

There obviously could be some on-page metrics with Penguin, but generally speaking, the bulk of it seems to be off-page / off-site.

My previous response was related to this post:

A lot of the posts here are picking out over-optimization factors like high on-page keyword ratio and anchors as a ranking problem, all things that are pretty characteristic of Penguin.

I wouldn't say high on-page keyword ratio or anchors are major characteristics of Penguin as far as I've seen or heard. Those both seem to be more closely related to Panda issues.

Note: If I'm reading the post incorrectly and the anchors being referred to are inbound from another site, then I would say that's a Penguin characteristic, but still not the on-page keyword ratio.


 11:36 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Surprised this thread hasn't had more activity, there's a lot of talk elsewhere about the Sept 4/5 update.

One of my sites was hit September 6th, and again today, totalling 50% loss of traffic. This website was out of action for 9 months, as a hacker basically erased 3 dedicated servers inc a backup server. I invested heavily to have it rebuilt and it was doing great, then BOOM. I know this is part of the game, but still. We've built a great platform and our users love it. Google are just being dicks lately.

We haven't built a single link, I'm fairly confident this isn't Penguin related.

I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but eagerly awaiting some answers.


 12:57 am on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

It seems to be Panda + Penguin, as only some subdomains of my site got the penalty and I'm using mostly the same template.

It seems to be a "critical" factor involved and I hope that G will fix the problem.
From what I saw, content sites got the penalty.

For me is like the old sandbox! Even If I search with site name, it's very hard to find my site in the results; very, very strange.

The reports are faint about this update; the same was with my other unresolved problem: the 6 of March 2013 "secret update".



 7:52 am on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

We haven't built a single link

Neither had I, but the first Penguin got me.


 11:06 am on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

We haven't built a single link

Neither had I, but the first Penguin got me.

I mentioned this in another thread but I thought it might be something to look at here also. We did a disavow/rr for a site hit by the 1st penguin. We built crappy links, no denying, disavowed them all. Got the RR reply, still see links, they gave 2 examples, first example was in fact a bad link we had missed, second was a clean link that they were labeling as bad.
This could be what is happening to some of you that say you have never built any links, google may be identifying links as bad when they are not.


 11:36 am on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

google may be identifying links as bad when they are not

I am certain of it.


 12:36 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Sep 4th is not a link issue, because sites without backlinks have been impacted too. All seems to point at a thin/low quality content ratio for the penalized websites. So, something related to Panda.


 3:55 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

All seems to point at a thin/low quality content ratio for the penalized websites.

No discernible change here: not better, not worse.

If only they'd take their eyes off thin content for a moment and give extra points for thick content!


 4:44 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)


Most likely you are feeling the impact of the monthly roll out of Panda algorithm!

Google’s Panda Dance: Matt Cutts Confirms Panda Rolls Out Monthly Over 10 Of 30 Days [searchengineland.com...]


 6:01 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)


Are you talking about a Panda algorithm change or a Panda data refresh?


 8:47 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Here is what happened to my sites (info/affiliate) on September 4/5:

Site #1: traffic unchanged (~900 unique / day)
Site #2: traffic increased from 200 unique / day to 500 unique / day
Site #3: traffic increased from 40 unique / day to 90 unique / day

All sites are new (between 2 and 4 months old), on new domains.


 8:54 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)


Doesn't google usually announce when Panda updates roll out, even belatedly? As far as I can tell they aren't admitting anything yet.


 9:08 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

We were never affected big by Panda until now; only the usual slow&small painful poisoning on each Rolling Update.

So this is not the usual Rolling Update; not for us, anyway.

It seems a (major) change in the algorithm.

It's a normal step after the Penguin cleaning.

I read about others affected by Panda and Penguin, but until it happens to you, the others are "bad people/sites", anyway.

The truth is that for big sites it's almost impossible to recover from Panda.
Too many variables, too many pages to "improve"... too many $$$ evaporated over one night.

Big sites means employes, taxes, big spending etc
80% drop in traffic/revenue = game over, lives destroyed.

On the internet, your only active is information. When this is massively devalued, you do not exist anymore.
This is the truth.

Some might say I'm exaggerating, but the truth is that I do not remember any step back from google actions (not from 80% down), so I prefer a "quick death" to a painful and unrealistic hope to recovery.

Making business with google seems to be a "russian roulette", with a known result. The only variable is the time frame.

In the last two days I was wondering what to say to my employes when I'll announce the massive layoff...
Talking about a nasty surprise :(


 9:54 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

too many pages to "improve"...

Yep I know what you are feeling same here 2+ years on - slowly declining - 2 years work, every day until the early hours, and get a massive hit again.

What I can tell you - be upfront with your employees. I gave mine quite a few months notice, cost a bit, but I am still talking to them even though they have moved on. They probably know that you have been hit anyway, so don't be worried about approaching the issue. Sooner rather than later is better.


 10:10 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Doesn't google usually announce when Panda updates roll out, even belatedly?

Last March, they said they were going to stop announcing Panda updates, although they've confirmed at least a couple since then. In a Search Engine Land article at the time, Barry Schwartz quoted a Google spokesman as saying: "I don’t expect us to tweet about or confirm current or future Panda updates because they’ll be incorporated into our indexing process and thus be more gradual."

Martin Ice Web

 6:41 am on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

This latest update was the worst ever. Our weekend has seen an all time low. And this although we gained lots of #1-#5 on first search page. Our conversion rate is nearly ZERO. Google seems to route all the buyers to their affiliate Network.
brands are up again, Amazon and ebay have multiple listings on first page. Site from brands that do not match 1% the query are on first page only because they have the item mentioned once on their page.
Google this now is bottom ground! It can´t get worse, i hope.

ecom, germany


 12:28 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't see a reason for a decent company which has necessary resources NOT TO create a new website based on the penalized one, contact DECENT sites that currently link to yours and ask them to replace the link with a new one.

This way you are sure that your work will yield positive results and much faster at that.

Jerking around with Google, contacting more then 2000 websites having examined them in advance in hope that maybe Google is satisfied with your sufferings and decides to revoke the penalty, which won't give you the rankings back anyhow being stripped off of all your links except maybe 100 of them.

You really want to spend 6 months doing something which in the end proves useless with 90% probability?

Common, do the math.

That's what Link Assistant did. They've been hit too. You can try and search them on Google by their domain name and the title of the main page - they are nowhere to be found. They've just created a new website even though they invested a good pile of money on the previous one (having links in articles on the most authoritative websites in the SEO industry).
They knew what to do - I must give them that.

Their penalized website is [link-assistant.com...] they created a new one: [seopowersuite.com...]
Currently the two sites coexist, but I think it's a matter of time before they shut down the old one.


 1:02 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

@martin Ice Web I am also noticing the brands having multiple listings followed by Amazon also with multiple listings. Its getting worse.


 3:56 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing the same things I've been seeing for a while. My rankings are still high, but just not bringing any traffic. Google claims my top search term generates 10 times the traffic I actually get for being #1 at it. I've ruled out three possibilities: that they're all coming in as "not provided" or
"direct", and that it's because of "personalized search". I just can't figure it out.

Another site is humming along just as expected, no major changes in that niche.

This could be what is happening to some of you that say you have never built any links, google may be identifying links as bad when they are not.

I totally agree, but I have to laugh - some of us tried to point out this possibility in April 2012 only to be dragged to the town square and sentenced to public hanging for being lying spammers. It's a pity it took us over a year and a whole new tool to get to the point where a reasonable discourse could be had on the possibility that Google is fallible.

I read about others affected by Panda and Penguin, but until it happens to you, the others are "bad people/sites", anyway.

A long time ago, you pretty much did have to obviously break an obvious rule to get penalized, but those rules have become increasingly subjective. Is a page thin content or not? Is a link spammy or not? Was a link paid for or not? The first two questions don't have a hard and fast objective answer. The third does, but Google can't access it and has to make a guess, and nobody guesses right every time.


 4:54 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

If this is a Panda update, maybe this will help someone..

Re my two clients that improved after this update (they had dropped to the bottom of first page after Big Brands filled the top positions over a month ago):

The main thing I did with those 2 clients that popped back up to the top of the first page with this update, is that I de-optimized their home pages and other $$$ pages a few months ago (I took out excessive use of their $$ keywords that had been there for years).


 5:38 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Big boost in the (not provided) numbers. Almost 60% now and we're an ecomm site. A lot of it seems to have come from Safari fixing its referrer issues, but not all of it. There seems to have been a NP boost in Internet Explorer as well.


 7:01 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have been following this forum for a long time seeing all the ups and downs.
So its time for my first post and a very long one, I'm sorry.

I have a comparison site myself in a specific music niche (Sheet music) where i think its still needed and i think my website is very helpful to people. Also the main reason why i started the website was because Google at that time was so messed up with the results in my niche and still is today. For example bringing up a book from amazon about the secrets about sexual intimacy in marriage which has nothing to do with my niche but has been in the top 10 search results for a year now.

My site has been taking big hits downwards in 2012 and actually every panda/penguin update it was kinda messy going bit up and down but mostly downwards.
But starting from march 2013 i lost about 70% actually a number i saw a lot on this forum and i felt all the pain with you guys. This was for me also waking up time for me.
Since the beginning of 2013 i've been working mostly 70+ hours a week to get everything right and change things.

The reasons I'm posting at the moment as my site is going upwards the last week instead of the signals i got from a lot of people going downwards.
So i want to share what i think could be the influence of the big changes i did the last year.

Just a few notes about my site
- 600k+ indexed pages which a big portion contains own unique content and descriptions I write my own text and have multiple experienced text writers. Site has perfect avg duration and bounce rate.
- I was one of the first in my niche providing genres and categories on music all done in a legal way (not scraping)
- I never used any advertising on my website, my website is for the user to find their things i don't want any other annoying things that has nothing to do with my business
- I mostly live from affiliate links although free products are always on top for the user
- Mostly did link building myself at start and made a few mistakes on freelancer websites which really damaged my website which before I knew the damage was already done and irreversible.
- I have 12k+ fb friends all mostly natural by mostly posting and a bit advertising starting with other social media now

Big things I changed the last year that I think maybe changed
- 40% more unique content on all pages, makes me also mostly in my niche the site delivering mostly the most information on specific music songs.
- Before the 70% downfall I had a header jquery dropdown menu containing over 70+ links to everything it was kinda useful but I removed it because I was not sure if it affected my website.
- I removed all amazon affiliate links although they were helpful for my website
- Improved my bounce rate with 7% rearranging website and including new features
Started advertising with ad words (actually moved my budget from Facebook to Google)

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