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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2013
diberry

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 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.

 

dmc2005



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 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)

Dymero



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 8:34 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

There's a new Webmaster Help video from Matt Cutts that says that if a linking campaign that is no-followed is considered very spammy, you can be targeted for a manual action.

[youtube.com...]

Given the history of things Google has originally cited as "edge cases," it looks like blackhats are now open to perform negative no-follow link building campaigns to get your site penalized.

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 8:37 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Given the history of things Google has originally cited as "edge cases," it looks like blackhats are now open to perform negative no-follow link building campaigns to get your site penalized.

That's some ugly news to read -- Guess it's better to know than not to though, so thanks for sharing.

Shepherd



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 9:33 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

as long as your not annoying the entire web you should be in good shape...
MC

Seems like the slippery slope just got a little slipperier.

Wilburforce

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 10:22 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Seems like the slippery slope just got a little slipperier.


Four legs good, two legs better.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 11:01 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Given the history of things Google has originally cited as "edge cases," it looks like blackhats are now open to perform negative no-follow link building campaigns to get your site penalized.


Since we're talking about manual penalties, the solution would appear to be fairly simple: Use the "smell test." If a site appears to be clean except for the million spammy inbound links, it probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.

rish3



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 12:34 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

The blackhats slinging zillions of links don't care about a manual penalty. Why would they? The entry barrier to create the links is almost zero, so they'll just churn and burn with a new domain.

Might be a better idea to penalize and deindex the sites that allow people to create links with wild abandon. That might actually result in some net change.

It's also curious to me that Google says on one hand that "nofollow" has no SEO benefit, then on the other hand that manual penalities will be doled out for overuse. If they provide no benefit, then the site wasn't ranking in the first place. What then, does the penalty do?

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 2:04 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's also curious to me that Google says on one hand that "nofollow" has no SEO benefit, then on the other hand that manual penalities will be doled out for overuse. If they provide no benefit, then the site wasn't ranking in the first place. What then, does the penalty do?


First of all, Matt Cutts said that such a penalty would be applied only in extreme cases. (He cited an example.) So, by and large, there isn't a penalty.

Second, Google has a vested interest in discouraging behavior that pollutes the Web. If users get fed up with reading spam posts about petes-payday-loan-and-pawn-site-dot-com every time they open a blog or forum, maybe they'll shut down their Google Search windows and do something else. That isn't good for Google (unless those users go out to buy Google Glass or cruise around town in a Google self-driving car).

rish3



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 2:37 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google has a vested interest in discouraging behavior that pollutes the Web


Yes, but penalizing churn and burn sites isn't going to further that cause. In fact, by cranking up the churn rate, it will net even more spam.

OTOH, doing something about the *source* of the links, instead of the destination....

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 7:38 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's also curious to me that Google says on one hand that "nofollow" has no SEO benefit, then on the other hand that manual penalities will be doled out for overuse. If they provide no benefit, then the site wasn't ranking in the first place. What then, does the penalty do?


Google wants to control the Internet traffic. By penalizing every typ of link, poeple will delete links from the pages. Google ( unfortunatelly not yet bing ) will be only traffic source.
It could by easy for Google to remove the sites that provied link building, like they do with legit Websites.



Second, Google has a vested interest in discouraging behavior that pollutes the Web.

they are not forced to show the Forum/glogs within their results!

Have a look at bing.
Nice clear results ( with one or two spam sites, i admit ) but Amazon, ebay and brands are not ruling the serps.
AND! Now watch out! That without any penalizing of Websites!

Wilburforce

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 10:40 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

OTOH, doing something about the *source* of the links, instead of the destination....


The boundary that Google crossed with Penguin was allowing something another site does - with or without intention, and with or without your knowledge or consesnt - to harm your position.

This offends natural justice: "beyond all reasonable doubt" is based on the principal that it is better that ten guilty men should go free than that one innocent man should be punished for a crime he did not commit.

Penguin is a kangaroo court behind closed doors.

At least what MC says about nofollow carries the reassurance - not that previous reassurances have been kept - that "transgression" will result in a manual penalty, which is a lot better than having your site dumped for no apparent reason without a word from anyone.

On the recent update, I would have said it had made no difference, but both traffic and Google referrals rose slightly yesterday, while today my site is not in the results at all for Key Term on either google.co.uk or google.com (but is #1 - it hadn't been for some weeks - for Key Term Mytown). This suggests that it is specific for exact term.

CaptainSalad2



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 10:59 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

>>>It could by easy for Google to remove the sites that provied link building, like they do with legit Websites.<<<

Exactly, itís EASY to use google both organic and PPC to find sites that exchange/swap build links, why donít they just manually remove these sites, 1 hour job if that?

Imagine Google were the police, would they go after the drug user while allowing the drug supplier to continue to operate from their premises? Crazy!

Google need to lead by example and clean house first IMO!

Gandhalf

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 11:52 am on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yesterday was the best day in terms of traffic: my blog has ranked well for years, good and unique quality content, good time on page, playing by the rules to please my users and it has worked for years

Today, I lost 80% of my traffic: best pages have lost number1 position

Some pages can't be found unless typing a whole sentence that's in the page

What was so good so far that isn't good anymore ?

Anyway, did somebody else notice a big & sudden drop in the last couple of days

Mentat

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 12:11 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Anyway, did somebody else notice a big & sudden drop in the last couple of days
- I think this is the subject since 4th of September...

And it seems final; I cannot see any movement beyond my bottom flat line of traffic.
It's not only a lower rank, it's a penalty!

TyMax



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 1:09 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Bing: but Amazon, ebay and brands are not ruling the serps.


That is what seems to puzzle me. If Google wants good clean relevant results with reduced spam. Then why is big box type sites like the ones sited seem to dominate their serps on Google. I had noticed these sites creeping up the rankings, but last update they seem to take over.

In many cases not just one result but i some cases 2 or of 3 of the tops spots and more. It just makes no sense to push out relevant sites for sites that are relevant but dominate the selection.

I suspect a competitor is planting sour links to a few of my customer sites. But I do not think this is the major factor for sole lost of ranking. It seems Google hit the problem with a sledge hammer instead of a tack hammer.

reseller

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 3:13 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Gandhalf

Today, I lost 80% of my traffic: best pages have lost number1 position


Sorry to hear that. It could be Panda doesn't like your blog.

diberry

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 3:24 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Wilburforce, forget concepts of justice since this is business and all's fair until you get a court order saying otherwise. ;) More to the point, it's actually bad for the SERPs because it encourages sabotage over actual, you know, good business. Every time the business world is allowed to get into predatory practices (hostile takeovers, robo-mortgages, S&L scams), disaster follows.

Why is Google doing this? I don't believe it's intentional. Based on recent behavior, I think they know there are some issues (which is cold comfort if your site's getting crushed, I know). Cutts has asked about small sites suffering under brand dominance. And from my own, obviously narrow, experience: I have a site that was hurt badly by Penguin 1. Penguin 2 rolled up, and suddenly I'm doing fine. Not back to pre-Penguin positions (wouldn't expect that since it was over a year and lots of sites have come and gone in that time), but suddenly I'm ranking just where I think I objectively think I should be. To me, that suggests that my site was indeed mistaken for spamming or link building during Penguin 1, and Penguin 2 released it and other sites that got caught up in the sweep.

If anybody takes this as praise for Google, it's not. I'm totally neutral about them. I'm just trying to realistically assess what they're up to so I can position my sites to be at an advantage. For example, if you think Google's determined to crush us all under big sites, you might want to focus on expanding beyond your current audience and making your site a "brand." OTOH, if you think they are working to correct the brand dominance and will get it right in a few months, it might be smarter to devote your limited resources to really buttering up your current audience, get those user metrics way up, etc.

reseller

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 3:26 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

3 days more and the current monthly Panda update is over :-)

Current Panda has started on 4th September. It would be over on 13th September ;-)

As you might recall, Matt Cutts Confirmed Panda Rolls Out Monthly Over 10 Of 30 Days.

Wilburforce

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 3:30 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Some pages can't be found unless typing a whole sentence that's in the page


That happened to some of my pages during the first iteration of Penguin (and in one case my own page was second of two results, the first being a scraper).

I did a lot to clean things up at the time, and the pages recovered - although not completely - eventually. However, I'm not sure whether the recovery had anything to do with what I did about it.

Awarn



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 3:48 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

DMC2005 you say you have made progress. Were you on page one originally and have you been able to return to page one? I too fell and have managed to come back to top of page 2 but can't seem to stay on page 1. The strange part is I see sites leave page 1 and are replaced by pages from Amazon or Ebay. May sound strange by Im thinking more along the lines of its negative SEO. I too did the Adwords thing and it generates traffic but not like the organic traffic.

Wilburforce

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 3:55 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

@diberry

I agree with what you say about justice (although a class action on Google breaching a duty of care would be interesting). From what MC says, however, you would think Google was on a Moral Crusade. In reality, they are shooting innocent bystanders in an effort to keep graffiti off their own storefront.

As you say, also, it is bad for the SERPS. I think the problem arises because of flawed logic. Their stated measure is relevance. In applying a penalty - whether to a site, a page, or use of a specific term - in the form of a negative score, they introduce the concept that something can have less relevance than zero.

In practice, what we now have is not based on relevance, but on the algorithm's attraction or aversion. As we can see, it finds some very unlikely sites attractive, and has an aversion to some extremely relevant sites.

I'm not sure what, if anything, we can do about it. To me, Google looks broken, and I no longer use Google for personal searches unless I can't find what I am looking for on Bing (and in that case Google generally doesn't find it either). They have no incentive to fix it, however, as long as it drives businesses to use adwords, and drives searchers to click on them.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 4:54 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Their stated measure is relevance.


They talk a lot about quality, too.

Also, there's no shortage of relevant results for most competitive (and many non-competitive) topics. Take something like a name-brand widget or a hotel. There are likely to be thousands of equally relevant--and often nearly identical--e-commerce pages for each, so how are users harmed if 10 or 20 percent of those pages are removed from Google's index or pushed down in the rankings because the site owners got caught violating Google's guidelines?

IMHO, the problem with Google search results right now has nothing to do with manual penalties. In most cases, it isn't even due to a lack of relevance. It's due to an inability to measure quality. And with the Web expanding like a supernova, the problem could easily get worse before it gets better.

Dymero



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 5:02 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

If a site appears to be clean except for the million spammy inbound links, it probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.


How we feel about a certain site and what Google actually does are two very different things.

For the longest of time, nobody had to worry about negative SEO campaigns until Google admitted that maybe it could affect white hat sites in some cases.

Now we find out that, in some very spammy cases, Google may act. But what are these cases? My concern is this: I'm sure everyone has seen the comment spam bots that collect a bunch of URLs and proceed to spam a hundred thousand blogs with random (or not so random these days) comments that have those URLs in them. They links are no-follow, of course, so theoretically nothing should happen.

Until yesterday, that is. What now? How will Google process these types of spam comments, that we had no part in propagating? Will Google ignore them for penalty purposes or treat them under these new rules? I hope it's the first option, but we don't know. Will we now have to spend more time combing through our backlinks and trying to take down spammy no-follow links that we didn't place, like with negative SEO links?

Google has shown an inability to determine what is a good link and what is a bad link, and left it to webmasters to do the work. Will that be the case with nofollow links as well?

dmc2005



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 5:07 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Awarn I'm still far down were i was actually before, but some of my good pages have gone up 50+ positions kinda back to the first page. In my case it didn't make sense at all as a lot of illegal sites (torrents and file share) where above me all the time since the last updates.

I'm not really sure what changed it and i am really afraid that if i didn't do all the hard work the last months it would have still been going up.
Although i think removing the amazon affiliate links could have changed some because it was the only real indication of affiliates from my site.

All together i hate it the drops the changes etc but for me it also had some positive things to look very closely at my site again in a user point of view try to get the best out of it and also managed for example to bring down my bounce rate by 7% doing so which isn't nothing.

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 5:18 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Now we find out that, in some very spammy cases, Google may act. But what are these cases? My concern is this: I'm sure everyone has seen the comment spam bots that collect a bunch of URLs and proceed to spam a hundred thousand blogs with random (or not so random these days) comments that have those URLs in them. They links are no-follow, of course, so theoretically nothing should happen.


This whole hunt for spammy/buyed links shows that googles algo ( also panda ) depends more on links than we thought. IMO panda only counts if two or more sites get the same ranking score. Then there might be some panda score applied but the main algo depends on links. IMO panda is an algo that finds "near" similar sites and give them an special rank before scored by the main algo. It has nothing to do with UE.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 5:50 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

My concern is this: I'm sure everyone has seen the comment spam bots that collect a bunch of URLs and proceed to spam a hundred thousand blogs with random (or not so random these days) comments that have those URLs in them.


Software does a pretty good job of blocking comment spam, in my experience, but there's no substitute for taking responsibility for what appears on your blog--either by requiring approval of comments before publication or by deleting spam comments quickly if you don't require approval.

From the user's point of view (never mind Google's), a blog filled with spam comments is "low-quality content," even if the spam wasn't created by the blog's owner.

taberstruths



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 5:58 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

I know this is off topic so I will keep it short. I for one have seen a drastic reduction in comment spam over the last year. I am sure this is at least in part to Google's crackdown on spammy links.

Wilburforce

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 6:24 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's due to an inability to measure quality.


It isn't an inability: although you can't directly measure the quality of a garment, for example, you can define it in terms that can be measured (like durability). Google has plenty of data from which to derive measurable terms, and until the Crusade began, didn't do too bad a job of it from my own point of view.

One of the data sets that used to be used in assessing quality was backlinks.

Google has shown an inability to determine what is a good link and what is a bad link, and left it to webmasters to do the work.


Again, it isn't an inability. What has changed is that the sort of links that used to be valueless may be assigned a high negative value, probably according to some arbitrary threshold of keyword content, on the spurious assumption that the owner of the recipient site has planted thousands of links on Russian and Indonesian spam hosts to try and game Google. In my case, my site had been at #1 in Google SERPS for years before links like that started their exponential growth: I didn't need them, so why on earth would I have created them?

Google obviously has an interest in getting webmasters to try to control them, as otherwise they would have to do it themselves, or risk the size of the web exceeding their indexing capacity.

Do not imagine for a moment, however, that Google can't tell the difference between good and bad links.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 7:22 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

It isn't an inability: although you can't directly measure the quality of a garment, for example, you can define it in terms that can be measured (like durability).


To use your garment analogy, Google needs to figure out not only which garments are durable (and how durable), but how they should be ranked according to durability and other factors that may be just as important. That's a lot harder than just figuring out how many washings a shirt or skirt will endure.

One thing I've often wondered about is how Google envisions the target reader's preference in say, a non-personalized informational search:

- If John Doe searches on "red widget review" or "cityville public transportation," does Google assume that John would prefer a short, shallow article or a comprehensive, in-depth article?

- Is it conceivable that the high rankings of sites like About.com say less about Google's algorithm than about the tastes of the average searcher (as measured through user testing)? Let's face it: READER'S DIGEST and PEOPLE are more popular than THE NEW YORKER or SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

- Is it really possible for one search engine to meet the needs of a vast and diverse population, unless personalization of results becomes a lot more refined than it is now?

Dymero



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 10:48 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

EditorialGuy and Wilburforce:

I'm not talking about the comments themselves so much as the links in them. Matt's comments were about the links.

EditorialGuy:

I do agree that CMS' are pretty good at filtering spam these days, but there are still many, especially older sites, that didn't have such good filters. That's where you tend to find the bot-made comments with random links.

I just hope that Google considers this when implementing its comment link spam policy.

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4606861 posted 10:51 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is it conceivable that the high rankings of sites like About.com say less about Google's algorithm than about the tastes of the average searcher (as measured through user testing)?

Absolutely in-my-opinion.

I would add [or reiterate since I think we're saying essentially the same thing]: To me the results seem like a searcher bias Google is trying to meet to keep their visitors happy, rather than a Google bias trying to "squash" mom-n-pop and force "Amazon" on their visitors.

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