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Feb 28th: Lost 80% Impressions, Anyone Else Experienced Similar?

 3:45 pm on Mar 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

On Feb 28 my page impressions in Google Webmaster Tools dropped from about 75,000/day to only 15,000, and there is no sign of recovery. Searches for content from my site that used to be on the top of the first Google page now cannot be found after scrolling back 10 or more pages.

There are no messages in Webmaster Tools indicating any problem. Other sites that I have seen with similar content for the past 15+ years still appear where they did before.

Did something drastic happen at Google that day, or is it just me?


[edited by: aakk9999 at 6:25 pm (utc) on Mar 7, 2014]



 6:37 pm on Mar 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hello HymnSite and welcome to WebmasterWorld!

Have you checked your site for any kind of technical issues? Although you say there are no issues being reported in WMT, I would still check the following:

- check that your robots.txt is not blocking the site
- check that Google can crawl your site by using "Fetch as Googlebot" in Google Webmaster Tools
- use the site:example.com to see how may pages Google reports to have in its index and see if this number dropped recently or not
- check your logs to confirm Googlebot is crawling your site

It would be also interesting to see if anyone else experienced a problem with impressions dropping on or around this date.


 8:41 pm on Mar 7, 2014 (gmt 0)


Same experience here but starting on March, 1st.
75-80% drop in impressions, "recovery" (impressions, not visits) on March 5th. Site hit by Penguin in April 2012, never recovered. Submitted a disavow (after deleting up to 150 links) on February 25th. Traffic is up (at today) by 15-20%.

Your site? Penguin? I'm hearing some similar stories in my niche...

Robert Charlton

 8:13 pm on Mar 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

There have been many recent reports of loss in impressions. I'm curious whether the impressions dropping out were for long tail queries or for short tail queries.

My guess is that lower authority sites are losing long tail traffic and higher authority sites are gaining that traffic.

Consider this as anecdotal observation only... but I've been noticing recently that for queries where Google's auto-complete is suggesting many different variants of essentially the same query, the serps for these variations are often roughly the same. I'm also seeing identical serps pages for queries where the changes in the word order or phrasing had previously affected rankings.

Searches I've checked for [service placename] and [placename service], eg, are now producing the same results. This has been coming on for quite a while, now. It's likely that authority for core keywords (or something analogous to what we've considered authority) is becoming a still larger ranking factor.

In this scenario, lower "authority" sites that had depended on specific word order or phrase changes to rank would likely drop down. Thus, many sites are reporting drops in impressions. Again, this is conjecture only, not based on systematic testing.

Are those seeing these drops also seeing accompanying drops in traffic?


 9:04 am on Mar 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Wow! I'm glad I posted, but have to admit that some of the discussion is sailing over my head. I am presently out of country and unable to check or address some of the issues that I do understand.

My drop in impressions is showing a corresponding drop in clicks and similar, though somewhat less drastic, drop in traffic (50% drop in traffic, as opposed to the 75% drop in impressions). The decline is also impacting my Alexa ranking, so I am obviously not the only one seeing the problem.

Many thanks for the feedback and suggestions.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:49 am (utc) on Mar 9, 2014]
[edit reason] removed site url and description, per forum Charter [/edit]


 10:50 am on Mar 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Let me show you a graph :(

It all started on [u]4th of September[/u] with no signs!

On the 28 feb I'm back with this subdomain.


I made no changes to the subdomain, there is no real competition for me on the topic!

I have no explanations for the evolution.

My disavow file has 12 000 domains in it and rising. No links scheme! (hard to believe, I know).

Every day I see 100 auto-generated blogspot subdomains.
I'm a target/magnet for auto-generated content farms / search engines.

It was a big/old site that was scrapped as hell since 2004.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 4:31 pm (utc) on Mar 9, 2014]
[edit reason] Changed link to link directly to .jpg image [/edit]


 2:08 pm on Mar 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

How do you pick domains for your disavow file?


 3:53 pm on Mar 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

See the list from webmaster tools.

- Sites with too many follow links
- pure spam sites
- rss sites
- no pr or 0 pr
- search engine results
- directories
- dmoz clones
- forum profiles and signatures
- auto-generated/scrapped pages


 12:37 pm on Mar 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

@Mentat, what do you do with scrapers who use your content and dont link back. Does disavowing them help Google understand who is the original creator of the same content?


 10:29 pm on Mar 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

morpheus83 - good question, but no answer.
They do not outrank me, but who knows on the long tail?


 6:15 am on Mar 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately that is not the case with us, some scrapers do outrank us, however with time we outrank them, but it sucks to see them outranking us when we post a story thus leeching our traffic on the exclusives that we post.

We are using this form to report them - https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Pw1KVOVRyr4a7ezj_6SHghnX1Y6bp1SOVmy60QjkF0Y/viewform


 6:55 am on Mar 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

I am currently out of country and for some reason I cannot access webmaster tools to see any specific ranking data. My traffic is heavily driven by search engines, and I have not seen a recovery in traffic.


 2:29 pm on Mar 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Seen a drop but no change in ranking for key search terms.


 8:49 pm on Mar 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

My site dropped 35% on Friday, March 14. No clue what is going on.


 9:29 pm on Mar 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

"Google Penalizes Italian & Spanish Link Networks"... check this out...


 10:02 pm on Mar 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Mentat - Doesn't effect me. I don't have any Italian, German or Spanish link networks.

Robert Charlton

 10:05 pm on Mar 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Mods note: I should mention that I have seen HymnSite's site. I took only a very brief look at it when I needed to remove the url of the site from an earlier post. Per our Charter and TOS, we can't get into public discussions of the any site... but for the purpose of this thread not going in the wrong direction, I can disclose that there are many technical issues with the site.

Numerous navigation links when I looked at the site were broken and returned 404 error messages. The navigation itself wasn't structured into what I felt might be searchable categories.

The site was built in frames, something I haven't seen in many years, which provide lots of challenges for search engines. Even if Google did index the framed pages, the content frames simply not well optimized, nor was the content focused. As I remember, the page titles were often repetitiive, and there was no way that titles could have been used to boost relevant content.

Additionally, there's what appears to be a great deal of duplicate content on the site... as I remember without any sort of value-added commentary. Again, we can't get into a discussion of site specifics in a public area of the forum.

I bring this up, though, to suggest that the site was probably ranking on inbound links alone, and it's possible that some aspect of the site's inbound linking, or the linking algorithm, changed significantly around Feb 28. Treatment of (or threshold for) duplicate content may have also changed.

The site did appear on the surface to be extremely well linked, but I did not check the backlinks for Penguin purposes at all.

Possibly, there was a high proportion of link exchanges in the backlink profile.

HymnSite asked...
How do you pick domains for your disavow file?

Up in the top left of almost all pages on WebmasterWorld is a free tools link [freetools.webmasterworld.com...]

The first tool listed is a backlink checker tool for disavow link analysis that I think will help you...

Google Backlink Checker Tool for Penguin & Disavow Analysis
http://backlinks.webmasterworld.com/google-backlink-tool-penguin-disavow/ [backlinks.webmasterworld.com]

I suggest that you first view the two videos about using the tool on the above page. These tools and the videos have been posted by Jim Boykin, whose company owns WebmasterWorld. The tool is in beta, and is free.

The videos are among the best presentations I've seen about the kinds of patterns to look for in analyzing backlinks for disavow. As the videos suggest, there's no pushbutton way to approach this. The patterns can vary from site to site.

If you did a lot of link exchange, you may need to remove your links to partner sites. Before submitting disavow, I would contact site owners and politely request that links be removed. Keep succinct and careful records on these requests, as you will want to submit them with a subsequent disavow request.

This is only a very partial a summary description of what needs to be done. Definitely disavow by domain... don't try to hang on to some of the links in the hopes that they will do you some good.

I would first fix the many technical problems with the site before disavowing.


 10:50 pm on Mar 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Robert, thank you for your review and constructive suggestions. In reviewing available webmaster tools before I left the country I did not see the numerous broken links that you mention, but I will look again when I am back. The frames are a holdover from a long history of being online--back to a time when frames not only assisted navigation, but kept the site's bandwidth consumption low enough to avoid much higher costs. A rewrite of the site to remove the frames is in the works, but it will take time. The most surprising issue to me, though, was the sudden and overwhelming drop in traffic after enjoying high rankings, traffic, and reputation for over a decade and a half. I hope your suggestions help me reverse this drop.

Disavows are something I have to consider very carefully, since my site is online with an express purpose of allowing other sites to use its resources. This is going to be an interesting learning experience, and I appreciate your experience and insights.

Thanks again.


 5:11 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks Robert! I wasn't aware of the page with all the free tools. I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time on them.


 5:23 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

I suggest that you first view the two videos about using the tool on the above page -- The videos are among the best presentations I've seen about the kinds of patterns to look for in analyzing backlinks for disavow.

Strong second -- The tool and videos are absolutely *great* coupled together. The tool provided is second to none imo, especially for free, even if people don't watch the videos -- Really, hands down, no questions. I was completely surprised in a good way to find the tools provided here and the videos only add to them.

Robert Charlton

 1:52 am on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

This discussion continued in this thread....

Still trying to address ranking/traffic drop, lost 80% of impressions
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4674310.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I'm glad the people are discovering the backlink checker tool. I get the sense from the second thread that HymnSite hasn't looked at his backlinks at all, but I can't tell that from his comments.

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