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Algorithm change July 5th? massive drop in rank July 5th, 2014

 12:51 am on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hey All -

I am new to this forum, and am posting in the hopes that someone can shed some light on my situation, as at this point, I'm well on my way to ulcers and panic attacks. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

I own and operate a small boutique outdoor store in Toronto, Canada. We sell high quality, high functioning, crafted products to the Canadian outdoor market. I've been in business for 6 years. My online store was established in 2009: [my domain link].

I worked hard on the site's SEO, and up until July 5th, ranked very highly in Google organic search. When you typed in "[my niche search term]" I'd have first place with the company name, and subheadings of our top brands. If you typed in any of our main brands ([list of brand names]) we were in 2nd or 3rd position after the manufacturers. Products ranked on the first page also.

This all changed July 5th. Today I am persona non grata on Google. Try searching the terms above - you won't find them. I'm still visible on Bing and Yahoo however.

I haven't been assigned a manual penalty. I reviewed google webmaster tools and can verify that the fetch of the website DOES work and it does find the site. The website URL does show in Google and Google even cached the home page on July 7th - so it definitely knows the pages exist. I reviewed the sitemaps without any issues, there's no warnings in Google webmaster tools for any events, and it was verified with the hosting company that there were no events that happened on the server such as spamming campaigns, server resets or backup restorations that could have caused the drop in rankings.

There's nothing showing on copyscape that anyone ran through the website to scrape content. There's no abnormal spikes in the analytics to show anyone targeting the website either for a ddos type attack. The CDN is online and functioning without any issue too.

I did a Site Backlinks Capture - this showed there are about 210 different domain names that point to me, including 18.6% (277 links) from [a customers domain name] - but this site also points to some of my competitors and they haven't been affected.

Both myself and my SEO pro are flummoxed.

Does anyone have any insight on activity with Google July 4th/5th and how this may have affected my site and business?

Thanks -

[edited by: brotherhood_of_LAN at 1:14 am (utc) on Jul 10, 2014]
[edit reason] specifics [replaced] see the ToS and forum charter. Thank you. [/edit]



 3:18 am on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Is the money you make from the website totally dependent on free traffic that you get from Google? Are you buying Adwords?

There is a growing groundswell of opinion that the days of free traffic are over for sites that Google sees as freeloaders.

The first niche to see this happen were affiliates that used free traffic to make money selling products and services for merchants... very noticeable in the travel sector. It is not unreasonable to think Google would apply the same blowtorch to merchants selling their own products on the back of free traffic.

I'm not promoting a conspiracy theory but when you look at what happens to sites, you sometimes need to look at commercial realities and not obsess only on some possible SEO infraction.


 4:45 am on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hi there, cdnoutdoor, and welcome to webmaster world:

What EXACTLY do you mean by this statement:

"I worked hard on the site's SEO..."

What exactly did you do to improve your SEO?

"Try searching the terms above - you won't find them. I'm still visible on Bing and Yahoo however."

Does that mean that you won't find your site for those terms ANYWHERE in the index? Or about how many spots did you drop?

if you do a search in google like this:


What pages turn up? Are there a lot of unexpected pages showing up?

Are there your pages but with really spammy titles?

What happens when you do a search for an exact phrase on your site that shouldn't appear on any other site?

Also, just to humor me, try this: on a computer that hasn't been to your site, do a search on google for something on your homepage (or do a sixpack search by typing in yourdomainname.com in the google search bar)

Then navigate to your homepage by clicking on the google results link to your page. (To see if possibly your site has been hacked.)


 10:50 am on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Planet 13 -

Thanks for your reply.

RE: I worked hard on the site's SEO...

Working hard on the SEO meant installing and maintaining a very highly rated SEO module for my shopping cart platform, writing product descriptions that were original and informative, maintaining the rss feed with more original content whenever new products arrived, getting products out to other sites and blogs for reviews, and trying to create an original experience on my site for customers.

RE: search site:yourdomainname.com

A list of pages from my site is returned (about 2,620 results). My pages are there, but for instance a product that would list #1 or #2 in organic search is now on page 44 when I specify a site search - for all intents and purposes, it's invisible to the general public. The results aren't spammy (confirmed by my SEO professional). I'm not seeing any unexpected pages.

When I search for an exact phrase from my site (i.e <xyz widgets> was ranked #1 or #2 organically) my description below does not find the page anymore....

"<xyz widgets> is ubiquitous. Real, <ultra high grade> (not consumer grade), fully tested <xyz widgets> made in the USA is not. When you're <snip>"...

Will try the hacking test and report back.



[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:25 pm (utc) on Jul 20, 2014]
[edit reason] Removed specifics, per forum charter and TOS. [/edit]


 10:59 am on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

austtr -

I appreciate your reply.

You may be on to something. I have never paid for Adwords (until last night as an emergency measure), as my organic search results were always good enough that I never needed to.

So is pay to play the new reality with Google? Some advanced warning would have been nice instead of instant decapitation.

Anyone else run across legit businesses being excommunicated by not using Adwords?


 11:57 am on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't believe in this Adwords enforcement. There is a rumor, that Google updated its algorithm on July 5th and it seems like you got hit for some reason.

When I check your exact phrase "xyz widgets is ubiquitous (...)", it was found on 2 different websites. If you have any more of those product descriptions on more than one website (I know, that's pretty common for webshops), we might have just found the problem.

Google doesn't like duplicate content on different domains. It might just have classified your website as "not original", if there are enough of such duplicate descriptions.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:46 pm (utc) on Jul 20, 2014]
[edit reason] Removed specifics, per forum charter and TOS. [/edit]


 12:29 pm on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Itanium -

Thanks for your reply.

I do list my products with two Canadian shopping sites that compare products and pricing amongst retailers, and use the same short blurbs for products as are on my website….this would explain duplicate content. Perhaps changing my product descriptions and updating my feeds to these services would help - I will try this.

Thank you.


 12:42 pm on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't believe in this Adwords enforcement.

Me neither. Been making 5 figures a month for years off of 100% pure affiliate websites (Amazon) with no adsense whatsoever, and my earnings are only increasing every quarter.

The reason "many affiliate sites are being hit" in my opinion is that affiliate sites attract a lot of spammers / shady practices, so there will be a higher percentage of affiliate sites that get hit when compared to other sites, but the reason they are being hit has nothing to do with the nature of the sites (being affiliate-oriented). No other option is a possibility in my mind.


 1:39 pm on Jul 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

When I search for an exact phrase from my site...

That might have limited usefulness for diagnosing a ranking problem. Here is why. A Google search for this:
"<xyz widgets> is ubiquitous. Real, <ultra high grade> (not consumer grade), fully tested <xyz widgets> made in the USA is not. When you're <snip>"

Will give different results from just a fragment from the same sentence, like this:
"fully tested xyz widgets made in the USA is not."

Those searches are not showing a problem with your site. Google Search is not a diagnostic tool. Google search is using an algorithm to determine your intent and provide a relevant result. That's what it is doing. What it is not doing is telling you what's wrong with your site. This is why you should be careful about drawing conclusions from those snippet searches.

SEO issues
This is worth investigating:

getting products out to other sites and blogs for reviews

Is anchor text being used to link to your site?
Are the same sites linking back or are they different sites?
Have you thoroughly reviewed the sites that are linking back to you?

Technical issues
Re the SEO module, take a look at the source code to make sure there aren't anomalies. Make the wrong choice on a setting and you could end up making a common mistake, like putting a no-index/follow meta on high level pages, canonicals, redirects, things of that nature. Go into the code and review.

A conversion tracking script can damage your rankings, too. There are landing page tools designed for PPC that are unsuitable for live pages because they do things like rewrite the URL.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:26 pm (utc) on Jul 20, 2014]
[edit reason] removed quoted specifics, trying to preserve patterns [/edit]


 7:21 am on Jul 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

The "<xyz widgets ...>" search brought up your site for me. What does your Google Webmaster Tools show has happened to impressions since the 5th?

I'd definitely look into that duplicate content issue Itanium brought up. Also the site content is a little thin in places. I looked at the reflective utility widget page and its basically a sentence. Even the "xyz widgets <specifications>" is better but still light. I know its tough with eCommerce pages, but if you and 50 other retailers are listing the same product you have to ask yourself, "why should Google rank my page over these 50 competitors?" Have you thought about adding user reviews? That could help add valuable content to your pages plus bump up sales conversion rates as well.

Your backlink profile doesn't look very spammy off first glance, but I would be proactive and submit a disavow file on anything that may be questionable. If several people are seeing a fluctuation on the 5th that would seem to be a Panda refresh so I'd focus on onsite content factors.

As an aside, can we avoid the "natural search doesn't work anymore, your only hope is adwords" line of reasoning? All but one of the sites I run completely run off of natural search without the help of AdWords. AdWords is a great tool, but trying to find a connection to natural search just isn't there.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:57 pm (utc) on Jul 20, 2014]
[edit reason] removed quoted specifics, trying to preserve patterns [/edit]


 4:17 pm on Jul 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

"As an aside, can we avoid the "natural search doesn't work anymore, your only hope is adwords" line of reasoning? All but one of the sites I run completely run off of natural search without the help of AdWords."



 6:02 pm on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

Are the products that you sell ones that you produce? If not, are you using the same product descriptions as everyone else who sells them?

There was a big Panda update on May 20 and since then there have been many ripples that probably were adjustments to the algorithm. If you suddenly find yourself on the wrong side of Panda you can see big drops.

Robert Charlton

 10:08 pm on Jul 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

Mod's note: I've needed to remove a bunch of specifics in this thread, per the Google Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com] and the WebmasterWorld Terms of Service.

For the protection of all webmasters, we simply do not permit site reviews anywhere in the public areas of WebmasterWorld. Site reviews are available for paid supporters in the Review My Site section of the Supporters area.

I've made efforts to preserve the sense of the many excellent comments here to keep them consistent with the original posts.


 1:59 pm on Jul 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

Apologies to the moderator for posting specifics - duly noted - thanks for cleaning up the posts.

My site's rankings magically re-appeared the morning of July 11th back to where they had been previously (page one, ranking #1 - #4 for various search terms). No slow rise or climbing, just shut off on July 5th, and turned back on July 11th.

Something of a mystery still. I disavowed a few (4) domains that had blog posts with too many links to my site (nothing egregious, just more of a precaution), the day before site re-appeared. My SEO advisor still cannot quantify why or what triggered the event - content, links, form does not seem problematic.

I hope no-one else has to experience the same type of event, as it was harrowing. From what I'd read, having your ranking results disappear can take weeks, if not several months to have them slowly rise from their depressed position.

This was (thankfully) not what happened in my case. Perhaps this can be a ray of hope, and an outlier case study for any webmasters who run into the same type of Google anomaly.

Thanks to all who posted for their suggestions.

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