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Google's Wobbles

Or Maybe: The Rise and Fall of Search Engines



6:46 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

The problems reported are actually becoming far more rational and trends are emerging.

That bus which GoogleGuy was talking about in the earlier -SJ update thread, when urging webmasters not to worry about each bump on route.... it could well be starting to stray from the road... and in full view of the searching public.

Is the Plex loosing its grip? Consider the following:

a) This thread: [webmasterworld.com...] Sorry.... a few may gloss over or apply positive spin... but this is a real mess. That cannot be hidden any more, as the scale is wide and actually seems to be growing as the forum posts become more rational. Yes, in some sectors the searching public WILL notice.

b) The geolocation fiasco. Wrong decision, no warning at all to the searching public, and certainly alienation of some. Another real mess.

c) Unfair penalties. Anyone getting a human response on these? I bought a new domain in January. Worked for ages on it, and... PR0. Why? Someone had previously owned it in Sept 2001 and got a penalty. Emails explaining and begging for common sense over a month ago ignored. I'm not the only one.

And yes there are other bits and pieces demonstrating this trend.

The impression from all this is not good. Individually these sorts of issues do cause damage and potentially any one could backfire into substantial adverse publicity, loss of customer/searcher support, etc.

Collectively, the story is getting bigger than the sum of its parts.

I make no bones about being a Google fan, so for me, the above is of great concern. More than any reason because I have seen it before, as have others. This sort of... well it looks like sloppiness or lack of correct focus... was evident when Alta Vista started it's rapid decline.

Maybe over confidence is the cause, or lack of hierarchical control, or just bad judgment. Who knows. But here's a point: when a search engine has fallen previously the first group to have drifted away have been webmasters. That's why I have asked on a different thread: "What the hell is going on".

C'mon Google.... sort it. This is shakey ground and I'm beginning to wonder what is next. It's doing no-one any favors, least of all Google.


10:50 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, for two weeks or so have been sitting back, reading, watching and pondering. I find it interesting that indications of the changes were noted at least two months ago. Posts related to the changes of the freshbot purpose including checking 404's were characterised.

GG you asked about posters, and their absence in these long posts. Have noticed this myself and I am sure many are like me, having read the initial posts, indicating this will take time to sort itself out. (as you have indicated). If google is looking for feedback, then tell us this is the update, and sj results are the final. I am patient enough not to rant about my listings if they are temporary. When it sorts itself out, then I will assess the damage or improvement. It is my understanding this update is not complete at this time.

As an example the number of links have been in total disarray for the past few days, moving +/- 30%. Would send a great update thread one day...then complain the next. Sorry but dont have the time to do that. More important things like beer sampling takes precidence.


10:54 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've done about a dozen searches today and found what I wanted.


1:31 am on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If you want to see what a really bad index looks like - try msn


2:01 am on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Totally agree...

The current index is like having your pastrami sandwich, which you are used to eating with mustard, without mustard.

MSN is like eating sh*t.



5:03 am on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

I've been running sites since '99, paying attention to SEO since '01, and spending time in WW for only a few months. Guess that makes me a newbie on three fronts! ;-)

As for why people are up in arms here, maybe it's the poorer results (now public after initial implications that these results would not go public for a while), plus the lack of clarity as to which data centers are really close to what Google thinks is good (if any are yet)...rather than simply the crazy rantings of "newbies" like me. (GG, if you do decide to come clean on which data center is furthest along, please don't say it's "-sj/-fi/etc," because at least so far, actual results do vary, at times dramatically.)

It's no mystery to me that not many folks in here are filing those Dominic reports at Google's spam page. As noted before, when the data centers keep changing, and GG keeps telling us that they will change more, many might feel that there's little point. On the other hand, tell us (which I don't believe you have yet) that one of these data centers truly represents a product that you all feel very good about *as is* and see what happens.

So again I ask, is Google happy with what we're seeing, or not?

I offer Google on my site (a drop in the bucket to Google), but this is the first time that FAST results seem equal to Google. As a site owner, and given the costs of using Google's service, well it has me thinking. (I've said more than once in other places that overall, our sites are not being hurt by Dominic, so I'm perhaps a minority case for whom overall there isn't much of a difference in our own rankings *so far*... I can't help it if some think I 'protest too much'...sorry, not the case). I have some vested interest in Google, both as a site owner who uses Google's results, and a consumer user. Either way, I'm not so short sited or tunnel focused that I can't see the poorer quality since Dominic started spreading.

It's spooky, but the posts I'm reading from GG about -sj et al remind me of something I've seen before. I used to work at a very large company, in a large industry known for big egos and shooting stars (media related). When our company was on top, management started to believe, to an extent justifiably, that they were the smartest kids on the block. And they were for a while, if results are the measure.

The odd thing was, as things started to deteriorate (not completely - the company is still around as a shell of its former self), not only was our management team unaware that they were losing the confidence of clients/users/partners, but also, even many of the really good, thoughtful middle managers didn't see it...they were all convinced of the rightness of all the company's moves - by past successes, and the continued confidence of management. Many people didn't see even the slightest reason to worry...even after 20-30% of their business was out the door. Then a few saw it, then more, then all at once everyone "knew it all along." ;-)

I'm not saying Google is dead or even dying yet. I'm saying that Google has shown itself to be *potentially* unreliable, and not certainly not trustworthy, for the first time since I've been watching for the last four years. (Sidebar: in marketing and branding, when a brand loses the trust of it's most dedicated and/or knowledgeable users, that's often a bad indicator of things to come).

For now, I would still be somewhat surprised if Google dropped the ball longer term, given the many brilliant moves the company has made in the last 36 months. But I'd be less surprised now than a month ago. A lot less surprised.


5:20 am on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I believe google will be just fine, as every co. hits a few bumps along the road of growth.
On the other hand, a SE is only as good as its (most recent) SERPS.
An automobile manufacturer, for example can afford to make a relative lemon every once in a while. It still has all the good models driving around acting as advertisements.
A search engine user has no monetary or emotional investment in the product however, so may be fickle and slow to return..


6:12 am on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm confused as to what's going to occur. We've dropped down in every data center except SJ and IN. It seems like we've been pushed out of every other data center. Oh well. Every other search engine has us in the top 10 and top 20 so I guess google must know something more than the others.


1:48 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member caveman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Hey Napoleon, I think I've already commented on our SJ index at length, and given people some idea of what to expect.....We're always looking for feedback on what we can do better. In another thread, I gave a way to give specific feedback to Google about the SJ index: do a spam report with "dominic" in the comments. I've since reminded people about that method a couple times. Yet the number of reports via that form has been less than even the number of posts on this thread. After 3000+ posts about this index on WebmasterWorld, we're sitting at around 30 concrete suggestions about what's bad/good about the SJ index. By that measure, SJ is definitely an improvement over past indices.

Actually, while it is true that GG has commented repeatedly on Dominic (beyond perhaps what anyone has the right to expect), I can't say that it is clear to me yet if what we're looking at is a set of SERP's that Google is happy with, or not...so I guess that means I'm with Visi's and wackmaster's comments above: Is -SJ far enough along that Google is now happy with it, or not? If not, it is a waste of time to give input.

Hasn't anyone else noted that GG is downright reluctant to say whether -SJ is something that Google is proud of right now (as opposed to something that they *will* be proud of in future, when the index, algo, backlinks, etc are all up to date).

If the speculation is correct that the new system is more symantically sophisticated and better able to offer intuitive and relevant results than previous SERP's, then who could argue with that.

I don't think anyone in here has a problem with changing algo's and SERP's per se; that is part of the game. What I think upsets people here is that Google has released a work in progress that in some categories seems to be an improvement, but in other categories seems to be a disaster. I for one DO see lots of spam. Happily, our main site is faring quite well for now, but I also would like to know if that is a sign of the future...right now, I'm not betting the ranch.

The question that I'm more interested in is this: is the nature of WebmasterWorld changing? As traffic seems to double every few months, I see fewer senior members posting. I think I've witnessed more predictions of the imminent death of Google (film at 11! :) in the last six months than in the year and a half before that. And I've seen more people calling each other names than I used to. It's something I think about sometimes. How do other members feel about the tone of WebmasterWorld over the past few months? Same, different?

Gee, that was a not so subtle post. Guess I'll take back the commment I first made about this being a nice place. Starting to feel a bit...clubby?...in here. Think I'll go out and get some fresh air. ;-)


2:08 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

How do other members feel about the tone of WebmasterWorld over the past few months? Same, different?

Because Google has changed the status quo, the status quo is freaking out. Updates have been less frequent. Freshbot insertions have been less frequent. And apparently, we are in a new waiting period to see the NEW NEW update.

I can understand why people might be jittery. For example, think about a marketing company that is known to produce results by creating sites and getting hits using a predictable procedure. Now the procedure has changed. There has got to be literally hundreds of thousands of sites that have come to depend on the regular monthly update and fresh insertions. Is it OK if I say that I am one of them?

The NEW NEW update may bring about a more positive tone to WebmasterWorld. It all comes down to this:

If I perform an action, will I get a predictable reaction? (in terms of both time and results)


2:33 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Strange Comparisons:

The Matrix : Googleplex (computer simulation created by machines to enslave the webmasters & seo's)

Agent Smith : GoogleGuy (replicates himself like a virus and attempts to convince us of Google normality)

If there is a Neo or Morpheus out there please step forward, I'd like to take the red pill and escape the Google dream world.

Just havin' a bit of fun while we wait for this long and arduous Dominic update....


2:39 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have NEVER seen this much furore over a Google update, and it's clear that something has gone wrong. HOWEVER, this is not the first time there has been a problem like this (ableit on a smaller scale) - for example, the "degraded" Google results story was run on Slashdot. I remember that people there were predicting the Death of Google. Of course, next update was fine and they'd fixed the problems.

I suspect that's what is going to happen here. This is a bad update. Google knows it is a bad update. Google will be working to fix this, because the longer it's about, the more market share they will lose. Most importantly, they need to get on top of it before the surfing public gets the impression that something is wrong.

I am suprised that they pushed through this update, but remember that Google updates are getting later and later. This is the update we *would* have expected in April. I guess this points to issues generating the index, possibly due to new algorithms. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the Googleplex.. they MUST realise that there's a problem. But these are smart people and they MUST be working on a fix.

In a couple of weeks time most probably everything will be back to normal and the index will be looking good. If this ISN'T fixed then we're looking at serious problems indeed, with serious consquences.


2:46 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> before the surfing public gets the impression that something is wrong <<

Surely can't be too far off... all it takes is a few news outlets to start running the story.

They are VERY VERY lucky that there isn't a HIGH profile competitor limbouring up (as referenced earlier re Yahoo).


2:59 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I'd be happy to give feedback once I have some idea what the serps will look like. No use in wasting time now.


3:08 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google knows it is a bad update.
Really? The $64,000 question, I'd say.

From the tone of GG's responses in this, and many other threads, I'd say Google's attitude - if GG is representative - is more like:

"This is much ado about nothing. Overall, while webmasters that spam a lot may be up in arms, we here at the Plex don't believe that the everyday user sees any real issue; in fact, we think that even right now, the SERP's are better than they used to be, and will get much better still in the near future. This furor is just a few loud voices amongst a much larger, more sanguine crowd..."

Now, please don't flame me - this is what I *fear* Google is thinking right now...not what I think...

I see it more as Caveman noted above; some results better, some clearly worse, and certainly more spam floating to the top. Most importantly, I believe that this release was thoughtless and ill-considered, because of its timing. One must separate intent from current reality. More recent data, backlinks, filters, etc. should have been in place prior to launch...even if it meant living with the (previously fine) results for several months.


3:24 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks Wackmaster for pointing that out!

People keep posting that Google MUST know that something is wrong, when, in fact, it appears to be just the opposite. GoogleGuy has said a few times that they are quite pleased with the new index.

Also, I'm sure that they aren't that happy about using very old data, but it doesn't appear that they are that concerned about it either.


3:28 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Really? The $64,000 question, I'd say.

I think the clue is in the way it took so long to roll out. It doesn't take over two weeks to get the update out. And we *know* that the basic index is a an old one with freshbot results nailed on top of it. If we can spot that, then Google's management can.

Here's an example of a serious problem relating to a global technology company that turns over about $80 billion annually. They have a new product range, announced in about February or so, when they created a website for it. This is a *major* multimillion dollar launch that is strategically important, and technically interesting to customers. The web site is named after the brand name of the product. A week ago, if you typed the brand name in, the product site came up first. Now, it doesn't come up AT ALL. Indeed, if the Freshbot does its thing, I'm likely to have the #1 result for my affiliate site. Kerching. Now, this isn't a problem for me, but even I have to admit that's NOT what I'd expect from Google's search results. Now, you can bet that multibillion-dollar-corporation is gonna be on to Google with the question "where the heck is our web site?"


3:45 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Here is a highly content rich site which is about 5 months old and does not yet have the majority of it's traffic coming from non-search sources.

This is total daily page views across the entire site.

* 5 May 2003 4445 Monday
6 May 2003 4147 Tuesday
7 May 2003 4025 Wednesday
8 May 2003 3895 Thrsday
9 May 2003 3576 Friday
10 May 2003 3052 Saturday
11 May 2003 3140 Sunday
*12 May 2003 4196 Monday
13 May 2003 4182 Tuesday
14 May 2003 4036 Wednesday
15 May 2003 3782 Thursday
16 May 2003 3318 Friday
17 May 2003 2637 Saturday
18 May 2003 2684 Sunday
*19 May 2003 2951 Monday
20 May 2003 2984 Tuesday

Check the traffic on Monday's as this new and improved index rolled out. It gets worse each week as the new index gets onto more data centers.

Conversions are down by about 20% so "concentrate on conversions" does not pan out so far unless you consider that traffic is down by 32% and conversions are only down by 20% is acceptable.

I was glad to see the old index back when I searched on www.google.com this morning. The extra 1000 or so visitors seem to be glad as well.


3:51 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


i just want to say 2 my sites pr up 1.

no backlinks besides dmoz amd google.


I am happy though..


4:06 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

is the nature of WebmasterWorld changing? As traffic seems to double every few months, I see fewer senior members posting

One obvious change is visible from the home page. The last thread Brett (or the top mods) have headlined started on 12-May -- way over a week ago.

If I just dropped by to check breaking news, the home page would be telling me to "go away, there's nothing new here".


4:12 pm on May 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I use a company to place ads on my sites and because I have hundreds of domains (all ending in a distinctive manner)the ad service set up a special verification which just keyed on the ending. Google has been doing considerable advertising on that ad service and I notice that the Google ads are perfectly keyed to the subject of the particular site;ie, Music, Motorcycles, travel etc. Since none of my specific domains or sites are listed by the ad service, HOW DO YOU KEY ON THE SUBJECT?

This is driving me crazy.


1:53 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My biggest problem other than site being dropped (hopefully temporarily) from the index, is the time I spend checking back here and at the data centers for a kernal of information.
Is there just a way to email when the real update has occured...and I mean April's crawl info added, not this current thing.


2:02 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rfgdxm1 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

The real update has occurred twilight47. Expect things to stay the same for at least one month or more. If not, just check this board once daily. If there is any major change, this will be obvious because of a huge thread about it.


2:19 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I hate to bring this up again, but does everyone consider this current format an update?
Technically it seems to be just a re-indexing without any deep crawl updated info. Shouldn't it be called something else other than an update?


2:21 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Now here is the question I have had for some time now. Will we ever see Aprils deep crawl data? I did some very interesting things last month and I was very interested to see what the deep crawl would pick up. SERP's aside I would really like to see what was gathered in April.


2:26 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

This is not an "update" in any sense previously used here. It is glorified everflux or superflux, a major shift in results based on old, non-updated deepcrawl data and freshbot data.

An update will occur when new data is incorporated into the permanent index. As posts here have shown, the freshbot data is behaving like freshbot data and dropping in and out of the index all the time.

The results certainly have changed, but updated they are not. As Google Guy has said, a process is underway where new data and spam filters (for heavens sake better...) will be added so that the index is updated.


2:28 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rfgdxm1 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Let's put it this way twilight47. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. There was an update, and it spread to all the datacenters just like in every other Google Dance. Absent anything happening out of the ordinary between now and the next update, I'd say this update is finished.


2:30 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Google rules may relax when they have more disk
space. I think a lot of the severe-algorithm
decisions are being influenced by the 3 billion
pages limit they have right now.

On the internet, 3 billion pages is a very
moderate number, perhaps even a deficient number.



2:48 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I just checked www-in.google.com and it's using the "updated" data, so I guess that means all 9 datacenters are finally using the new index. According to Googleguy the next step is to start "factoring in" more recent data such as backlinks, the latest crawl, and spam algos. Let's see how long that takes, but gradual seems to be the tone these days. It's taken a month to get this far, I reckon it'll take another month or so before the index is relevant again. Good luck!



2:52 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

A lot of people are reporting dropped PR's, but a site I optimised still holds it's regular PR of 5, but where it previously held #4 on a two word product query 'widgety widgets' it has now bombed from the rankings completely.

Round of applause for google though because that very same query pulls up on Page 1 a company that makes boxes, one use for which is mentioned on the site as being to put 'widgety widgets' in.

Way to go google. People search for widgets, and you give them boxes for widgets. Nice...


2:54 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

GG spoke about sending info on Domonic....spammy sites....good sites not included etc etc.....where do we do this?

a spam report

I dont have a spam report as such.....more a clean site now seems to be missing.

Whats the correct procedure for doing this.

Thanks :)

This 187 message thread spans 7 pages: 187

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