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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.


2:57 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

google has never before "factored in" backlinks while running an index live - they have always been factored in monthly at the update. Perhaps this is a clue to what is going on. A new approach that will eventually lead to continuous updates which would be a technology change in the way google operates.

If that is the case - then to implement they have to start somewhere & maybe this is how they are implementing that change.

If this index stays steady for 1 month and then a normal index occurs then its a fair assumption that the past 2 weeks was google recovering from some huge problem. My guess is it's something new.


3:27 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is there a logical reason why Google, doesnt answer us.

Its a 2 way street.

1st way = you ask for Imput WE GIVE IT.

2nd Way = We ask for Imput you dont give it.

This is a huge problem, and we get a change of subject, "The tone of the webmaster world has changed"?

What in the world does this have to do with whats going on now. Why did so many people just accept that response, and quick change of subject.

Too many people feel WE owe google. And that is wrong, because google infact owes us. Because google has become 80% MS, does not mean they dont have a responsability to the sites it maps out. It has a huge responsability.

I dont get some of you, and most of you wont get me......

I cant seem to find a good analogy, but heres a couple.

Its like the news agency that works hard and finds them self on top. With lots of viewing, do they suddenly start reporting about cats stuck in trees? They have a responsability to their viewers, weather they like it or not. Yes they are a business, but they need to be accurate, and do the best that they can.

Alta vista is a complete joke, my listing is 6 months old. My site is 6 months old, there are probably listings years old....

Google is a business, but it has thrust itself, from hard work into 80% of the interent searches. They are a business with a huge public responsibility, the public made them who they are, the public governs google.


6:22 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

deanril, I agree with your comment.

It would be more helpful if Google could give SEO's more info, but perhaps there is no info to be given.

Maybe they're trying something new that they believe will work well, but it just hasn't been completed so they're not exactly sure if it will work or not.

Now i've confused myself. :)


7:55 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There's been much comment over whether ordinary users see any difference in the quality of Google's current results.

I'm an ordinary user, and I just searched Google for the latest virus to hit me in the past couple of days, WORM_PALYH.A.

Google had no results.

Alta Vista, AlltheWeb, MSN all did.


8:11 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would like to state that I do not notice "major" changes in my keyword areas. The usual position changes up or down 1 or 2 positions are there in the top ten around my domain.

I would like to note that in 4 1/2 years in Google I never got a hit from a "Single Major" competitive keyword, always it has been more than 2 keywords combined at a time.

So, if there are major SE result changes for people that get traffic from people searching with a single keyword, I have no pertinent information to share.

One comment however, and I always feel this. The probability that our competition gains a higher ranking through their hard work is almost always greater than the possibility that we, or google, have done something to lower our ranking.



8:29 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I might not be up-to-date as I simply don't have the time to read all the various threads but what's happening on Google this month does not only affect a few serious webmasters who now get punished for following Google's own guidelines, but also the general user of the search engine. I am such a user, and never before I saw such bad SERP's on Google, with spam and crap all over. Does Google seriously think the common user won't realize this?
I have no idea of the technical side of running a search engine but I can imagine it's difficult. Still, how much sense does this all make?
- In order to introduce a number of new algos Google decides to use a months old (I would say stone aged) index as starting point, blended here and there with a bit of freshie activity.
- Alone to get this "new" old index onto the various datacenters needs them several weeks
- Before we see any of the new algos being implemented we might have to wait another few weeks.
Wouldn't it have been better to bring in the new algos gradually, on a more recent index? Does Google really think the common user will not notice all the crap that's there now? Especially if it stays on for weeks and weeks?
The "best" result that I have for one of my keywords is a site on No. 1 which shows a "Forbidden" error since one week, and the old URL of this No. 1 site on position 2, dead since about six months...


11:25 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Those user experiences should actually be of significant concern to them. I've just hit a 404 as well, where I wouldn't normally expect to.

I'm rather hoping to see some activity today in terms of introducing the April crawl data. Sticking all that in the dbase would certainly move us forward, and hopefully resurrect those missing/fallen quality sites.

They are obviously still looking at the geolocation issue (a totally unnecessary gaff IMHO) and hopefully will also address the new domain penalty issues as soon as things settle down.

I may well be impatient, but if I was Google I would move things forward as quickly as I could. I'm not seeing much sign or urgency just yet though (of course they could well be in denial, as someone above suggested).

"Time is always against us" - Morpheus.


11:28 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Unfortunately, at this point I agree. If the search results are simply affecting the webmasters then I can see making the change and letting webmasters stew while underway.

However, I'm definately seeing a lack of quality in the end user results (being someone that uses Google quite frequently during the day) and this completely baffles me. There is a *lot* of spam in this index, and there are some absolutely bizarre results being returned.

I'm not sure if someone made a bad call, or was simply willing to let bad results creep in while backlinks and data and spam filters are brought back in (a calculated risk), or Google was forced into this because of a lack of resources to allow them to develop this new algo in parallel.

My feeling is that management made a bad call though, or possibly a developer/team of developers made a bad call or convinced management. Somebody over at the Googleplex underestimated the repercussions.

But! With the inertia Google has right now, even if the public saw questionable results here and there for the next two weeks this probably would not cause Google any long term ill effects.

The only bad thing to come out of this is if there was a fundamental change of thinking at Google whereby "questionable results" creeping in here and there was not seen as an issue any more. That, to quote Sir Winston, would be a "slippery slope" indeed.



11:35 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Management making a bad call - Google are not immune from that one then :)

Overall I have not seem any more spam or cr*p than in the older index - but results are certainly different.

But now all the datacentres have the new breed of the index I am now looking forward to April Crawl Data, Backlinks being added etc - I have done a lot of work on my site - and it is now a relatively long while ago as far as Google is concerned - so would like to see some benefits soon :)


11:50 am on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hate to be too pessimistic about this but I doubt we will see any April deep crawl data ever.

GoogleGuy said they will bring in more recent backlinks OVER TIME and also said that the time frame would be that of a NORMAL INDEX CYCLE.

Someone asked if GoogleGuy was lying when he said they would bring in April deepcrawl data. As far as I can see, he NEVER said anything about April, but just used the words "more recent".

I hope I am wrong, but my best guess is that we will have a May deep crawl and a "new index" in mid to late June.


12:22 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I disagree...they have to do something because the index as it stands is awful.

I tell you one thing though...if I see deepbot come by I'm gonna be pretty depressed.



12:39 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

critter, I agree with your thoughts. I just have a sinking feeling that what we see now, will be here for longer than welcome.


12:41 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

From gstewart:

"I'm an ordinary user, and I just searched Google for the latest virus to hit me in the past couple of days, WORM_PALYH.A. Google had no results. Alta Vista, AlltheWeb, MSN all did."

That to me speaks volumes. I really don't think MOST of us should worry about things like partial penalties and whatnot and other problems with newer sites over the past few months not doing well.

Let's use some common sense. Of utmost importance with search engines is freshness and relevancy. The search mentioned clearly indicates that there is something seriously wrong. Yes, we will lose money, but we know it is likely not something we have done wrong and whatever happened will LIKELY be fixed within a month.

BTW, Altavista had the best results for the search.



12:42 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with you Critter. Rolling out this new Algorithm to the 9 datacenters was painfully slow, but now that it appears to be accomplished, it is time to "add in the backlinks"... to apply the results from the April deepcrawl.

It is clear that what we have now represents an index from February, with some freshbot results. New sites have dropped to PR0, and old sites are missing new backlinks and pages added in the past few months.

It hasn't started yet, but I have faith that very soon we should start to see a real dance. When GG says that this should take about as long as a normal dance, I think he was referring to the 4 or 5 days it takes to update the index, not the total cycle of a deepcrawl and update. When we start to see a real dance, we will start to see the real final results. What we have now has got to be temporary.


12:42 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It would be interesting to know if Google have had a sudden increase in feedback from their
"Dissatisfied with your search results? Help us improve." link at the bottom of searches.


12:49 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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

It is clear that what we have now represents an index from February, with some freshbot results.

I would have agreed with you (and it was the case) 48 hours ago, but I'm seeing brand new sites who's first deep-crawl was in April go from grey bar to PR0 in the last few hours.

As far as I'm aware the difference between a grey bar and PR0 (ignoring penalties - these are brand new sites) is the difference between a freshbot listing and being in the full index.

I believe that it's possible the April deepcrawl data is being integrated (live and on the fly) as we speak.

Any thoughts on that or am I way off the mark?



12:52 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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

I think the overall tone and intelligence level has declined a bit (mostly in the Google News forum, which is starting to feel a bit more like the other big search-engine forums site). This is probably the inevitable consequence of WW's increased popularity, which brings in more casual visitors who don't take the time to read--or think--before they join the fray. Anger and frustration also contribute to a lowering of tone. (If WW were to filter out every post that said "Without Webmasters, Google wouldn't exist" or "It's all a plot to sell AdWords," the daily message count would drop by half.)


1:13 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

trillianjedi - The evidence of the update will be when the number of backlinks increases for these new sites, or when backlinks include pages that were recently linked to your site, or recently added to the web.

If you check the backlinks for your site, using the google toolbar, you can then change the url to www-ex.google..., and to the other datacenters. At the moment, all 9 datacenters show the same number of backlinks for a site... so no dance.

Another good indicator will be when there is a new message posted to the Google news forum on webmasterworld every second! There will be a lot of excitement around here when the new data is applied to the index.


1:23 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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


Thanks for the comments. I don't quite understand why, if these brand new site listings are just the freshbot listings on top of, say, the Feb index, why they are PR0 and not gray bar.

PR0 in the past meant "in the index but no rank". Grey bar used to mean "not in the index, if in the SERPS its a freshbot listing".

I'm ignoring penalties as an explanation for the moment.

Is it not possible that the April deepcrawl data is being incorporated now, but that the backlinks calculations and index of "links" data will be added later?

I suppose I'm envisaging a slightly different model for google than the usual and historic "dance".


<EDIT: added - on one of these sites I've had a quick look at the google "cache" of one of the pages and something on there (the number of guests being ridiculously high) leads me to feel it's data from the deepcrawl. "Guests" on the site were high that day (mid-April from memory) because of hard and fast hitting by deepbot. It's possible that freshbot hit it hard more recently too - I'll check the logs>


1:35 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

trillianjedi - all will be revealed in time.... hopefully in a short time. I'm really not sure of the difference between a grey bar and a white bar for a page added by the freshbot, but it doesn't really matter. The only thing that really matters is the SERPs. A highly relevant page will appear fairly high in the SERPs, despite the apparent PageRank. We have all seen new pages appear in a top 10 spot for highly competitive terms... thanks to Freshbot (fresh tags), and the page's relevancy for the search phrase.

Personally, I think some news articles from big technology web publishers have been staying relevant in the SERPs too long (6 months, 9 months, or longer)... as well as press releases from the largest technology companies. Has anyone else noticed how CNET and their news site news.com is now a PR0 site? I wonder why?


1:42 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm pretty sure you are correct that grey bar = not indexed and white bar = indexed, but no rank. I recently uploaded a new site, which had a grey bar. It went white soon after I submitted it to google. Freshbot also came up in my logs.


1:50 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I would have agreed with you (and it was the case) 48 hours ago, but I'm seeing brand new sites who's first deep-crawl was in April go from grey bar to PR0 in the last few hours.


I have a site that went online in mid-March and was only semi-crawled (one level deep) by Google. As of yesterday, the crawled pages are PR0, while the rest are greyed out in the toolbar. I am not too worried just yet because I am seeing the site in the index, but just like anyone else I would like to get rid of that PR0 ...


2:32 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I had a site that was online in April (appeared in the dance of April 11) but is nowhere to be seen in the index now...zero pages.

So this leads me to believe that March and April deepcrawl data is not in the index, but may be appearing over time. No indication of its appearance yet though.



4:07 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hey! Just got visited by freshbot for the first time...maybe this is a good sign.



4:27 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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

Critter and DVDBurning,

Checked my logs - none of my data from the April deepcrawl is in the new index. It is all freshbot.

What's interesting is freshbot is "deep"-crawling my site...

I started another thread on this.

Critter : are you seeing the same?



5:57 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

...and Google owes us webmasters...what? Nothing, that's right, nothing. Did we pay to get in? No. Did they list us high if we produced a good site..Yes. Was it profitable for us? Yes, for most. If Google wants to experiment with a new algo, that's there perogative. No, they did not have to ask us holy webmasters for permission first. Why? Because they owe us NOTHING! Yet, one sign of a little problem and all of us start freaking out! Why? Because we put all of our eggs into the Google basket. Many of you will say, but Google accounts for 85% of searches. Well tough, ever heard of advertising offline too? I'm almost 100% certain that everyone I know uses Google. Have I heard any complaints from them about bad results? NO. Why? Because Google is still the best at returning what the user is looking for. Time for all of you to take a breath, step back and keep working on your sites. Frankly, freaking out here all the time is a waste of time. Make your sites BETTER!....End of rant...


6:26 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

And we all bow down to the great Google God. How sad.

Fortunately, there aren't too many people around who don't understand that PARTNERSHIP is in the best interests of all - and that includes Google. It's a balance, which has to be respected by both sides.

If one side feels the other is falling short, as in this case at present, it is damaging to BOTH sides.

That's self evident, but obviously needed saying.


6:30 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

the internet is a shared property, like the land. God gives us this.

nodbody owns another body anything.

Each survives on others.


6:40 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You sound a little hot under the collar.
I agree that Google doesn't owe anyone anything, except creditors. ;)

Altavista didn't owe anyone anything either and we all see how relevant they are now.

No one owes anyone anything, we get it. Why so defensive over Google?


6:59 pm on May 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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

>And we all bow down to the great Google God. How sad.

"And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made"
-Paul Simon

Interesting observation about people around here. They really do seem to do this. Only difference is the Google is not neon, but CRT phosphors.

This 187 message thread spans 7 pages: 187

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