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September, 2002 Google Update Discussion - Part 1

Discussing the major changes that took place



3:32 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

How on earth can they justify dropping sites that were ranked in the top 10 and are now page 20 and NOTHING at all has changed on the sites from the last month?

The biggest thing is they move the toilet mid stream without a hint they are going to do it...(change the rules)

Googles a joke..

tired of their games..

off to support ANY other search engine..enough of this every month change the rules nonsense..good bye Google ..Good riddence..


3:54 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

without a hint they are going to do it...(change the rules)

I think this is the point.

Every month, some scrambling on the positions, even with not-changed sites.

What does it means?

It means, IMHO, trying to make impossible, for us webmaster/SEO, any fine-tuned 'valuable' understanding of how Google ranking works.



4:34 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


See that is exactly it. A lot of the true seo people aren't the problem. They are actually trying to get sites to the top that actually belong there. The spammers and bullsh!ters are the people that ruin it. People who try all kinds of tricks with no real relevant content that are the issue. But when you go to the extent that you are displaying results that are totally irrelevant, this is when it becomes a bigger issue.

I guess it is a work in progress. Time to work on All the Web, I have a feeling they are the next big thing.


5:05 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Love them or hate them, but when you're doing an online business, you can't do without them -- at least for now.

However, we should try to "diverisfy" away from this mad SERPent and explore other means of promotion.

Good luck!


5:14 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

explore other means of promotion

So, the AdWords algo works fine.. ;)


5:17 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

No comfort, I'm sure, but now you know how many of us have felt for the better part of a year now. Your post echos my exact sentiments from this past December when I awoke to find my CLEAN, former page 1 ranking/PR6 site slapped with PR0 out of the blue and for no apparent reason...

Google's penality literally took food out of my families mouth this year.

I said good riddence, too. We sure missed the traffic, though. Problem is, they hold so much power/leverage over the results in such a wide reaching scope. Nonetheless, it really is SO unfair.


6:01 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

A search of googleguys posts in the WebmasterWorld search facility provides an insider insight that people should analyse carefully. GG is hardly ever direct, but his replies have enough clues to reinforce what many theorised already and suggest some news things...

Some examples and conclusions i have drawn:

1. GG in one post warned webmasters against engaging in SEO at all.

2. Google does not NEED SEO's. They are a hindrance rather than a help overall.

3. With continual changing between updates as well as more continually more complex algos that kick in monthly, Google wants to make their algos immune from reverse engineering or cracking. They are getting closer to that goal. That is why I am seeing, I think, heaps of Webmasters who have been optimizing for say a month or 3, devastated that "simple" rules that are based on theories from recent history have proved ineffective or even destructive. Whether the index has "settled" at this time is beyond the point. The message - focus on making a good site, and let Google focus on indexing good content.

4. GG says that "manipulating" Page Rank may well get you into deep manure.

5. GG has publically and enthusiatically encouraged Webmasters to focus on other engines. So he would be very happy that dauction is now following his advice!

6. (PS there are so many other brilliant hints from GG in the past relating to cross linking and all the major concerns that I can only suggest again that people do the Googleguy search on WebmasterWorld. i have only covered a couple)

At present, I cant see any reduction in relevance for Google in the terms I follow. In fact Im seeing it improve yet again given the current www.

There may well be big changes in casino/gambling, property, SEO, web hosting and other much more competitive areas. In fact Ive a working theory that most of the webmasters (but certainly not all) who think they have been hit in the last index may be from these sort of broad market, high-potential-revenue-generating areas. Ive said for a long time that Google's aim is to index and promote good "generally non-commercial" content. If the latest update is encouraging webmasters of these sites to find other avenues for promotion that is good - it only speeds up the inevitable.

7. so my number 7 tip is - for long term web exposure and promotion, if your are a commercial site, store or affiliate site, look elsehwere than Google and start getting used to paying for listings. Its what we do already in our commercial sites. Google is rewarding our informational sites quote nicely thankyou.

Sites that have been up the top for a while may well not have deserved to be, and a new filter has finally caught up with then, bring some unoptimized sites to the top. That is not a bad thing, nor does it mean the Google is 'orrible.

If Google "notified" webmasters of changes (and google has only given broad general guidelines ever that are as valid now as ever) it would cause major problems for providing relevance to their customers. As far as more specific "tricks and tips" for optimizing for Google, you could only have developed them from your own working theories, and chit chat on boards like this. They are theories only, google has never confirmed them, so what are the "changes" you want Google to notify? Changes to your personal theories?

Read what GoogleGuy actually says, and build on his clues, no matter how much you dislike them.

PS Any Search engine that is easily manuplulable will never provde good results. I dont suggest Alltheweb is a good place to start!

I remember several years back people saying the same thing of another market leading search engine - AV - that they would sue or that they have "broken them financially". What hogwash. Google ranking is a bonus. It's free. And it's ephemeral. It's no basis for making a living, though it can help. They give something back to webmasters if webmasters give something back to them to help them make a great service. If google went bust tomorrow where would you be?

I dont agree with others who say AV went belly up because they lost the faith of webmasters, or dropped/changed listings. They simply failed because they changed to be a portal rather tha concentrating on search exclusively (and that was driven by corporate group changes), and the quality of google just out-competed them.

II'd wait to see the reactions of Google's real customers to this update, rather than Webmasters, before I come to a conclusion on any change in quality of the Google index or whether it is "orrible" or not.

[edited by: chiyo at 6:07 am (utc) on Sep. 28, 2002]


6:01 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

Shoestring, did you get a PR0 or were you just dropped this month? Due to what I think was a server error, my site was out of Google for a month. I'm sure that the sites I link to are sqeaky clean. Could this just be bad luck for you this month?


6:06 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

The search engines wern't created for us to profit from. We're SEO's, hackers in a sence that we use the knowledge we share to reverse engineer the algarythms to our advantage. The question is, can you handle the game?

They give what they feel is good results to their web surfers, SEO's can do for good and for bad, but do the search engines want all this clutter, is that what theyre web surfers want to see? So maybe you feel you didn't do anything wrong - its their search engine, their program. Maybe what they did stopped a lot of spam and the methods used just changed yer ranking. I hate to say it, but one of my sites is highly ranked on the search engines and shouldn't be. It was a test site - for research purposes to see if i could figure out how to gain #1, and well I did it. It shouldn't be there, its useless to people surfing who are looking for what they stumble upon but it shouldn't be there. So last month I changed the site and added the information websurfers wanted - im not #1 anymore but still more useful than before.

Can you handle google>? Or are you looking for a free ride - because that is something google doesnt offer. Play the rules right, figure out what you did wrong, what changed and learn from it. Get back up couz its not the end of the world unles you give up. :P


6:14 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

rfgdxm1, we were hit with PR0 way back in December of 2001 when it first reared its ugly head. In March or April of 2002 we were "restored" to a PR3, half of the former 6, and have remained there ever since. The rise back to 3 did next to nothing to help our positions vs. the full PR0, though... We've long ago written off Google as a reliable traffic provider and/or accurate/fair serp.


6:19 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

Shoestring, even the PR0's can get brought back up, ive had pr0 sites and without a email to google i got the site back in in 2 months. Required about 50 link backs to my site which i didnt have before, some content changes and changes in my ways of designing. I dont know for sure, heh heck who knows but if the bot runs into yer site enough from the right places i feel there is hope for anybody.

Google hasnt always been fair to me but I havnt given up, not on google not on AV or any of them. Rub their back and they'll rub yours.


6:29 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Oh, I agree EliteWeb. We did all that (although Google still doesn't seem to want to recognize our 100's of links) just to get back to PR3.

If anything, it wised us up to NOT place too heavy of a reliance on any one source of traffic.

Most of us who complain aren't looking for a free ride, just a level playing field. We have been (unjustly we feel) snagged by a filter while bigger, better funded competitors continue to spam their way into the top ten...


6:54 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

"Google is rewarding our informational sites quote nicely thankyou."

Great post, chiyo. There are always exceptions but content continues to rule Google. People without good content look for shortcuts. Google merely looks at some things, like backward links, as evidence of value of the content of the site. Anyone who looks at backward links as something that Google will value has their head up their butt. They are missing the point by a mile.

The "rule" is, get good content that a searcher will look for. Google will tweak the ways it judges content as more people do things that make it appear that there is good content. There is nothing at all wrong with exchanging links with a semi-related site. It's not against the rules and it is a positive thing in itself, but in terms of good content it's trivial. Google, and more important searchers, don't want the top search result to be the one with the best linking(!) even if the top search result HAS good linking.

The one thing a bot-crawling Google can't do is recognize quality content compared to merely on-topic content. If a travel site says the best way to get from Chicago to New York is via Dallas, Google will never be able to recogize the non-quality of that advice. That's why there will always be some spam sites will do well, along with their cheating tricks they just spam out a volume of content that isn't very unique or quality, but it will be content. Report the spam and it will eventually go away.

Mistakes Google makes like overvaluing page titles, older sites and bigger sites is due to its effort to find content. It can get tricked into thinking that these on-topic titles, mildewy links, and reams of interlinked pages are representative of good content, but its an error of the best intentions, seeking good content.


7:06 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The number one serp for a term I follow is so far dominated by an awful FP 4.0 page that isn't in dmoz, and has no PR.

I've never seen it before. This is a poor result (Goodness, this is an awful amateur web site) that makes the serp look shameful.

I will, however, wait until the dance is over before I start to foam at the mouth. These things usually look weird until they're settled.


7:10 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

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

Nicely put, chiyo. steveb and EliteWeb put it pretty well too. In my experience, the best SEOs have the ability to put themselves into the role of the typical user.

If you take as a given that Google wants to give the best page to the user that it can, you're pretty far down that path. An SEO who can see things as a user ends up making a site that users like, and those sites tend to succeed on their own. The SEOs who are on the same wavelength as users tend to avoid shortcuts, and his or her sites attract a following (and rankings) more easily.


7:37 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

nicely, pretty..
The title of this discussion is 'Google is Horrible'.
You're OT, GoogleGuy..



7:48 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Exactly, why should we all be able to sit back every month, rubbing our hands together and waiting to see our sites climb, just because we're fortunate enough to be members in this forum, and apply all the simple and quick tricks to our sites.

Its just a little bit of a shake up, whether it was necessary I don't know, I was extremely happy with the Google SERPS before, and post update I'm finding myself having to search onto page 3 and 4 and 5 and even 6 before I get satisfactory results (or a site that is cross browser compatible).

But what obligation does Google have to us as webmasters, none.! It has an obligation to its users first and foremost.

I think Google is now using very subject and content specific algos, so there is not one algo in particular, not one magic formula - I think it almost has the ability to recognise the keywords you are trying to target and then apply penalties (not PR0) if you overplay the keyword, and this is probably going to be the only way forward for all engines not just Google.

Where do you get the most spammy sites? On the highest hitting keywords, IMO Google probably now uses technology similar to wordtracker, finds the highest hitting keywords and then goes harsh on the sites targeting those words that are verging on spammy. (Actually very clever)

[edited by: chowcat at 7:53 am (utc) on Sep. 28, 2002]


7:52 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

No, he's not OT. He is addressing succinctly the - fundamentally very simple - fact that there are no shortcuts. Don't optimise your site, don't even attempt to crack the algo, just always remember the very simple fact that a well designed, well respected and enriching site is ALL that ANYONE, Googlebot included, cares about. Build it and they will come. This is not to say some slime will temporarily ooze in through the back door, but it's ephemeral.

I've never seen such a heated and pain-filled response to an update. Understandable when you see income threatened. But, to be frank, just tough up and take your lumps. I would be surprised if most calls of 'foul' end up as anything more than 'my reading of what's needed worked just great for a while there - it doesn't now, and that's not fair'.

'Google have just attempted to improve their results, and they didn't notify me beforehand'? Wise up and start typing. Mat


8:05 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

a well designed, well respected and enriching site is ALL that ANYONE, Googlebot included, cares about

Googlebot doesn't know if a site is well designed and enriching.

Anyway, it's not true at all that there are not shortcuts.
[Look at the spammy sites of this update]

But, it's true that Google try to shortening their life ;)



8:08 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Next time you get a speeding ticket, try going to court and claiming that you shouldn't have to pay because everyone else was going even faster.


8:16 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hmmm. Need to be a tad more pedantic here.

Part of a well designed site is its navigation. If a whizz-bang Javascript/DHTML/Flash interface is tricky for the user, chances are it'll be tricky for a Spider.

Ephemeral kinda means short-term. Short-cuts mean short-term. As in short-term visibility. As in, <>mallet to head</>, ALL that works LONG TERM is content, one site, no tricks. There's no need for tricks. A good site will float to the top. That other stuff tends to sink.

Finally, before I come out of speak-in-a-slow-voice pedant mode, an enriching site tends to be remembered, bookmarked, even linked to. Google(bot) knows this. What goes around comes around.


8:17 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Does Google take click popularity into account at all? To me, it seemed that GG's statement "The SEOs who are on the same wavelength as users tend to avoid shortcuts, and his or her sites attract a following (and rankings) more easily" implied that click popularity may play a role. How else might a "following" lead to rankings. I am probably reading something that isn't there LOL its 2 am.

Also, I am sure Google can detect what it deems to be "tweaking" versus changing content. Changing content is a good thing (I think--as long as the theme is consistent) but "tweaking" such as a constantly changing title (to optimize keywords, etc) might be viewed as spammy. With more "minty freshness", it is probably tempting for many webmasters to "tweak" their titles, backlinks, etc. to see what the result might be. Perhaps there is something to be said for a certain amount of consistency (e.g., a title that hasn't changed in 6 months or so, consistent use of keywords in backlinks, and consistent content).


[edited by: crobb305 at 8:27 am (utc) on Sep. 28, 2002]


8:19 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

In the real world, peoples link pages are to sites that they recommend.


8:36 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

No need for you to be pedantic. ;)
Anyway, the goal of a s.engine is not to give 'well-designed' content.
It's to give relevant result.
So, IMHO, the 'well-designed' issue is, a little, a no-no.

I think that the real issue is not being spammy/notspammy, GoogleLaws-obedient/not.
I think the real issue is elsewhere.
Only my opinion he.



8:41 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well... I think you all have good points.. I however have a 2500 page site, with lots and lots of content.. I have cut no shortcuts and looking at the posts for example googleguys, saying put yourself in the eyes of the user, well I have. I am as anal as can be and I think have a very content rich and very pretty site... I constantly have people saying what a nice site, hell I even had Alltel call and tell me that as he wanted to unload lots of merchandise to me, Now that I took as a big compliment. Ya know what though, I think I put two much content.. I am a yahoo store and made so many levels in the site so that it is easy to navigate, not clutered, looks nice but google is not digging in deep enough in the site.. it picks up the top layers and thats it.. so whats my opinion, cut out the layers, make the site look hellish and cluttered and I am sure we will get much better results... thats what kills me.. it took a months upon months to lay this out, revise it, etc etc to make it the best it can be... now, what to do, rip it into shreds so google will carry the pr and show individual pages more rather then just skimming the main sections... I dont know.. but when you talk about making a nice content rich, easy to use site, I did that and it seems google dosent like it, perhaps its to big, or I should say to deep for the googlebot... now its like do I rip it to shreds or build another site as well which will take months to do and make it a cheap one that is only one layer or two or three at most and clutter everything in together on one page ....


8:51 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think Google has gotten much more smarter in determining which links are there for the benefit of page rank and rank manipulation, and which are there for honest reasons.

I worked very hard to exchange links with over 50 quality sites themed to me, and requested anchor text which is not in any way deceptive or spammy (usually just my site name plus a word or two). I also do not use any SEO techniques in anyway, other than to build many seperate pages filled with unique content, have it load fast, easy to navigate, etc. But this is not SEO, it is WSO (web surfer optimisation). Consequently, my ranking has shot up through the roof. These sites linking to me have a small links page, (not 50 pages of thousands of recip. links), and they descriminate about who they put in and what the link text is. These are not powerhouse link pages, just PR3-6.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if Google is trying to distinguish between sites with PR6-9 and tons of links with little content and PR3-6 smaller-guy type sites with tons of content that link out of goodwill with modest linkage and consider their anchor text to be honest representations of the site being linked to. If I was Google, that's what I would do.

Google is the king of link analysis, if they think you're doing something unnatural in obtaining links, they have probably put you in some sort of a penalty.


9:17 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

The update is still fluctuating, but it is now obvious what Google have atempted to achieve with Septembers update.

I don't agree that Google is Horrible, they had some serious thinking to do with the whole SEO, SE manipulising and PR for Sale issue. And they have achieved a short term goal, at the expensive of their long term goal, otherwise known as good quality SERPs.

I have a serious love hate thing going on with them at the moment and I'm sorry, but I'm seeing Altavista 1996 SERPS now.

I can not find 1 decent, easy to navigate, cross browser compatible, well designed, good looking, content rich site, for any big hitting popular keywords?

I'm not talking as a disgruntled webmaster with sour grapes, but as an everyday surfer.


10:25 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

How do you mean webmasters are getting confused?

I encounterd A compettitor that actually copied my optimized html source that redirects to main index including all the keywords, and he put the optimized html below his page without the redirect to my page. (of course)

I wish i could put the url in here so we could have a good laugh.


11:22 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well I too am not an SEO, and my site is a content site, somewhat optimized, but with no tricks. I wouldn't know how to do most of them anyway, and even if I did I would be too scared to try. (But I am aware of them and know that I don't have anyhing worthy of a penalty.) For the past year I have been slowly adding inbound links and content, and slowly moving up the serps, so that last month for my most important keyword phrase I ranked #5. Now out of the blue I don't even show in the first 500 (I quit looking at 500). To top it off I dropped from #1 on MSN to #35 this month as well - that's another story.

Ever since I have been coming to WW I have read about sites being unfairly penalized by Google. I felt sorry for those guys and gals, but I thought at least it would not happen to me - I keep my nose squeaky clean. <snip>

[edited by: NFFC at 11:26 am (utc) on Sep. 28, 2002]
[edit reason] Rudeness is not welcome [/edit]


11:51 am on Sep 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My last post was snipped - so I will rephrase.

It has been my observation that when someone does something that innocently hurts other people for their own gain, they must find a way to somehow justify it in their mind so that they can sleep at night. Google's way of justifying it seem's to be to give out advice that webmasters should diversify their methods of obtaining visitors. This is sophistry at its worst. Would they actually give out this advice if it meant losing actual dollars? They can afford to say this (so they can sleep at night), all the while toying with their algo so even innocent people are hurt, either financially or otherwise.

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