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January 2007 Google SERP Changes - part 2

   
12:16 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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< continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >

A very interesting article (including comments by Matt Cutts) has been posted over at PBS. It may be possible that it is related to the December/January changes
[pbs.org...]

[edited by: tedster at 8:00 pm (utc) on Jan. 11, 2007]

1:57 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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We had a client who was recently deindexed and runs a small blog. We were a bit baffeled ourselves as to why. We dug deep and found that a poster on his blog was posting relevant comments that seemed harmless, but then he was also link spamming by using invisible text on the posts.

We only found that by checking the source code of every page. So some of you might want to look at that issue. Once we removed the links google started to reindex the blog.

Guess the linkspammers are getting smarter.

2:20 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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tedster:
(checklist) ... let's do the show right here ...
.
1. Most people in this thread seem to be reporting a drop in ranking, and even a severe drop.
2. Others are reporting the disappearance of just their home page.
3. Some are talking about seeing selected urls vanish from the site: operator search, but still getting Google traffic on them.
4. There a few who are talking about a complete delisting for the entire domain.

Using G Analytics, and AWStats as a sounding-board, here are comparisons for Mon-Tue 8/9 vs 15/16 (percentages refer entirely to unique visitors):
  • 54% total site drop.
  • 68% Google-referral drop.
    (site drop is entirely due to G-referrals drop)
  • Top-3 pages identical and show 32% drop.
  • Top-10 entrance-pages mostly the same and show 52% drop.
  • Home page appears within both Top-10 pages and Top-10 entrance-pages.

Conclusion?
This is a severe drop from Google applied to all pages on my site.

Extra: site in existence since Nov 2002; no changes whatsoever (apart from extra content) since August 2006. Site faults comprehensively cleaned up from Dec 2004 thru 2005. Site regularly shafted by Google; this is just the latest.

3:10 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Tedster, I can add another one: normal results for some keywords but nowhere to be found for other keywords (for which I have been on page 1 for years). And we are talking hundreds of keyword combinations here resulting in drop of thousands of visitors daily. So I rank fine for "blue widgets" but not any more for "blue products" as I used to. Very weird.
3:12 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have same problems since January, 15.
I had a large number of pages (>50000), many with unique content. No high traffic words, most visitors by the complex queries. The drop in traffic from Google is from 2000 to 200 visitors/day. Now visitors are only with high relevant words or from 6th-8th page in search results. It's doesn't look like penalty, because on few results I still first and there is no reson for penalty.

What I see? PR for 1-2 level pages is same or higher. PR for all site map pages (few dozens) is 5 (was 4). Visibl&#1077; PR for most 3rd level pages dropped from 2-3 to 0, and probably it's a reason for low traffic. Site is >7 years old. I can't undestand why long living pages linked from PR5 page now have PR0. Links/backlinks are OK.

I suspect it may be because I've set preferred domain in webmaster tool and/or created sitemaps. I did not any changes in site itself for long period.

3:35 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



So we now have 5 different types of symptoms:

1. Sudden and severe drop in all important rankings
2. Severe drop for just some keywords, others unaffected
3. Disappearance of just the home page.
4. Some urls vanish from site: operator search, but they still get traffic.
5. Complete delisting for the entire domain.

We also have these ideas on the cause(s)

A. Not related to whether site runs AdWords or AdSense (1 through 5)
B. Hidden text may be one target (check any blog/forum comments) (1,2)
C. Pages with anchor text outrank the target page (2)
D. Bug in Google (3,5)

3:43 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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we are the same as skweb. It appears to be a page by page rather than site wide problem.

At first I thought it possible that Title=H1 tag was causing the problem, however I have now dismissed this as we have some pages with this ranking high.

Moved on to Title=a similar description=H1 tag dismissed this as well as we have some pages with this ranking high.

Also when the SERPS do a "flip" we are back stronger than ever, when it "flips" back, as at present, we get hit again.

Also possible duplicate content on certain pages - eliminated as far as possible other than "user useful" pages.

Also considered "bad " inbound links but as we have no control over these, we don't do swaps etc, I'm sure Google knows this.

One possibility is that all these sites affected are using webmaster tools.

A bit stumped on this one.

3:47 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



johnhh, can you tell if it is page by page, or perhaps keyword by keyword?
3:53 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi Tedster

same here really. rank remains high for some keywords, other pages totally disappeared from index. I have one page that is unique to this site only - it returns 95,000 results and my page aint one of them.

I am also noting that the results again seem to be erratic - now you are here, now you are not

4:09 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



Here's another possible factor I'd like to either rule out or put on the list. Do the domains or urls involved i these lost rankings or dropped pages make significant use of 301 redirects in their "backstream"?
4:10 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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tedster,

One thing we noticed with our ecommerce sites this month is how google is looking at variations of words. So it could be google is making some slight adjustments with plural/past tense/present tense of keywords. We saw some movement in January serps indicating this.

4:21 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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you can rule that out with me tedster
4:29 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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"..can you tell if it is page by page, or perhaps keyword by keyword?"

tedster I think its an individual page/page group problem for us , set up some tests over the last few weeks and have not narrowed it down.

For example similar widgets in a widget sub directory , one page or more have high listing( usually not the index page which has the links to all the little widgets of this type ) all others nowhere.

Keyword by keyword - tried changing the description tag to avoid targeted keywords that are in H1 and in Title tag no conclusive results as some pages still solid others not.

If I was guessing its almost as if Google is choosing one page out of a sub-set of similar pages even though info on the page is non-similar.

Bit like a page on Porsche cars showing on the SERPS where you have a set of pages in sports cars subdirectory but it ignores all the Ferrari's.

5:34 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Here's an really, really odd thing that I have noticed every time they do a downgrade (refuse to call it an upgrade!) and that is one of my key phrases that I haven't even targetted does NOT change in the SERP's. All other pages drop like a rock and is nowhere to be found but the main pages (index.html) that have this key phrase doesn't change. Ever!
Also, these pages always show a new cache date, while other pages have a cache date from September-November.

Not sure it will help with trying to find out what's going on but it is an observation which I find very odd.

6:03 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I've not tried to document all the dizzying changes with this last round with one of my sites - since December. Up and down somethin' fierce! This is a site that consistently produced first page results and was rock-solid in its position. The sites that replace it, are dinky little nothing sites with very limited content.

It suddenly occured to me that just perhaps the site map submission has something to do with the fluctuations .. I never had a G sitemap for this site and submitted one for the first time just a few months ago.

Anyway, I cannot bear to watch it any longer. The customer thinks I'm a boob!

6:15 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Wanted to give you guys a heads up.

As I have been reporting extensively in this forum, for no reason that I can think of (based on the excellent work by tedster - I think none of the reasons apply to us), the site dropped by 80% in traffic from Google. Of course we have done nothing since then.

As I write, I am seeing a mujor recovery. I do see that not all results are back and some rankings look different. I will see if I now rank higher for new terms only when I analyze the data later on.

It could very well be that corrupted data has now been cleaned up.

6:23 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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!HAVE PATIENCE!

My site dropped 80% traffic on the 15th of January, but now - a few hours hours ago - it is listed again. And I haven't done anything special. It just appeared back and higher then before.

Courage and be patient!

6:46 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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My site has been hit as well, starting 4pm Sunday. I lost about 4000-5000 unique visitors per day from Google. I own a bunch of sites, and at any given time it seems like there is one that has dropped from 1st page of google to nowhere to be found. I've only had one site in 3 years that has never come back, and surprisingly it came back on Sunday around 4pm...

Usually when the sites come back they are the same or slightly higher than before...I've seen them stay aay for a week or two or more...and google seems to fold in the data in chunks, so I've been waiting for the threads that say their site came back....now that I see them, it tells me that at some point, my site should return as well. My fingers are crossed!

7:03 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Good to hear that some sites are coming back! Mine hasn't (yet) and I am at a whopping 500 visitors today when I usually by now have over 15,000

I was going to write a post about how we blame ourseleves for things we did or did not do, but as always it is "just" something Google did. I am sure that whatever they do it has a purpose. What it is I don't know but really would like to know!

At least it is not an IP ban like MSN does with sites!

7:18 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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A site I've consulted on was dropped from 1st page to bottom of serps in the December changes. Owners made no changes and it came back on it's own to page 3-4 for the main keyword search by early January.

They recently got a few good backlinks with "keyword keyword2" anchor text, and jumped up to #2 in serp for a keyword keyword2 search as soon as googlebot found the links. Strange thing is, they never ranked that high for that 2 word search before, and they are still stuck on page 3 or 4 for the one keyword search that they used to be page 1 for.

I believe google thinks they are over-optimized for the single keyword search and not enough good links to rank well anymore. But the new 2 word links help them rank for the 2 word search that is not over optimized.

7:30 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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They are testing at the moment, let's see if the released sites will stay 4 or 5 hours.
10:23 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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One of my sites also suffered the catastophic fall in rankings mid january.

I did find a sitemap that had gone haywire and create 150,000,000 empty pages.... that now removed and the pages 404ed, but no idea if this is what caused my ranking to recover in the last hour, to above what they were before.

I suspect that google is winding up the dial on

duplicate content
almost duplciate content, where the pages contain something like

Hi! You've reached the blue widgets page. We've got jack squat about blue widgets here, but great! you found US! Now,...since we've got nothing here about them, please click our adsense and have a nice day. etc etc on almost every page

10:26 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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My site is back for the last few hours. It dropped out September 15th, 2006. It's been in and out for about a year now. When it's in I get front page listings for most of my keywords, when it's out, it's waaaay out.
10:30 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I made a partial recovery on the 15th... but back down today.... waaaay down. Looks further down than any of these data refreshes have every impacted me before.
10:37 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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This strarts to be pathetic .

We all wait for things to calm down, but it seems there are new cases of huge up / down fluctuations each day

But I am good, I have not seen any fluctuation today. All my sites are still somewhere nowhere :)

11:04 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hey man... THIS IS GOOD!

I am on first page (Results 1 - 6 of about 11)

1:01 am on Jan 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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my primary term is back! Makes me so happy to see it on the first page again....be interesting to see how it all flushes out in terms of total unique visits today, but the bandwidth graph looks promising!
1:48 am on Jan 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Man I haven't posted here in along time. Find myself back here when something bad happens. Like many here...our site has lost 85% of its traffic since Jan 14th...and its gotten worse everyday. We ranked in the top 5 for alot of phrases...now...nowhere.

I've hardly made any changes at all in the last year and all of our pages have held their page rank or increased. This is the third time in the last 3 years this has happened to us...before we had left up some duplicate content by mistake, this time I have no idea...haven't done much, only thing I can think of is many alt tags on each page are titled exactly the same, same keywords used in title tags...but that can't be the reason...I highly doubt it. Just seemed to have fallen into the same filter as many of you.

Last time something like this happened I think we were back on the serp's within 2 months. Lets see what happens this time but I'm in the camp...Google is meddling with us all.

2:23 am on Jan 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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clove said
This is the third time in the last 3 years this has happened to us

This is exactly the case with one of my best "money making" sites. One serious traffic drop lasted about 2 & 1/2 months, the next was only about a month. Every time this site comes back it comes back a little better than before, "knockin on wood". I have never done anything to it in response to these big drops in google traffic. My reasoning has always been that if I don't see a big drop in traffic from the other search engines then the problem is most likely specific to the search engine and not my site. If one of my sites ever saw a big drop in traffic from more than one search engine at a time, or if my google traffic loss lasted more than 3 months, I will think seriously about doing something to fix my site. But when the traffic loss is from google only, I just wait patiently and see, the revenue loss certainly hurts though.
12:10 am on Jan 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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< This post was spliced here from another location >

I have seen days where rankings on some of my main terms have dropped out, then reappeared later that same day. I understand the daily shuffle. But after lunch time today the phones pretty much died. When this stuff happens I usually use the google dance tool to see whats going on between datacenters, and usually during a shuffle we still rank in some datacenters. But this afternoon - nada - datacenters report very bad results. We have a 10 year old site - PR5 - 7000+ Pages. Plenty of good quality backlinks -
nothing blackhat at all.

Am I the only one seeing this today?

[edited by: tedster at 2:29 am (utc) on Jan. 18, 2007]

4:02 am on Jan 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Ok what I am seeing now are some sites that are listed by the URL only including mine. (not for my whole site, but a lot of it though) At least under one of my keywords, I just found my site on page 6 of google, and at least 1 other site with the same problem listed on that page. No title, no description. The other site seems to be a legitimate site as well, and their page held a PR5. I surfed between results and there are quite a few other sites like this. What does this usually mean? I am not removed from the index, though i had about 7500 listings on a normal day, now i have 5500. when i do site:domain the first 385 are not supplimental, then supplimental started. i did not check further.
A couple sections (2) still rank well like they always did, but 10 sections do not.
This 247 message thread spans 9 pages: 247