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But something quite major is now going on with the Google SERPs. Members are reporting major changes in the single word search results, most particularly, but lots of other things are stirred up as well. On one of my single keywords, I've just passed wikipedia (yeah!) and jdMorgan reported the same for one of his keywords.
So it's time -- we are officially declaring Update Buffy. We'll begin with recent posts from our June SERPs Watching thread [webmasterworld.com]. What do you see going on?
< So why name it Buffy? Let's say it's in honor of someone who just
left her job but knows a whole lot about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
We've never gone with someone's formal name for an update. Tip
of the hat to reseller, goodroi, and jdmorgan for their input >.
< further note - Matt Cutts says [mattcutts.com] that in his mind this is not an
update. OK - so we'll call this moment an "Honorary Update". >
[edited by: tedster at 7:27 pm (utc) on June 19, 2007]
My site is purely an informational site - I don't sell a product. I also followed Brett's advice but I picked a very competitive area - something I often regret.
If anyone is looking for a time the update started, I first noticed it at 10:00 Eastern time on June 13th. Traffic continued to build until around the same time the following day. I know this because it would have normally dropped off in the early morning hours, but traffic just kept increasing.
For those of you that think informational pages are being pushed up that works in my case. I will say that even though the site is around 3 years old I do keep all of the information very fresh by updating all of the information once a year or more (ugh!). If it ever rolls back I'll be one of the first to know.
What is benefitting are two different types of sites. One is most obviously symbolized by about.com subdomains. These are highly commercializied, low content pages. The other type are the opposite in some ways, very low value, very low linked, zero authority status.
The one way these two can have something in common is via on-page/keyword/text/external-linking. But even in that, it is hard to see how these two different types of junk, since neither is spammy, manages to be valued by the same algo.
The about.com thing just makes me want to lose my lunch... three about.com results in the top 35. These are miserable results for the one word term.
2. Site that was absent for the past 6 months. Mirrored under at least 3 different domain names. The widget.com version that used to rank has been replaced by the widgetnet.com that has never before ranked in G
3. Leading industry association. Good choice, except that its mirror appears at #10. So,we have widgetinfo.com at 3 and widget.org at 10
4. Good, authoritive site that happens to benefit from the domain widgets.com. Has ranked 1-2 for the past couple of years.
5. An ancient article on an edu domain that has signaled algo problems whenever it has shown in the SERPs (it is often accompanied by stale news stories, if y'all remember the days when we would complain about those.)
6. Live cam. I haven't seen this site in the SERPS for about 4 years
7. Good authority site. Used to compete with the 1-2 spots with the one that is in #4 now.
8. Another site I haven't seen in years. Has many inbound links based on "charitable" sponsorships. (Just what exactly is a "paid link"?)
9. Another industry association site
10. See #3
Some of these sites are almost random picks.
Associated with the changes in general, but not the above term, I have sites that are showing a cache from last December. I also have seen pages in the SERPs that have been 404'd for 3 years after a switch from a Y store to a custom cart. Those 404 pages probably align nicely in time with #'s 5, 6, 8 and 10 above.
Another site (just one that I keep an eye on in that vertical, for spotting changes) that's been holding fast for their top two word phrase, in the top ten for several years, is now way down at #77 and the top ten now has a completely different mix.
1. Many one word searches showing quite a change on the first page
2. Old and even forgotten domains starting to perform
3. Sudden jump in a large variety of long-tail traffic for some sites that hadn't seen those phrases before
Looks like these changes began at least as far back as Wed, June 13
This is an astonishlingly weak result to be in the top ten for the probable most searched term on the Internet.
But then it gets even WORSE... there is a second answers result, at #22... with nine (count 'em, NINE!, internal links and one 404 external link).
Whatever google is doing with these one word searches, they are specifically giving answers.com an absurd boost. Now they may be doing it because they are deliberately giving a boost to SIMILAR TEXT to what is on the WIKIPEDIA, but whatever the reason, this one word result is illogical and extremely poor.
And now checking the one word search for the parent concept of the above search, the first result is the Wikipedia and the second result the duplicate on answers.com.
1 - Wikipedia
2 - Amazon community
3 - Answers.com
4 - Google directory
5 - Authority site
6 - dmoz
7 - Authority site
8 - Site that has 4 links pointing to it and also links to my site
9 - Authority site
10 - My site
This is the first time all of these big sites have been listed for this topic -- ever, as far as I know. I've been watching it for years.
Approx. half of my site is still bouncing in and out of the 950 penalty...in about 1 week cycles. My traffic did decrease noticeably starting around June 12.
4 -Google directory
5 - Authority site
6 - dmoz
I haven't seen this kind of duplication in the SERPS in a long, long time. I am assuming these are mirrored pages, because I am seeing similar mirrors in other SERPs.
The idea floated earlier about weight given to old links might just have some merit.
joined:Dec 29, 2003
I can't figure out if it just took people a while to notice the changes as it's one word searches that really stand out or if the update started earlier in some sectors.
is the update over, or is it still going on? Any insight?
Old data and duplication generally indicate an update in progress.
Seems to me I remember a noticeable data rollback during the infamous Florida update, when Google apparently wanted to assess its new algo on a known set of data... at least that was the assumption.
I don't know whether that would apply here or not, as in the areas I watch I'm not noticing the old data.
There was a TF factor involved with sites in the Florida update, and I'm seeing it being a factor now with some sites I've been looking at. For two word searches. Some big changes.
From my point of view this update started May 24
It was quite dramatic that day. Things popped about for a while but never got back to the old results.
annej - We posted simultaneously and I didn't see your post. The results I'm seeing now for one-word searches are roughly what started on May 24 and danced around for a week or so, but they're pretty close to what they were then.
In two and three word searches, some of the junk I saw early in June (big sites ranking apparently because of fake blogs and directories, artificial networks, and obviously paid links) has maybe drifted down a few spots, but it's not gone.
It's what appears to be the major issue with the site I've been seeing fluctuating for the main two word search phrase, both on-page and sitewide. It's disappeared to 1K+ (but not banned) and moved back into the SERPs for the past few days several times - just for the past several days, since mid-week.
It also seems to be one of the two main factors that needed making corrections for that pulled a site out of 950+ for it's main two and three word phrases (all with the same *one* main word included).
That second one is a 950+ thing, not this update because it bounced back before (and hasn't been hit again), but I don't think it's unrelated, since there's been one glaring flaw in common for both of the above scenarios.
And it's ALSO glaringly obvious on a third site that's been drastically hurt for the main two two-word phrases, with what now appears to be an "update."
historically speaking, summer is a good time to incorporate ideas into search, but I wouldnâ€™t consider that an update myself. We do always reserve the right to tune our scoring algorithms or change the weight of different factors, even if it only affects a fraction of queries (things such as single-word queries).
C'mon Matt... of course its an update :-)
It's nice confirmation to see it from Matt, and also actually kind of nice to have a very limited thing to look at regarding seeing Google fiddle with its with the secret sauce (note to the 'plex: adding motor oil to the pancake batter is not workig....)
Compare your search for...
...with this search...
This trick was noted during the Florida update, where, as I remember, you needed two negative nonsense words per search word... it was theorized to disable the "filter" that was causing the change. Eventually, Google made changes so that these exclusion strings no longer showed the original results.
Back in 2005, it was discussed with regard to the "sandbox," but you needed 13 of these in order to work. And also in 2005, I noticed that sites that had disappeared because they were related via common inbound sources would come back on searches with the exclusion strings included.
You can try this search of webmasterworld.com to find threads discussing the exclusion strings...
florida update "-asdf" site:webmasterworld [google.com]
It might be helpful to compare notes to see if we can learn anything about the update using exclusion string searches now. Chances are that the exclusion strings will only work for a short while before Google makes a change.
I haven't tried any multi-word searches with the 13 exclusion strings, and there's no reason necessarily to believe that that number applies now.
C'mon Matt... of course its an update
Google acts like the more they keep us in the dark and guessing if it's something we did, or something they did, the less we can figure out and reverse-engineer. Ok. But to me, their attitude just ends up making it a more adversarial relationship. Jerking long time top sites into oblivion, and acting like nothing changed. Guess they really don't care what webmasters think.
I can remember it being said before that Google considers summer a good time to be making adjustments, which is a good thing because it gives plenty of time to fix things before busy holiday shopping season starts. Too bad on those who got hit who have sites in a niche that usually has a good 3rd QTR shopping season, but it's better now than in the Fall. And at least there's time to make changes, and read the forum,where there are enough clues to at least know where to start looking.
Unlike many of you single word searches are probably still important to me since most people find their way into one of my sites using a four letter acronym. The people searching for this know that this is the industry standard abbreviation. They also know that they don't really need to add additional words like they would if searching for "widgets".
For most of the last five years my website has held the number one position on the single word (acronym) search. A couple of months ago it started dropping on some .com data centres while holding its position on others. It also held pretty steady on .co.uk and many other countries. The net effect was a 50% drop in traffic but the website is not a big money spinner so I am not breaking my heart over this. There are now some signs that it may be gaining its prime position again, but in second place to Wikipedia.
Is it not the case that Google could be working towards de-commercialising the top organic results in favour of "authority" sites? If they stop providing prime, free exposure to commercial websites wouldn't this boost their Adwords revenue?
[edited by: BeeDeeDubbleU at 9:34 am (utc) on June 18, 2007]
If you need socks, are you interested in reading about the history of cotton and how it's harvested and processed, or do you want to buy socks? And are you going to go to a search engine to find socks in ADS only or in search too. Or will you be willing to drill down to the 3rd or 4th page to find organic listings for stores to buy socks at?
But as everyone have said earlier Google never cares of webmasters, who are the ultimate source of their revenue.
-During the first week of June our traffic began to climb dramatically and remains at record high levels.
-Current traffic is roughly double normal for this date, but has not stabilized yet.
-The searches list includes more long phrases than before, making matches with content from internal pages that received little attention in the past.
-In the SERPs, most of the usual two word phrases I check appear to be in their normal position. Checking for three word and longer phrases shows good ranking, but I must admit I don't remember where we ranked for the myriad of multi-word phrases that are possible.
My data shows that a significant event happened during the first week of June. It was not the result of anything I did to the site. The effects are bigger than anything this site has recorded for over a year. It is useful to have a name to identify this - if enough of us are experiencing the same thing.
[edited by: engine at 3:58 pm (utc) on June 18, 2007]
[edit reason] specific removed [/edit]