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September 2007 Google SERP Changes

10:16 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi, I am not sure IF this is relevant or not.. but here goes... I have suffered with a website dropping like a stone in Google.. and this happened on August 25th/26th. At the SAME time my website error Log seemed to crash and 100 core files got generated. I deletede these files... and have checked my current error log and I am getting about 100 error message an hour... and Google is picking up on these errors as shown in my site index... I have the IP addresses and can block them but they are from numerous sources... and they try to find an impossible url... any suggestions?

Could there be more to these changes in Google serps than meets the eye?

[edited by: tedster at 4:44 am (utc) on Sep. 1, 2007]

9:31 pm on Sept 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I guess I'll spell out an exact contradiction to everything you are saying: A page with no content changes, no inbound link changes, and very minimal internal navigation changes, BUT with the same title change that was on the first page of results for about 3 years is now gone.

I suppose I was trying to say "hey, i've analyzed the permutations and am aware of everything you are saying, and it doesn't add up" but you just couldn't take my word for it. Understandably so, but my tone should also permit you to take the leap of faith that maybe I'm not new to this.

Regardless, I doubt the answers will come because it's now mixed in with trying to explain my position repeatedly, but hopefully someone who has experienced some sort of drastic short term change in regards to title alteration can speak up. I think I read somewhere on here before that someone noticed that Google temporarily banished them after making small title changes, but I can't remember the details completely.

1:40 am on Sept 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I seek some raw experience from anyone who has witnessed such odd and dramatic behaviour based solely on title changes.


er... sorry to interrupt the conversation, I just wanted to add that the timeframe estimate I mentioned is - as with most of my remarks - based on my own experience.

Haven't really seen a page take a dive because of a single word added, unless it wasn't recognized as relevant, yet it was competitive... but have had some good experiences with adding, reorganizing titles in a meaningful way to gain a few positions for stuff these sites never had a direct, on spot, exact-match inbound link for. The jump is relative, if the page wasn't ranking at all, it could become #30, if it was #5, it could become #1.


And yeah, sometimes, although very rarely, if you can just pick the right time to upload the new version, all the on and offline analysis that Google likes to conduct so out of sync ( to one another ) may have been lining up nice and orderly to do their job... within 4 days.

Not something that happens every day... but it does happen. At least it had happened to sites I work on before.


As for the navigation: this sitemap may have triggered many things if that is the first and so far the only place where all your important keywords are mentioned together. And on a brand new URL. I'm not questioning your theory about the title change, and in fact, I too believe that if a page ( especially if it's new ) can't be scanned by the many ( again, not at all synchronized ) scripts, its ranking might be put out cold. ( Miss one turn. But only one. )

Switching titles every other day isn't the best thing, but if you revert to the old versions, you might just learn whether it was the slight navigation changes or the sitemap that caused the problem. If things go back and STAY normal ( ie. near same positions on the SERPs ) it was the title change. If nothing happens for weeks: it wasn't.

But... consider this said in and about an environment that might change without notice, and in which these invisible changes might coincide with changes made to the site. And THAT is why leaving changes alone for weeks is advised, even on a heavily crawled, often cached domain. To give time to Google to think about what it saw. To give time to lift any doubts whether it was a change in your data, all data, or the scripts that analyze them ( coincidence or not ).

And to give time for these threads to get populated.


Sorry I'm tired.

2:30 am on Sept 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Apparently the drop continues for certain types of websites, replaced on page 1 out of any logic from my prospective.

For our sites: those that we are really working on to make them better/cleaner are dropping badly, those we left over a long time ago are stable or do better. doesn't make any sense.

I see companies with 2-3 websites in the top 20 for very competitive keywords. Basically when I sum all I see not making sense to me it looks like doing exactly the contrary of what Google says works best.

Not sure what Google is doing but there are results that are ridiculous to a point that was never reached in the past ever since I graduated and started working on wesites a few years ago.

I will try another explanation: some websites that were promoted intensively, even without link exchange or the like that's what you do when you're in business, have been scrapped, mashed over the past few years so many times that their backlink profile lost quality. If these sites did not become an authority in the meantime with at least 1 backlink from a true authority then they drop due to scrapping and other manipulations google is VERY sensitive to.
They are replaced by newer sites, that use cheap SEO buying links on totally unrelated pages or spamming blogs here and there, or have stupid cr..py content but since they are not scrapped yet their backlink profile looks cleaner/consistent.
But the thing is that after a few years of business your profile can't be clean, that you like it or not unless your backlinks are all paid or from your own sites.
I am totally blown away when I see which sites are stable or not, some deserve and already had authority but others are really a joke even checking their backlinks/content doesn't make it any more relevant.

It also could be some indexing problems. It's weird, at least on our sites, Google keep crawling pages that are the least important from the content pov.

Ahhh also: it maybe time for Google to stop pulling up on top of the SERP's companies that have a blog twice for the same keywords: once for the site, once for the blog - cross linking your blog and your company site seems a great thing currently. Not to mention that 99% of blogs are people talking to themselves and have no substance for visitor.

4:50 am on Sept 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Maybe the disagreement on title changes is because older "trusted" sites can make such changes but newer sites cannot without drawing undue attention from Google.

I change my titles occasionally and usually see a result in a few days but my site is almost 8 years old. I changed the focus on one page recently on a well ranking page that involved changing just one keyword (blue widgets instead of red widgets). That page ranked highly within a few days for that new word combination and is still ranking there a couple weeks later.

4:55 am on Sept 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Not to mention that 99% of blogs are people talking to themselves and have no substance for visitor.

Was there ever a time this wasn't the case? This may sound facetious but in my opinion quality blogs are far and few between and have always been that way.
5:05 am on Sept 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Decius, I'm going to spend a little time and map out what I perceived from your posts. I've gone back to your first post in this topic which was at 5:02 am on 2007 September 15.

Very old authority site, lost about 3/4 of its daily traffic in last 24 hours. Rankings are all almost gone, and no real change in actions on the site except for lots of new content and navigation changes, as well as a site map.

Okay, you state "no real change in actions on the site except for...". Here comes the good part... "lots of new content and navigation changes..."

Alright, just work with me here. I'm going to quote each and every post that you made from that point forward so you can see what "I perceived" from what "you" were describing.

At 9:18 am on 2007 September 15, 2007, you wrote...

I realized that the titles of all the pages that lost the rankings were slightly altered. I am certain this is the reason for the drop. I am baffled that Google would drop all the pages like rocks immediately upon title changes (made about 4 days ago).

First the "lots of new content and navigation changes" and now "title changes". I'd say that was three of the top five areas that would affect a pages' position in the SERPs. Would you agree?

I've reverted them all back. Does anyone have any suggestions or insight into this issue and when i can expect a resolution/restoration?

Wait, all this has happened now in what, 4 hours and 16 minutes and you're sweating 357's? What's up with that?

And then at 10:55 am on 2007 September 15, 2007 you ascertained that the <title> changes were the cause of them being dumped in the SERPs. And of course, that is a completely logical assumption. But, you had two other major changes prior to the title changes. And all this taking place in how long?

I'm fairly certain mine is unique to my actions as all the pages that were not slightly altered are pretty much exactly where they have been for a while. Therefore, the assumption must be that the title change caused Google to dump them from the SERPS for some odd reason.

And these were pages that have history, have been indexed for a while, and have held strong positions?

I'm telling you, old authority sites do not lose 75% of their traffic in 24 hours unless something is severely wrong somewhere. Are you sure these are not the results of actions performed 30, 60, 90 days ago?

Does anyone have experience with this and are there any timelines I should be looking forward to? Also, I've restored the original titles... will that speed up the process or extend it?

Changes, changes, changes, and more changes. It will probably extend, but, that is based on my experience only. Others may have had different experiences depending on the circumstances.

At 1:23 pm on 2007 September 15, 2007 you said...

Only the titles are unique to the pages that have been demolished.

At this point, it appears that you've been able to logically deduce that it was the change in titles that caused the drop, correct? I think so, because then you said this...

The only underlying difference is the title change. I was going to try to optimize the titles for all the pages - thankfully i was too tired. My guess is this - google spiders these pages, and sees that their titles are different and then doesn't know how they weigh against the current listings. So a trigger goes off and they remove them from the listings until that is finalized.

Man, I'd say it had to be a pretty drastic title change to cause something like that to happen.

But my assumption is the same - about a week.

Okay, based on the time frames you are quoting, we can assume a daily spidering by the bots and a site with at least PR5+. I don't understand how "adding lots of new content" and making "navigation changes" and then a "change in titles" can all be processed effectively in 7 days. Mind you, I do have some experience working with websites and if I were to make major changes such as those you describe, I'd be prepared for a bumpy ride while "things get sorted". My experience shows me that isn't going to happen in 7 days. Nor is it going to happen in 14 days or even 28 days. Nope. The process is a little more involved than that based on the changes you state you made.

Although I would like to know if anyone has actually experienced this exact phenomenon (changing titles just a little bit causes you to be put on Google hiatus).

I'm sure many will tell you that "we" do it day in and day out, change titles that is (but without the hiatus). Its all part of the ongoing process of refining your content. But, there comes a point where the refinement settles down and now the page "pulls it weight".

Also, since the turnaround was so quick I'm considering that Google will recognize that I am reverting.

I'd really like to think that I could "add lots of content" and make "navigation changes" and then a "change in titles" and see the results in 7 days. Oh, I may see a sampling of the results, but they will most likely be short lived while the recalculation on the changes takes place.

That's the risk I'm taking as I'd rather not leave the new ones up, in case they triggered some over optimization filter or something.

Hmmm, if you are worried about an OOF or something of that nature, is it possible something else is responsible? OOF, that's an initialism that only SEOs know. So, if you're an SEO, which I'll assume you are, there may be some other things taking place that maybe we are overlooking?

Oh, and now here I come and open my big mouth at 1:50 pm on 2007 September 15, 2007 trying to interject some feedback on what I perceived could be the cause of your woes and you responded with...

I don't think you quite read all my posts to make a well-informed response, although I recognize that your response is "generic" and is applicable to most queries of this nature.

No Decius, I did read your posts very carefully before I responded. I'm not going to spend freakin' 30 minutes of my time responding to a topic and not read what I'm responding to, really, I'm not going to do that. Not intentionally anyway. ;)

However, I do not make changes abruptly, and the site in question has been around for 7+ years with lots of optimizations and title changes, amongst other things, that have never, ever resulted in the effect we are seeing right now.

That sentence just doesn't make sense to me. I'm sure most will agree with me that you've described some rather abrupt changes in a 7 day time period. Maybe I've missed something, but things just don't happen that quickly.

Ever stop to think that things have changed? Is it possible that something you were doing previously has now become an issue? Is it possible that between all the changes you've described, in addition to changes in Google's algo, that there are other underlying issues?

Now, this is where I got lost. I had to go through this damn topic again to see where the link building was discussed. It wasn't. So, now we have a discussion about link building as a potential issue.

Therefore, the argument that my link exchanges could be the reason for this is extremely unlikely based on my experience.

Does that experience take into account the changes that Google has made in the past 6 months? How about the past 30-45 days? There are currently changes afoot in the link industry. And when you say link exchange, that's like 2004/2005? That's one of those filtered words. ;)

And unless you can provide some reason why i should believe that my site, an older site, an authority site would be targeted for 15% of the linkbuilding other sites do, there's no point in bringing it up.

Yes there is. Let's see, link exchanges, competitive area, everyone else is doing it, etc. I can point you to at least 100 topics discussing the ongoing issues with links and the search engines. And, how do you define an old authority site? From my experience (which is minimal by the way), old authority sites do not lose 75% of their traffic in 24 hours.

The only dramatic change was the title changes implemented 4 days ago. All the URLs in question are spidered very often. In fact, a majority of them already reflect the new titles when I do a site: search. This furthers my belief that the titles did indeed cause the problem.

Do they also reflect the change in the cached version?

Your assertion that "slight" changes in the title tag cause DRAMATIC problems for the spider is not really relevant, since I stated the changes were extremely minor (the addition of one word and the first-letter capitalization of some of the words).

I don't know about you Decius, but I know I could make a one word change to a title and cause major havoc. You state it was a minor change, but maybe it wasn't after all eh?

I think that you mean well but you didn't address my specific situation with very much accuracy.

My accuracy is only as good as the data I'm given.

Oh, and now you want to start hollering at me at 1:53 pm on 2007 September 15...

That's a really interesting addition. Except for the fact that NAVIGATION CHANGES AND CONTENT CHANGES WERE MADE TO THE WHOLE SITE, and only THE SPECIFIC URLS WITH TITLE ALTERATIONS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED. Please, read, absorb, then respond. There is clearly a problem with your responses given the facts I have provided.


And then you're back again at 2:31 pm on 2007 September 15, 2007...

I guess I'll spell out an exact contradiction to everything you are saying: A page with no content changes, no inbound link changes, and very minimal internal navigation changes, BUT with the same title change that was on the first page of results for about 3 years is now gone.

That sucks!

Understandably so, but my tone should also permit you to take the leap of faith that maybe I'm not new to this.

I would never think you were new to this using initialisms like OOF and such, come on now, give me credit where it is due, this is WebmasterWorld and I'm expecting to be engaged in professional discussions with my Peers.

Regardless, I doubt the answers will come because it's now mixed in with trying to explain my position repeatedly.

I've summarized everything for you in this topic. My apologies if I didn't provide any insight into what may be happening with your site. I could only make "inexperienced" guesses at what might be causing the issues based on the input given.

Good luck. Try to get some rest. I know I am. This damn reply took too much out of me! I swear, this is probably my longest reply ever in the history of my participation in fora. I think I made my first post back in 1998 at SEF. Ten (10) years Decius. Here's to you, all 10,969 characters (including spaces).

[edited by: tedster at 6:11 pm (utc) on Sep. 25, 2007]

2:45 am on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hello All

Long suffering Google ranker here. Finally after 2 years my ranking for my industry's main keyword phrase I jumped upward 469 stops to 175.

Now 175 may not be that impressive however for 2 years my site for this main keyword on google was nowhere to be found, and for the last several months between 850 and 900, so to me this was big improvement.

Just one question is it possible now after all this time I will start to make a steady upward climb to top 10 rankings on Google?

This is unfamiliar waters for me and I am wondering if things will improve from here on out?

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[edited by: tedster at 6:11 pm (utc) on Sep. 25, 2007]
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