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Google Backs Out of their Position #6 Mistake

     
8:42 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Well, now it's official. Back in December, Google made a mistake that sent many #1 rankings to position #6. The first reports here [webmasterworld.com] were greeted with some skepticism around the web, and Matt Cutts commented that he "was not aware" of anything in the algo that would create this effect.

As reported by rustybrick below, Matt Cutts and Google now do understand what happened and they are backing out of it, rolling out the changes through their many data centers.

And this brings up a bigger - and for me, even better - question. What were they trying to do? Is Google now continuing to do it, but without "the mistake"? How much "forced position" work does Google do in the top positions, especially now that Universal Search is the rule of the day?

We begin with observations from our community, as the signs of the rollback began to appear a few days ago:

[edited by: tedster at 9:00 pm (utc) on Jan. 29, 2008]

6:37 am on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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

We've got action.....almost all datacenters are reverting back to non 6 bugged positions.

I'm still curious as hell what caused this whole thing in the first place.

[edited by: Timetraveler at 7:28 am (utc) on Jan. 25, 2008]

[edited by: tedster at 8:43 pm (utc) on Jan. 29, 2008]

9:54 am on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

I must have a different disease with the same symptoms because I see no signs of recovery.

Sid

1:15 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I've moved up from #6 back to #2 just hoping it will stay that way.
6:08 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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My site is back to normal for first time today, was "sixed" since 17 Dec
6:18 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Very good to hear Chief. Now that we are at this stage, who thinks it was simply a glitch in data?

Hopefully it stays...

6:57 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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who thinks it was simply a glitch in data

I'm still going with my earlier theory.
This had all the markings of a normal testing roll-out when it began.
Then suddenly it got switched to all the DCs with no rhyme or reason.

Again, this was right before Christmas. aka. people aren't really focused on work. They'll focused on holidays, vacations, etc.

If human error is a "glitch" then you can call it that.
But from observing the past week, it seems obvious to me that the "test" never got finished or it was forgotten or whatever.

If you eliminate the 3+ weeks were nothing happened and things were "stuck" the entire testing proceeded like most test.

Test starts on a few DCs ---> Rolls out to more.----> Moves to live google.com off and on for a day or two to get actual results ---> results slowly but surely start to roll back onto less DCs until the results are folded in or discarded.

This usually happens in a week/week and a half. -- not a month+.
which is why i even started this stupid observation :P

7:17 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm looking good too - took awhile for me to see it though. Have friends from around the country telling me I'm back as well. Let's hope it sticks.

Met some nice people here in the process. Thanks to all for sharing and trying to help.

Think I'll start hanging around more :-)

10:32 pm on Jan 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I have also released from Position 6 limbo. All my affected keyword phrases have returned.

It looks like Position 6 is gone from all data centers now.

2:33 am on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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yeah even we back to the spot :).
3:03 am on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I guess we really can't call this a penalty but for those familiar with -# penalties and certain filters, have you ever seen anything as systematic as this rolled out through the serps with no such explanation once it finally was fixed? It seems like most filters and penalties have a causal relationship, semantics, whatever, and end up getting figured out but this one...I think we never would have figured out. Nothing made sense.
3:10 am on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In fact, the pos. 6 data was likely folded into the other data, as newer rankings I have achieved for non affected pages is now mixed with returned positions that were previously pos. 6.

Could even be that somehow we got to 'see' the re-ranking filter that Tedster has talked about, but that the operation, which was due to continue and unfold, was inaccurate. This might also why there it was not acknowledged at Google, why it wasn't stopped if there were errors part way, as doing so could shed light on elements of the process of ranking?

8:01 am on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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simply bizarre.

order seems to have been restored, but i could not even begin to offer a clue as to what has been observed. pages i left alone, pages with massive link changes, and pages whose on-page content was churned, all return to previous states of grace, at least for last two days.

if google was trying to get the attention of the complacent, it worked in this little corner of the net.

9:26 am on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Its still not stable, I see our site moving up and down, from #1 to #5 .. (just avoiding the #6 position though)

AjiNIMC

4:17 pm on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing the #6 ceiling penalty lifted from the sites I was tracking, but the same penalty looks to be rolling through the datacenters on some different sites now...I only have a couple examples so I can't be sure if that was part 1 of a multi-part test or a fluke. If this thread gets a bunch of new people complaining in a few days we'll know the answer.
11:58 pm on Jan 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In some of the serps that I've been watching the were hit by the Position #6 "Penalty," I've noticed, as the results have been updated, that various manifestations of Universal Search have been introduced. Eg, news articles are now almost regularly appearing fairly high up, say at #4, on some searches where they've never appeared before.

I'm wondering out loud whether there was any connection between this test (if that's what it was) and this new positioning.

I should also add that not all of the #6 results I've watched moved back up. Some have dropped down further.

9:55 am on Jan 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Have all of the sites that have suffered a drop on Google.com in this #6 penalty got a non US ip address? (This is what I am seeing!) I'm thinking this is a Geo serps shift rather than a penalty.
2:15 pm on Jan 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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We are out of the #6 spot and sitting at #2 solidly for the past couple days. Hopefully it will stay this way, until we go to #1 ;)
10:58 pm on Jan 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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wayne

yes we recovered and have a UK based IP.

11:01 pm on Jan 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm also seeing recovery for some US IP addresses. But I agree that this is probably the first stage of some more general change in how the SERPs are put together.
12:16 am on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Most of the websites I watch have recovered, some moved up, others moved down.
11:56 am on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts confirmed [sphinn.com] the roll back - it seems like this was all a mistake.

[edited by: tedster at 8:44 pm (utc) on Jan. 29, 2008]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]

12:09 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Don't say mistake, unintended consequence is more polite.
12:15 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Don't say mistake, unintended consequence is more polite.

LOL - true.

12:16 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts confirmed the roll back - it seems like this was all a mistake.

<rollseyes>

Gee, it's almost like he read this thread and decided to ask somebody what was going on.

And he's said nothing for the past 4 weeks?!
<insert "mass Google Noise grumbling to those who know why i'm grumbling" here>

3:52 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

Is that it over for most of you then or are there others here still suffering?

I'm still suffering.

Cheers

Sid

4:23 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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confirm end of -6 penalty for my sites. -cleanup
4:47 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Were not back up to where we were (# 1), but we have been released from position # 6 and are moving up across all DC's. This is a nice change as we were just stuck at that # 6 position ever since this thing started.

Moral of the story; Don't rush to make changes when these aberrations occur.

Hope everyone gets back to where they were, and we can all look forward to fretting over the next Google burp.

5:31 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I am still shuffling, back to #5, top 4 are not of that quality, really cheap sites.
9:14 pm on Jan 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm still suffering too. We were up top #1, now we were fluxing between 5 $ 6 and now it's at the bottom of the page. Yikes..if they are really turning back we would be #1 again....right?
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