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Google Updates and SERP Changes - December 2010

5:35 am on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

I know tedsters has stressed this but what we see ourselves in the SERPS doesn't always help. We are getting pummeled by traffic on one keyword that is relevant. I can't find it and neither can any friends buts it's converting at a great rate. When I perform that search i get no results. Oh the games....

I'd say 20% is a close number compared to two weeks ago. Google traffic is off 35% over these days last year. Yet business is strong, and the bounce rate is low.

The shopping SERPS are impacting more this year because exact matches are turned down. Theres s bunch of products that we were 1-3 on last year where we are gone and so is everyone else, replaced by unrelated stuff...think:

Product whiplash from Appalachian co

Man falls from tree in appalachians suffering whiplash
Walking the Appalachian trail
Blah bla x 7

The exact match of the product name yields no results in holiday search 2011.

I was laughing tonight when I saw a site on amazon that sells helmets also is selling tools. They rank near the top on many items in google. They have no ratings and appear to just dump feeds. #1 in google, ahead of the manufacturer and a world renowned climbers site. That's the lunacy in all this, amazon isn't an authority on rock climbing helmets, crucial memory, or even sweat socks sold by 3rd parties.

This is as bad as the earlier wiki is 1st which was adjusted out. An unknown third party selling on amazon using content that's identical on 5k websites prior...doesn't make amazon the expert.

Im betting a lot of lost traffic went to amazon. They were up 25% yesterday, a lot of us were down 25%. Thanks google im sure amazon needed that boost.

[edited by: tedster at 6:51 pm (utc) on Dec 1, 2010]

9:34 pm on Dec 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Just make the "We recommend Bing" a link to bings homepage, or better yet, a search box to Bing. Perhaps a banner like the firefox logo did a couple years ago.
10:12 pm on Dec 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Google's main advantage is their name - synonymous with "Search". The average user doesn't know what they are missing

Yes, that's spot on. Do you remember that incident last year when a Google engineer got their / in the wrong place and the entire SERPs said "malware"? Most webmasters simply switched to Yahoo or MSN (as it was then). But members of the public, like my mother, said "The Internet is broken", and then waited two hours for Google to "fix the internet"!

Lots of people don't know the difference between a search engine and the net and think Google IS the net. The ones who are vaguely aware it isn't arn't aware of the alternatives.

If people seriously wanted to make the public switch to Bing, they'd need to start a viral campaign. Preferably on Twitter.

Say set up a #tag such as #BingOwnsGoogle and then post a series of tweets (which you need to get your following to retweet). And the tweets would be something like

#BingOwnsGoogle cause they don't return sex registries when I'm looking for power tools

#BingOwnsGoogle cause I like the homepage pictures

#BingOwnsGoogle cause they arn't owned by advertisers

If you want to get political,

#BingOwnsGoogle cause they don't support Obama

(apologies to Obama supporters, was just being creative!)

And so on. The more humor and truth the better. Once it starts trending, it gets picked up by the media and then the general public. :-)
10:27 pm on Dec 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Just to make a clarification yahoo and bing find products no problem. Brand product 12345 should yield the right result and it always did for google until recently. It was once this smart now they've turned it into the money pit.

It's brilliant really. Make adwords relevant organic less relevant. Do you REALLY think this was an accident? Do I think they care no just like the enron people didn't care when they shut off power for millions to make a buck.

The last ten years have taught us American companies will rob cheat and steal to the detriment of the public. When's the wiki leak coming on a deliberate maladjustment of SERPS for profit lol.
11:04 pm on Dec 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It looks like google doesnt like exact matches anymore. I played around with one of my sites, it used to rank #7 for a popular 2 word phrase, had it first in the title tag, oct 22ns it got dropped to page 3 for over a month. I than changed the title, putting the term in the title tag but putting other words between it and now it ranks #3! Thanks google.

On the bad end of this, I did a very specific search: newborn belly button infection

which turns up no relevant results for me, but it used to turn up exact matches that were very helpful before oct 22nd.

I hope google isnt deciding exact matches are now a bad thing, how far can you really go with penalizing for over optimization? Come on google, I hope this all gets fixed in January, I hate having to call the pediatrician for every small thing.
11:17 pm on Dec 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Well I've set up a twitter account


and done the first tweet. Others need to tweet using the #BingOwnsGoogle tag, and I'll find you and re-tweet.

Brinked, your tweet should be

#BingOwnsGoogle cause they helped sort my newborn's baby belly infection

Apart from a bit of fun, it should be an interesting experiment on how many tweets and re-tweets it takes to make a topic trend.
12:35 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

brinked - have you done any studies for exact match queries, before and after Oct 22?

It seems to me that one of the steps Google took was designed to stop sites from ranking by auto-generating content by mashing up long tail keyword tool output with article spinning. There were so many sites getting long tail traffic from schemes like this that they had to react. So I can see why exact matches might have suffered.
12:55 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I played around with one of my sites, it used to rank #7 for a popular 2 word phrase, had it first in the title tag, oct 22ns it got dropped to page 3 for over a month. I than changed the title, putting the term in the title tag but putting other words between it and now it ranks #3!

I've wondered for over a year whether this would become more and more the norm. IMO Goggle’s spam algo would evolve and each day become more off target. In other words it becomes a matching thing to a degree. The off target results are matched with even more off topic results because the exact match is perceived as spam by the nature of the evolving spam algo. Personally I don’t believe you can target spam or rank sites much out of the arena Bing uses without hurting a lot of businesses. The exception being Google’s friends.
1:06 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

brinked - have you done any studies for exact match queries, before and after Oct 22?

Unfortunatley I have not done any extensive studies like I usually due. I simply have not had enough time since the birth of my son. I have been comparing SERP's from before oct 22nd and after for my sites as well as my clients and I can say with almost certainty google has discredited exact matches to some degree. I also see them tightening up their OOPs filter which I feel was a bit too strict to begin with.

It also appears (again I have not done a lot of research into this) that they have discredited many types of backlinks such as articles/directories and sitewides.

I would love to go crazy and fully explore these changes, but I did the same thing last holiday season to only have google completely change their algo for the better after the holiday season so I am going to hold off on any major research and use that time to spend time burping my son and taking care of my clients.

And that is exactly what I am preaching to my clients right now, not to put too much stock into their gain/losses until february comes along. And I think a lot of people on these boards needs to do the same. The last thing you want to do is panic and then make a change that will hurt your site in the long run.
2:59 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

hi from good old germany

we hav 10+ domains with 10+ servers,and no interlinking.

e.g a bath funiture shop, ticket shop...

since several days all domains loosing index sites and have old rankings, 6 month ago); some domains were relaunched(Domains were offline for month), these domains have no ranking, so my opinion google has its yearly "index loosing", even adwords loosing

the results at the moment shows abandoned sites, spam sites,...

so drink some beer and wait and next year support bing
3:47 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

yes something did happen in the last 10-12 days forcing the crap that we all see..google seems to have rolled out one of the most stupid changes to counter exact matches...

They advocate good titles and they now don't like exact matches...

A proper approach would have been to look for other signals to distinguish the good from the bad rather than than going against exact matches...
3:56 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Okay cat is out of the bag.

Two weeks ago we did what brinked did. We took 50 products that had dropped because of the exact match penalty and inserted random words. Cool, large, versatile, reusable, etc into the title. We also used ten ridiculous words out of the 50. Loving, fuzzy, insatiable, type words. The more ridiculous the better for all pages reindexed. For one term we added preferred by more reindeers and it's up to 2nd from 3rd to 35th.

Your results may vary. But for every page changed we ranked better afterwards for product rectangle AFTER we changed the tile to product project mayhem rectangle. Idiotic but welcome to the new google. This kind of explains why we are seeing nonsense where particular medical or product searches once returned data. Google is penalizing a site for delivering exact results unless a threshold is met/unless it's amazon.

Long discussion among friends that are computer illiterate and surprisingly everyone had noticed something is wrong. Google is obviously seeing this in click data which is why we see daily tweaks. They're making changes because they have to.

The preferred by more reindeers....doesn't rank on that term but by inserting the nonsense it ranks on the first term. Sweet programming work. The part we added it to is a component for aviation. Does google equate reindeer with flying more than the exact match? Maybe!

[edited by: scottsonline at 4:01 am (utc) on Dec 11, 2010]

4:00 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Another thing I noticed is sites that create more fresh pages (not necessarily for their keywords) seem to be moving up the ranks for their keywords.

These days it has become a norm for many blogs to post copied news content and then add a "source" credit at the bottom.This includes the very popular ones.Google seems to be rewarding them for creating "such precious pages".

[edited by: indyank at 4:12 am (utc) on Dec 11, 2010]

4:03 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

Fascinating - thanks for those goodies. I wonder if the title-rewrite game Google is playing somehow impacts exact match in title.
4:06 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I just did a quick check on a couple of keywords and at the moment google seems to have rolled back the changes...do anyone else see it...
4:07 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@scottsonline maybe your right, 2 weeks ago we changed our title at one shop, we had at ALL pages a german stupid slogan); we droped this slogan and now we hav minus 50% but SOO strange even at ADWORDS

seems we have the same problem at adwords
4:20 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

The title rewrite game started months back and are they still continuing to tweak it? I thought they would leave it at what they had achieved then, as it was relevant in a few cases.But the further tweaks, if any, are proving to be disastrous indeed...
4:36 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ted is right I understand why they did it. But instead of hiring people to form a foundation of bad sites abusing the system they are trying to save a buck and do it with algorithms. Ultimately this will fail as humans aren't computers.

My intent when searching at 8am on a Sunday is different than at my desk at 2pm on Monday or at 1am after the company christmas party. It's different when my sister uses my machine when she is in for the holidays or when the IT manager uses my station at work. It's different when optimum decides to reset the ip block and give me John smiths.

Right now google is relying on personalized search. This is wrong. Provide a solid set of SERPS for any users. Customize it when possible after that.

If I type in product purple people eater and there's a site that decided to use that title return it. Instead google returns a story about a one eyed Cyclopes that likes grape juice after eating people.

It's all about the greenbacks. Hiring people that understand these searches in context costs money. Making miserable mistakes probably makes money short term in adwords until they jump the shark.

This is why all those mashup sites were doing so well. They shotgunned terms on a page and google loved it. You can do exact matches if you are amazon the rest of us get whacked.

I was shocked at the negative perception of google. People that I'd place in the middle of the knowledge ladder understand what's happening. Sadly few tonight knew bing was an alternative.

I'm convinced now google sees all of this in click data. That's where all these changes are starting. There are warning signs.
4:51 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

We took 50 products that had dropped because of the exact match penalty and inserted random words.

Scottsonline - I find this very interesting. But I'm not fully understanding why Google is down-ranking exact matches.

I sell Blue Widgets with Green Dots. So guess what my home page title and H1 tag say - yep - Blue Widgets with Green Dots

Why? Because dear Google, that's what the page is about!

So now I should change it to "Sorta Light Blue Cool Widgets with Tinted Green Decorations"?

Why Google? Is it because spammers use the simpler, more direct phrase? And if I do the same I'm a spammer?

Geez. There's a big bubble about to burst. It's called Google stock.

Seriously, I'd like to understand the reasoning behind Google's handling of this.

5:05 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

This is working great for me so far. I have a 3 month old site that I have started as a side project but never fully got around to promoting it and fully developing it. Anyway, the site title was something like "Blue Widgets - Create your very own custom widget" I was ranking on page 3 for "create blue widgets" I changed the title to something similar to "Create your very own blue widgets" and guess what? I am now ranking #1! Now granted, this isnt a very popular keyword, but its getting the site a nice 350-400 uniques a day from google and I am now ranking for other similar terms.

I am actually loving this and my mind is going crazy with all the endless and fun possibilities. Hey, when google gives you oranges, make orange juice right?
5:46 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

350-400 uniques a day doesn't look so popular to you...man, you are squeezing them :)
6:03 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

well its not really a money making keyword and doesnt really attract people who buy stuff online. And granted, there were 2 new links to the site recently so that may have had an effect on the ranking as well.
8:28 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

On the bad end of this, I did a very specific search: n*wb*rn be*ly b*utt*on inf*ction

which turns up no relevant results for me, but it used to turn up exact matches that were very helpful before oct 22nd.

Whatever it turned up, I don't think it was exact matches. Searching on both Google and Bing, quoted and unquoted, I see that Google returns 9 exact matches for the phrase, one of which is this WebmasterWorld thread. Bing returns 13 exact matches, but several of the urls returned are the same with different query strings.

Possibly, the confusion might be that for the unquoted search, both Bing and Google return in the #1 position a discovermagazine.com article which does not contain an exact match for the noted query. Bing returns the article whether the query is quoted or unquoted, but Google returns the article only when the query is unquoted.

Regarding how Google says it treats exact matches, this might be a useful reference....

Google query modification - the official word
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4212716.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Google does officially use synonyms. I've also seen Google not return an exact phrase match (one that I know exists) for a quoted search but return the same phrase for an unquoted search.

Titles are held to a higher standard, and an exact match title won't return a page that Google feels has other problems (like dupe content).
8:55 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Robert Charlton the query I noted in that response was just a similar type query I was using as an example. I have done many searches over the last 2 months for various things and the quality has taken a turn for the worse lately. I was using that term as a generic kind of how we use widgets.

I know how google does not always return exact title matches but one industry I monitor for example went from 9 of the top ten "free widget" results having free widget as the first 2 words in their titles to only having 3 sites in the top ten having the exact match as first in the title tag.

I think this is product/ecommerce related. I really think google is doing this to try to correct an issue with exact product matches that many sites are taking advantage of and I wont fault them for that. If thats the case, I really hope that they adjust this to only effect ecommerce type sites.

Here is how you can do your own test. Do a search on something as you normall would. Except do this allintitle:"type your search here"

I am doing that and I am finding much more useful results than without exact allintitle matches.
11:35 am on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I am seeing some rapid shuffling of SERPs this morning in UK. Shaking things up quite a bit.
2:22 pm on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Jez yes these are the changes I was suggesting were imminent. I think I've identified and use a test/early adopter dc because I'm now seeing these changes roll all over.

trying to break human behavior down to numbers will fail. All the sentiment analysis won't help when the masses decide google is the myspace of search. Right now they are doing many things and none of them well. They admit they don't read spam reports and we wonder why the index is so easily manipulated. Sorry I don't believe google can parse my messages in spam reports when they cant figure out I'm looking for a product and not perverts in the 12335, or that when I type Manchester (word for place to stay) while in ny it shows me the uk after I had been searching for things to do in the other area all day.

They need more testers, they need more people reviewing actual reports and they need to provide a feedback mechanism that is actually reviewed. Or course they need to update the wmgl because the companies I see doing great right now are all violating blatantly rules on duplicate sites.

One more cat out of bag:

I don't think Matt and his team grasp the impact of storexyz.com that sells brand product b on the main site as product b custom shipped, but has site 2 as brandstore.ccom and sells it as brand product b free delivery and five more sites. The Numbers of clicks on the secondary sites might only be five clicks a month per page but it converts at 50%. This is a huge failure on their part and it has hurt all of us playing by the wmgl.

They see a few clicks a month and think it's no big deal. It is. If you know and can easily identify the site as a duplicate....how hard is it when they idenitify themselves and just by chance have different titles for the same product? How about blacklisting the duplicates? Remove them to zero pages, and whack the parent sites for a few days.

Does everyone see that right now they want us all to cheat? We can do we by throwing reindeer near flying terms!
3:08 pm on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I read a thread about a "test run" in the UK but this is the first I'm seeing Google running a credit card comparison engine . . err, service . . in the USA SERPs.

Google also holds the top-of-the-page position ad via a "Comparison Ad" link to their credit card comparison service.
3:44 pm on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

in the USA SERPs

It's in the UK SERPs as well! Seemingly not Canada, Australia and Ireland.
11:35 pm on Dec 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

New test. A week ago we were 5th on an item. The only change was we added ready to be delivered (changing words slightly). A day later it was indexed today we are first. It's a non-shipping item. It has to be precision designed and we deliver it on a flatbed. We were testing keywords.

So this is about slamming titles full of trigger words, synonyms and garbage.
1:06 am on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

In my niche, more the half the web search results on a page are Google Map/Places results.

I thought that is why there is a tab for Google Map. The search results are all clogged up with these results. This kind of content has been increasing consistently and affecting more searches over the past few months.

I sure long for the days of clean results that were Google’s hallmark and made their search so popular.
1:15 am on Dec 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I was sitting on the john thinking about google (thats where I do some of my best thinking and have the best ideas) and I was thinking back to what made me like google so much when it first launched and why many people took to it. It was because of its simplicity. At the time not many people had high speed internet, so the simple google interface was a pleasure since it loaded quickly on a 56k. We could go to google knowing that we could do a search and get for the most part, relevant results for that search. But what made google really thrive was its simple non clutter interface which plagued yahoo, hotbot et al.

The more clutter google adds to their search result pages, the more they are getting away from it. I love the places idea but I do not like them in my regular serps. If I want to search for a place, I will go to their maps/places section and do my search there. Same goes for images, videos etc etc. It is search overload and its very frustrating.

Google should show these other sections in the regular serps like a one time thing to show the searcher "hey it looks like you are searching for a video, here are some video results, in the future, you can search our video section"

Or at least give the user an option to opt out like "do not show videos in my searches" same for images etc. I would personally love to be able to control what goes in my SERP's as a regular searcher.
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