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Reason for rankings drop Dec 28th



9:23 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We are currently investigating why our site suffered a mass de-rank on dec 28th and have yet to recover - we are suspecting that our new server has been experiencing continuous high pocket loss - can this be linked to a drop in rankings?

Robert Charlton

9:40 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

high pocket loss

Do you mean "packet" loss?

Aside from ranking problems, please describe your symptoms.


9:51 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

sorry Robert, yes i meant Packet Loss, we have seen some strange 500 internal errors, some 404 11 errors on Googlebot due to re-write issues and having %20 in our rewritten URLs - we are trying to pinpoint why Google would de-rank us on such as large scale (we are a 50k unique visits per day site) and are thinking it may be large packet losses causing problems for crawling and indexing.


10:13 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

Persistent server problems can most definitely cause Google to demote your rankings. Once you get the server fixed, recovery is usually pretty quick.


10:23 pm on Jan 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

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the only problem is that we are only seeing the de-rank to specific types of pages (albeit the pages that have the majoirty of the traffic - these pages are heavily internally linked to and crawled) but some types of pages have not been affected.


8:39 am on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I had the same problem. Those pages you are seeing the de-rank are the ones that were probably crawled whilst your site was down and unfortunately hit. The other pages were probably not crawled so therefore not affected. From my experience ranking will come back gradually, give it a week or two.


12:35 pm on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I am currently running the site through Xenu Link Sleuth and I am seeing LOTS of "No Connection" as the Status of the crawl from Xenu whilst making its way through the site? Could this be linked to the server issue, and is this how Googlebot could be acting during crawl?


1:15 pm on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I would focus more on fixing the problem and less on what google thinks. Perhaps even get a new server asap depending on how big this site is to your financial situation. Or get your ISP involved immediately before things get worse.


2:56 pm on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Sadly our bottom line does heavily depend on what google thinks - I agree on your point though we need to establish how to fix the server regardless of crawling etc


5:04 pm on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sadly our bottom line does heavily depend on what google thinks

No, your bottom line depends on what Google sends you and if Google's algo has determined your server has a problem then it will not send you as much traffic until you get it fixed.


5:08 pm on Jan 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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i think thats just another way of saying the same thing HuskyPup. We have a heavy reliant of Google organic traffic, and we are trying to establish whether our server issues have caused Google to de-rank us.


5:39 am on Jan 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

@speedshopping: Perhaps I missed it... is this a company (ie. YOUR) server or are you working via a host? If a host, then change hosts immediately. If YOUR server, get immediate help regarding server setup, hardware, and your bandwidth provider.

If your "new server" is a new host, get on them like white on rice to solve the problem or, as mentioned immediate above, GET A NEW HOST.


11:17 am on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Pages that are unreachable or return a 50x header response will be temporarily removed from the index. Once successfully recrawled they will return with the original rankings.

Often its the most popular pages that are removed, simply because they are crawled more often.

In xenu reduce the number of parallel threads.


5:32 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)


Followed the forum for a while but registered specifically to reply here.
We experienced exactly the same mass de-rank on Dec 28th and also did not recover yet. About 97 percent of the Google traffic is gone Yahoo and Bing on the same levels. Tested with Xenu, no problems at all, the website is responsive and "survived" traffic ten times larger than the average daily traffic. No buy/sell links so not sure what to do...


6:10 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

Welcome to active posting, Sarin - and thanks for contributing your experience. So it looks like we do have some kind of pattern here and it may not be about server troubles.

I know you said no paid links, so I'm wondering what your overall backlink picture does look like.


6:29 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)


Thanks for the reply. Is there any way to attach / send the csv file with the backlinks from Webmaster? What are you looking for specifically? I never performed any link building campaigns, the site is fairly new and it started as a hobby project. Right in the first month I did add backlinks to it in the blogroll section from several other websites I owned and that are pretty much dead but again, that was in the first month and nothing was changed in the last 6 months.


6:36 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I saw some fairly significant changes in indexed pages around 28th-29th December, only in my case more pages were suddenly included.

I have an 8 year old site that currently has around 80,000 pages. Initially most of the pages were indexed, but then it got badly hit around 2004 with the arrival of the 'Supplemental Index' and many of the pages went.

Things have been very slowly building up over the years. For the last 3 years there has only ever been a maximum of around 20,000 of those pages indexed. Changing internal linking has allowed me some control over which 20,000 but it seemed that was my quota.

As of the event at the end of December I seem to have around 40,000 pages indexed now. Not ranking terribly well but at least they are there. It strikes me that there was a major rejigging of the kind of edge case pages that are allowed into the main index and I wonder if some people haven't noticed because in a lot of cases they are likely to be fairly low traffic pages?


8:23 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It's interesting to see other sites taking a hit on 28th December too - I think we have pretty much worked out that it's not server related - working frantic to work out what's happened we have carried out several actions and will update if we have impact


9:40 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

What are you looking for specifically?

The variety and type of site that links to you. If your backlinks are mostly (or only) from sources that you can control, that can only take you so far. Things like blogrolls from your other sites or your friends sites, blog comment signatures, directories and so on can only take you so far for just so long. A lot of those link types have a power that seems to taper off and die away.

At a certain point there needs to be a clear signal that completely independent sites voluntarily decide to point a link at your content for their visitors to follow.


9:50 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is there any way I can send you the files containing the links? The back links are very diverse and 99% occurring naturally but I don't have enough experience to analyse their impact over the domain rank. I do imagine however that their power shouldn't disappear over night unless Google tweaked their algorithms again.

Also, Google's link: operator seems buggy, Yahoo's site explorer gives a much better image about my backlinks.


10:05 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

If you've got a respectable diversity in backlinks and they come from many different domains, then you're probably OK in the links department and should start looking for other possible causes.

I don't think we know exactly what Google was up to on Dec 28 yet - so people who are affected should start sharing their ideas. I'd start by assuming that everything you've been doing is transparent to Google. Then ask yourself if you did anything at all in the past that was ONLY done for Google rather than for your visitors.


10:09 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Be certain to check your Google WMT account to see if you have any messages ~ below is one I recently received. All pages worked fine by the time I read the message so it was only very temporary. In your case it seems they would have notified you too, since you had a more serious problem.

<Site URL here>: Possible outages January 4, 2011

Dear owner or webmaster of <site domain here>

While crawling your site, we have noticed an increase in the number of transient soft 404 errors around 2011-01-01 07:00 UTC (London, Dublin, Edinburgh). Your site may have experienced outages. These issues may have been resolved. Here are some sample pages that resulted in soft 404 errors:

<4 pages listed here>

For more information, see our Help Center:

Soft 404 errors


10:28 pm on Jan 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Nope, no SEO on my side other than just writing articles and linking some of them on the homepage. I also submit the articles once written to my twitter and Digg accounts. The other search engines are performing the same for me like before Dec 28. No WMT messages either...I did have some 404 errors (it seems that Google is looking for non-existing pages on my website) but I 301 redirected them so they should be fine now. Anybody else experienced such a massive traffic drop due to 10-15 404 errors?

Also, not sure if it helps but my bounce rate was always under 2% and it is currently 0.75%.


3:34 am on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

97% loss of google traffic is very high and you should check whether you have been penalized.

1)Is you niche more seasonal?
2)What is the domain age like?
3)Have you lost rankings for all your high traffic pages (their keywords)? Where do you find them now?
4) Check whether google is reporting you site as "hacked site" or a "malware site" in the SERPS (also check for message, if any, in GWT)
5) Do you see any sudden mass change in your backlink profile?


10:21 am on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

One of my sites experienced this drop on the 28th. There was also a general shake up in the surrounding serps at the same time.

Really not sure what caused it. No penalty but it could be a new filter.


11:03 am on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Yes, i do agree that there was a change seen that day and it proved to be positive for many sites I know...So, I haven't really looked at what caused them to raise...yes it could be the seasonal change...

but for those who lost that day, there is definitely something that filtered you out...but if it is to the extent of 97%, I do suspect some major issues like malware, hack or a penalty.


4:33 pm on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

We happen to see the same ranking decrease on Dec 28th. We were also hit hard around the end of October. We've lost more than 50% of our Google traffic. It seems to have happened to our highest performing keywords. Keywords we've specifically spent time optimizing onsite as well as offsite. I can believe that some of the links that point to these pages will look like we have some control over them, i'll admit. But no paid links, more along the lines of posting in a few forums, blog comments, etc.

One thing we did notice is that our pages weren't de-indexed, just dropped from the first page into oblivion. With the exception of a few that were simply moved down the page.

It's a real blow to us, in Q1 we'll be focusing on the only thing we have not put much effort into thus far.... social media...twitter and facebook.

After categorizing all the SEO work and marketing projects we've worked on in the past 2 years, one small change in Google can make 2 years of work seem to have no effect at all. It's discouraging when you're working for a website that's always 'followed the rules' and boasted a good business ethic along with great product, business model, etc. Makes us wonder what it could have been that we were penalized for, if anything specific at all.


5:10 pm on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)


1. No, It is a technology blog oriented to gadget reviews
2. Almost a year, but it had good traffic right before Dec 28
3. Yes, they are lower than second page. All of them dropped on Dec 28. What is weird is that for a couple of days before Dec 28 I noticed about 50% spike from the normal traffic, spike that lasted two days and then it dropped almost completely.
4. No malware / any other warnings in WMT, I checked that first...
5. No, everything seems to be as before

As MelissaRWE said, it happened on our highest performing keywords as well.
Again, I didn't perform any SEO, just trying to publish articles daily. It is really weird...


5:41 pm on Jan 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

so it isn't a year yet for this blog...I do see such fluctuation in the initial year...will take time to settle down...

also take a look at the backlink profile for these pages via GWT...check whether you see any changes there...it could as well be that these pages had links that google devalued recently...


11:14 pm on Jan 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

Has anyone suffering from the Dec 28 drop pinned down anything more specific? For example, is it search traffic to your home page, or to a broad range of pages? Do the site: operator results still who your domain root at the top? Is it one particular but important keyword (and longer tail phrases built on it) that is suffering?
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