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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2011

     

tedster

11:19 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

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


Related AdSense Farm Update < continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >


It's a new month and our regular SERP watching thread has been neglected a bit lately. Most of the posting right now is on dedicated threads focused on specific changes - especially the Scraping algo change [webmasterworld.com] and the promised (but not yet active) campaign against Content Farms [webmasterworld.com].

But Google's perpetual update machine keeps on turning. I'm particularly wondering about sites that publish a lot of legitimately syndicated content rather than a lot of original content. Did your rankings and traffic wobble with the "dupe content update"? If they dropped, did they rebound?

I'm watching one such website and though they are mostly republished content, nothing seemed to change.

[edited by: tedster at 6:00 pm (utc) on Feb 4, 2011]

[edited by: tedster at 8:38 pm (utc) on Feb 26, 2011]

indyank

6:55 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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when one I clicked on was at the bottom of the page logged in and jumped to 2 as soon as I logged out.


Have you cleared the cookies? The logged out personalization would have taken over :)

TheMadScientist

7:04 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Good point! I don't use Google enough anymore to think about half the BS you have to do to get real results. I actually dread having to use Google any more.

tedster

7:54 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I just began to wonder if there's a correlation between strange ranking drops and the new algo Google is using to rewrite page titles and descriptions. In other words, if your title or snippet gets rewritten for too many query phrases, might that be a predictor for a ranking drop?

outland88

8:11 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've seen Bing doing it also.

TheMadScientist

9:21 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Actually tedster, I think you might be on to something, but I wonder if it's more indirect than number of title rewrites?

Could it be: A title that was attracting clicks (as Sgt_Kickaxe and I talk about in this thread: Google Changing Page Titles & Descriptions [webmasterworld.com]) gets changed for generic title that doesn't get clicks, because it's changed to 'blend in' and the new 'not interested' behavior of searchers causes a drop in the rankings?

tedster

9:28 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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That's exactly the angle I'm pondering. The rewrite algo screws with a title that shouldn't be screwed with, click-through bombs, but instead of reversing the re-write, ranking suffers.

TheMadScientist

9:32 pm on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well, I can say the home page they so kindly changed the title on for me was #2 and getting clicks, but since the change the clicks have dropped off and it's now #9. Rankings checked not logged in, cookies cleared.

Edit: It's actually back up to #7 now, but still not getting the clicks it did by any stretch.

ADDED: They did do a GREAT job of blending the title into the rest of the page ... If I wasn't looking for it because it's my site I wouldn't even notice the title on the page.

mickymar

6:00 pm on Feb 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



I am just a wee person compared to most of you hard working people. BUT I have noticed that for my search term, the big players are all using Google Adwords. Now, being that the economy has changed and as with that, Google guess they have to make their money too.

I and my business are hanging it all up. Before they did what ever they did in Sept, we were on the right road, NOW we are so far out of the park, and all the work done isnt getting any closer to home plate, if anything we are so far out of the park, that its best to just leave it all behind.

For internet sales sites, if your are not bowing down to Google then they somehow slide you so far out.

Its a shame that they have turned their tides to accept sites, that are doing exactly what would at one time banned you.

Warm regards all!
Michele

tedster

6:19 pm on Feb 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



@mickymar, I'll guarantee you that those sites do not rank well because they buy Adwords. But they might be able to afford Adwords because they rank well. And even more, Adwords can be a good way to stay afloat through lean organic SERPs if you can get a decent ROI.

Sorry to hear that you and your business decided to hang it up. It happens both offline and online, but it's almost always quite painful.

internetheaven

12:44 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Fastest ever bump and drop I've seen. For thirty minutes one of my sites jumped from 400+ to position 12. Then at #156 for the next half hour ... then nowhere ... then back to 400+ ...

I have some sites that bounce a lot. Some that don't bounce at all. Wish I knew what the difference was.

internetheaven

12:59 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Fastest ever bump and drop I've seen. For thirty minutes one of my sites jumped from 400+ to position 12. Then at #156 for the next half hour ... then nowhere ... then back to 400+ ...

I have some sites that bounce a lot. Some that don't bounce at all. Wish I knew what the difference was.


Ummm ... actually, it changes with every refresh of the page. All my results change with each refresh whether using Instant or not.

TheMadScientist

3:13 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, I'm thinking there's something changing on a fairly large scale. I don't remember if I posted it in this thread, but the other day GBot spidered all but one or two pages on a smaller site I have in a row ... That's not at all a 'normal' thing to have happen on the site.

Anyway, from some of the comments I've read, including yours I'm thinking there's a change in the works.

tedster

4:35 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



I've recently been studying a new client's site. They've had a steady level of Google search traffic for months. Beginning Feb 15, their traffic more than doubled and stayed there. And it's good traffic, too. Bounce rates went down, page views per visitor and average time on site went up.

My only issue is, I can't find any dramatic ranking improvements. The keywords bringing in traffic haven't changed their positions, according to every check I've run. It's a US based .com and all the new traffic is US, too.

I've never seen a data pattern like this before - and I haven't made any changes to the site, I'm just doing an audit.

It's possible that something about the entire SERP changed making their ranking stand out and appear much more clickable, I suppose. Seems unlikely, but it could be.

Anyone notice anything dramatic changing on Feb 15 (last Tuesday)?

indyank

5:25 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Tedster, I did notice the bump for one site on Tuesday, peaked on Wednesday (20% more than monday's traffic) but then it sloped towards the weekend with sunday receiving the usual weekend traffic.

I too tried reading into this but then didn't spend much time. Analytics didn't show anything new on a first read.

Is the traffic for your site holding on?

imbckagn

6:58 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Tedster, the 15th is when my WMT impressions went to crap then the 16th traffic followed suit. Looks like my site saw the opposite of your clients.

Jez123

9:32 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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their traffic more than doubled and stayed there


Well, that's pretty much exactly the opposte of what I have had on my site back in Sept last year - and still see now.

Was the site you are monitoring's traffic ever as good as that? Did it drop off and then come back or did it just improve better than it ever was?

Just wondering if my site will ever bounce back! I live in hope that google bosses will notice and say "What the hell is that decent site doing in that pit? Restore it immediately. Make amends by supplying more traffic you fools". They'd say. lalala...

TheMadScientist

9:38 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It's possible that something about the entire SERP changed making their ranking stand out and appear much more clickable, I suppose. Seems unlikely, but it could be.

Do you mean something like the title of the page displayed in the SERPs?

TheMadScientist

9:46 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well, that's pretty much exactly the opposte of what I have had on my site back in Sept last year - and still see now.

Out of curiosity, does the title in the SERPs match what you have as the title of the page in the html?

Jez123

9:53 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@TheMadScientist - I have never noticed a title change on my site. I have noticed a long time ago that google would change the title if it thought that the user was searching for my business rather than general products and it would change the title to the business name.

This is not to say that they don't do it. They seem to be able to show you what you want to see. Plus they may well change results that I don't monitor

internetheaven

11:06 am on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Ummm ... actually, it changes with every refresh of the page. All my results change with each refresh whether using Instant or not.


No-one else notice the SERPS changing with each refresh about 1-2am this morning? (GMT)

Big shake up for results for me in the UK with them settled this morning.

tedster

3:58 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Do you mean something like the title of the page displayed in the SERPs?

No, I mean something like the way extra Universal Search elements are added to the page - Video, News, Local... all that.

The title is not rewritten - which is amazing because their titles are so weak and full of duplication. Changing thousands of titles to include the most important keyword is going to be a strong audit recommendation.

TheMadScientist

4:04 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The title is not rewritten - which is amazing because their titles are so weak and full of duplication.

That makes me think inbound links probably play a fairly strong role in title rewriting. My initial thought when I saw the one I've been referring to (for those who haven't been following: Google Changing Titles & Descriptions [webmasterworld.com]) was I needed more links with the title I want to be displayed, and having weak titles not re-written on internal pages seems to indicate (to me any way) inbound links play a fairly important role in the title re-writing process.

TyMax

9:46 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)



I am at a lost to understand what Google is trying to do with the changes they are making to the SERPS. I think it is a work in progress but in some cases a domain name maybe the defining factor to ranking. Other times it seems to be other factors. I see my competitors with redundant titles holding 3 tops spots while mine sits at 4 or 5 when it was at 1.

Many have multi sites and in one case the domain name is the factor for first place since all it has is a picture and text, a single what once was called a side door page. Mean while my page of helpful information is still filtered out on Google but traffic is up over all and it does very well on all other engines.

I think we all want solid results when we search but now I find some stuff on Yahoo/Bing when I look at keywords and results that are far better than what is showing in Google. I very seldom if ever surf with cookies on to try and see a more clear result from my search.

Most of my other pages and product categories are doing well in Google and else where which makes me wonder what in the world are they doing. I use it most often to search but when I see better results else where I am starting to use other options since the search result outcome provides better results. I have always loved Google but the last couple months has me wondering if this is going to be the new Google or just a transition.

I am moving our email accounts to Google end of the month since we all have been very pleased with the spam filtering and solid up time and service on free use. If they think they main information page of mine is duplication then I can see why a lot of very relevant pages are no longer showed or rank well. I did not have much hair before this all started but I have less now.

tedster

11:54 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



As I see it Google's guiding vision is far different from what we have conventionally understood as IR (Information rRtrieval). It's NOT "the user entered this text, let's find the best documents with that text."

Instead, it's "the user entered this text. Our data shows a certainty of NN% that they actually want this such & such. So let's serve them a kind of mix, using our intention engine assessment as a guide."

So yes, it is quite a mix of factors, and the recipe for any particular SERP may not be the same at all as another SERP. In fact, Google is aiming to drive their user to the best content for their query, and not the content that best lines up technically in any traditional way.

I think I understand where they are coming from. After 18 years, it's pretty clear that many web publishers are not going to get on the technically-accurate bandwagon. But the average user could care less. They just want to get to whatever it is that they hoped to find.

I agree that it's very much a work in progress. Sometimes Google search results can be painfully poor. More often, they just leave something to be desired.

But it was much worse with the pure IR model, even before spamming became what it is today. If you were active in search in the early or mid nineties, you can remember doing a search on Alta Vista and finding 8 out of 10 results that were completely out past left field and over the wall (and in foul territory, too, not a home run.)

I predict that 2011 will continue to see SERPs that we feel are crazy. This is a machine learning model, guided by humans but more and more, I think it's machine learning. They're training their little toddler. And he's not properly toilet trained yet.

olias

12:44 am on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



If you were active in search in the early or mid nineties, you can remember doing a search on Alta Vista and finding 8 out of 10 results that were completely out past left field and over the wall (and in foul territory, too, not a home run.)

I used to quite enjoy the days of Altavista and Lycos. The serps were basically hopeless and most people couldn't find anything they wanted - luckily I got the idea of using search operators and would dazzle my friends with my ability to find things.

The funny thing is that over the last year or so I find myself using quotes on Google ever more to demand that it gives me what I am actually searching for rather than what it thinks I might want. I did one search the other day where I had to resort to a search something like +green "fluffy widgets" -inurl:fuzzy. What fun! :)

mrguy

5:53 am on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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They just want to get to whatever it is that they hoped to find.


That's a key point. Lately, though more and more people I talk to are having a hard time finding whatever it is they hoped to find. These are average people who know nothing about advanced search operators nor care to.

Instead, they ask me what's wrong with Google and I tell them I don't know because I don't use Google to search for stuff.

I might also make mention of what I do use but that's for another thread.

TyMax

1:13 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)



@tedster I am not just referring to my site results those I can kind of understand. But the over all search quality. Example a couple months back I was curious what happened to a old live in g/f. Over the years I every few years do a search for her and could not locate her. One day I tried it on Yahoo after Bing merge and first listing she pops up.

She still does not show in Google with maiden name. There are other examples that in searching unrelated to the multi sites I work with where search results are better than in Google and that just was never the case before. In the quest to limit duplication they are also effecting search results with a negative impact.

If this is what they feel people want that is fine. But I think most people searching will check more than one source and if they continually find better results else where Google traffic will start to decline. Time will tell.

martinacastro

7:29 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



@Tedster,

about your comment
Anyone notice anything dramatic changing on Feb 15 (last Tuesday)?


One of my sites drop 170 positions for 2 very competitive keywords (K1, K2) on Feb 16 and stay in the same position (for other keywords composed by K1 or K2) or drop 5 or 8 positions for some other different keywords and the traffic decrease ~25%.

Since sunday this site improve their rankings in ~70 positions for these Kws (K1,K2).

Regards

tedster

10:50 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



I'm going to make a rare exception to our usual guidelines here and post a specific search query for the .co.uk google - because this strangeness could very well show us something about the current algo.

The search term is [ernie plasterer manchester] and the number 8 result is google.co.uk itself!

Google
The local version of this pre-eminent search engine, offering UK-specific pages as well as world results.
www.google.co.uk/


This example was floated to Matt Cutts via Twitter, so take a look now before it gets fixed. [google.co.uk...]

mirrornl

11:11 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



and what could it show us about the current algo?

TheMadScientist

11:14 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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and what could it show us about the current algo?

It's getting self important!

tedster

11:45 pm on Feb 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



LOL - that's funny.

Here's my point. That result is wildly irrelevant but still the algo picked it. Yes, the query is crazy long tail and not likely to be anyone's ranking goal. But why would the algo weight things that way at all, even in an edge case?

anteck

2:13 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"On Febuary 21st, 2011, GOOGLENET Became Self Aware..."

tedster

2:29 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



More like "On Febuary 21st, 2011, GOOGLENET perfectly simulated clinical narcissism..." In other words, "Enough about me, now what about me?"

TheMadScientist

3:05 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Wait until it gets cocky and does that will all 10 ... "You think you want to visit another site? I can't let you do that ... Start over ... google.co.uk is the answer you were looking for ..."

mromero

3:19 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



From a SEO challenged perspective. What we are continuing to see on one of our sites at about position 6 in the U.S. but at 1 or 2 in other places, for example Canada and the U.K.

I can only fathom that G is thinking (well if the algo can really think) is that the site is of less relevance in the U.S. contrasted with Canada and the U.K. Thus a government controlled site, wikipedia, old U.S. state dept docs from 3 years ago etc. ride to the top.

The funny thing is that most of our business AND organic traffic comes from the U.S. then the U.K. and Canada - thus for this site G has it upside down - at least in our view.

tedster

3:47 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Shouldn't you also factor in that there is no google.us? That means google.com has an entire world full of potential URLs to rank, so you're up against a lot more competition on google.com.

indyank

4:02 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: ernie plasterer manchester


OMG, it looks like google never wants to get away from links..rather they use it for everything and now the latest additions are "Page title alters" and erroneous stuff like these!

indyank

4:08 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Why haven't they altered the page title to "ernie plasterer manchester"?

1) User searched for it.
2) It looks like they are present as anchor text to google.co.uk.

But those words are not present on page, and that could be one reason the title might not have been rewritten.

Yet they rank google.co.uk for that search because someone felt it is a page about "ernie plasterer manchester"! It looks like they trust those third parties (who link) more than the page owner or themselves (in this case google.co.uk) now!

If google.co.uk can be gamed, why not lesser mortals like us?

Spencer

7:41 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Hi Tedster,

I'm surprised in the importance that you are giving to this anomaly. In the past I seem to remember you dismissing the occasional odd observations from members as temporary and relatively unimportant issues that will eventually be address by Google.

So why the sudden change?

tedster

8:13 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Mostly because the site involved is a google search home page. I thought it would be interesting to look at this search result anomaly because the on-page content barely exists - limiting most of that side of the ranking factors, and that makes analysis a bit easier.

Also it's less likely that anyone is trying to game the thread to help themselves or hurt their competition. I do personally study search anomalies that I come across, but the amount of potential gaming that would go on if we allowed such posts as a regular practice here would be destructive.

I didn't want to de-rail this thread into some big side conversation - sorry about that.

Earlier internetheaven mentioned seeing the SERPs change with each page refresh. Tonight I saw the Suggestions change as I typed and backspaced my query. The very same letters in the search box triggered different suggestions at different times. Could be related?

leeds1

9:27 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



if you look at the cache

"These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: ernie plasterer manchester "

tedster

9:41 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Yeah - sort of breaks the "backlinks should be on the same theme" idea, doesn't it?

Spencer

9:53 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



But isn't this more likely to be an external hack that just illustrates the weight of anchor text rather than a google weighted conspiracy ... or am I just reading something into your comments that isn't there ?

All I am seeing is a weight change towards links coming from digg.com

tedster

10:04 am on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



No conspiracy theory here at all - it's a bug or an edge case in what the algo does. You can sometimes learn something new by looking at the edge cases instead of the normal ones.

member22

3:11 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



< moved from another location >

Did google makes some changes to it algorithm, in the last 24 hours?

I am starting to get worried, i use to have a website rank very well on a specific keyword and just disappeared this morning... no changes were made to the website in the last 6 months and to me it looks like google just put a new filter ...

Does anyone have any information about that ?

[edited by: tedster at 4:41 pm (utc) on Feb 23, 2011]

indyank

4:52 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



It does look like there are changes almost every week, if not every day.

Unlike what you had experienced, I see some new pages popping out to the front page from nowhere, for some searches I track.I only noticed them within the last 24 hours.

[edited by: indyank at 5:07 pm (utc) on Feb 23, 2011]

Spencer

4:57 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Hi Member22,

I've seen a couple of forwarded domains that used to rank very highly completely removed from the index over the past few days. They didn't seem to be involved in link farming or keyword stuffing etc. so I'm assuming it has something to do with the forwarding (possibly flushing duplicate pages).

Simsi

8:47 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



What with all the odd fluctuations, the reports of brand dominance in some quarters and other odd reports (thinking particularly of Tedsters client who got major traffic fluctuation which he couldn't pin down), is it not possible we are seeing a ramp up of social media awareness and Google taking into account who/what is being talked about? Just a thought.

tedster

9:53 pm on Feb 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



It's a decent thought, too. In my client's case, it would have to be adding niche, regional social media to the mix. No big changes in volume on the top shelf social sites.
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