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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2011

     
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]

3:37 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@darkroom, would you say that your site's link profile has more or less anchor text diversity than the average?
3:41 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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To those of you guys and gals who lost your rankings on Feb. 23rd.....

Did you think Google has put up another "over optimization" filter?

We seem to think it's the beginning stages of a new algo that will prob. roll out Mar. 1st.

Why my white-hat (110% white hat) sites always get caught up in these Matt Cutts/Google witch hunts is beyond me.
3:53 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The site of mine that got hit has MORE anchor text diversity (less of the brand in the anchors) than you might expect. I have a range of other sites that seem unaffected. All are white hat - like snow white. In terms of internal links, I'd say it's less optimized than other, newer sites that have been untouched.
4:08 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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10 year old site, 150,000 pages of user created content. According to Analytics the site had been getting 6 times the traffic of the average site of equal size.

Last night at 9 PM PST the site lost 25% of Google traffic.

We do no off-site SEO. We have over a million backlinks, and we've never asked for any. Not sure where to go from here.
4:23 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Same here out biggest site just lost 30% of its traffic starting last night, our rankings have tanked
4:28 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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5 year old site. ~9,000 pages. About 25-30% of Google traffic lost overnight as well.

Looks like a big algo update that has hit lots of folks.

Anybody see some sort of pattern? I can't figure it out here, lots of old URLs were hit.

After getting over the shock, I'm now curious how sites like ehow are doing.
4:43 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I still think this has to do with link juice that was being passed on by, now cleaned, old sites that were removed from the index on the 17th. I have now checked a few of the sites that I have made complaints about in the past (companies that have gone bust) and they have all been removed.
4:54 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My long tail sites are getting hit hard.
4:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Overnight... I saw a few measurable changes across different "types" of sites that may be relevant.

- Ecommerce Site. VERY tight market focus, less than 250 products in less than 10 categories. At least 50% referral increase from Goog.

- General Knowledge, How-to Educational Site. No narrow focus at all, (widget repair today, house cleaning tomorrow) covers a bit of everything in a wide non-niche market. At least a 40% drop in referrals from Goog. (Supports the content farm cleansing)

- Expert Consumer Information Site, Very tight niche about very specific products, buying guides, UGC reviews, etc. +100% Goog Referrals. (dropship + affiliate)

To us... after looking at mid-day numbers (And I know this all way early) it seems like broad focus sites are taking a hit on our end. The very tightly focused niche sites are experiencing both long and shorttail increases from Goog. On our sites with increased traffic, its most noticable in the 1-2 word queries... where they rarely ranked well before, but also in the longtail, where they always ranked well.

Its also very worthwhile to add that the increased traffic is NOT resulting in an equal increase in sales or transactions. I may be up 50% in the ecom site, but sales are only up 5%.

Just my observations...
5:15 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The large ecommerce site I work with had a rankings drop of an average of a page for the top seven keywords I look at. If I were to guess I would think it would have to do with over optimized anchor text as the sites that are ranking now have very small amount of internal links but the anchor text is more diverse. The rest are manufacturers...
5:33 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, I have not done one iota of linkbuilding into my "money maker" page in almost a year. Yet that page and a few other ancillary pages got dinged yesterday.

When I do linkbuilding, it's all high quality links from respected sites.

For almost all of my client sites (non personal), I have seen zero change (good or bad) in the past 24 hours. These clients range widely in their respective niches.


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there is some sort of filter in place for over optimization, thanks to the spammer morons out there who ruined it for the rest of us.
5:43 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't think that Google would instigate an anti-spam measure that would smack the innocent. We should all remember it is a Thursday and in the past these things settle themselves down by the following Sunday.

I'm not seeing any activity, up or down, on my over-optimised sites ;-)
6:03 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Something new appears to have been unleashed last night. Taking another traffic hit today which is typical of every larger algo update so far.
6:31 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Can anyone help to pinpoint why? It would seem with the OS WSJ article that if it wasnt againts the terms of service on Google that it would have to do with over optimized anchor text links, which is what they were requesting from the students and faculty. Since it is sitewide drop for me though that may not be true...
6:37 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What does OS WSJ mean?
6:39 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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overstock linking article in wall street journal
7:12 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Getting the same ranking drop issue on two of our sites.

Down 20-30% in traffic starting feb 23 evening.

Both sites are content sites with diverse link profiles and have been around since 2005.
7:16 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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we experienced a massive change last night - it appears that some large sites were affected dramatically, but there seem to be some datacenters where this change has not propagated yet.

eHow, often cited as the prototypical "content farm" actually has a small ranking _increase_ for a set of 20 queries that i just analyzed.
7:22 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I got a record high traffic yesterday(23rd) and today everything is back to normal. When looking at my stats, it seems the US levels are still the same as yesterday but the rest of the world is way down. So that's what balances everything out.

Also, my traffic has been growing since the end of October. Sometime during January I saw a bigger increase from other countries compared to the US, I think it was called zombie here. Honestly, I would love to see an increase across the board and not a rise in one country and a drop in another.
7:36 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The ehow ranking increase for queries elsewhen looked at bugs me.

What in dear lord is google doing? And where is Tedster?
7:48 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Check your rankings on this datacenter:
[64.233.179.104...]

Are your rankings back? Mine are on that IP, I hope that's just not the old algorithm...
7:49 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This is just old results, dont think they have all propigated
7:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well then this is an enormous shift in rankings after comparing a dozen keywords from all sorts of various topics from retail to research...
8:04 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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shifts have happened in the past when new algorythms are launched. we all freak out for a while and then the cream rises back to the top. is there any reason to believe that this isn't just another one of those cases? if you were not doing anything wrong (using link farms, scraping content, providing poor user experience, trying to trick google, etc...) and you are currently seeing drops in search rankings, should you be worried that this might be permanent?
8:06 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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krikomoush, yes, either they are back on this datacenter or this one is yet to get the new rankings.

Confirming that depending on what you search and on which data center, the serps are pretty crazy. I have one website with stable traffic for 10 years, respectable site even with sitelinks, but many rankings have been lost from where I test, but the strange part is that the overall traffic is down maybe just 5%. So to me it seems that it is part of the overall testing that G is doing.
8:07 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Is there a good tool anymore to check rankings in different DC's? I can't seem to find one..I wish good ol McDars was still around...
8:07 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Our 14 year old completely white hat site seems to have lost alot of rankings as well... My guess at this time is approximately 25% decrease from yesterday and the day before.


Check your rankings on this datacenter:
[64.233.179.104...]

if this is going to be the new data then we're in for even better results. about 1/3 more pages in the results than before all of this.
Maybe this is just the lull before the new roll out which if that center is what's coming ....we're going to be swamped... and that's a good thing.

[edited by: Bewenched at 8:14 pm (utc) on Feb 24, 2011]

8:13 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Ya we haven't made any major changes recently either, on one of the sites we did a large update, but that was back in August so I doubt that has anything to do with it.

I'm more curious than worried, because frankly as a heavy search user (trying not to be biased here) these results a bit stinky...
8:19 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So from what I'm looking at on this thread, a lot of legitimate white hat sites got whacked by this latest update.

What gives? Are the new serps better quality-wise
8:21 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My results after last night 9 pm drop in SERPs show briefly this afternoon the old results. Now it is back to the 9pm listings last night.

Check your rankings on this datacenter:
[64.233.179.104...]


This data center is currently showing the old rankings. Unless it has not updated yet.
8:27 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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the results on this datacenter(4.233.179.104) are actually different for me..so I am not 100% sure that these are old rankings...they are slightly different from what I can see...
8:28 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to the forums, flatfile.

I got a record high traffic yesterday(23rd) and today everything is back to normal. When looking at my stats, it seems the US levels are still the same as yesterday but the rest of the world is way down. So that's what balances everything out.

That is a valuable observation. This is the mysterious force we don't understand. Is Google intentionally working an international "balancing act" that somehow ends up with no net traffic change.
8:50 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My long tail traffic is now down by 30-35% ... when will this end or has it just started? I see the same pattern with all long tail sites which I own. This seems to be a hunge change, whatever they do.
9:03 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Seems like many sites are involved in this change, and I am monitoring my competitors and they are dropping too, being replaced by spam versions of our sites.
9:07 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Also seeing huge shifts since this morning. Items in #1 or 2 position consistently for years now anywhere from #7 to no where to be found.

Seeing CSEs as first listing for many items. Also a big increase in number of listings after that which either contain keyword as part of the url (including deep within the url), are major retailers, or are major brands.

Largest change in search results I can recall in years.
9:14 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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interesting stuff going on here
9:24 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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same here, 4 years old ecommerce site, lost rankings on several popular keywords since last night.
9:25 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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As I've stated in other threads I don't typically get concerned about day-to-day fluctuations in rankings but I have to say -- I'm seeing the earth moving in this one.

Sites in my 300+ company strong local competitive field, most of whom know how to rank, are all over the place in the last few days.

I can see some notable specifics about what is being affected the most because I have been studying this niche, with these same 30 pages of sites, for about 2 years.

There is a very comprehensive bubble sort happening. But the blackhat sites that I would be hoping to see fall from results are actually gaining in rank. I hope it's simply a matter of needing the cream to rise to the surface so it can be skimmed off.
9:37 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing the earth moving in this one.

Largest change in search results I can recall in years.

this is a seismic change. cutts recently replied to a tweet indicating that this was intentional and not a glitch.

i think this topic needs its own dedicated thread, and we need to start working on a name... this is on the magnitude of mayday, caffeine and florida.
9:41 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I just searched and only got 4 results ... out of 396,000,000
9:43 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We are seeing the same in our niche. The two worst offending sites (history of black hat link farms, stealing content from us in the past - one site was kicked out of Google for a year) both seem to have either remained the same or climbed in rankings on all searches I've tested.

In our niche it appears the black hats our smarter than us regular webmasters who don't do any link building tricks. But I guess that is no surprise. I just always assumed justice would catch up with them. Perhaps another day!

We've let our site grow organically for 11 years. Just focusing on improving usability.

If today's update sticks, we are looking at a 30-40% drop in traffic overnight. Something our site has never experienced in 11 years of being online.
9:45 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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i think this topic needs its own dedicated thread, and we need to start working on a name... this is on the magnitude of mayday, caffeine and florida.


My thoughts exactly.

I call it "the Gnoose" update

- Google's Noose

:)
9:46 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I just searched and only got 4 results ... out of 396,000,000

are you using the personal blocklist extension? if so, the blocklist does not currently bring additional results into the top 10, it just suppresses the results on your list.
9:48 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No, I got 10 the search before ... 10 the search after ... 10 when I did the search earlier today ... It wasn't on my end
9:49 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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How bout the April Fools Day Update.

Since, tanking legit sites and ranking junk = joke.

With all the press Google has been getting lately about quality issues, this update makes my head explode.
9:50 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Downdate.
9:55 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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FUpdate
9:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yes this one looks massive. I too have seen legit sites get large drops in rankings last 24 hours
9:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Why is it that every single time the serps starts to stabilize and sales return, Google has to throw a monkey wrench in the system again? I'd love to see how Google employees would react if they received half pay or less every week. Hey Google, this is not fun anymore - YOU'RE KILLING OUR BUSINESSES!
9:59 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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They are killing their adsense earnings.
10:00 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I wish there is an alternative to Google. Seriously so pissed with Google. My site is down about 40% today. Bing will never be an alternative. FaceBook, please start Search Engine, teach this Google a big lesson. Monopoly is not good at all. I am so effing frustrated with Google search traffic today.

[edited by: browsee at 10:05 pm (utc) on Feb 24, 2011]

10:04 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One interesting change we have noticed in some searches in our niche... One of the two competitors sites I mentioned before that had a history of black hat (stealing content from us and others, plus a previous one year Google penalty for link farming)... They are now showing in serps at spots 1-4 for all searches I am testing. The top 4 results all pointing to their one site.

I'm sure they are seeing some amazing traffic today.
10:06 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Name suggestion: FarmGate

Content farms going down and taking us with them...
10:13 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm gonna make a big blanket statement here.

This update has hit legitimate sites hard, and has resulted in scrapers and similar junk floating to the top.

Anybody who has seen otherwise, feel free to chime in. If what I'm seeing sticks, I can't wait for the press to jump on this.
10:17 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This update has hit legitimate sites hard, and has resulted in scrapers and similar junk floating to the top.

Happens every time, but they usually get filtered back out as thing start to settle down ... We'll have to see how this one ends up, though, which is always the fun part. ;)
10:18 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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supercyberbob, I completely agree with you. Some of Copycat sites(copied content from my site) who are using black hat methods are getting better results.
10:20 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Some of my Copycat sites who are using black hat methods are getting better results.

but doesn't this always happen in the beginning when there is a change, and then it corrects itself in a few/several days?
10:21 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One of the pages that ranks now on the first page, has a scraped SERPs listed under "More Information" which has my site there...
10:27 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In our case the copycat sites have "done their time" so to speak after getting slapped with 1-year Google penalties in the past. So they are now apparently viewed by Google as legitimate, even though they came to exist solely off stolen content and link farms a few years ago. So I don't envision them getting filtered off.

It is frustrating how they are now dominating serps when you look at how they got there. But what can Google really do about it? It is beyond their control. They are up against some very smart seo folks.
10:29 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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An algorithm change of this magnitude can't be measured by day to day changes. It's a major bubble sort and by it's very nature it's going to take a while to settle. I think the amount of time to stabilize will be in direct proportion to how competitive the niche is on an international, national, regional, and local level.

For me, what I'm noticing at a local audience level is that page 12-14 is the staging ground with page 8 being the high end. When sites that dropped from page 4-5 bubble up from page 12-14 range area they pause at page 8 then sink again and bubble back up. Sites on page 12 that appear as if they are going to move up overall when this thing has run it's course are inching up slightly with very little fluctuation.

These observations are based on a niche of competitors that are 30 pages deep and strong in understanding of SEO in general and web development in particular -- the ultimate challenge for an algorithm -- tech minds against the machine.

Should get interesting over the next few weeks but if this algorithm change doesn't establish effective pattern parsing then goggle's spaghetti ball of patches is hopeless. They will devolve into a commercial search engine -- a consumer traffic cop.
10:38 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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But what can Google really do about it? It is beyond their control. They are up against some very smart seo folks.

Google is a 200 billion dollar company their main business is Search. If they can't control copycats, I think it is better for them to get out of this business.
10:49 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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While I still some of the legit sites at the top of the list, I see an incredibly huge emphasis on the use of the keyword in the URL, even when the site is inferior in content and does not have strong backlinks. In other words, if you have the exact or close-to-exact URL you are likely psyched right now.
10:53 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I noticed one more thing. When I type my site name, the first result is my Twitter account. If Google continue this algo, I think they will be like altavista next year.
11:05 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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WOW this is HUGE! The megabyte counter on the gmail login page slowed down and is now going backward! lol ... Not really, but the way this thread exploded and some of the stuff going on in the last week makes me think it's going to be a while before this one settles.

I'd wait a bit before complaining too much, because I doubt if what we're seeing now is what we'll be seeing in a day or three.
11:24 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The chaos continues, 60% traffic drop overnight. I'm curious if I will reach 80% within the next few hours. Time to have a drink.

I own two long tail sites where I have removed all adsense ads a few weeks ago and these site do not show a drop.

[edited by: SEOPTI at 11:32 pm (utc) on Feb 24, 2011]

11:28 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Same here SEOPTI
11:32 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In my field, all the websites with $20 million+ capital behind them, and keyword domains have taken over the top 20.

Everyone else is going to be looking for a new job tomorrow.
11:51 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In my niche, it seems that all the number 1 spots in the SERPs are taken by a single website. incredible! My google traffic has also dropped by 20-30%, but that's not the point, since i see all of you got the same flavor icecream.

It looks exactly like the wall street journal story. every major search term in my niche is completely dominated by this website. most of those terms are extremely competitive... I can't imagine how these could be proper search results.

at this point, if you search for almost anything in my niche (which is quite wide), you get the same and only website. I don't know if i'm allowed to post the url here, but i would really want to. it's preposterous!
11:53 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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

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It's been nice knowing ya page 1.

Hello page 2 - 5.

sigh........ boy do I hope this is temporary!
11:57 pm on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Wow I thought Google did not like keyword stuffed articles? The keyword stuffed articles site has overtaken mine.

This site is nothing but a bunch highly keyword stuffed articles that make little sense.

It has been ranking on the first page of a high volume term for a couple years now, guess Google thinks this is what it searchers want.

My traffic is down by 40% on all my sites... not a good day.
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