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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]

6:15 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Here's another oddity to consider (and maybe others saw something similar).

On Sunday and Monday traffic to my site shot up substantially, to page view and visitor numbers that I haven't seen in over a year. There was no outside influence I could think of that would suddenly drive traffic.

The traffic tapered off just a little on Tuesday and Wednesday, which is normal, but stayed above the levels from previous weeks.

The boost came from Google. Then the drop.
6:19 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@My_Media, I almost lost 40% yesterday. I am trying to see if there is a correlation here with your site health hype. We also have answers in my website. Some times, we show snippets from articles in Answers and similar titles in answers (based on question), not sure Google is considering it as "low quality" duplicate content.

Anyway, I've decided to modify my site, url structure, title tag, remove nofollow urls etc this weekend and see if traffic improves in the coming weeks.
6:22 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@dickbaker, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were the best days for my site too. We were also ranked top 8 on a specific keyword(300 million results from google), I've never imagined we would be on top page one day for that keyword. Everything changed on Wednesday night :(
6:24 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@dickbaker and @browsee The exact same thing happened for my site. Monday was the best day in traffic in a year then thursday changed everything
6:25 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I feel like for the longest time we grew accustomed to a falsified index. When Google started adsense it paved the way for spam in the form of mfa and content farms which I'm sure compiles a majority of the index. Ever since adsense the index has been jaded.

Now all of the sudden they decided, "hey we do search let's focus on search again" as stated by MC recently, and decide to devalue all of the spam we've been seeing for years in one giant swipe. I think for Google it's a big strike in taking their index back however seeing as these pages and the links within them made a majority of the index we're seeing a monumental shift in results. These devalued pages affect every site for whom's content they scraped.

In my case I have really great content which as a not-so-sincere form of flattery has been scraped by thousands of websites. I had achieved pretty good rankings until this update thanks to the thousands of links that spam created.

The other day I lost 35% of my traffic all at once. Can't wait to see the full impact is once the change is international. I'm all for Google dealing with the scrapers and content farms, but I feel they fell asleep at the wheel. This change could have been done in bits and pieces or something that wasn't so drastic.

The path I chose and have always chosen for 10 years is Brett's old post about ranking in Google in 30 days or whatever it was. Great post I guess as long as your content didn't get scraped along the way...
6:36 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@Browsee - our answers platform is on a subdomain so going to remove the link from the primary domain to it to see if anything helps. Will keep you posted.

It is however worth noting that some sites that we have been tracking over the past few months outranked us. These sites came to our attention for scraping our content and duplicating our titles. We contacted the owners and got to know a little more about their operation. All were from India with writers (non-medical writers) rewriting our content. We could verify this because our doctors were putting in some unique content that was based on their years of clinical experience. This too was "stolen".

Today, these sites are ranking higher than us with their scraped content, "stolen" pictures and Youtube videos within the content. None of the media is original.

So Google is now serving inferior foreign content to it's US readers

Hope somebody at Google is listening.
6:37 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@dickbaker , I experienced exactly the same, and also 2 weeks ago when Monday was extremely wrong (even less than at Saturday) then big jump at Tuesday. Can you check it ?
6:39 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Saw the same Sunday, Monday, Tuesday jump this week here, too.
6:39 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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AdSense...

Well in true Google fashion, IF (note the IF) AdSense has anything to do with this....

Yesterday my site lost what looks like 40% or so of my traffic from Google organic serps, ...

and they sent me a nice note suggesting I load my pages with more AdSense ads.

Gotta love that kind of thinking :)
6:59 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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great algo update google!
websites that copy my feed and post it rank higher than my original articles.
their pages have just a title and a link to my original article, and that's all their content!
good job at finding better content G! keep up the good work ;)

I remeber this happening about two or three years ago, with the same scraper websites too... somehow G managed to solve his issues then, only to bring them back again this week...
6:59 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My_Media, I checked your site and the one article I googled seemed unique so I am surprised. I, too, and waiting for this to calm down. Expect Mahalo all other other farms are up and even doing better.
7:00 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I hear you @my_media. We've very strict guidelines. We check each and every article. Our editors Copyscape, fool proof reading etc before they submit it. Only difference is, we wrote our own publishing software, I saw that some word press sites are not affected with this update.
7:02 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@zerillos same goes for us. Our original content which is in google news is outranked by sites that syndicate our content. Going to stop the syndication for now. You would think that if your approved for google news they would know who the owner was?
7:11 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I was wondering if any one else saw those mini-surges. No surge this week but happened last weekend late Tuesday afteroon and petered out late Wedensday morning. I've seen those mini-surges a few time over the last 3 to 4 months - usually lasting 4 to 6 hours - they are pretty obvious when they happen during peak hours.
7:27 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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For whatever my 2 cents will buy me, those of you considering all kinds of on-site changes -- I think that's the worst possible reaction when it is not really clear yet as how this will settle. Slow down, breath.

A theme I'm seeing here based on what members have been posting is; scraped and blackhat content is in many instances gaining in SERP. Work from there and go backward. Obviously Google knows that is the stuff that they want to suppress. And if so, why would it be rising rather than falling?

For those who are in a panic have you considered that a major algorithm change of nature cannot sort itself out in days, weeks maybe in some instances, but more likely months.

I'm sure google does in-lab quality control testing of these types of program changes before releasing them in the wild. But, regardless of how thoroughly they may test it -- the acid test is in the wild.

I have no doubt MC and company are following this thread to gauge reactions as they are being observed and reported throughout this hysterical thread. I have a feeling they have developed a reasonably good (short term) patch to address the stuff they are trying to tackle. In order for them to know for sure if they have nailed something reasonably well they would hope to single out those sites. What better way to get feedback (cost-free) than allow those sites to float to the top and then put an ear to the ground here in webmaster world. That would help them analyze their changes for accuracy and effectiveness. If the consensus is worldwide webmasters having a panic attack then they're probably sitting around their cubicles chuckling (I would be).

Once they know that they have built an effective pattern parsing patch they will then probably flip another switch to then corral those sites and push them down in SERP's because they then know they have probably effectively identified them.

Making obsessive compulsive changes to counter this algorithm change is probably not a good idea at this time because you may then have to start chasing it back the in other direction after it settles. Rule of 70 can apply to almost everything in day to day activities. 30 percent of webmasters who know they have built their sites with users in mind will patiently ride out the storm and probably settle back on an even keel. 70 percent who have MFA sites strictly for the sake of income with little thought given to the end user will be chasing their tails and whaling about spilled milk.

And for Google staff reading this -- if my observations are wrong then you are failing miserably.

Either way, relax, slow down, smell the flowers.

Your results may vary, happy weekend everyone :)
7:28 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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here's a better one... for something that happened today, i get results in Russian... on the first page... before my english content
7:35 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Someone checked some data and
Mahalo
EzineArticles
Squidoo
Assoc Content
Buzzle
HubPages
have been hit with 1-100+ downgrade. Too bad I can;t post a link, he had specific searches.
7:38 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Wow, I did a search on "whey protein side effects" (no quotes), and checked the 1st result. That #1 result is not even readable english. Quite obvious that it's either written by some foreigner or spun using some kinda program shuffling and replace words here and there...

Let's see what happens when things settle.
7:39 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One thing that seems clear to me as far as my site is concerned is that this is not a site-wide penalty, it effects only specific pages.

Is this what you see?
7:43 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One thing that seems clear to me as far as my site is concerned is that this is not a site-wide penalty, it effects only specific pages


Same here
7:47 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Right there with ya 7^3 - I just can't shake the idea that, just like with the Mayday algo change, the dials were turned too sharply (or in the opposite direction) to monitor the outcome. They'll be tweaked back.

webmasters who know they have built their sites with users in mind will patiently ride out the storm and probably settle back on an even keel

+1 on that
7:58 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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SevenCubed, your advice is good and very rational... but not easy to deal with. Many site owners pay employees or contractors who work with them, or at a minimum take care of their families with money they earn from ad or affiliate revenue. I am one of these site owners.

Our genre is home improvement. We (a team of 4 owners) write about projects we perform (in great detail, with pictures, how-tos, and we answer questions on these projects). We have 1000 articles developed over 4 years. We are friends with other small publishers who also write about home improvement and frequently highlight each other's content. We have more than 20,000 incoming links to our site (many are home improvement blogs, but none that we have ever "asked for" are spammy - these are all real blogs with real authors writing real home improvement content).

Our rankings generally dropped 5-20 positions across the board. What has replaced us is larger sites with general information, rather than the niche, detailed information we provide. For example, we have an article on hardwood flooring that used to rank #3 for a series of terms. That article and its related articles took 40 hours to write after working the job for two weeks and taking numerous pictures. We marketed this article to several web masters who incorporated it into related content. It made sense to rank #3 (#1 and #2 were comparable, but very different articles). Numbers 4-7 aren't nearly as good as ours.

We follow Google's content and link development policies. We don't buy or sell links. However, we are small. We do not have big marketing budgets and until recently this was a second job/hobby for us. I relied on other smaller web masters to share our work with their readers and thereby build links that are signals to Google.

I want to stress this here. Every link we've EVER built has been from a REAL, well-spoke site with REAL content, not spam content, from REAL players actually doing home improvement in their homes or businesses. We never BOUGHT any links. I feel like because our site is small and not on the cover of the New York Times that Google is treating us like we are just spam. This is 100% not true to their goal.

This algo. update has decimated our business and has elevated other, seemingly large and irrelevant sites, into the rankings. It seems like google now favors large "general" articles over smaller "niche" articles in our domain. Presumably the logic is that the niche articles are less valuable. I have found this universally false in the niche we operate in.

I get the need to cull the spam - especially from the loser no-content sites that just pay a bunch of people who barely speak english to string together words. That's not us. And this is very hard to swallow.
7:59 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One thing that seems clear to me as far as my site is concerned is that this is not a site-wide penalty, it effects only specific pages.


Same here. Especially pages that have a lot links coming from forum posts ( I have no forum signature links )
8:09 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Here's my analysis.

1. This is a sitewide penalty. If you Google deems your site as "bad" it applies a discount to each of your page's "score"

2. It's not a direct -X in the SERPs. Instead it affects the page's score, so the end result of the SERP depends on how competitive the listings are and how clustered the scores are

3. Certain sites/segments that "should" have been hit weren't. And sites/segments that "shouldn't" have been hit, were. The classic example is eHow, everybody wanted them hit, and they're still doing fine. You also have the spam sites that appear to be doing well. Reasons for the spam sites to be doing well is that they're probably too small to trigger the "content farm" flag and score discount

4. It doesn't seem like any sites are getting "boosted" but are simply being rewarded by not being discounted, and therefore relatively they have a better score.

5. The score discount seems to be tiered. That is some are affected slightly, while others are affected a lot.

6. A drop of 40-60% in Google US traffic seems to be the common number. So whatever the score discount they apply is chosen to result in that level of traffic loss. It seems too specific to not be a deliberate choice.

So overall what happens for a particular search before and after is that a certain group of sites are flagged and then drop down the rankings. All the relative ordering between the non-flagged sites stay the same, and the relative ordering with the flagged sites stays the same for the most part. It's simply the shift that the flagged sites have relative to the non-flagged sites that sees the flagged sites lose traffic, and the non-flagged gain traffic.

Now the problems arise in that the sites that are being flagged seem really out of whack. A lot of sites are being flagged that you could easily argue shouldn't be, and there are sites that aren't being flagged that you could argue should be. This is causing for some pretty nasty looking search results in certain vertical (shopping/products definitely comes to mind).

How this plays out over the next little while will obviously determine the fate of A LOT of people's livelihoods, so let's all hope that Google does what's Right.
8:15 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This change has prompted me to sign up and join this thread although I am a long term lurker. Agree that SevenCube has some great words of wisdom. But it's hard not to cry over this situation. I've got a 6 year old site, with at least 1000 or more words per page. Have been cited by media sites, commercial sites, blogs, books, etc. Yet, I was hit with a 50% traffic drop. I built my business from the ground up, and now it's demolished. This change hurt me and my family. I've sacrificed hours upon hours, weekends, to do the right things. No links bought or sold, very white hat. I run a couple of "test" sites as well that are much less appealing -- much, much less. They don't have any link profile. Those did not get affected.

This algo change does not make sense. If this stands, it can only mean that Google prefers to punish good and reward mediocre and even bad sites. I say "bad" because I've noticed that many sites that have copied my content have been ranking ahead of me in so many terms and even on my own title! Too many to count. Some pages just are not ranked (by using my own title) despite the fact they are thorough, 2000 word treatises with lots of comments. This change has nothing but demoralized me and left me with not knowing what to do.
8:16 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So to summarize, lots of reports of legitimate sites being trashed, and lots of talk about a rollback of this update.

The thing is, there has already been an official announcement of this update on the official Google blog.

Google is going to look pretty dumb if there is indeed a rollback, even if it's partial.

Also, the announcement specifically mentions that it is an "improvement" to the algo, not "we're testing an algo change" or anything of that sort.

Looks permanent to me.
8:18 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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walkman - easiest way to check is on Quantcast.

accociated content had 892k unique US visitors on 22/02/11 and 538k US uniques on 24/02/11 - a drop of 39.7%

hubpages went from 874k unique US hits on 21/02/11 to 467k unique US hits on 24/02/11 - a drop of 46.7%

squidoo went from 469k unique us hits on 21/02/11 to 400k unique us hits on 24/02/11 - a drop of 14.7%

ezinearticles and buzzle are not on quantcast, so they just show estimates (which probably don't take account of the algo change)

mahalo have opted to hide their figures.
8:19 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If this is related to "no follow" links then is would KILL a certain wiki site as the whole site is no follow, as is FB and twitter..


PS first post hello :)
8:23 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Copied from my own research of over 100,000 SERPs:

Article Directories Have Been Devalued Significantly

ezinearticles.com lost an average of 34 positions
hubpages.com lost an average of 31 positions
squidoo.com lost an average of 15 positions
articlesbase.com lost an average of 29 positions
buzzle.com lost an average of 30 positions
associatedcontent.com lost an average of 22 positions
suite101.com lost an average of 33 positions

This trend continues across all article directory type sites without exception. For any given keyword that a page on an article directory was ranking for, it moved down the list roughly 30 positions. This is bad news for the article directories and the people who rely on them.

Established ECommerce Sites Did Well

etsy.com gained an average of 29 positions
amazon.com gained an average of 20 positions
ebay.com gained an average of 20 positions
sears.com gained an average of 29 positions

ehow did get hit, but only an average loss of about 6 positions. That's still not pleasant. The sites that got it the absolute worst were article directories and sites like business.com, investopedia.com, answers.com, etc.
8:28 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Supercyberbob: Here's what I think. I think Google has been holding off on this update for a long time because they knew what the effects would be. Sure, they'll get rid of A LOT of content farms. But, by looking for "low quality" signals, there was definitely going to be some sites that were VERY seriously hit that it just didn't make sense to devalue. I think that's why they held off so long. Perhaps now they decided they just have to bite the bullet and see how things shake out.

I am hoping there is some way to re-establish site-wide credibility for small sites that are not spam. I'm sure this has to do with links, and from the sounds of others on here, it might have to do with a in-link-quality-to-total-page-count ratio.

We will press forward. We fortunately have some savings. But man, is this a bummer for so many small publishers across so many niches that just got pummeled today. Personally, every other blogger I know, save for two of them, got hit big time today. That is a huge hit. Huge.
8:38 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Another long-time lurker here.

We operate a network of sites. These are all relatively old, original content white-hat sites with really very little professional SEO work done. In aggregate, they reach many millions of US uniques per month.

Anyways, with the recent changes, we have seen that a site is either deemed "good", "bad" or "neutral" in it's entirety and have had all their pages scores adjusted accordingly. Of course, this has different results on rank and traffic based upon strength, competition, etc.

The high-level of what we have seen so far is:

1. 13% of our sites decreased dramatically.

2. 20% of our sites increased marginally.

3. The remainder had no noticeable changes.

The only thing that seems to have a correlation to being an "up" site instead of a down is that nearly all of our up sites have keywords in their domain name. 1 down site has a good keyword in it's domain name, and dropped on all terms except for the name keyword.
8:43 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I agree with you ismailman. Good post that explains the situation.
9:09 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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ismailman, agree, this is a sitewide score adjustment.
9:30 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Its the weekend so I guess I need go drink some beers. I see that some key phrases in my top twenty have recovered - while others that were untouched yesterday have been knobled. But what my stats are telling me isn't what google search is telling me - so it probably needs to settle. In most cases the changes seems to have resulted in me losing 6 or 7 places in the SERPS. In some cases the stuff between me and my old position is new but good, some is really old, some is just garbage. All appear to have overoptimized text, and about a quarter of them seem to be employing black- hat techniques like keyword stuffing that has't worked since 2002.
I'm not sure what Google means by copied content as most of the penalized sites including my own don't have copied content. I cant be subjective about the quality of my sites - but some of those listed higher are appallingly bad.

If this is worst of it - then I have to have hope that the worst of these sites will be weeded out by Personal Blocklist Chrome extension (whatever that is?) - so I might move a few spots higher.

greenham13 - I did a quick look and it does appear that the new sites have a least one part of the key phrase in the domain name. It might explain why my top key phrase was knobled but my number 2 phrase is till holding out.
9:34 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@GeraniumV I'm one beer ahead of you.

I posted a new blog post this morning and the original post on our blog is nowhere for the title in quotes yet 3 sites for whom scraped the content could be found. Anybody know what's up with that?
10:06 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What I've done:

Removed an entire 'thin' section (banned on Robots; remove request on Webmaster central)
Changed the titles to 'Widget My Domain Name' (my domain name is a keyword)
Removed a few mentions of 'Widget' in the page to thin it out

Hope and pray that as G indexes them, I'll cross the threshold. Any yesterday penalty /demotion is algorithmic, and as per Matt Cutts, it's solved as soon as G re-indexes and recalculates the rankings--assuming the problems are fixed.
10:11 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It occurred to me after much of my ranting on this thread to think long and hard about what Google is going after in this update and how they might do it.

They want to eliminate or dramatically reduce content farm rankings. They need something pretty sweeping to make this kind of adjustment. It doesn't look like it's based on things like poor grammar or even keyword repetition. In fact, there are reports that sites with both of these features have "bubbled up" above long-term authority sites.

The fallout is much too high - with sites with very unique non-spammy content falling.

What I have seen almost universally in sites that have fallen is the following:

1) Lots of pages of content, sometimes generated over years.
2) A relatively small number of incoming links, or incoming links that are of low value/low quality.

Content farms survive essentially by generating thousands of pages of content on "authority" domains that rank well not because the individual pages have well-structured non-spam links, but because the domains themselves have "authority". While generating pages is relatively easy for an authority domain, generating high-quality incoming links is considerably more difficult--especially as Google gets better at identifying low-value links.

I personally think this is a new site-wide filter that devalues sites who fall too far afield from the link-quality-to-page-count ratio.

Of course, it's probably a little more complex than just "number of links" vs. "number of pages". Google could be looking at any number of factors when making this calculation.

If you take what Matt Cutt's says seriously, Google wants to value well-researched, well-written articles that provide unique content and perspectives. These are the types of articles that (1) are not produced very quickly; (2) are updated as more information becomes available; (3) are generally good at drawing links naturally; and (4) would generally be more difficult to write "quickly".

A site that is committed to these principals would naturally have a high link-quality-to-page-count ratio.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go and delete all your content. I don't really know. But, I think this isn't necessarily a bad theory on what Google might be up to.
10:13 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I want to add in regards to G not identifying my content when searching for title in quotes, my page is indexed via site command crawled less than 24 hrs, but with the search it's not found.

At first I wasn't thinking sitewide or page-specific penalty as many have suggested, I realy feel it's just a shocking change to the index, but i'm starting to rethink this.

Scraper sites show up with my content and even though my page is cached it's not showing in a search. Really weird stupid frightening.
10:15 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Reactions to the Google update on CNN are referencing Webmaster World, backdraft7, and DickBaker.

Read the Article [money.cnn.com]

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10:18 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Google gave a sweet heart deal to their corporate buddies in my field. If you're not as big as wal-mart in your field, you got toasted. It was a little and medium guy ($20 million size) wipe out for my subject matter.

It was the little guy that made google in the beginning, now googlesoft stabbed them in the back.

Curious to know if the people in the revenue department saw a huge drop.
10:20 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Ismailman, that's an interesting theory you present. Here's a question, though: as I've said, I had many, many phrases drop from the first page to nowhere. One phrase, for example, has ranked #2 to #6 since 2005. It's kept that ranking through every strange update Google has thrown at us.

If it were a matter of scoring, why would this page drop all the way from #5 to #49 for that phrase?

As I check phrases I've tracked over the years, the drops are anywhere from as little as 6 positions to as many as 40 or 50. These are all phrases that were first-page until yesterday.

Here's a question for everyone: is there anyone here whose site has been affected who does NOT use Google Analytics, or is everyone who's been affected a GA user?
10:23 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Amazon, ebay, walmart, sears and best buy all saw big increases in ranking, but not as big as Etsy and Zazzle did. There's also a good amount of small retailers in there without much content but with very user friendly stores that got a huge benefit.
10:24 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My sites that have GA were affected.

My sites that don't, were not affected.
10:35 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I am not saying google is penalizing everyone with poor backlinks. I am saying I am seeing a lot of sites get pushed off the first page who have poor backlink profiles, meaning there entire profile is poor or looks paid. Hopefully google is simply devaluing these links and not imposing penalties. My feeling is if google feels a link is paid/spam etc they should not count it.
10:36 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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FWIW, saw some activity on my statcounter from Google. Some time spent on my site a bit ago. It's possible that some manual reviews are being conducted. Could they be checking sites that have plummeted in ranking and reviewing their content?

The comment on backlinks: can't be the case because I have more than one site. The highest quality site I have is large, with links from commercial sites in the space, media sites, well known forums (natural), and some of my work even cited in printed books. I have smaller sites with my limited content, maintained haphazardly, not up to date, arguably the same topic areas and absolutely 0 back link profile. Yet, those sites gained.

So this is not about backlinks. It's something else altogether. The only thing I know is that the bigger site is heavily copied.

[edited by: falsepositive at 10:40 pm (utc) on Feb 25, 2011]

10:37 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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brinked: I think this goes deeper than not counting bad links. Google has been working on that for a while. Google appears to still be counting many of the links, but what they are doing is saying if your entire site doesn't meet a certain "trust" factor of some sort, all of your scores will be devalued. How this plays out in individual SERPS depends on just how far ahead you were from the competition without the filter in place.
10:39 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Have never used Google Analytics or AdSense, have no scraped content, no paid links, and still see a significant percentage drop (40+%).

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10:40 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Why I don't buy the link theory for this update: The sites Google was supposed to target, all have some of the best link profiles (Demand Media, Squidoo, etc), so if they let the sites with great link profile stay, their mission would have failed automatically.
10:41 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I think the link quality is only one factor in a much greater algo change, in my industry I have seen a lot of sites get pushed up the SERPS that have exact anchor text and the keyword in their domain. To me it looks like Google are making the results worse, not better.
10:46 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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walkman: they have a great link profile, but perhaps not considering their size... Size is a BIG factor here I think. Basically, in the past, if you had crap content sitting somewhere on your site (and by crap, I mean content that wasn't link worthy), you basically were not penalized. Other pages could rise just fine in the rankings, even if you had hundreds of pages that weren't very good. I believe this new algo. changes that. My theory on the new rule: Your link profile has to be strong enough to sustain your site size, otherwise you plummet. This is a great way to go after the farmers... If the farmer can get a strong enough link profile to support the potentially 1000s of pages that are produced, well then, they survive. but if they can't - if they want to build too many pages, well then their entire sites suffer. Now, I do think Google overdid it when they cranked up the juice on this filter, and hopefully we'll see some tweaks to how it is implemented. Again, its just my guess, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
10:53 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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FredOPC, your theory sounds very interesting, i tend to agree with it based on the profile of our sites. Thanks.
10:53 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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An interesting thing is that Hubpages literally got hit twice as hard as Squidoo with this update. I suspect it both has something to do with quality control on Squidoo and their internal link structure. If you just visit Squidoo and click around from one page to the next it takes a while before you see really bad content. If you go on Hubpages within 2 clicks you'll be on a really blatant spam page with nothing but an Amazon product or something.

Just speculation about the reason behind it.
11:01 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Google is going to look pretty dumb if there is indeed a rollback, even if it's partial


Google already looks dumb, very dumb ... They want to punish content farms, but are not able to detect the difference between content farms and unique quality content.
11:10 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We may be trying to make sense of something that's nonsensical. If their goal was to reduce spammy, generated and/or copied content, there's no way that this algorithm, or should I call it massacre, is doing what it's intended to do. I'll go back to my earlier example of syndicated content (which sells for quite a pretty penny I may add). So companies which take material and rewrite it are handily selling these rewritten articles to sometimes up to 15k sites at one time. But if you type in the exact title for one of these articles, guess what comes up almost solely for the first page of results now? Big players who all purchase the exact same articles and don't even change the title? Wait, they can't change the title because it violates the terms of service. I'd love to hear an explanation about how a company as large as Google with the level of engineers that they have can miss this and yet destroy solid sites which wouldn't ever think of either purchasing a link and/or purchasing content that's used on 15K sites because it adds no value. So obviously this new "improvement" is not targeting non-unique material.

And if you're a big player it's fine to republish day after day the same material as 15k sites online ---with not a sentence that's unique? Furthermore, this content is "valuable" and is rewarded? Something's terribly wrong with this picture.
11:14 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@jessica97 in my scenario it's lesser scraper sites that were supposed to be dealt with showing up.
11:19 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"Ismailman, that's an interesting theory you present. Here's a question, though: as I've said, I had many, many phrases drop from the first page to nowhere. One phrase, for example, has ranked #2 to #6 since 2005. It's kept that ranking through every strange update Google has thrown at us.

If it were a matter of scoring, why would this page drop all the way from #5 to #49 for that phrase?"

That's easily explained. Google uses 200+ factors to rank a page for a specific category. So essentially when you do a search for X they use the 200 factors and come up with a score for each page. Let's say URL 1 gets a score of 98, URL 2 - 75, etc. Well if you're URL 2 and now your 75 is a 50. And if the other URLs beneath you were clustered around 70-60 then you're going to jump a bunch of places. In another case if your page has a score of 100 and the next page has a score of 70, and so you get punched down to a score of 65 so you'll only jump down a bit.
11:20 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It has nothing to do with non-unique material. They're apparently trying to figure out another way to deal with duplicate content, but that's a really major engineering challenge. Copied content still ranks and it has for quite some time.

When it comes to getting rid of the article sites, how to sites and things like that, this has been very successful though.
11:31 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've got a 6 year old site, with at least 1000 or more words per page. Have been cited by media sites, commercial sites, blogs, books, etc. Yet, I was hit with a 50% traffic drop.


I've the same profile except we saw as slight (maybe 7%) increase in traffic... Really hard to say because there is not enough data yet.

We run Adsense too, so it will be interesting to see how Google actually did the cut.
P-77
11:47 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We should band together and keep a tally on how much the new google update has cost our businesses... a daily tally... then send it to our congress people. Additionally we should also keep a tally of how many employees and contractors we have/had to terminate as it relates to this craziness. Finally, we should keep track of all the websites that scraped content from all of our unique, old websites and are now sitting high in the search results making money from adsense... and bill Google for all the hours we put into our websites to make them attractive, useful and interesting to users... enough to where somebody scraped them to get some google traffic for some adsense dollars.

I'll start:

1. $8,000 US dollars in revenue per day they don't correct this.
2. 10 Employees will be getting pink slips on Monday if this not corrected.
3. Gathering up all the hours it took to create the web pages that were scraped and are now being listed on the first page of google ahead of my site, is going to be a difficult task... (hell, I have time now... I'll report back to you soon...)

What has this cost you?
11:52 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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That's easily explained. Google uses 200+ factors to rank a page for a specific category. So essentially when you do a search for X they use the 200 factors and come up with a score for each page. Let's say URL 1 gets a score of 98, URL 2 - 75, etc. Well if you're URL 2 and now your 75 is a 50. And if the other URLs beneath you were clustered around 70-60 then you're going to jump a bunch of places. In another case if your page has a score of 100 and the next page has a score of 70, and so you get punched down to a score of 65 so you'll only jump down a bit.


I wish I could show you the pages from my site that dropped 40 positions, and show you what's now above those dropped pages. I'm 110% certain that you wouldn't think those now-better-ranking pages could have any kind of score at all, especially when you get to page three or four. My niche isn't filled with exceptional sites.

Here's another head-scratcher. In 2001 I created a small site for a retail store. The site is in my niche. I got the store's site ranked well for a number of phrases. One phrase has been in the #2 spot since 2001, and only recently moved to #3.

I stopped working on their site in 2004, and they haven't touched the site since then. It gets very, very few visitors.

For the phrase in question, their widgets page has exactly one inbound link, and that's from a site that's scraping the product photo.

I was #6 on that page for the same phrase, and my widgets page has at least 100 different sites linking to the page. My page went from #6 to #48.

If their page stays on Google's first page, that will throw a wrench into just about every theory that's been presented here so far.
11:56 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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SEO was always a game of countermeasures. It is too early for me to come up with some, but after careful investigation, I now see a drop by really 12% in traffic on our site. That correlates to the statement they issued. It also means around $1,000 daily less income to our company. Not funny and not yet clear how to react on that. Let the weekend past and analyze is my plan.

Again, like on MayDay, where does that traffic go? Some came up on MayDay and said: good, I went up by XY%... where are these webmasters now. I would rather hear the positive stories and the reasons to rank than what to NOT to do...

P!
11:58 pm on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We should band together and keep a tally on how much the new google update has cost our businesses... a daily tally... then send it to our congress people. Additionally we should also keep a tally of how many employees and contractors we have/had to terminate as it relates to this craziness.

Then add up all the money the page(s) in the top 10 now made and I'll bet it balances out ... Once again, Google did not eliminate the top 10 results ... They eliminated your page(s) from them ... Your rankings aren't an entitlement because you've been there or done something ... If they were, then the sites that were there 1st would have never moved for you to be there in the 1st place ... You took someone's spot away ... Someone took yours ... It's up to you to get it back, not an obligation for Google to give it to you.
12:00 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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There is a theory floating around that the cause of this massacre is too many pages with not enough link juice to support each page. Whereas before the massacre old websites with great content were getting pretty good rankings because of the old "trust" factor, today's market is more closely tied to how many links do you have versus how many pages you have. Based on my site's performance I we fit this model.

The problem I have with this theory is that it fundamentally contradicts what Matt Cutts said on video a couple years ago. Matt said, when asked (and I'm paraphrasing here) "how many pages can/should I update at one time in google to avoid a penalty..." Matt responded, "it does not matter how many pages you upload at one time... upload them all at once because the google bot will get through them and index them accordingly."

Based on this new theory, if it is correct (and this new theory matches my site perfectly), then it does matter how quickly you upload content to the web because if you upload too fast and your users don't link to you as fast you will see a reduction in your rankings.
12:02 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Any change to Google's algorithm is a zero-sum game. Some websites win, some lose.


There's some REASON in this article from CNN:
[money.cnn.com...]
12:13 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Then add up all the money the page(s) in the top 10 now made and I'll bet it balances out ... Once again, Google did not eliminate the top 10 results ... They eliminated your page(s) from them ... Your rankings aren't an entitlement because you've been there or done something ... If they were, then the sites that were there 1st would have never moved for you to be there in the 1st place ... You took someone's spot away ... Someone took yours ... It's up to you to get it back, not an obligation for Google to give it to you.


That is obvious... my argument... my frustration... my problem is that the sites that are ranking in the top spots are not producing quality content. In fact, 2 positions in the top 10 for a key term we used to be ranking for are from sites that scraped content from our site. One of the sites even has a link pointing to our original content straight from the page!

My point is that the extra money for those two adsense sites is going to Google. (And I know it is a conspiracy theory... and I'm sure that they are not directly sending adsense sites to the top results...) I'm just stating that the argument that the top guys are replaced by a new crop of sites who in turn make money/jobs etc. is not a rock solid argument. It's especially clear when the content that is being promoted is stolen off of other sites...

Put another way, it is not sustainable. People have a desire to see new, fresh, good content. The scraper sites can only survive by either A. Creating cheap content B. stealing the content from other sites. Their adsense dollars only pay out so much. In our case we are actively creating deep, positive content and carefully matching it to our products so that the users and the search engines have a good experience. The process takes time and money. Sure Scraper sites are on top today... but, that certainly does not mean they are generating as much interest/income for the economy than my site was.
12:14 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"There is a theory floating around that the cause of this massacre is too many pages with not enough link juice to support each page."


That's absolutely false in my case. If I were a betting man, I'd say that short descriptions and sparsely populated pages are to blame for many sites. That has been an ongoing debate for years and those pages fit google's "not that useful" criteria.

Pages like "What's cancer" or "How old was xx when he played xx movie" that may have only a few sentences.
12:20 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Just out of interest, guys - if you run AdSense on your site, do you have the conversion numbers at hand for:

Thu, 10th of Feb: 0.62% (peak of traffic this month for me)

Yesterday: 0.84% (after a 12% traffic loss)

I based that on a 6-digit unique visitors number daily. Fluctuations of 0.20% on AdSense clicks on our mainly eCommerce site means a significant shift in traffic nature.... either kind of traffic OR amount.
12:22 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"There is a theory floating around that the cause of this massacre is too many pages with not enough link juice to support each page."

@walkman I agree that is totally false as well, you can see with medium ecommerce sites in the niches I look at with hundreds of thousands of pages and hanrdly any links to justify there rank to page ratio.
12:31 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"There is a theory floating around that the cause of this massacre is too many pages with not enough link juice to support each page"

Yeah, it's especially clear that that is not the case since at least one scraper site that is ranking better today is actually linking back to the original content on our site... obviously linking isn't affecting the changes too much.
12:31 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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judging by the many new members posting in this thread, and the activity I am realizing how big this update was, probably even bigger than the October 22nd update.

Matt Cutts did go on the record to say google is going to change how they look at links, and I 100% absolutely believe this to be the cause of this latest algo update.

Someone reached out to me this morning, while I was sleeping, my phone was ringing off the hook until I answered, a client of mine gave him my number, he didnt know what to do his voice was shaking and he told me his site lost all of its traffic which was generating a nice amount daily, and he is going to have to lay off all of his 12 employees. It's hard to tell someone like that to not worry but I do not know what to tell him right now.

The good web marketers will use this update to their advantage, I have been preparing for this day for a very long time. Google is taking hard action against paid links, that is what this is mostly about. What is a paid link? well if you go to buy a paid link they usually come in the form of a sitewide link, homepage link, blogpost review with 3 links etc, it is not very hard to catch on to a paid link profile. If most or all of your links look paid, you are probably suffering right now.

I think googles rationalization is this...PR3+ links are costly, many competitors will not spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on backlinks to sabotage a competitor, so if a website has a suspicious amount of pr3+ sitewide/blogroll/homepage etc links with repetitive/similar anchors, it will knock that site back.

I have about 22 websites that I run, some are really old, the older neglected ones were all hit, and all have paid looking backlink profiles, all my regular sites are thriving and did not take 1 hit at all. Not all of them even have unique content or are frequently updated, but I stick with natural backlinking methods so these sites all saw a small boost from when some of the competitors ranking ahead took a nose dive.

Also a small note, I reported 4 websites that all have poor quality content and backlink profiles (mainly hidden links) and all 4 of them are now off the first page! Maybe google finally got around to my spam reports, or maybe they finally got things right.
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