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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2011

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

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

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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)

5+ Year Member

@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)

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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)

10+ Year Member

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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

5+ Year Member

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)

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)

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

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)

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)

5+ Year Member

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

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

5+ Year Member

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)

10+ Year Member

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)

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

5+ Year Member

Check your rankings on this datacenter:

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)

10+ Year Member

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

5+ Year Member

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

10+ Year Member

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)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

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:

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

5+ Year Member

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)

10+ Year Member

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:

This data center is currently showing the old rankings. Unless it has not updated yet.
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