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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]

12:32 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It's apparent that the media has its eyes on this update and on this webmasterworld thread for gauging its impact. Shouldn't we try to give more specific examples of "update gone bad" and/or "update gone good" if we can do it in a way that doesn't violate this forums TOS? This could give journalists real examples of which they can maybe help us and google fine tune this thing..
12:38 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't advise it. We've used up our quota for that this month already.
12:53 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I have never received an answer on this. I have "nofollow"s on the site for paid advertisers, as Google suggests. Can these nofollows, on a very huge site, be a negative trigger? In other words, if people wish to advertise on our many sites, can that be held against us--in this iteration, for example? I know that all is speculation, but some rich pages have inexplicably fallen in ranking while they are full of editorial content and links out. And is it possible that linking out too much is now being penalized in general even when balanced by links in.
12:56 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It's apparent that the media has its eyes on this update and on this webmasterworld thread for gauging its impact. Shouldn't we try to give more specific examples of "update gone bad" and/or "update gone good" if we can do it in a way that doesn't violate this forums TOS? This could give journalists real examples of which they can maybe help us and google fine tune this thing..

How many times have they turned off the filters and floated the junk to the top right after an update since you've joined?

How many times have they made adjustments for days or weeks after a new version of the algo rolls out? Your join date is earlier than my first one ... You KNOW how things work.

This thing just rolled out ... They will keep adjusting if ANY of the previous named updates I can remember reading about are an indication of the way things work when they roll out a big change.
1:47 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Can we start setting up some type of screenshots comparison of the old(64.233.179.104) and new results?
2:03 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I think we're wary of specifics here.
2:05 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I hear you "TheMadScientist" and I agree. It just seems that this time there are a lot of media eyeballs on this one and I wanted to throw it out there...
2:08 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I have not seen any changes to my websites at all and never knew there was an update at all until I dropped in here to see whats new.

Anyways, after reading through this thread could it be part of the problem is like google discounting low quality scraper and article sites, and some of those sites linked to you in those articles and scraped content so now your backlinks dropped?
2:09 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I guess we all have to wait for Google to get some feedback and then re-tweak. This never fails and it will probably be going on for many months with sites coming back on op, disappearing totally, reappearing, and then settling somewhere. It's heartbreaking for those on the losing side, especially those with employees to pay but not much we can do.
2:42 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't want to make a mockery of this... and nobody feels the pain of these events worse than I do at this point... but, this link: [www2.choralnet.org ] reminds me too much of google right now... on it's little pedestal, conducting the rest of us... and then rolling on the ground laughing while we are broadsided wondering...what the heck happened.

But mostly, this kid is GREAT and this is a great video!
2:49 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Yes, for quite a while now it's been common for a significant algo change to be followed by days of churn. My own take is that there is some kind of statistics based machine learning and self correction going on.

While something about backlinks may be in this mix - probably more of a footprint thing rather than a weighted count - I doubt that this is the core of it. In fact, I'm thinking right now that it's a relatively new algo factor that's been under development for a while.

And my best guess about that factor is that it is some kind of enhanced semantic analysis, maybe one with its roots in the phrase-based indexing technology [webmasterworld.com]. That stuff generates raw data with more uses than a swiss army knife (just look at the patents!) and its author, Anna Lynn Paterson, did go back to Google after her Cuill project failed.

I know that some UGC sites, such as forums, have taken the 40% traffic hit that others here are reporting - and we all know that UGC is going to be semantically quite different than carefully written content and marketing copy.
2:55 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Not again this patent LOL, this is a monster, it took me two years to fight the -950 re-ranking stuff.

I see a similar pattern, it is site-wide, it is algorithmic demotion which probably uses a score. But of course if they want to analyze co-occurrence of phrases this is the best patent they can use.
3:11 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Pardon my ignorance, but what is UGC?
3:11 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hi Tedster, we all know what happened to 35mil + Cuil Website. My prediction is that Demand Media and other websites will form a group against Google and start their own advertising and create traffic alternatives.
3:13 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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UGC = User Generated Content. Often applied to blog comments and forum posts.
3:41 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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how about all of us webmasters get together and make an open source search engine. =)
3:53 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Its early in the game and difficult thus far to establish any true pattern to work here, but perhaps we can dispel a few common items that arise during these types of updates.

I watch a considerable number of sites and genres as do many of us so I have some observations to report.

Feel free to share your info in terms of how it possibly matches up / conflicts with mine. Again, not trying to make heads or tails here, just dispel some potentials early.

1. Each genre or vertical is different. Some verticals are barely touched at all by this update. In one vertical I watch, only one competitor in the top 20 has changed

2. G Analytics is installed on sites that have dropped, and sites that have remained.

3. Adsense is present both on some websites that have dropped and on some that have remained, while no Adsense is present on some websites that have dropped, and some that have remained.

4. Websites that have active SEO have both retained rankings and have lost rankings

5. Websites that have had 0 links built in a significant period of time (1 year plus) have both lost and retained rankings

6. Some websites that have never had a link building campaign in the history of the website have lost rankings, while others have retained rankings.

7. I see a bias in my data in terms of the number of larger websites losing positioning versus smaller websites with larger websites on average losing more positions on average per page.

8. There does seem to be patterns in the amount of traffic lost, with some websites at 12.%, some at 25%, some at 40% and one at 50%.

9. Most of the websites that lost traffic lost traffic across most of the pages in the websites as opposed to for just one or two key terms

Based on the data that I see links are not necessarily a major factor here.

Thoughts?
4:31 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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There is hope, "Sites are Coming back " [webmasterworld.com...]
thread was opened on December, 2-3 weeks after the Florida Update
4:37 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Seems like most people are looking for a magic bullet, it must be this or it must be that, I don't think so, this is an algo, it's taking into account ALL of the magic bullets. crap links, thin pages, tons of pages with no ibl, adsense, paid links, ALL OF IT, heres the magic bullet, if you have all of that crap 100% chance you got hit.

I've got a pet project site, lots of original content(+), tons of crap links(-), no adsense(+), no paid links(+), exact keyword in domain name(++): has not tripped the algo (yet) but I bet i could trip it, maybe add some adsense, might be enough, maybe buy some links from a bad neighborhood to, that would probably do it.

bottom line is that I think its a combo of things, no magic bullet. Could a site have enough of one bad indicator to get slapped, maybe but it's more likely a combo of things, including an on site indicator or 2 that will do it.
4:39 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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walkman - nice reference, and in 1991 with the first cern web browser I loved the scrollbar on the left, is there hope the scrollbar will be on the left again? ;)
4:56 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I see that some key phrases in my top twenty have recovered - while others that were untouched yesterday have been knobled


it looks like it's learning...
4:57 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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bottom line is that I think its a combo of things, no magic bullet.

Well, on 2/23/11 things were fine for those complaining today, and then something changed. So people are trying to see what it was that's not acceptable right now.

SEOPTI, the point was to try, as hard as it is, to cheer people up. Do I think Google will reverse this? Nope, but they will tweak it so most innocent sites will rank again, or at least partially gain some lost ground.
5:41 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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And there's still one more big article left to hit. Tough month for google in the papers.
6:15 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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CainIV,

Add this to your list as the 10th one.

10) Many of those blogs/sites that lost traffic weren't much affected by algo changes, until this one.Infact, many of them have another common pattern as well.They all saw an increase in traffic, just before this happened.

Do you remember me replying to Tedster about noticing an increase in traffc to the extent of 20%, during the timeframe that he saw traffic to one of his clients double?

I didn't notice Tedster's reply, if any, on that but this particular site I was talking about has been impacted. It is also notable that it saw traffic like never before, on the same days that a few others including Dickbaker had noticed on their sites.

So, what do you think is the major factor? The spam reporting tool?

I am surprised that googlers of the caliber of Amit and Matt using the data they received through the tool to "cross-validate their algo tweaks".They did mention in their blog post of not using it to demote sites, but the data that they have is not even genuine end users' data.It is hardly few days since this tool has been released and do they think that normal searchers would have downloaded them to report spam? Whatever downloads they would have seen and the reports they would have received are certainly from SEO/webmasters who know about it and there is obviously going to be a huge bias in these reports.We have already seen to what extent SEO companies fight it out these days.

Other than the above, here is what I think UGC (User Generated Content) is.

To me, it is not just forum or blog comments but also content in wikipedia, eHow and the likes.But I know where Tedster is coming from on this. It is the links from UGC of the type he has defined.

There are also two important observations from Robert Charlton (on the adsense farms thread) and Ismailman on this thread, which are in my notes and these are good angles to ponder.

[edited by: indyank at 6:59 am (utc) on Feb 26, 2011]

6:30 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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From an UGC perspective, if Google is writing off all the links from forums and the likes, it is contra to what they proposed recently "People share a lot these days". All these sharing is done by users and how long do you think the sharing phenomenon can be genuine?

Yes, people abuse forums, signature links etc. but anything can be abused these days and we have seen it recently in the form of two big examples.The only difference is the former (forum and sig links) is low profile while the latter is high profile abuse.

A generic demotion of this sort will definitely impact a number of genuine ones too. There are a number of genuine shares in those forums and it wouldn't be good to negate them.

I do think that instead of devaluing/changing something, it will be better if google is innovative enough to find new positive signals to promote the good pages higher.The system is anyway going to be gamed but these new signals will ensure that the cream will pop up.Reworking on existing factors is a big fail for me.

Hey google, do you have a job.I would love to be part of it :)
6:34 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One thing I noticed about my authority site that's been heavily hit. It's large, with a lot of quality content. I checked the pages that are not ranking. They are either scraped heavily or copied/pasted elsewhere. There is a strong chance that I am thought of as a content farm because of so much copying and duplication, even though I am the original source. So what next? Do I sue the scrapers? Maybe we should, for lost income. Also, I've found my content on article directories as well as on scraper sites. Heck, even eHow stole some of my content and now ranks above me, even as I was cited by CNN on the exact same story. Ironic, eh?

I would strongly urge those of you affected, to see the extent of scraping and duplication done against your content. I will bet this could be the crux of the matter.

I could certainly file for a reconsideration request (if this does not clear in due time) and report all the places I've seen my content used. I'm just terribly surprised that Google does not realize at this point who is the original source of content and who isn't. The robots just aren't fast enough about spidering content now are they, such that they can't tell who wrote up the content first.

So as an example, my content (various pages) is found in articlesbase.com and referenced in eHow in many places.
6:54 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Our little site is back from the dead finally, but heavily penalised on our main target keys. Has seemed to have been given a PR1 instead of PR3 that it has had since 2005ish.

We've also had a couple of other sites get marked down in PR overnight.

I've also seen a 3 word key that I follow all of the time shift from 200'000'000 to 512'000'000 overnight !
7:22 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Falsepositive, thanks for the nudge. I didn't think my text was worthy of copying, so I've never checked. I just did, though, and found that a lot of pages have been scraped to varying degrees. There's a project for me for the weekend.

Here's something that would be really funny if all of this wasn't going on. I get high-res product images from the manufacturers, size them (larger than anybody else in my niche shows them), color correct, and sometimes even retouch flaws. So, I have some of the best photos of my niche's widgets.

My widget pages are now buried deep in Google's search results, but if you do a search for a widget by name, and click on Google images, my photos are often in the first five or ten. I'm getting scraped by scrapers and by Google.

Gee, Google. Thanks a lot. (I'm reminded of a line by R Lee Ermey in "Full Metal Jacket" regarding a reach-around, but I can't repeat it here).
8:16 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well here's what's heartbreaking. I work 4 hours per day on each article I publish. These articles are at least a 1,000 words long with a lot of analysis and rumination, opinion and some research. I've got a community that chimes in with commentary. Content thieves lift my content and voila! I am punished, but these thieves are still all floating in the ether, enjoying higher rankings.

This smells of a site-wide penalty as I am unable to see some of my non-duplicated posts even ranking for the most specific keywords or even the full (complete) title of the article. Where are they Google? My site has been demoted to nowhere land.

Here's what else is funny. I have columns in some well known media sites. They rank higher for my NAME than my own site. It's incredibly frustrating. This has caused me untold hours of grief and distraction. I'm still waiting for all this to clear up.
8:42 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Question: Are you still ranking for "sitename" and do you still have freshtags?
8:59 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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walkman, yes I am. I am just seeing lower rankings all around (or missing pages) compared to how it used to be. Right now, seeing some improvement though. Here are some traffic stats I have:

Thursday: down 35%
Friday: down 29%
Early AM Saturday: increase from friday of 10%. If it stays at this level, I should be down 20% for Saturday.

Crossing fingers that this is a sign of improvement. I am seeing multiple visits by googlebot as well as google.com referrers (visitors from Mt. View).
10:28 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Here my observations:
- traffic drop on 24 February
- comparing US traffic 24-25 feb with 22-23 Feb results 43% drop in Analytics
- some pages are ranking better and drive more traffic, but are a few searches
- pages replaced in top results have 100% copied content
- sites replaced in top results have stronger link profile (and paid links)
- increased crawled page activity in GWT
- searching by page title with long tail(4-5 keywords) some pages are hidden in results for 4 keywords searched, but appear for 5 keywords search in page 1.


Interesting: searching for 2 affected sites site:example.com not showing homepage at first result, like was before. For competitor sites who are not affected shows homepage at first result.

For me it looks is not finished their re-calculation job.

1. No content farms or sites with copied content are affected. My hard worked pages with reviews are not visible, in top are pages with NO original content.

2. It looks high searched keywords on Google are affected. I have a low quality site with little original content and traffic is up with 13% from US, but didn't ranked well for competitive keywords.

Since weekends and holidays of work from 4 years are almost vanished, I don't know what to say. I am thinking at on-page factors and backlink profile, to find a clue. Also i hope for a recovery, an algo tweak. Is a massacre, like someone said.
12:16 pm 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."

the only pages that got hammered in my case are the ones with external links.

I wrote an article last night on my blog and in the USA SERPs is on the second page. if i search it's title, the second result on the first page of the USA SERPs is some scraper that has my article in the description tag of his page and there's NO content on that page, except for a few images and AdSense. it even violates the AdSense TOS.

I wrote a DMCA complaint and Google said "Thanks!

Thank you for using our online DMCA complaint form. You should receive a confirmation email shortly."

It's been a few hours since then and I received no confirmation.
12:29 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"Thank you for using our online DMCA complaint form ...

... There's nobody here right now, but rest assured we've got it in hand"

;-)
1:37 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It seems to me that if I were at Google and wanted to improve the algorithm, I'd be intently focused on page and site quality measures that cannot be easily gamed. In the past, SEO folks could figure out how to get a page to rank well. But the reactions of the people who visited the page cannot be easily controlled or gamed. The subjective review of each searcher determines whether a page is relevant to their search or not.

For example, after visiting a page via a Google search, does the user immediately return to Google and search again on the same phrase or a close variant? If so, that page and site were not great results for the searcher, and they perhaps should be lowered in the rankings over time for that particular search phrase. For other phrases, the same page could still be ranked high -- if and only if it shows signs of quality for a given search phrase.

There are myriad ways to measure this and myriad complexities to each of the measurements. For example, if you view the time somebody spends on a site after a search as a measure of quality, you can argue it either way. They spend a lot of time on the site could mean it's a great site for what they are looking for, or it could mean the site doesn't deliver relevant answers in a concise and immediate fashion.

Same thing with bounce rates, a high bounce rate on a page doesn't necessarily reflect badly on the page. It could mean it gives the answers people are looking for and they are done -- which is a good thing. Or it could mean that Google is sending people to a page that they shouldn't be for a given search.

So, I would tend to agree with Tedster that this is a new data-driven, learning algorithm that is designed to get better results to the top of the rankings over time.

If you think about it, you really have to shake up your existing rankings to deploy something like this. For example, you need to put what used be a #41 ranking for a search up in spot #3 and see if it performs better than the incumbent #3. For a learning system to work, it needs to test hypotheses that haven't been tested or tracked before...and that means you may have to show some bad results in the top rankings to test whether they are truly bad. It's essentially a massive multi-variate testing machine.

So, in the new era, SEO puts you in the hunt to rank well -- it's a way to communicate to the Google algos after all -- but ultimately the best content will float to the top, regardless of factors that used to be more important (and could be optimized regardless of true quality), such as links, title tags, etc. If you truly have the best page for a given search and have been knocked down, you will likely float back to the top results over time...probably in a month or so.

While I'm frustrated that traffic has dropped on my site, it's a motivator to create better content for users and reflect on how my pages can be more valuable to site visitors. I mean that's always been a motivator, but you can get complacent and fall into ruts, so I guess we all need to make lemonade out of this lemon, and keep on trucking.
1:48 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I wrote a DMCA complaint and Google said "Thanks!

Thank you for using our online DMCA complaint form. You should receive a confirmation email shortly."

It's been a few hours since then and I received no confirmation.


They'll get back to you, but not in a few hours. The last time I filed one, I think it took a couple of days.
P-76
1:58 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I am having a hard time researching this algo change. I have a wide variety of sites in my private network and my clients are also a mixed bunch. I have not seen any negative impact on these sites.
2:03 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Same here. But I always wonder if the other shoe hasn't dropped.
2:08 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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...since 2003 as by accident i was away and off the internet for two weeks while a big google update happend, seeing in hindsight that doing nothing did good to my site, i keep on doing nothing for the first weeks during times of algo changes, might be not helping you but just saying for 8 years doing nothing in the week after an algo update was so far always a safe bet, (i was so far only hit very slighty with about 5% less traffic which could be a thousand reasons not just the update)...

just saying, maybe not freakin out yet maybe what you need to do...

cheers
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2:17 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In case you are not sure if you have been hit this algo update you may want to do a little research on your analytics.

Look at your top keywords generating traffic between Feb 1-Feb 22. Then compare it with the list of top keywords generating traffic from Feb 23-Today. This can help to identify if any of your keywords are possibly having issues.
2:21 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Interesting: searching for 2 affected sites site:example.com not showing homepage at first result, like was before. For competitor sites who are not affected shows homepage at first result.


Let's make sure of this: You search for site:example.com and the first page listed is not www.example.com but www.example.com/other-page.html ? Do you rank for your 'example' (domain keyword) ? Do you have a fresh cache?
Long time ago there was a penalty, link related, where the first page would be demoted and by extension everything else too.
2:29 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It's essentially a massive multi-variate testing machine


I think this is the main reason we routinely see so much "everflux" in the SERPs.

On the other hand, given the way Google announced this change with such fanfare, it is likely that the changes that have just been rolled out have been verified and improved through a few months of low-profile multi-variate testing going on in the background (rather than the start of such testing).

To the extent this change has resulted in "false positives" Google will presumably struggle to find and fix those problems. Whether they succeed anytime soon is another question entirely.

As mentioned in other threads, I think the true significance of this change is conceptually related to the change in their terminology. Instead of referring to "relevance" as Google spokespersons have done for years, they are suddenly talking about "quality".

I'm not saying they have succeeded at detecting low quality. My point is simply that they are now focusing on quality in a way, or to an extent, that they have never done before.

And, quality is a subtly but fundamentally different issue than relevance.

Perhaps it is dawning on the folks at Google that negative feedback mechanisms between their algorithms and the behavior of webmasters is leading to a proliferation of junk pages, and that their emphasis on "relevance" and failure to pay attention to "quality" is the main reason they are struggling to index and analyze millions of nearly-worthless pages, as well as leading them to the criticism that their first page is filled with low quality pages that aren't particularly useful to the user. The reason those pages were ranked highly (though of low quality) is that they were created specifically to be relevant to the user's exact query.

Assuming any of these thoughts are reasonably close to being on-target, the key question is what quantitative data are they using in their new attempt to distinguish between low and high quality? And, is this data primarily at the site-wide level, or at the page-specific level?
2:31 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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IMO, this is definitely all about external links coming from other homepages and possibly sitewide links as well. We mainly lost rankings on the pages and keywords that we targeted on external ON-TOPIC only sites. I say it one more time, our external links were not coming from link farms, were coming from similar sites and most of the time these links were sitewide.
3:04 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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A few quick observations from one affected site:

1. Rankings lost across most but not all keywords, some falling about 30 places, some more than 100.
2. Still ranks #1 for its site name, with all its 8 sitelinks intact.
3. Most of the drops centered around pages that naturally don't lend themselves to lots of content. In other words, the pages may look "thin" but only because there's not much to say via text about the actual content. This could be applied to various types of content including images, online games, downloadable or printable items - anything that might only contain a few lines of how-to-download or how-to-play type of content, near the main non-text content. Starting to think I'll need to create ehow type content that is useless but must-have filler to avoid being filtered.
4. Some of these might have some duplicate issues as some of it has been scraped by others (affected site's content is original), but I don't think there's enough of that going on to be the main culprit - still, it could be a factor.
5. Several other sites (5 total) that are essentially built in the same way, with the same types of content, but for a different niche, were not affected at all. The affected one is the largest and most high-quality of them all. It's the one that garners the most attention and traffic. It does have a lot of funky backlinks but they are all natural. Funky sites link to it all on their own, with no requests being made and no link building of any kind being done. No paid links (to or from) at all.
6. Oh and there are some pages that are "natural dups", meaning everyone who has these types of pages would have no choice but to be duplicating everyone else - a good example might be a song's lyrics. I suppose UGC or more bogus content could be added but that just dilutes the user experience, I think, still, it may need to be done anyway.
7. Even if all the potential dup issues were removed from the equation that wouldn't explain all the drops. So, while that might be a factor, it's not the only one.
8. And I still don't understand why one niche of its type got hit but not the others. This might be my best hope of analyzing though, since I'll be able to compare link profiles, onpage content, dups, etc. on very similar sites. Will report on anything else I find.
3:18 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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donna: thanks for the details, I mostly agree to the findings! Especially the dupes and "thin" pages worry me, too in that case...

@tedster, robert and goodroi: I know it is a lot of work, but could you start a new thread for this update with a summary of your personal favorites from this thread to start clean? It gets messy and some postings are hard to find on over 36 pages :-/ - like

Farmer Update - Aftermath

or something like that?

Cheers,
P!
3:22 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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it is likely that the changes that have just been rolled out have been verified and improved through a few months of low-profile multi-variate testing going on in the background


google had been doing a lot of tests/changes recently and one site that got hit by this update never faced any issues in all those tests.This site saw an increase in traffic with every update they did so far and had the best traffic on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.When this roll out was finally announced, many pages (but not all) that pulled traffic got pushed down to page 2 or 3 for their primary keywords.

is this data primarily at the site-wide level, or at the page-specific level


It does look sitewide (refer above) and it does appear some generic factors were used to filter its pages.Most pages now appear in page 2, 3 and 4.

The other competing pages on the front page are thin pages supported with lots of auto generated internal pages.These are sites run by content producing business houses like eHow (adsense premium publishers).All of them remain intact.

What is unique is the site never got impacted until now.It is like google simply pulled up those sites that weren't run by their premium publishers and pushed all their traffic pulling pages down by a few pages in SERPS.

From a quality perspective, I would rate this site as very good and it is neither a thin site nor does it contain duplicate content.Content is unique and based on research.

But yes, partial feeds are being syndicated ( title and a brief description) and these do appear on several feed aggregators.

Another interesting thing that happens now is the site is the site pulls traffic higher than usual from other parts of the globe and the pages that were pushed down in US SERPS are ranking highr than earlier in other google TLDs now.

US traffic is way down but compensated to some extent elsewhere and the overall traffic drop is 10-13%

For those who focus on PR, the site has a toolbar PR 6 to home page.Pages that went down has PR 5, 4 and so on.

Backlinks are natural and like Donna said, there are some funky sites linking to those pages and domain naturally.But there are no high profile paid/discount links or links from large groups (farms) of sites that we often see in sites run by business houses.

[edited by: indyank at 3:39 pm (utc) on Feb 26, 2011]

3:25 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Let's make sure of this: You search for site:example.com and the first page listed is not www.example.com but www.example.com/other-page.html ? Do you rank for your 'example' (domain keyword) ? Do you have a fresh cache?
Long time ago there was a penalty, link related, where the first page would be demoted and by extension everything else too.


Walkman , the same happened to me :
- when I search for site:www.domainname.com , www.domainname.com is on 5th place ( cache date is 26th Feb )
- the first 4 places are other pages www.domainname.com/a-page.html ( cache 23rd, 24th, 26th Feb )
- I rank for domainname.com or www.domainname.com
- some of my keywords went from first page ( pos 3-4 ) to 3rd page ( pos 23-29 )

Do you think it is a link related penalty ? I never bought/sold links
3:28 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The affected one is the largest and most high-quality of them all. It's the one that garners the most attention and traffic


Same here. It's "funny" to see how my large high quality site is hit AND how my old low quality sites (some of them haven't been updated for months and the content is far from high quality) are going up in the serps.
3:29 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I think Donna is spot on. Google needs to understand that not every page is supposed to have a minimum number of words or a proper sentence structure. If you have to edit your pages for Google, by adding BS to make it 'thick', then this is a tragedy.
3:32 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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They'll get back to you, but not in a few hours


i wrote one last week too, regarding about a dozen or so blogspot pages. they didn't get back to me on that one either...

the aglo update was two days ago. has anyone seen any improvement since the fall at the beginnning?
3:41 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Walkman , the same happened to me :
- when I search for site:www.domainname.com , www.domainname.com is on 5th place ( cache date is 26th Feb )
- the first 4 places are other pages www.domainname.com/a-page.html ( cache 23rd, 24th, 26th Feb )


Many years ago, and others can correct me, I saw this as a penalty. Some said it was links, some dupes...

Take a sentence from your index page and search for it, "in quotes." Maybe there's a dupe, somewhere?
3:44 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@tedster, robert and goodroi: I know it is a lot of work, but could you start a new thread for this update with a summary of your personal favorites from this thread to start clean?


I think it could be useful to start off a fresh thread with a sharper focus on what's really going on (as opposed to commiseration and misery loves company commentary).

Personally, I would like to see more brainstorming (and empirical observations) focused on trying to figure out what is going on behind the scenes:

What data is Google using in its new effort to detect "low quality"?

How has the algorithm changed in an effort to reduce combat "low quality"?

Is the focus primarily site-wide, or page-specific?

What is unique about sites/pages that are losing the most traffic?


If such a new thread were started, it might be helpful to include selected posts from some of the earlier threads (in addition to this one), including these threads:

Google Goes After AdSense Farms
[webmasterworld.com...]

Big changes promised shortly at Google
[webmasterworld.com...]

Matt Cutts: "chase after your best interpretation of what users want"
[webmasterworld.com...]

New Chrome extension puts content farms on notice!
[webmasterworld.com...]

and perhaps this one as well:
Matt Cutts: Google Algo Change Targets Dupe Content
[webmasterworld.com...]

It would also be helpful to gently suggest a few ground rules to help maintain focus.
3:48 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One way by which google could have pushes the kind of sites I discuss is by turning off their authority. It looks likes google has retained authority for all high profile sites and they might have used the premium publisher list as a filter.

Are all the sites that people discuss here content based sites? Are people seeing any impact on e-commerce sites?
3:53 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I know one premium publisher who called me and said they are down 30%... so it can't be that. I have checked a few e-commerce sites we work with, all seem to be fine, can someone chime in? Someone who actually sells and ships a widget and not just copy/pasting manufacture descriptions are you down as well?
3:53 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It just smacks to me as something like this: individual page factors are involved, including a site wide penalty. Enough individual page factors are triggered and brings down your ranking -- which is evident say, when one page is heavily duped. Enough of this and your entire site is penalized and brought down. Some tests I did:

1. New pages I have, I cut off the RSS feed. That page shows up fine, ranks, no problem, albeit LOWER than I'd usually expect for keywords.

2. Old pages, heavily duped without my consent (copyright infringement). Scrapers are way way ahead, my article is much lower, sometimes nowhere to be seen. Difference between me and scraper? I have links out and in. Scrapers toss out all links and copy my work verbatim without links, or with minimal links (some with link back to my site). For my lost income, I am of the mind to SUE these people for the money I've lost. I don't believe I have seen a time in the past when a scraper outranked me. Well now I have.

3. I am knocked down a few ranks on some unimportant keyword on my domain name, but a main word, nevertheless. For example, if my site name was "The Content Farm Victim" (snark), my site used to rank #2 for "Content Farm". Now it's #6. So there's a site wide issue here. My guess is that because of the multitude of pages affected in #2, it triggered enough of a sitewide penalty to cause #3. If we fix #2, then #3 may be fixed as well.

4. Some of my best pages are just not visible anywhere. No scrapers are either. This is weird. They are just not ranked, although indexed, even by using the full title of the page. Many of these pages are my pride and joy, and I have no idea what's up with those. Again, perhaps because of the sitewide penalty, they are hit. Maybe because they are older pages, they could have stale or no links.

5. My huge authority site was hit. Small sites of friends in the same niche, NOT touched. My back link profile is excellent. I have links from outstanding places, and perhaps spammers alike. I am on DMOZ. Small sites from others? Not so much. Minimal link profile.

6. It may not look like overall link profile is a big factor, but possibly on page links are. I am totally white hat, always afraid I would be slapped by Google for a mere insinuation of a paid link. I've never gone there, so this is a bigger stab in the chest than it should be. It's truly a "punishing of the good".

All in all, a lot of work if we are to fix this. Starting with: go after your scrapers? I would think Google should already know what to do. They were supposed to release this algo along with the "duplicate screening algo". Maybe these algos work hand in hand. I know that the first phase of this thing involved clearing out the scrapers. I saw them disappear in a week or two. But I was not affected then. This time, I am seriously affected, and scrapers abound. So will this mean that the scrapers will disappear in a week or two?

Re figuring out the "quality" of a page via visitors. Scrapers have my content word for word, as well as the work of others. Wouldn't they have great user experience? What if they also have great site design, making them percolate to the top? There has to be other things involved like link profile, age(!), authority and those link backs I placed to my site, that some of these thieves still retain in the content.

Could this algorithm be one to sniff out the "original content source"? If an even bigger site copied you word for word, how would this algo recognize that?

There are certainly patterns you can see here, but not yet totally clear.
3:58 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I came across a blog post that has done a pretty good analysis of the top 25 sites hurt by the update so far. (Actually they have a list of 100, but just 25 posted in their blog.) The post is at [sistrix.com...]
The top 25 sites that they see as being hit the worst, in rank order:

ezinearticles.com
suite101.com
hubpages.com
buzzle.com
associatedcontent.com
freedownloadscenter.com
essortment.com
fixya.com
americantowns.com
lovetoknow.com
articlesbase.com
howtodothings.com
mahalo.com
business.com
doityourself.com
merchantcircle.com
thefind.com
findarticles.com
faqs.org
tradekey.com
answerbag.com
trails.com
examiner.com
allbusiness.com

Maybe we can see some commonalities here?

My site got hit -- 5 years old, all original content, about 5,000 pages, got pushed down, on average, about 5 ranking spots for every search term I can think of. Maybe a few just got pushed down 1 or 2 spots. But overall, a 40% loss in traffic, I'd say.

My marketing has included placing unique articles in sites like Ezine over the years. No more than 20 aricles, total. Maybe that has some impact?

My take on this is to try and get inside Google's head. If they want to bring down content farms like this top 25 list, what, in Google's opinion, would make a site look like a content farm? What factors would Google come up with that qualifies a site as a "content farm"? Maybe we can come up with a coherent list, and see if it matches the top 25 sites that have been hurt.

Two things on my own site I noticed that might make me look like a farm (even though I am far from it!):

1. A lot of my description meta tags, including an embarassing duplicate meta tag on a lot of pages, has buzz words like "tips, articles, etc."

2. My site is totally unique, hand-written content, researched and written by me. But I am trying to make $$, and the topics I choose to write about are good SEO terms. It is tightly-optimized. I also have a number of pages that are different spins on the same topic -- basically trying to capture all the search volume for related terms. Maybe I am over-optimized?

I agree with many of you that the update is multi-faceted. However, my gut tells me this might be more about on-page optimization than it is about links.

Oh, the Adsense issue -- I have a small amount of Adsense ads on the site, but mostly I run display ads from Ad Networks.
4:04 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Ortelius, the part where you say "trying to make $$" may be a flag. I know I am. Colleagues who are less SEO savvy were NOT hit. I know of heavily SEO'd sites that are much smaller, in the same niche, that were NOT hit. I had prominent placements in highly competitive terms.

Some commonalities -- some of my content has been repurposed in labeled content farms (ezine, ehow, articlesbase). Has yours?

If your work has been regurgitated in these labeled content farms, maybe you get marked.

[edited by: falsepositive at 4:11 pm (utc) on Feb 26, 2011]

4:11 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I think it could be useful to start off a fresh thread with a sharper focus on what's really going on (as opposed to commiseration and misery loves company commentary).


Totally agree. We all got devastated, and right now the causes seem all over the map. Time to shake off the hangovers and get scientific about how we can analyze this and learn what to do.

I have no confidence Google is going to tweak this in our favor. More than anything, I think this was massive PR effort by Google to show the world, and Wall Street, they are serious about cleaning up spam. Clearly, it backfired to a big degree. But we are collateral damage. I doubt Google is going to put too much time into helping us.

Time to figure out the best approach to reverse engineer this mess ourselves.
4:15 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Some commonalities -- some of my content has been repurposed in labeled content farms (ezine, ehow, articlesbase). Has yours?

If your work has been regurgitated in these labeled content farms, maybe you get marked.


Yes, it has. Not a lot, maybe 2 or 3 dozen articles over 5 years in a few of those article sites, but I have done some of that. Haven't actually done it for a few years, because I now think it's a waste, but it is out there. The articles were "reworked," for sure. They are not dupe content by any means. But they are often on a similar theme, and often point to the same internal page or two on my site. Maybe this has a role.
4:15 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Our main site has been around under same domain name and ownership since 1996 (orig. launched in 1994) and has lots of well-indexed legacy (aka evergreen) content. No spam, and the only "copied" content are a few PR releases that appear on other sites in the same vertical niche. Most traffic is from Google searches. On 1st page of Google for many keywords for years, and daily traffic has been boringly consistent (until this week, that is)

Here are the actual numbers [can you spot which day the algo changed?]:

Past Week - Total Pageviews - Unique Visits
Friday 25th - 12,640 - 8,152
Thursday 24th - 14,449 - 8,857
Wednesday 23rd - 18,209 - 12,010
Tuesday 22nd - 17,928 - 12,162
Monday 21st - 19,416 - 13,170
Sunday 20th - 18,504 - 13,013
4:19 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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How about we form some kind of test teams, and after we wait a few weeks to see what settles, then we draw up a list of careful tests, and then divide up the tests among ourselves to see what we can figure out? With our common base of sites, we could implement carefully-controlled testing til we come up with the answer.
4:21 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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OK guys and gals here is my example.. I hope it helps... AND BTW, there are a ton of people asking for the positive side of the story... is there anybody out there?

We dropped 35% in total traffic, all google... which means we probably lost 50% of our google traffic.
We are an e commerce site
15,000+ pages
90% hand written content
Old website, been around since 2003

Our traffic came from both highly competitive key terms AND from long tail... we lost both...

Our site was built to help google determine which pages were what. We spent a great deal of time with making sure we were very clear to Google what each page was about... for both the traffic and for the user experience.

The insulting part of all of this is that google claims that the search results are better: "have you noticed better Google search results..." But, like many people in this forum are complaining about, there are many key terms in our industry that are ranking sites that scraped their content directly from us. In fact at least one that I saw even has a very subtle link posting back to our original content which is now on the 2nd or 3rd page.
4:23 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you are "trying to make $$" simply by plastering "original content" on thousands of pages filled with adsense ads and affiliate links, then that = content farm. The list above is a collection of classic, shameless self advertising efforts that offer nothing but spun content. When I go to these sites, they only give me enough info to piss me off and funnel me out of the site through their ads, to more relevant, complete informational sites or actual product vendors. This "extra step" or "middle manning" is what should be filtered. Google should come up with a new tab at the top left of the page titled "WGAS Expert Opinions" and filter all those "expert" commentary sites there.
4:30 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you are "trying to make $$" simply by plastering "original content" on thousands of pages filled with adsense ads and affiliate links, then that = content farm.


You really ought to get more information before you sound off. My site is a tightly focused site on the topic of etymology, or the study of the origin and history of names. About 4,000 of my pages are name definition pages, each one carefully researched and written. In the offline world, it would be comparable to something like The Oxford Dictionary of First Names. If you are calling that classic work a "content farm" then so be it.

The remaining pages on my site are personally researched and written articles about names. I have put about ten hours a week into this site for the last five years. The fact that I make sure I write on topics that have some degree of search volume is, to me, fair recompense for the work I put it.

So in all, I have probably put in 2500+ hours on this site, which I love doing, and in return get a rather poor rate of return from ad revenue.

If that's a content farm, then I'm a farmer, and proud of it!
4:31 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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can you spot which day the algo changed?


It is obviously thursday and it does look like content based sites have been impacted in this update.
4:32 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you are "trying to make $$" simply by plastering "original content" on thousands of pages filled with adsense ads and affiliate links, then that = content farm.


Follow up -- BTW -- I never ran a single affiliate ad on my site. The ads are from ad networks, display ads, just like CNN and everyone else.
4:35 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I came across a blog post that has done a pretty good analysis of the top 25 sites hurt by the update so far. (Actually they have a list of 100, but just 25 posted in their blog.) The post is at [sistrix.com...]
The top 25 sites that they see as being hit the worst, in rank order:

ezinearticles.com
suite101.com
......


Part of the these domains do not rank with their home page on 1st position for site:www.domainname.com search ( freedownloadscenter.com, business.com, etc )
4:51 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you are "trying to make $$" simply by plastering "original content" on thousands of pages filled with adsense ads and affiliate links, then that = content farm.


Niche websites with articles, written by professionals (e.g.doctors for a medical website), on one subject are not content farms.
4:58 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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...there are a ton of people asking for the positive side of the story... is there anybody out there?

What time does the Ferrari dealer open on Monday morning?

[edited by: jk3210 at 5:00 pm (utc) on Feb 26, 2011]

4:59 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Part of the these domains do not rank with their home page on 1st position for site:www.domainname.com search ( freedownloadscenter.com, business.com, etc )


Great find. Mahalo also doesn't even rank #1 for Mahalo. From my IP they rank #3 for it, after Wikipedia and after an angelfire site that has Hawaiian phrases, a very bad thing from trustrank. Maybe that's the difference between manual and algo penalties /demotions?
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