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Google Updates and SERP Changes - Mar 2012



3:39 pm on Mar 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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< continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >

Something very odd just happened. I searched for my top keyword term. We have been at #3 since Panda, previously #1. My listing had disappeared completely, nowhere down to page 10 (in 10s). I did the same search on a different browser with no history on it, same result. Other terms were where I expected them.

Then 2 minutes later I'm back at #3.

What's going on?

Sid (In UK)

[edited by: tedster at 3:28 am (utc) on Mar 2, 2012]


8:54 pm on Mar 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ tedster

Folks, your orders (conversions) over a short time period don't really help anyone understand Google Updates and SERP Changes - not even you ;)

If you occasionally see a long term pattern about conversions and can definitively track it back to the SERPs, then yes - please share. But otherwise, I would rather not see hour-by-hour sales reports, especially when they don't change.



9:46 pm on Mar 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

for number of keywords i checked i have the same rankings on both .com and .ca. so, the only differences are when i choose another language and also with change of country i get different results. but, with language changes serps differences are much more bigger.

when i say i'm pandalized when english is selected, i say that because i see some empty and spam pages outranking me there. for example, a full product review is outranked by a title + single sentence taken from that review. also, there's much more spam outranking me on english.


4:06 am on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think I'm actually seeing 2 sets of results this last week or so, although they are quite subtle in difference.

Agreed. See it here as well now, both in US and Canada with de-personalized results, and cleared cookies / cache.


4:30 am on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

@reseller I'm seeing pretty big differences between .ca and .com as well. However, it looks like .ca is "newer." It seems to have already taken out 301 pages I made yesterday and moved up pages which I 301ed to. Also, title changes and meta description changes are updated and moved from position 8 to 1 in .ca overnight in a keyword.

Somehow though, I think that's too good to be true and something might be going on. Another keyword which I held #1 for a couple years and went to #3 in January is now at #2 in .ca.

No change in traffic since last week.


7:57 am on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@reseller I'm seeing pretty big differences between .ca and .com as well. However, it looks like .ca is "newer."

We need to think about the consequences of the fact that there are big differences between google.ca and google.com especially on ecom sites!

We might as well involve gooogle.co.uk in our discussion.

I have tested the same keyphrase on the following Googles and got the following ranking:

google.ca : 37

google.com : 156

google.co.uk : 109

Very interesting indeed :-)

Ps. I don't connect to internet from Canada, USA or UK


2:30 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm UK ecom and have been since 1999. I am totally with Ohno on this... my situation is identical. Since we micro manage our traffic (once it dissapears) you can observe realtime fluctuations. We can have nothing for all the morning then the phone rings like mad for 1 hour then quiet again.

Google has given me more grey hairs and brow furrows than I ever imagined. Really I dont think this situation can be fixed by us. Google will do as they like whenever they like.

We just need to be realistic and roll with the punches. But for sure its NO WAY to run a business.

Overall our traffic has ALWAYS been capped by GOOGLE. From March the 1st 2012 I think they have reduced my quote of traffic by 30%.

Good luck everyone.


6:54 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

google.ca : 37
google.com : 156
google.co.uk : 109

I usually find that such deep results are extremely unstable compared to page one results. For several years now, there seem to be waves of ups and downs that go through the deeper results on a daily (or even more than daily) basis.

I've been thinking that this is a sign of some kind of statistical testing, more than a true "this URL ranks at this position" verdict. Years ago, the deeper results were more stable. In fact during the monthly update period of young Google, they really were. Today, not so much.

Those three numbers also seem to say that there is less competition (or maybe "different" competition) for the three TLDs. Certainly .com would always be the most competitive, and I also think .co.uk is likely to top .ca in many markets.


9:10 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Since 2 days ago, I see big improvements in ranking of my Pandalized site for some keywords. These jumps I noticed are from about #20 to #1-#7. Haven't seen my page on #1 for a long time. However, this is just for select queries, while rankings for much greater number of other queries are the same like before. I haven't done anything special to get these top rankings I have now. It looks like they've just taken random pages to rank on the top.


10:02 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Still think its a form of testing and sharing going on. The site I manage has an 11 year history and nowhere in those logs are there swings like this. Last week it was Tuesday and Thursday where orders came in as fast as we could update. This week it was Monday and Wednesday. During those periods conversions go to almost 10% which is 10 times normal.

My impression is they are testing different times and days for each site among other things.

SERPS are still struggling. For clear transactional inquiries google is sending me to pages where I can only get quotes or information. I'm sure t will cycle through.


4:17 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I'm seeing some very odd results, it appears at least right now (04:00 GMT), something has changed. I'm seeing a dance from both my mobile phone (Dolphin browser both with Android user-agent and "Desktop" agent tested). Desktop results don't mirror the results from my phone, but still different from a few hours ago.

(google.com EN) Certain on-topic keywords (one a trademark) which had Wikipedia mostly in position 1 are completely gone from the first 5 pages; other keywords see a lot of low quality results demoted; seeing improvement in results and an increase in traffic for these hours;

A lot of keywords I'm monitoring have slightly improved in rankings overall but it seems to be dancing.

edit to add: Extremely bizarre! A wikipedia page which used to rank first doesn't even rank for the url though it is still in the cache.


8:12 am on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Results still look useless to me, one search term has two results from the same company who's pages are returning :-

"Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator, webmaster@lumitunes.co.uk and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request."

Quality & freshness?! Been like that for two weeks+!
Shopping results still seem very buggy as well. Oh, & Google dropped support to the Google Talk Chat Back badges a few weeks ago, their support forums has users posting about that (ironically it gives a server 500 error too!). Two weeks later a Google employee posts "we are no longer supporting chat back". THAT sums up new Google, total arrogance for it's users and couldn't care a less. It's all $$$$$$$ these days.


2:01 pm on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I hate to jump on a bandwagon, but G* serp's are a really mess right now, logged in or not. I am seeing obvious MFA sites, less than 1 year old, re-written or spun-out low quality content, loaded up with 2-4 adsense blocks above the fold. It's not just one or two long tail queries either, its all over the place on informational queries!

Has anyone ever considered the huge financial upside to G* when they "test" these serps and show poor results just for a few days of the month? One estimate I saw claimed G* answers more than 3 billion daily search queries. That's a lot of incentive to stay in a constant state of "testing" when the results always benefit the shareholders.

I know we have a lot of people in this forum that believe the don't be evil mantra G* spouts as their motto, but it seems like every 2-3 months, these monthly G* update threads are filled with reports of junk serp's, and MFA sites topping the results. If it happened once a year, I would think its a coincidence... when it starts happening monthly, I see it as a planned income stream.

If I had to mention anything that I get from it on a datapoint level, it's that the MFA sites seem to be replacing the how-to and lower quality informational type queries that we were told Panda took care of.

Edit: For the sake of disclosure, we have not been affected by recent changes at G* in the last year, and we DO employ an adsense block on a few sites we manage.



2:17 pm on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

5-Day Forecast: Intermittent serp testing with continued panda flux through the weekend, tapering off into the beginning of next week.

Ecomm sites to the north can expect more of the same: lots of unqualified traffic with rare scattered bursts of sales and more of that heavy foreign and zombie traffic we've seen so much of lately. The info sites to the south and east of us will continue to get pounded by a steady mix of irrelevant results and outright spam.

Expect some clearing heading into next week, but don't get too comfortable because there's a new high pressure system building and big changes are headed our way.

Next up, Google expected to announce record earnings for the first quarter based on strong revenue growth driven by increased advertising demand from online retailers.


3:41 pm on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

cr1t1calh1t, thanks for that!

mhansen, like you, we are doing ok right now - overall organic google referrals and conversions are actually pretty strong - this is in spite of massive swings.

notwithstanding our performance, these are the worst serps i have ever seen from google. on the long tail, at least. i say this both as a webmaster looking at the variance in quality of referrals and as a user when i query specific items (as i usually do). the degradation of the title attribute was the death knell for on-page factors in the algo - we have an endless number of over-intellectualized off-page and ethereal factors that have completely trumped the actual content of pages.


9:22 am on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Seeing horrible results right now. Facebook pages completely taking over SERPs, including the pages that are simply duplicate Wiki pages. And the Wikipedia pages which do show up are the .jpg files, such as File: image.jpg

What the heck is going on?


9:27 am on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Something is blowing through yet again. Yesterday was awful for a Friday & no surprise this morning, logs full of junk foreign traffic. Bounce rates through the roof @ nearly 60%! Seems to go from bad to worse.


10:57 am on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Agreed ohno. The Wednesday thru Friday period particularly awful, worst so far this year.


8:51 pm on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

We had a record day Friday between 10pm and 3am getting more orders in those 5 hours than the previous 5 days. I know of another merchant in an unrelated field that saw a similar spike. We got more orders last night than in the last 5 years total after 9pm.

I cannot even begin to understand what's going on but I really believe they are testing sites during periods of time to gauge performance.

Robert Charlton

10:35 pm on Mar 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

I cannot even begin to understand what's going on but I really believe they are testing sites during periods of time to gauge performance.

I've come to believe over the past several years that they are testing constantly... and not just individual sites or algo adjustments, but user engagement on Google itself.


8:06 am on Mar 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I see three row description (no snippets) today. Meta description + what google "thinks" is good for the user from the page. Is this new?


12:08 pm on Mar 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here's a strange one.

Looking at the analytics for a site, I spotted a search phrase that had brought in a visitor:

"[arabic word] [widgetmake] [widgetmodel] [year]"

I did the search on google.co.uk and sure enough the site ranked 4th for this phrase. All the other sites in the SERPs are arabic sites, just the site I'm working with is a UK-based, English language site.

I translated the Arabic word, and it means 'prices'.

If I change it for the English word prices, and do the search, the site no longer ranks in the top 20 results. The same when I simply removed the word from the search query. What factors could make it rank so highly with the arabic word, but not at all without it? Like I said, the site is wholly in English, and is aimed at the UK market. I had some other people test the search, and they are seeing the same thing as me - so it's nothing to do with my search history, G+, etc.


4:22 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Drop in traffic continues. Another update?


4:45 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Updates happen more than once a day - Google summarizes the top forty from the previous month now, but more tweak than that go live all the time.


4:46 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@jmorgan, I am down a bit this week and it happened somewhat suddenly on Sunday after the time change. I checked last year after daylight savings time and had the same trend and things picked back up the following week. Last year around this time, Google was shaking things up with Panda, etc. so not sure if comparing year over year is worth much in this case. I am hopeful that this week is just a DST hangover with many people just pushing through the week spending more time playing sudoku online instead of working (my site tends to have visits from people at work) and that things return to normal next week.


6:07 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

@jmorgan A few things are going on now in the US/Asia/probably Europe.

It's spring break and third-term break this week and/or next week in a lot of places. Then some days off are coming for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Monday too during the first/second week of April.

So a lot of kids are out of school and parents are taking time off work to go on vacation with their kids somewhere.

As well, St. Patrick's day can cause a drop in traffic for one/two days as people are celebrating which is March 17. Then Mother's Day is coming as well in some countries.

Lots of holidays over the next few weeks.


8:35 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks garyr_h that would explain a lot


11:17 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing some big changes in the SERP's this morning for some search terms. The data set looks like one from a few months ago to my eyes!


2:22 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have seen a drop in google referrals on all of our sites since 3/10. Hopefully it's temporary.


3:31 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Updates happen more than once a day

A similar under current running through lots of threads these days: how challenging it is to monitor changes and then think about ways to tweak your site for ranking gains (or recovery).


4:19 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@SnowMan68, we saw a drop yesterday here in the US.
thought we were finally recovering from panda, but now it looks like something has changed.
This 391 message thread spans 14 pages: 391

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