Thanks for the response Robert. The previous post is fascinating. I am not expert enought to make any real technical analysis, but I do know that my traffic has been fragmented and the results are without question being tailored to the browser/platform. What else would explain the huge disparity between results on mobile vs. PC browsers?
Another issue is the localization of the searches. If I change the location while I search my site comes up for many searches in my own local area when it didn't before, but it still doesn't show up outside of my local area. The overall effect for me is that I am ranking better for certain very competitive keywords that I wasn't found for at all before, but only in my own area. If I search in other parts of the USA a whole new set of local businesses crop up.
I'm sure that's not news to you, but I am still wondering what effect that might have on my site which heavily depends on queries with place names. I think its going to be very hard for any site to rank well outside of its local area unless it has hefty authority site status. As I read your post the shift towards localizing results is in response to the fact that 43% of mobile searches are local queries.
Anecdotally, the SERPS for my most competitive search term changed entirely in the last month. My site is a photography website, and the SERPS are now dominated by all sorts of local baby, wedding, and headshot photographers that came out of nowhere and are on page one and two now. Those have almost completely displaced sites about the subject itself.
I think what we will see is a fine tuning of the results where mobile searches reflect these types of local businesses and PC searches are hopefully more rounded. But from what I see right now Google has definitively tilted in favor of the mobile results across the board.
With regards to dupe content...I made changes in September to shorten my page titles which were getting rewritten by google. That change led to all of them getting classified as dupes.
I reverted back to longer more unique titles and the dupes disappeared. Within a month I am back on page one.
Obviously dupe content has become a critical issue for the entire site not just the page. I still have 800+ dupe descriptions, and I think I better work on making them more unique. I will report back on any changes I find.
. [edited by: ichthyous at 3:03 pm (utc) on Nov 7, 2012]
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:38 pm (utc) on Nov 7, 2012]
[edit reason] fixed formatting to add some paragraphs [/edit]