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Recovery from Google Changes on 16 Nov 2012



9:41 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

On Nov 16th Google made a change that impacted a good number of sites. Some asked Google if it was a Panda update and Google said it was one of 500 changes Google made per year but was not a Panda/Penguin update, one of those is due out this week. You can read about some of the affected sites in the monthly seo thread here - [webmasterworld.com...]

- The change was not sitewide, it impacted individual pages while leaving others alone
- Unique and on topic content on each page
- Very little else is definitive but we did have pages to compare within the same domains

While comparing affected pages nothing about the page, from an SEO perspective, stood out. Backlink profiles were varied but similar to the non-affected pages. On my own site the pages affected seemed to be more brand/transactional in nature but some of these were untouched as well.

- The one common denominator on all affected pages was medium quality content. The pages I "beefed up" from Nov 17th to 21st have already recovered(as of yesterday).

What struck me is that this isn't the low quality type content you'd expect to see receive a downgrade. 100% unique, accurate, on topic and useful content received the downgrade but in all cases there was either not enough useful information or it was worded a little too generically and would likely get a borderline rating by a human review. Definitely not spam but only of marginal usefulness, too narrow in scope or not comprehensive enough to solve a problem.

The speed with which these pages are bouncing back, and the fact that the pages I haven't "fixed" yet aren't, suggests it's not a penalty but rather a low quality downgrade that can be resolved easily.

I thought I'd share this since some are getting drastic with their changes. "thin" content took a hit a long time ago, I'd say medium content with only minimal usefulness just did as well. Simply being "unique", "original" and "on topic" doesn't mean anything anymore.

Broad quality downgrades are not exclusive to Panda/Penguin!


10:03 am on Jun 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

@n00b1 Of course it's more complicated. I'm sure if they do something like this then it's going to be applied differently for different kinds of queries.

The pre-update flood of traffic has been observed by quite a few people.

Explain to me why Google needs to send a flood of traffic prior to an update if they aren't using it for metrics? I'm not talking about them snooping on Analytics or using Chrome data. I'm talking about them using *their* own site metrics to work out searcher satisfaction.


12:52 pm on Jun 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

That flood of traffic is likely just coincidental. There is always a huge amount of shuffling going on before updates and it always takes a while to settle down. If they were trying to gather user metrics surely they would need a website to stay highly visible for a bit longer than it does during this shuffling process.


1:20 pm on Jun 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't know - there's too many people who have reported this phenomena for it to really be a coincidence. Not sure if this is OK by the mods -- there's a post on SearchEngineWatch dedicated to the "Sinister Surge" - [searchenginewatch.com...]

I think it probably depends on the size of your site. If you have enough traffic then a quick surge will give them enough info. For smaller sites this strategy is probably much more drawn out.


2:32 pm on Jun 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

i think what happen in 17th nov is just a data ( not updated algorithm ) update for google panda

here is the deferent

my site still get reach traffic every day after removing duplicated titles and non-indexing members profiles

now i get 46K visitors yesterday
i now that penalty need 3 weeks to move when using 301 redirect so i will tell you if penalty moved to the new sub-domain or not


3:54 pm on Jun 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@rango: I think the traffic uptick around Panda and other refreshes is perhaps not just a random occurrence but isn't intended by Google either. I just think that old established forums (which is what I think is safe to assume Panda 21.5 hurt) are just inherently more stable than other types of sites - lots of URLs on a variety of subjects, relatively stable non-search traffic, usually natural gathering of links etc. So, what I think is happening is that many other sites sink around that time and that's how yours (and mine, I've experienced that too) sites are temporarily rising. Once the update had settled, they start to rank where Google thinks they should long term and that, unfortunately is where the problem lies.

Apparently, they don't value UGC much anymore. Ironically, as others pointed out, since they themselves are damn near 100% UGC. If I can temporarily put my cynical hat on, they may actually feel threatened by large UGC sites because many of those have their own well-developed search engines and therefore visitors (especially members) don't need Google much once they've landed on a good large UGC site.


6:53 pm on Jan 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Bit of a blast from the past here, but did anyone ever end up recovering from this particular update?


8:05 pm on Jan 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Blast from the past indeed. The answer here is a resounding NO. Several times the site had an uptick in traffic for short periods of time (like a week) only to be knocked down again to the post-Nov 2012 level. Looks like that 11/16/2012 update set some sort of a glass ceiling for me.


6:23 pm on Jan 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Yes, that sounds fairly similar here - it looks like UGC got a huge kick on this date and seems to continue the decline.


7:17 pm on Jan 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yes, complete recovery - apparently due to 'hummingbird' - we recovered about 3-4 weeks before the public announcement (I believe when they had said it was 'actually' released).

I did not change anything on my site, apart from removing one page template, and doing some other routine clean up stuff. To this day I remain adamant that the whole thing was a result of tangled up legacy algorithms, an environment of penalties gone wild, and general over-policing. But we'll never know.


10:03 pm on Jan 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

hitchhiker: glad to hear you're doing fine. But I am shocked that you got out at hummingbird time - it appears to me (since we've exchanged PMs) that your site is exactly the type of UGC that competes with hummingbird's idea of trying to answer people's questions before they even leave Google. That said, with a first-rate site like yours, I could never understand why you got tangled up like that in the first place.


8:52 am on Jan 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hey 1script - thanks man, I've decided now, finally and for the last time in my life:

1) Depending on Google or any one search engine is a terrible idea.
2) Google is the worst engine, except for all the rest (Churchill :))
3) Nothing could be worse than ignoring point 1.

--- long live decentralisation ---

Good luck mate, I hope it all works out for you and the others.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:16 pm (utc) on Jan 20, 2014]


9:51 am on Jan 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That's great news hitchhiker - it's good to know that it's possible to recover. You've got a really good quality site, so I'm please to hear this :).

Out of interest, what was the "routine cleanup stuff"? Was that just removing any spam UGC and so on, or did you do anything like clean up the backlink profile/disavow tool?

I've not used the disavow tool as we've never sought out backlinks illegitimately, so refuse to clean up something we have no control over, but perhaps I'm being stubborn!


10:47 pm on Jan 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@nrep - cheers, here's a bit more info (I do not believe this had ANYTHING to do with my recovery)

I have 100,000 of backlinks, from 12 years of organic net presence. Ridiculously (against 30+ years of programming experience) I succumed to the 'process' of removing the top 25 'big offenders' - so I did. I feel sick even saying that. If that helped, then god help us all. That should be something Google understands clearly, without us needing to tell it. Just my/our opinion I guess.

I have many million pages (it's a community) - I removed (by noindex) the user's profile pages, even though they were actually useful, and contained a nice full page of information on the activity and ideas of the users who agreed to list themselves. Nevertheless, they can go - again - something that I had previously assumed Google should be able to simply ignore if needed.

I removed a few hundred (there are 1/2 million topics) questions that had not yet been answered.

---- all of these things a person could magically claim 'solved' my problem. however:----

1) The problem was solved 'instantly' on the same week that the 'hummingbird?' new core engine was apparently released.

2) None of those 'fixes' seemed to result in any change in traffic until that week.

3) As a person who's been involved in this for 20 years, I can't imagine the depth of ridiculousness required for Google to have demoted a site 300% because of minor 'inconvenient' noise within our content graph.

Plus I still see competitors who started with BLANK pages.. i mean 3 words, no content, complete mistake sites.. showing up top on highly contested keywords. I see competitors who have stolen domains, wide link farms and generally dodgy profiles still up top.

/mini rant:

I don't expect Google to solve all these problems, I'm sure they're doing their best. Just don't put all your eggs in one basket. + Perhaps we all need to take SEO a lot less seriously and just focus on creating awesome things.

We're all smart people, we need to let Google go - get back to why a lot of us started with this in the first place. (progress) => Creating awesome things.

/rant over - sorry mate - I wish I had a clearer answer!

Cheers, and sincerely the best of luck,



11:00 pm on Jan 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For the sake of completeness I should point out - here's the thread that I wrote on Google product forums - John M (from Google) gave me two replies. I followed some of the advice, as outlined above.

Again, I (personally) do not believe this advice resolved the 180k -> 60k per day drop. It was useful, general advice, but nothing that explained the sudden rise and fall I/we experienced. But ofc, who am I to know - only they have that info. It could well have been the solution!?


Good luck all,
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