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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!


4:22 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Thanks a lot for that analysis. I'll watch out for the next big update summary that Google publishes to see if something they mention seems to line up.


12:49 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Ditto, but of course what I did would improve any pages rank so it may have been, and likely was, something else entirely :)


3:56 am on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

There are still reports of sites losing a significant amount of traffic from Google beginning Nov 16th/17th, what we know...

- Change began sometime late on the 16th or early 17th of Nov, 2012
- Sites affected showed a sudden large increase in "not provided" keywords in analytics
- Google responded to Twitter questions saying it was one of 500 changes per year and NOT Panda or Penguin related
- John Mu responded to questions in the google webmaster forums by asking for individual examples and did not suggest what the update might have been about
- Some are saying their image traffic is more heavily impacted than web traffic, but not all.
- Bing and Yahoo traffic was not affected.

I just wanted to add a little more information based on what I saw while helping someone figure it out...

- "Top Pages" with filter "web" in GWT shows that these were not affected very much, if at all
- GWT also shows a drop in impressions for keywords on these sites across the board, including top pages, but average ranking for those keywords hasn't changed
- the Panda update 4 days later was too soon to have changes make any impact and there has been no known Penguin refresh since then

Not much else has been said about it but the effects linger for many judging by the Google forums. Do you have any other observations about Nov 16th/17th specific traffic changes?


8:46 am on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have exactly the same symptoms on one of our biggest sites.

In my case traffic dropped 40%, exactly the same ammount that all other's report. In this case it was large forum and had 850.000 daily visits from Google before the hit and now it's very unlikely to pass 550,000 daily.

This is the first time that my site got hit by an change, i never had any drop in traffic with Panda or Penguin changes.

I think the same as you, this is related to "low quality content" or not enough content, and maybe it has also some relation with duplicate content, most user-generated content sites will be the most harmed in this round if this is related to this.

Which type of sites were affected in your case? How much dropped the traffic?


5:17 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

Traffic on my Penguinized site actually rose 44% since November 17. Don't know if that's helpful information, but with Linxv5 mentioning a 40% drop, I thought I'd toss it in there.


10:39 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was able to get analytics from other 5 sites and one really big, a top-100 Alexa site with 6 million daily visitors from Google.

I see the same behaviour in 6 differents sites with different traffic, some big, like i mentioned and other with 2000 daily visits or less, and in all 40% of traffic drop from Google.

The percentage of traffic drop sounds me that this is something related not enterily on content, because it's very strange to see 40% traffic drop on a site with 6 million organic visits per day which have a lot of content and the same in other with 1 million, other with 2000, etc.


11:46 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Linxv5, was the drop primarily image traffic? It seems Google may have shoved images that were previously rated "moderate" into the explicit category when they got rid of the moderate category. By default visitors can't see them anymore.

The 40% is peculiar as well, I have the same number, so it's likely entirely algorithmic whatever it is. They really kept quiet about what it was too.


11:59 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


A, Assumption, the downgrade according to you was probably thanks to human intervention

it was worded a little too generically and would likely get a borderline rating by a human

B, How come , the pages bounced back after you "beefed" them up, are you suggesting you're being reviewed by people every couple of days

C, Or is anyone now saying the Google Algo is now capable of assigning the same quality valuations to written articles as a human would ?

Failing that, perhaps the current also responds to pages filled with grammatically accurate word groups/sentences which broad correspond to a defined theme


12:14 am on Dec 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@Linxv5, I have done much investigating as well and it seems like every forum I look at has lost around 40% or so of their traffic. The same thing happened to our forum at Ozzu, and the poster child of one of the Panda updates: Daniweb. If you look at Quantcast or Alexa stats you can see it is very clear that we all have about the same percentage for the drop. Webmaster World seems to have been affected as well. It was interesting to go through some of the ranked sites in Quantcast to see how many of them were affected.


10:34 am on Dec 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Sgt_Kickaxe, In Analytics i do not see a big drop in Images traffic. Anyway i don't know how exactly Analytics reports that traffic, i tried with a filter on /imgres and images.google.

@Bigwebmaster I was looking at scribd on Quantcast and it's amazing how they also lost traffic. While if you check on Alexa slideshare.net a very similar site to scribd you can see that they are unaffected.


11:01 am on Dec 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hello, I have a domain with pictures of every city in the world with a database, also with google maps with database of all countries.
My site lost 40% of visits on November 17.
I think the reason is because on every page repeats the same text and just change some data (name of city dwellers, zip code, etc.).
Content is of poor quality but the same thing is repeated on every page.
Also I have the same site in another language so Google might consider it doubled.
Any thoughts?
How I can do to recover my visits?


11:40 am on Dec 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

We lost about 2/3rd of our traffic around the same time. The algorithm for site wide penalty is rather flawed specially when its brought in suddenly.

I'll give you our example - we run a user generated content network - now there are probably 500,000 different discussions and approximately a total of about 16 million comments. It's easy to see why it would be impossible for such a setup to all of a sudden start removing thin comments or comments which have grammatical errors.

While Google suggest automatically corrects the spellings and displays the correct spelling results by default - which has changed, as they used to suggest the correct spelling results in a link before. The default has been changed at some point.
The fact remains that we don't have the technology to make such changes when the users comments on our site.

If you can correct it in the query - correct it in the indexed content also so valuable insights are not lost because of the user's spelling/grammar errors. Or create an algorithm to identify relevant insights to the user's issue.

What however puts me off is the lack of feedback to/from Google to Webmasters. There should've been some sort of mechanism to take feedback from Webmasters before making such algorithm changes.

Small publishers like us possibly won't survive this.


4:48 am on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Requesting permission to join the club!

Two large forum sites (not exclusively forums but the number of forum URLs is much larger than the rest of the site). Started dropping on the 16th, on the 17th of November 2012 traffic stabilized at 40% loss on one and 50% loss on the other.

My initial impression was also low quality UGC - I sort of let moderation slip during the election time and a lot of political spam (completely OT and some of it quite outrageous) got in anywhere from early summer all the way up to early Nov. Deleted what I could find but no movement as yet.

Traffic appears to be experiencing what others describe as the glass ceiling effect. A THICK glass ceiling if I may add. A day could start fine, almost like before Nov 17, but it will come to just a trickle around 5-6PM EST time. If it starts mediocre, it would stay that way whole day. Anyhow, the end result in both cases - 50% of the pre-Nov 17th traffic.

I am honestly at a loss at what could possibly be done regarding low quality content on a forum site: it's not like you can post a sticky saying:"dudes, you've gotta put more thought into your posts!". Lots of posts are (and have always been) very short, some silly, some not-so-obvious spam, some people just post "+1" or "what he said" - nothing I can do about it whatsoever.

Interestingly, when I check some of the top keywords, the SERPS appear to be the same, as well as the average position reading in WMT - but still 50% less traffic coming through on them. What could be causing this? Do they now prefer not to show a site where previously they would lower the SERP instead? Can't find another explanation of the unchanged "average position".


10:32 pm on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Just adding one data point to this thread since it may be safe to assume there won't be many other updates here in a while due to holidays.

- Sites affected showed a sudden large increase in "not provided" keywords in analytics
Looking at my Analytics stats as well as stats I collect myself, I cannot confirm this. If I go by Analytics, my no referral KW visits actually dropped 2% although my own stats show literally only 0.1% difference between pre-16th and post-17th no-KW Google visits. I think the difference is caused by traffic from Google's non-.com domains which I didn't separate in my own stats.

In any case, there was no "sudden large increase" in "not provided" keywords.


11:06 am on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

My site is not a forum. My site is a database of pictures of the world.
My site is .Org and this impacted on November 16.
The unique quality of the pages of my site is to show several photos
Any thoughts on the upgrade more November 16?


2:20 pm on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Apparently something major changed in Google image search on or about Nov 16th and it's done a flyby on most of the SEO community. When Google doesn't announce or specifically address such a change the SEO writers don't write about it and that seems to make it non-news.

I think SEO's need more images on their site to be getting image traffic so that they can better tell when a change like this one happens.


5:26 pm on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Sarge, my site is almost completely devoid of images (except for what design graphics came with the forum template). It's exceedingly rare when a user uploads their own and I even had extended periods of time when that functionality was either broken or disabled. So, the end result - there are almost no non-template images on a 300,000+ URLs site.

hipotecamix'es site, as far as I can tell, is almost entirely images (did I get it right, hipotecamix?). In other words, I think that seeing two extreme opposites of image usage resulting in roughly the same traffic drops on the same day, it's highly suggestive of the rather superficial role the images played in this.


6:26 am on Dec 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I read long time but post first time, my ste also suffer in Novemeber 16.

Look like here no answer on Google, only same people go in circles, rehash but no solutions. Before Google make entry in publishing we make more money but now we compete with Google and Google control rank. Maybe waste of time, only buy adwords.


8:39 am on Dec 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

1scritp, my site is only dedicated to Panaramio photo show.
If my site is affected by the images on November 16 is just a guess
On November 16, Google made some changes in how to deal with their images but do not know if it affects searches.
I have submitted a reconsideration to google images.
The upgrade has 16-17 November due webmaster affect few, because few people write here in the forum.
It seems evident that were affected sites forums.
Sorry if my writing is not understood. I translate from Spanish to English with google translator.


5:55 pm on Jan 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

Do you have a loss ratio of visits to this change images announcing the google webmaster blog?

we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience. In the next few days, you’ll see image results displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable.

We now display detailed information about the image (the metadata) right underneath the image in the search results, instead of redirecting users to a separate landing page.

We’re featuring some key information much more prominently next to the image: the title of the page hosting the image, the domain name it comes from, and the image size.

The domain name is now clickable, and we also added a new button to visit the page the image is hosted on. This means that there are now four clickable targets to the source page instead of just two. In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.


4:08 am on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

hipotecamix, I personally think that Google Images is a sham and has been for awhile given the way they render the landing page underneath the image that's taken completely out of context. They use resources of my site for showing my images and yet nothing good for me can ever come out of that "visit" because the site is effectively disabled underneath the image - user experience metrics for such visits should be horrible and nothing ever converts - people hit the "Back" button right away.

With that said though, I don't see how the particular drop on 11/16 (or 11/17) 2012 can only be attributed to changes in Images - as I said before, my site that dropped most that day has almost no images whatsoever. In other words, if you are only digging around Images to understand what has happened that day, you may be missing the point. I don't know what that point is, but it's not (or not only) images.

By the way, given that this thread is couple months old now, did you see any improvements yet? I have not.


10:07 am on Jan 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have seen a slight improvement but I believe that due to other factors.
I had about 16,000 hits a day and low at 9,000. Now I have about 11,000 hits a day

It would be good to know the news as it was affected by Sgt_Kickaxe visits from images


4:27 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm bumping an old thread here, but it's perhaps the best place to ask... did anyone recover from the Nov 16/17th 2012 changes?

We took a huge hit that day and have never recovered. Has anyone else managed to find out what could have cause this drop?


11:14 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

We took a hit that day too, and everyone I have been monitoring are still hit that I know of. I have noticed that many are either forums, or websites that have tons of community driven user content. Does your website fit that generalized criteria?


4:37 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

did anyone recover from the Nov 16/17th 2012 changes?
Nope. In fact, recently slid farther down the drain. Within the last two weeks but not in one drop - gradually over the two week period 30 more percent of traffic is gone.


8:12 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Yes, it's a forum for us too and yes we've taken a big but gradual hit over the last couple of weeks. It's a frightening drop to say the least!


9:56 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yep forum here too. I'm starting to think there's an alternate index algo just for the slightly larger sites, we tend to get hit 'off season' - during Panda/Penguin stuff we rise, and then get knocked around in these 'non-mozcast' days.

I dropped from 180k daily to 140k - never recovered. We don't involve ourselves much in SEO, most of what we've done started in the early 2000s and we deliberately ignored SEO pattern building.

Is there a group we can start, where Webmasters of these size/type of sites can communicate info with each other? Posts here and other other SEO sites don't help anyway, it's almost exactly opposite to what we experience.


2:31 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Those figures sound pretty close to what we experienced, hitchhiker.

I wonder if this was a forum specific update (vBulletin in our case)?


2:59 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@nrep - nope, we're custom built (nothing to do with PHP either)

We're also much less like a forum than other forums, it may be (as someone here mentioned) to do with massive amounts of user-generated content.

Did you recover?
This 104 message thread spans 4 pages: 104

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