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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2013

     
9:12 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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< continued from [webmasterworld.com...]

Not just location screwing things up... all web browsers are now using your history to distort results, even with Web History switched off. Only way to check the real results now is Chrome Incognito.

That and the location issues are really screwing things up. If I type in weather, G gives me weather for Windmill Hill, UK... I don't even know where that is. I looked and its 200 miles away at the other end of the UK!

[edited by: tedster at 2:08 pm (utc) on Feb 1, 2013]

9:26 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I am seeing the drop that I experienced the other day and then mostly recovered from is back.
9:32 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Only way to check the real results now is Chrome Incognito


That still doesn't get round the location issue. Startpage is useful, but doesn't give a "UK only" option.
9:47 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Try karoo.co.uk (hope this doesn't get censored) - it gives odd pre-penguin or sans penguin results that are very interesting indeed. Interesting to compare and see how penguin affects the SERP you see. For instance the 1 page (2 if you count the contact page) Amazon affiliate site is not present at #1 or even in the top 10 on karoo.co.uk yet a resounding #1 on the penguin filtered mainstream results! Anyway, try it.
10:38 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Seeing a significant drop in page/visit in one of my sites. G analytic made an update on 31 January and I don't know if this is related.
10:47 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Have you checked rankings?
11:09 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Try karoo.co.uk


Thanks Jez123: interesting and useful. I, too, hope it doesn't get censored.
11:14 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@ Wilburforce glad you found it of interest. Let me know if you notice anything I didn't but it definitely seems to show results without Penguin filter. It also tells me that some of the changes that affected some of my competitors sites were NOT Penguin, if I am right.
11:18 am on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Instead of the specific domain, you'll see the same results from anyone using Google CSE. Results for those have always used less filters that at Google's own results, or at least, for as long as I can remember.

I usually use Google Accessible Search for this purpose:

[google.com...]

Note that you'll need to add location parameters to the URL if you're outside the US.

No "censorship", but please try to use an example that isn't an individual's website.
12:12 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Andy Langton
Thanks for the link to Google Accessible Search. I just did some test searches on it using InPrivate Browsing, but I don't know how to interpret the results. Below the search box it says "Last updated: October 24, 2006". Does it mean that it uses the algorithm as it existed on that date? Or is it the current bare algorithm without extra filters like Panda and Penguin? I'm confused as to exactly what it represents.
12:17 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The last updated date is when the search engine was last configured (you can add your own sites to search). This isn't relevant, however.

In terms of how to interpret the results, that will always be an open question. However, I believe that certain point of search filters are not active on Google custom search.

My belief is that both result set use the same indexing criteria, so if your site ranks better in a CSE-based search, you are being re-ranked to a worse position when Google re-orders the results from the indexer for final display to the user. So, you don't have an indexing problem, you have a re-ranking one. This can help you isolate where to look for your issues.

This isn't a Panda/Penguin specific thing - it's always been the case that certain filters/penalties etc. are not active on CSE searches.

Incidentally, the accessible search used to have an option to display results seemed more "accessible" but I think Google forgot all about that :)
1:36 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Very, very big shake up began at 12am, germany. Serps are full of unrelated, simple html amateur sites. No structure, no layout rules. Very confusing, this could not be caused by panda/penguin, this must be an algo change.

ecom, germany
2:00 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Andy Langton
Thanks for your further explanation. I think it must be a complex situation. For example, even if a penguinized site escapes from Penguin in the future, its new rankings could depend on whether any competing sites also escape, which the Google Accessible Search has no way to predict. Also, at this point in time Google Accessible Search probably doesn't incorporate any effects that would result from disavowing backlinks. So as you said, it might help to identify a possible problem, but probably shouldn't be used to try to predict what would happen to a site's rankings if the problem is solved.
3:41 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The results I get from Google Accessible are the same as for Google.com.

Google.co.uk is still serving me Google Places results for Bradford UK (nearly 200 miles from here).

For my own main key term I get 7 Bradford Google Places results, followed by organics dominated by Bradford (with Leeds, Manchester, Derby and York filling the remaining first-page spaces). More than 24 hours of this is quite enough to deter me from using Google for my own searches.

They must believe that from a user's perspective they can do no wrong. What surprises me is that my own server logs support that view: Bing is still nowhere.
4:00 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@Jez123: the Google CSE results you've mentioned must have been query or niche-specific. I am seeing the same crappy Amazon-dominated results (#1 plus two or three more on the first page although not a solid block) that they were around back in October-November 2012. Some of the queries which are nearly impossible to interpret as an intent to buy are Amazon-free but anything that includes a product name or just anything at all that has ever been sold, I see Amazon still *very* prominently featured.

The irony of course is that Amazon does not need Google to boost their sales - I imagine most people simply go straight to Amazon and start their shopping there.
4:48 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@ 1script, yes. specific searches to my niche. Very interesting though.

I have never seen such poor results - well, back in like 2004 perhaps, when poor shopping type sites dominated and directory results. Basically a result where you were directed to another portal which sent you to another. After that google's results got a lot better for a good while. They are not good now. Far from!

Supposedly Amazon scare google as poeple ARE going direct to Amazon and searching there. Well, the ones that don't google sends them anyway. Won't be long before they learn how to remove that extra click and cut google out of the loop.

Guess where I went to find something that neither google nor Bing could find for me? DMOZ. Google have mastered time travel but only backwards. Ho-hum
9:10 pm on Feb 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Has something major happened to the image SERPs? They're atrocious for my widget sector, an utter and complete fubar showing loads and loads of not only non-valid images but completely the incorrect subject matter altogether.
1:43 am on Feb 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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And then you get a call from Google's representatives that wonder why your not advertising anymore.... :) All I could tell them was sorry, with the results your showing, my ad spend would increase three fold due to other competitors increasing the CPC because they are not shown in the SERP's either. HELLO! You scratch my back, I scratch yours, you kick my butt, I kick yours. Sorry Google, but I'm not going to be a part of your record ad revenue at my expense due to my lost SERP rankings! I would rather promote Bing/Yahoo, sorry. $250,000-300 per year in paid advertising is better spent with Bing/Yahoo, Facebook, etc.

***RANT OVER***
5:32 am on Feb 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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... $250,000-300 per year in paid advertising is better spent with Bing/Yahoo, Facebook, etc.

Well, I guess that sort of shoots Google basing rankings on 'ad spend' out of the water, doesn't it? Oh, yeah, quite a few people here have deeper pockets, right? Er, um, if not, then ... Hmmm, the algo must be 'broken' or something, I guess...
8:25 am on Feb 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The fundamental flaw in that argument is that You dont spend $250k on google afwords because you are scratching their back. You spend $250k because hopefully you are going to make at least that much back from the advertising. As for supporting ning, go ahead spend 10x longer figurning out key terms for a tenth of the traffic... That is a better use of time then supporting the big evil g.

This coming fro someone who lost 75% of his traffic overnight from the original google panda update. Which was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced my hand to a much smaller, more quality focused offering... A focus that carries with me today as we ramp back up.

Screw google i say... But id not write off their healthy traffic...
9:27 am on Feb 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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traffic of my portfolio of sites went down 50% since panda update on 24 of jan.

dont know wot to do to recover, my business is in ruins
11:40 am on Feb 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

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An issue I reported some time ago is again in evidence: my home page (www.mysite.com) and key term page (www.mysite.com/key-term.htm) have switched positions several times in the last year, and have done so again: mysite.com has gone from (last seen at) page 4 of the results to nowhere, and mysite.com.key-term.htm has returned from nowhere to page 7 (although page 7 might as well be nowhere for all the traffic it brings).

I am sure there is a clue in this somewhere, if I could only figure it out.

There is also an anomaly between google.co.uk (which returns the page 7 result) and google.com (where neither page is in the first 40, although a number of UK pages that are lower down in the UK SERPS are still in the .com results). This might be a DC issue, but it has persisted for several days.
1:02 am on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I am sure there is a clue in this somewhere, if I could only figure it out.

Sounds like hierarchy issues to me.
8:51 am on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Woke up this morning to dramatically different results here in the UK... the January panda update I was dreaming about since it was announced! Looking good G.
9:48 am on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Yes I am also seeing increased traffic activity on a UK site that we have.
We have spent months doing a rewrite on it so hopefully this is the payback
Fingers crossed its been very turbulent over the last week or so !
2:15 pm on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing a fair few host crowding examples again... but really interesting that these disappear in Chrome Incognito!

With all the privacy stuff disabled I see only a single result from each website. Really makes a big difference to the way thing look!
3:24 pm on Feb 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Seeing terrible results in our sector now. We've dropped back to page 6/7 after being number 1 for our keyterm for years. Changes only being seen with 1 main keyword though and only with our homepage, other pages and other rankings seem relatively untouched.

Now seeing Amazon in the search results for our widget and ebay ranking much higher

Another page specific algo update? An update effecting too many keyword optimised anchor text links?

Just removed and disavowed some 2 year old article marketing. Wonder if that will resolve the situation
9:37 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Some of the queries which are nearly impossible to interpret as an intent to buy are Amazon-free but anything that includes a product name or just anything at all that has ever been sold, I see Amazon still *very* prominently featured.


1script, we see the same. The rist 10 pages are 90% amazon and ebay mixed with amazon and ebay affiliates. NO, relay no other business site anymore in most queries. It began on 31/01 through 01/02. Yet it is the worsest result set we have seen for a long time.
I canīt see why amazon has this power ( only because it is big ) because it is an affilate site, descriptions are scapped from manufacturer. Where is the added value? Most user entries are fake. Widgets in my niche are not original but sit on the top of "product ean code".
The effort we are making to have a good and honest site is not rewarded by google anymore.
11:00 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The attempt to attribute 'buy intention' to queries also affects travel a great deal - if you search for [placename] any actual [placename] information sites are often buried far below [placename hotels] type results or [placename holiday rentals] - except for google's maps of course, which seem to manage to be found OK without any need to search [placename map].

On one search I track our site and our competitors for the same [placename] search - the three of us all have proper info about [placename], have actually visited, reviewed, taken photos etc - are now all grouped together around page 66, behind 650 pages that have certainly never visited.

Not a very recent change but gets progressively more extreme (more than 300 of the results before us on this particular search are for hotels and all listed from the same group of travel sites - but the destination has less than 10 hotels in total!)
11:53 am on Feb 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Current results in my sector are complete nonsense. I can no longer find my own pages for key term at all, but that aside, top positions are dominated by small sites with thin content (and #2 stopped trading over six months ago). The first major player in the industry doesn't appear until page 9, and probably the biggest in the UK is on page 12.

Between that and the location issue, I can't see any end-user finding the results usable.

I reckon this is now having an effect: Bing referrals are starting to show a significant increase in my server logs.
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