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Google Updates and SERP Changes - March 2013



5:18 am on Mar 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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< continued from [webmasterworld.com...]

I'm seeing daily switching between 2-3 datasets across around 600 keywords. Seeing roughly 10-20 keywords swapping in & out of positions.

[edited by: tedster at 2:47 pm (utc) on Mar 1, 2013]


11:17 pm on Mar 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Was there some sort of Google update on March 13th? My main site has had Google traffic pretty much decimated (I am talking referals in single figures here) on that date. I had read there was a Panda update coming between 15th-18th, but this seems to be different.

Previously the site had been affected on Oct 11th, same date as the EMD update. The thing is this site is a 2 word domain, one of which is a keyword, the other is a name, the site has been established since 2005. For that reason I don't know why it was affected by that in the first place.

There was a partial recovery in January to acceptable levels of traffic, but I can't find any info on what might have happened on March 13th. Has anyone else been affected on that date or have any idea what this might be?

[edited by: tedster at 11:47 pm (utc) on Mar 24, 2013]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]


4:41 am on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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asusplay - something def went through and many are seeing similar patterns that you describe. No official word as to what it was or what it was supposed to do, but that's par for the course. If it's any consolation, you're not the only one being affected. Traffic seems to have turned a corner here, but remains non-interactive. I even threw out a free 30 trial and though traffic was brisk for part of today, nobody took the free bait. That's very peculiar. I wear a hard hat to my office now to prevent me from knocking myself out every time I bang my head against the wall these days.


11:21 am on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I haven't found any information about what might have caused that particular drop. There is a comment on an EMD post made last week who was also affected on March 13th and in October for the EMD update which is why I raise the question.

Funny thing is in my niche when I look at certain key phrases what I see is exact match domains taking over...so I am a little more than confused because my site is certainly not an EMD, but there seems to be a correlation.

Whatever it is if it sticks 8 years of hard work will have gone down the drain and maybe its time to fold.


12:00 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)


I am pretty sure your site has been affected by the latest Panda update. In my opinion the changes are calculated and rolled out over a week, possibly more, as some of my sites were affected as early as the 7th.

I have been doing alot of work lately with AI and one thing that I have realised is processing massive amounts of data can take a long time! I don't understand why people believe Google can process billions of webpages / sites in one day. Surely they are pushing out updated data as it is being processed hence the different dates which people are noticing changes. I could be wrong though...


12:30 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have a number of pages hit by yet another 'tweak'. Seems to have hit (for me) on the 15th March.

Have been hit so hard by Panda so many times over the last couple of years, I really couldn't give a damn anymore. I'm now more curious to see how low Google will send my site.

Since April 2011, average of around 7k unique per day, now around 1k - just lol.


12:31 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't understand why people believe Google can process billions of webpages / sites in one day.

Overall they've had 15+ years to get this thing perfected and it used to provide reasonably sane results. Why anyone would try and introduce AI when they haven't already overcome many of their existing problems, problems introduced by Google itself.

Where I come from any sane person would say "They need their bumps feeling". Quite simply they're trying to be too clever but by doing this live, in the open, they're hoping that many will say that G has the confidence to do it and willl get it right.

That's a dangerous premise except amongst fanboys, because it assumes G IS going to get it right yet all indicators are that results are getting worse and worse and if G thinks that increased market share proves they're correct then they're even more deluded then I ever believed ... Just how many times does one have to search these days to find the results whereas once used to do the trick?

They're rapdily turning into the biggest BS Corp of all time.


12:41 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I don't understand why people believe Google can process billions of webpages / sites in one day.

Probably because Google advertises the ability to index a stack of pages 3 miles high every second. In fact, that was a couple of years ago. They're probably faster by now.

At that rate, they should be able to index the equivalent of a stack of pages 259,200 miles high in one day, roughly the distance of the Earth to the Moon. However, I'm guessing with all the web spam and junk out there now, they'd need to index more like 93,000,000 miles worth per day (Earth to the Sun).

Now, add to that speed ANY little programming error and you've got one mixed up index....like we have now.


12:56 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@ Karma - this boat is sure getting full! Slide over, I'm getting in there with you as well. I was at about 3k/day, now down to sub 1k per day and falling. Add to that the fact that we haven't even hit our slow period of the year yet, summer. G wants you to break out your wallet and start spending on Adwords. I'm not sure how that is possible when there's nothing coming in to begin with...perhaps they want us to find some VC. So much for speeding down the free information superhighway. It's now jammed with jelly donuts and traffic cops!

BTW - I'm going for broke and upped my AW spending, yet even that traffic seems non-targeted & poorly converting. Some will say it's my site, however it can suddenly turn on and pump out 4 sales in 3 minutes, then shut off for the next 10 hours. I even added a FREE option but these Zombies just won't bite.


1:08 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have tried spending on Adwords numerous times but I've failed to create a profitable marketing campaign. Trust me, I've tried! Had some success with Microsoft Ads though (sorry, don't mean to drift from topic).

I've sworn to myself to never use Adwords again, I'll take what Google send me organically - even if it's eventually nothing.


1:20 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

They're rapidly turning into the biggest BS Corp of all time.

Could not agree more!


1:45 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

You know, at one time we were probably all law abiding web citizens, but don't these recent "improvements" in G tempt you to turn to the dark side of SEO? back to email SPAM, web SPAM, multiple domains, MFA's, other assorted trickery. It's already happening and sadly, in G, it works! So, you can either be a good guy and lose or be a bad guy and win! What's happened to this world?


1:54 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Nope, never been tempted to do that as I don't want to annoy people. My aim is still to have a good site & look after my visitors.

It is frustrating though. I have been working 12-16 hours a day, jumping through hoops & it's made no difference. Meanwhile ehow & squidoo outrank me. I will keep on working hard & hoping that Google come to their senses and stop punishing hard working websites.

I have not once, ever engaged in anything underhand with my site. But it seems that isn't enough. I actually feel I've sold my soul to Google. They are everywhere. Analytics, webmaster tools, encouraging the authorship tool. Did stuff all for me, other than making me feel very exposed having my photo out there for the world to see. Still didn't help in any way.


2:01 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@Saffron, I full agree with your entire post and of course I'm personally not considering that option, but when they force you into a corner, and you've tried everything else, even the good resort to bad choices, just ask Winthorp, Valentine and Duke & Duke.


2:13 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I know...it's frustrating isn't it? You see the rubbish sites rewarded while you take a hit. All in the name of "improving the net".

As I said, I actually don't 100% disagree with Panda, I don't think it's achieved everything it needs to.

Another bugbear of mine is Google's secrecy. I honestly used to think they were a half decent company, but they seem to have lost themselves in their arrogance. They've become too big, too powerful & don't give a rats anymore.

I had Google phone me up about a week ago asking me if I wanted to attend some mobile workshop. I wanted to swear at the lady.

Anyway, what it has done for me is made me work hard & the site does have a lot of new & good content. I've moved away from the more specialist side of things and into more mainstream. I think traffic will come. I plan to slowly move away from Adsense and more into individual advertising. I had an advertising company contact me recently, and would like to work more with them and less with Google.


2:18 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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My paradox remains....serps still show my site, but I'm sitting here watching GA real time and my site is sitting with ZERO active visitors. Funny thing is, I have sound alerts for specific pages and while I'm hearing hits on those pages, GA is still showing nobody. It's almost as if THAT is broken too.


2:32 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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backdraft: That happened to me last week. I thought G had finally killed my site. I was ranging from 0-3 visitors at a time, where I'd normally be sitting on around 50. So I started opening up pages and it wasn't showing in real time. I concluded it was a glitch & stopped looking (and stressing). Seemed to resolve itself by the time I next looked a few hours later.


4:31 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm dissapointed because they don't do enough against paid links. The biggest problem aren't the link networks, the biggest problem are those with deep pockets because they can buy relevant links and manipulate SERPs when and how they want without being detected. Advertorials still work, paid links still work, what have they done? they penalized few networks but they didn't solved the real problem. Manipulation still exists. If you have money you can buy links and rank, simple. Where is the relevant artificial link building algo? Overused homepage backlinks algo from relevant sites, competitors linking to a site like crazy with no apparent reason.
How many natural links a website receives from blog posts in a month? how many natural homepage links a website not engaging in link building is receiving in a month? maybe there are some freaks and link to your site for free from their homepage, relevant links for free, but when all links are so "nice" and paid?


5:07 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have the added problem of a hostile competitor who runs a his own SEO "company". I recently discovered that this guy places negative ads about my site and links me to p o r n sites. I have my hands full just keeping up with his (and others) abuse. Another competitor thinks it's funny to mimic my federally registered service mark, building an entire site to counter & dilute my mark, simply reversing the order of my mark's words and plagiarizing our site copy while simultaneously making the ridiculous accusation of my copying him. This is why (IMHO) the main problems and source of the so called "evil" are human beings themselves, not the algos, machines or search firms.


5:12 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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IngoZ, I agree. There's a lot of hype about Google being able to detect paid links. Simply not true, unless you're REALLY clumsy and make it obvious. There's an article about "Native Advertising" over at SEO Book and that's essentially talking about how paid links are a bigger currency than ever - you might pay money for a review or article or whatever. Doesn't really matter if the review is positive or middling about your service - so long as the link is there. There's just no way for Google to detect these. And while links are still important (and they are, they are), then deep pockets will pay for quality links.


7:26 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Despite all the talk about paid links/spam/blah blah the fact remains (from what I've read here over the years) is that the main (?) algorithm is broken and the best content doesn't appear at #1.

I honestly believe many of my pages have the best content on their given topic, but they just don't rank.

Sorry if I'm over-simplifying things, I'm no expert SEO but spam/paid links etc have been around long before Panda and Google seemed to cope then.

The majority of publishers seem to suffer with each 'update' ('downdate' would be more appropriate) but I haven't read many saying "Wow, great update" in years...surely someone must be benefiting in every niche with each tweak?


7:37 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I did when the first Panda happened. My traffic did really well. No difference between then and now, other than more content. So why Google liked me then but don't like me now is still a bit of a mystery.


10:04 pm on Mar 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Serious I have not seen so bad results since hmm 2002, so the question is have they build some kind of random ranking algo, so there will always been some sites on the first 3 pages that really confuses a seo. I have also noticed sometimes there is only 3 real results rest is ads of some kind, shopping, adwords....


2:06 am on Mar 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

serps are a hot mess right now. Tons of parked domains


1:15 pm on Mar 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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seeing many more 7 result 1st pages than usual, domain crowding seems out of control also...

example: type in 'odeon southampton' (if in UK) results almost completely dominated by links to films which aren't even being shown anymore on page 1 onwards, then when it gets to page 4 it repeats the exercise but with results from the m. mobile site...


1:44 pm on Mar 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I've just Googled an article of mine, pretty popular topic in my field. Admittedly my article is only a month old, but I can find it when I type it in followed by the name of my site, so I know it's been indexed.

Anyway, I'm up to page 5, my article is nowhere to be seen, it's just a slew of reviews for a related product on Amazon and other online stores, absolutely no links to actual articles on the topic. What on earth are they doing? So much for thin content. My article is detailed & thorough & they put up reviews instead. That's really improving search results!


1:37 am on Mar 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Well, I haven't ever agreed with the "Google's Broken" crowd before, but today I can't help it ... I currently have a site I'm working on with a page at number 1 and yes I'm complaining about it.

The site is basically Business Location + Type > Specific Business Services > Specific Service(s) Offered + Specific Location.

The 'broken' part is when I search for 'business specific service in area' rather than 'businesses offering the service' I get the 'all businesses in the area' page.

There is no duplication.
There is no canonicalization issue.
There is no alternate page possible issue.
There is no 'lack of finding the right page' on the part of Google. (All relevant pages are indexed and have been for a while.)

There is nothing on my end I could think of being more definitive about the page that's supposed to rank.

Please, before the flames, keep in mind I'm complaining about a #1 ranking for a query being wrong ... I'm not saying the page/site I'm working on is 57 and should be #1 ... I'm not saying "everyone wants to see the site" but it's at position 207 ... The page/site I'm referring to is #1 for the query I'm talking about ... I've got the top position locked up, but the page / information Google is ranking for the query is wrong.

It's not that the site / page(s) don't rank well, it's that Google has indexed 'more specific pages' yet refuses to rank the 'most specific page' in situations where it should rather than the 'general page' that makes it tough to find the very specific information / business offering the specific service in the query.

Think about it like this:

50+ businesses in an area offer a 'general service', yet only two offer 'the specific service' relating to the query. The page with 50+ businesses offering a general and related service is the page ranking rather than the page with the limited number of businesses offering the specific service people would absolutely want to find for the query.

In all the years I've done this, nearly 10, I haven't ever seen anything like it, except for brief period of time. Google used to 'get the wrong page' for a week or two until they 'got the right one' in the index and then 'the wrong page' would be replaced with 'the right page', but now they've had 'the wrong page' and 'the right page' for nearly two months, yet 'the wrong page' is still ranking.

This is the first time I've ever said it in nearly a decade, but: There's something wrong at Google.


2:35 am on Mar 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Google has indexed 'more specific pages' yet refuses to rank the 'most specific page' in situations where it should rather than the 'general page'

That's been an issue I've had a few times over the past 8 years. While I sympathize with the challenge Google faces (and I have seen things shift over time in different cases) they really don't have it nailed down yet.

And when the traffic comes in from a specific query to a generic page, it often bounces rather than exploring... so that gets frustrating.

Sometimes one of these cases gets straightened out for me on one particular "small tweak" update, only to revert to the problematic pattern later on. Head bang on the wall time.


7:23 am on Mar 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I really don't know what to do here. I've just checked Analytics and traffic is down. It is less now than it was in January, despite adding almost 100 new articles. That's between 12-16 hours a day of literally not moving from my computer. They're not rubbish articles, they are useful & informative & yet I have less visitors now than I did 2 months ago.

Do you just throw your hands up in the air and admit defeat? For whatever reason, Google has decided to hit the site. There has been no black hat SEO, no dodgy link building, all unique content, active FB group, Google authorship. I've literally handed my soul to them on a platter & it did nothing.

We had to have the discussion with our kids yesterday about our house :( That was traumatic. We can't hang on any longer. I hoped fresh content would just keep things stable, but traffic still dropping 2 months on.


7:38 am on Mar 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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And one more thing, do any of you hope that Yahoo will eventually pick up? The new CEO sounds promising, like she actually wants to make them "cool" again. I am really hoping that the trend towards Google being the dominant power is going to eventually change. I look at Bing & I look at Yahoo & they both show great results for my site, but Google has absolutely hammered it. Why is it that I've upset them but not the other search engines? Who has it wrong?

I feel as though Google, once a good company has become too big & lost it's vision. It just no longer gives a toss.

I spoke to the Adsense team again yesterday. Was advised to "spend more on advertising". Yeah, awesome.


7:59 am on Mar 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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lost it's vision

Quite the opposite I think, they have a very clear vision, it's just that it relates almost entirely to their own profitability and is a vision that few of us in markets google has moved into would share or would think 'fair and reasonable'.

My own principal 'complaint' is with the 'host-uncrowding' or whatever we call it where numerous results from one company are all shown in the same results - but while I might think it is a great step backwards, reduces variety and the chance of finding a good result in the SERPS, I'm confident that G know exactly what the results are showing, and have a good (bottom line) reason for doing it.
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