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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2013

     
2:34 pm on Sep 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 5 messages were cut out of thread at: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4598423.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 1:07 pm on Sep 2, 2013 (PST -8)


I've had two interesting situations lately which are very similar.

(1) One of my pages was #1 for "short widget phrase". Two weeks ago Google replaced me with a Wikihow page which actually took what I did and went a little further, as good competitors should. Last week, that page got an inbound from a hugely popular website (sent me quite a few thousand visitors), with the anchor text "here", as in "find it here". My position did not improve.

(2) Another page on another domain has been ranking well for "short phrase" and "less short phrase". These are competitive phrases. My page had fought its way up to #2 for both, which was exciting. Then it fell back to 5 and 10, and then lower. Then a popular Pinterest user pinned it late last night using "less short phrase" and it's bounced back a few positions already this morning. It's in flux, but it's averaging to 4 and 9 right now.

I'm starting to doubt there's *anything* to the algo but "count the links, check the anchor text." Google goes on and on about various signals, but when you get right down to it, actual ranking changes consistently happen ONLY in response to the addition or loss of links with the anchor text of your keyphrase. All else is a smokescreen, LOL.
12:51 am on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Ok, so now that we know what we know about "Humminbird" does any of your movements make any sense?
2:03 am on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Why is it called Hummingbird?

Google told us the name come from being “precise and fast.”

For some reason I don't believe most of us will agree with this statement lol, but I hope G proves me wrong this time.
2:44 am on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@guggi2000 my google referral traffic flatlined on sept 19th too! what does that mean? my traffic overall is still good
7:40 am on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Weirdest thing. In WMT my search queries stayed static at 900 impressions and stayed that way, in a straight line between the 16th and the 21st. Then fluctuated as normal after that.

Oddest thing.
10:42 am on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Great, now I know the name of the plague that hit me on 4th of september: Hummingbird

Now what!? I've been forced to layoff 20 employees when my 10+ years old site dropped like a stone on 4th of September.

It's a huge site, I'm a proud owner and I was a Premium Publisher for Adsense with weekly meeting about site income optimisation.

I always tried to follow Guidelines and my robots.txt was very meticulous + I weekly use 404 and other reported errors from Webmaster Tools to trim the site.

Now, I've disappeared from SERPS with no warning, nothing...
I can see my pages only if I search for sitename!

"Funny thing" is that I've find thousand of Real State MFA blogs with links to me, but my domain has nothing to do with this!
I only found them with MajesticSEO!

Now we wait... for a miracle :(

I was sure that it was something new that hit us!

BTW since 4th of September drop, Google bot got crazy crawling my pages!

[i42.tinypic.com...]
12:32 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Great, now I know the name of the plague that hit me on 4th of september: Hummingbird


Has anyone got any more information on where/when this is rolling out?

There don't appear to be any earth-shattering changes in the UK SERPS, although on the basis of wht it is claimed to do it could account for a couple of weird referrals (apparent Google misinterpretation of search terms) in my server logs from yesterday. OMG I just checked one of the phrases and you should see page 1. With any luck the stampede to Bing should begin about now.
2:29 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Mentat I think it's mostly BS. It's not so much about the content and the little things. I'm a member at 2 old forums and they have horrific on page problems. But because they have great link profiles they remain alexa <500. There is no doubt in my mind looking at these two abominations that on page and internal structure etc is not that important. It's all about the links.
2:43 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It's all about the links.


Amen.
5:24 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@Wilburforce
This is the best I have found on hummingbird.
[searchengineland.com...]

Hope that is not a breach of the rules.
6:47 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@taberstruths

Thanks! The way they are spinning it sits uneasily alongside the particular set of results I reported earlier, which look like a Google Translate rendition of the searcher's original meaning.

Penguin and Panda are still also in force, but for the foreseeable future I don't think Google can do any wrong
as long webmasters and searchers are both driven to adwords (rather than to Bing) by the quality of the organics.
8:07 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Interesting. Within the past month, I've just about completely given up on Google. It's fine if you want to look up "what is 1+1" but anything more complex, and it just collapses and gives me a random assortment of whatever.

Mind you, Bing is not much better, and nor are any of the other engines. For me personally, as a searcher and not a webmaster, I think search is dead. Increasingly often, I find myself asking friends for a site that might have what I'm after and using the engines to find PEOPLE who can advise me rather than asking the engines to advise me directly.
8:18 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Increasingly often, I find myself asking friends for a site that might have what I'm after and using the engines to find PEOPLE who can advise me rather than asking the engines to advise me directly.


Trouble is, that approach isn't scalable--and in most cases, it isn't even useful.

Search isn't dead. It may be frustrating to many of us (as site owners, SEOs, or users), but it's very much a part of everyday life on the Web, and there's no evidence that search traffic is on the decline.
8:52 pm on Sept 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@dethfire Drill down further and try to find out which browsers lost most traffic. For me it is 90% of Safari and I believe it is related to iOS 7 update of the iPhone.

Referral could regarded as organic now or they disappeared. I just don't know. I am pretty sure it is a UI change "somewhere" on the client side.
2:49 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Search isn't dead. It may be frustrating to many of us (as site owners, SEOs, or users), but it's very much a part of everyday life on the Web, and there's no evidence that search traffic is on the decline.


Start informally polling some Millennials. They don't use it like previous generations did. And whatever they're doing is going to be the dominant searcher behavior in a few years as more Boomers die off.

We - Gen X - saw search as a guiding light to help us find sites online back when sites couldn't promote themselves so effectively in any other way. We used search for everything. In the last year or so, search has really been failing me so I've asked my younger friends how they find anything.

They all have huge lists of websites. They learned early on that the same search doesn't always yield the same sites in the same order, so they bookmark. They collect sites that address various types of wants/needs/queries. They only resort to search when those sites have failed or they don't know where to start.

Dumbing down search is NOT going to bring these people into the fold. For the new generation - the decisive one, from a demographic standpoint - search is Your Father's Oldsmobile.
3:41 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@guggi2000

Drill down further and try to find out which browsers lost most traffic. For me it is 90% of Safari and I believe it is related to iOS 7 update of the iPhone.


Safari also has the easiest access to turn on private browsing (under Safari in menu). With Firefox you have to dig through the menu to find it.
3:48 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Dumbing down search is NOT going to bring these people into the fold.


Who said anything about "dumbing down"? It's about offering choices. If you want to search the Hummingbird-era Google with "keyword keyword keyword," you still can. And if you think search is obsolete, Google is going to win you over by remaining stuck in 2012.
5:46 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Oops, that last "is" was supposed to be "isn't."
5:57 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The dumbing down is an anecdotal observation. A lot of it's due to the brand dominance problem which inherently makes the SERPs look incredibly lazy. Even the older Boomers I know feel like a cluster of Amazon results insults their intelligence. They have Amazon bookmarked and would check it prior to checking Google if it was at all likely to satisfy their query. They expect Google to do some heavy lifting and find them some results they can't find on their own.
7:04 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The dumbing down is an anecdotal observation. A lot of it's due to the brand dominance problem which inherently makes the SERPs look incredibly lazy. Even the older Boomers I know feel like a cluster of Amazon results insults their intelligence.


"Even the older boomers"? Hey, those older boomers built the Internet. :-)
9:37 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Not the ones I know. :D

But just to be clear, I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence. It's just a general trend that older people as a group tend to be more resistant to new technology than younger ones. And there's nothing wrong with that.
11:01 pm on Sept 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Any chance that September 19 update was for non-English pages?
I am seeing a 10% drop in a subset of non-English pages. The same subset WITH English pages was hit on mid or end of January.
5:15 am on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Did something happen today? One of my sites had a surge of Google traffic this afternoon/evening (past few hours), but it could be user behavior rather than a change at Google.
8:34 am on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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-10% this Friday , again...
11:54 am on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Around about the 9th ish one of my sites got hit by something. Now is it Hummingbird? I don't think so, that apparently came in about the 20th of August.

Might just be Panda again.
11:56 am on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Just for the record I am with Diberry, the younger generation are bypassing Google. They find it slow and annoying to find anything but they think the same of Bing.

A lot of what they look for is either found in FB or some other social net or through one of their apps.

I know my nieces no longer look for images in Google they go to pinterest.
12:31 pm on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@viral

How do you look for information via Facebook? Suppose you want to find information on how to become a doctor. How can Facebook help you out with that?

This is an honest question and I'm not trying to be cute; I don't use Facebook at all and have no clue of what it's capable of. I always thought it's just a place for people to talk and play games.
1:39 pm on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It's just a general trend that older people as a group tend to be more resistant to new technology than younger ones. And there's nothing wrong with that.


yeah! Things like paying someone to submit links for you. Never did it. Wise Choice!
2:04 pm on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@Mentat - Same here. While I can say that the serps have improved somewhat in our niche in the last month, we still are suffering and loosing traffic (long tail now).

@hasek747 - I really don't use Facebook that much either but what it does is allow you to ask questions of your semi close friends (ie does anyone know a good doctor in New York?). Not all questions can be answered this way but if is a good way to get recommendations.

My understanding from my teacher friends (who teach high school students) kids are actually moving from using Facebook to Twitter.
2:17 pm on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Just for the record I am with Diberry, the younger generation are bypassing Google. They find it slow and annoying to find anything but they think the same of Bing.


Yes, they view search in general as more of a nerd librarian kind of thing. (And I don't love Bing's results these days either.)

How do you look for information via Facebook? Suppose you want to find information on how to become a doctor. How can Facebook help you out with that?


You ask your large network of carefully cultivated friends and friends of friends (because as a Millennial you'll have this, knowing how important "who you know" is in life) if any of them know how to go about becoming a doctor. Some respond that their uncles are doctors and here is Uncle's email. Then you go to people who actually know and ask them.

Meanwhile, do that search on Google and you get ehow, howstuffworks, and a CNN article on some doctor who made a $1m mistake. Honestly, this is what's driving ME to throw up my hands on search and I'm the same generation as Larry and Sergey.

My understanding from my teacher friends (who high school students) kids are actually moving from using Facebook to Twitter.


So this is the generation after the Millennials and it won't surprise me if they adopt their "own thing" as most generations do. I think search is going to splinter into multiple ways of finding stuff on the net, and things will change all the time.
3:22 pm on Sept 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I think search is going to splinter into multiple ways of finding stuff on the net, and things will change all the time.


Whilst this might be generally so (who still uses paper business directories?), it doesn't account for the rapid decline in Google-referred traffic many of us here are seeing and reporting. There isn't any evidence of a massive worldwide drop in Google traffic (if anything, it is probably increasing). While the new users of 2013 may be doing something different, the massive established population of Google users are in all probability still doing what they always did (unless the current poor results are actually driving people to change their searching habits, which is possible, but not supported by any clear evidence here). "Google" is still in common currency as a verb.

A couple of my competitors who have benefited from the shake-up in SERPS also seem to be doing OK for business, and I suspect that all the traffic and business I used to get is now going to the current top 10 (not to whatever people manage to find on Facebook).

Although Google SERPS are much less stable than they used to be, someone is still coming up on page 1 for every search. My own concern is with what now determines the winners and losers, and what has turned my own content and backlinks from assets to liabilities. That, in my view, should still be the main focus of this thread.
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