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Google Update - Valentine's Day Ranking Drops

1:20 pm on Feb 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Instead of everyone posting about how Google is out to screw you, how about we try and get to the root of the update that people are referring to on or around Valentine's day.

What We Know
- Page Layout Update On or Around Feb. 6th
- Another Update Around Feb. 14th - To Be Determined?
- New Google Maps Being Taken Out of Beta This Week
- Google Shopping PLA Campaigns Taken Out of Beta
- Crawl Rates Were Unusually High Prior to the Updates
- Google Analytics Data was Skewed/Reporting Incorrectly for a Short Period Early this Week
- Google Analytics Updated Their Dashboard Design

Yes, I understand that most of the above may likely be completely unrelated, but these are just facts and may lead us to understand what this update was on Valentine's Day.

Additionally, I am seeing quite a few people talking about eCommerce sites being heavily influenced, but this update was not isolated to any particular vertical and not strictly eCommerce related in my opinion. So let's work together to find some commonality to those sites affected by the Valentine's Day update...

Affected Site Profile
Our client who was affected was ranking anywhere from #1 to #4 for the most important terms and has been in this general position for years across Google, Bing, and Yahoo. On Feb. 14th, rankings on Google completely disappeared. For a select few secondary terms, the clients rankings have not been affected.

Background: Client provides point of sale software systems to a vertical that has been singled out in the past by Google (check cashing / payday loans / financial services), although client site was not affected by previous iterations targeting these verticals.

- Client Has No Paid Ads ANYWHERE on the site; however, client did use a professionally created promo video above the fold on the homepage explaining how their system works. This has since been moved to appease any possible conflict with the Page Layout refresh, but if the page layout refresh targeted this, that is just ludicrous.

- Client is running a small Adwords Campaign targeting the same primary keywords.

- Backlinks to client site are normal, and no linking campaigns have ever been run. No manual spam action has ever taken by Google and in the lead up to the Feb. 14th rankings drop, no links have been found that would be red flags. In fact, no SEO work has ever been done to this site other than on-page factors.

- Google Local Listing For the Business Has Completely Disappeared, although in essence, they are not a local business. Doing a search for "Business Name + City" shows no map listing...same for "Business Name and Address". This is very strange to me.
12:37 pm on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It'd be nice to see this thread gain some traction.

Panda is also a possibility?

Also, are you noticing this drop because of Google Analytics?

I too have noticed a massive decrease in the Organic traffic in from Google, but looking at the 'Real Time' traffic for the site, I'm seeing a lot of traffic showing as either Direct or Direct (Not Set) - yet this traffic doesn't appear to be accounted for in the other reports. I'm wondering if Google Analytics is showing some Organic data incorrectly as Direct?!
12:47 pm on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The drop is apparent in Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, both in terms of impressions in WMT and actual organic traffic in GA.
1:46 pm on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Are you also seeing similar amounts of Direct (Not Set) traffic in your Real Time stats?
2:20 pm on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Being as the client is in a niche industry and not a highly trafficked site, traffic rates in terms of real time would not provide any real insight. Although, in comparing metrics for direct traffic for the week after the penalty (2/14 - 2/20) compared to the previous, direct traffic is statistically the same.

This is not simply a Google Analytics issue in terms of this site. It's a ranking drop for their primary keyword in terms of organic traffic. They went from ranking basically #2 or #3 for this query to page 12. So in essence, a +120 penalty or in the neighborhood of that.
9:24 pm on Mar 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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One of my sites had exactly the same problem on Valentine's day. A dramatic drop from position #2 or #3 to several pages lower. Organic traffice dropped by 90%.

Did you learn anything about the reasoning behind this drop? Some people advised me to remove authorship. They suspected that something was wrong and that the site had been hit by the authorship updates. No changes sofar on the ranking.
2:01 am on Mar 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Did something happen on Feb 22nd? My crawl rate went very high and since then it has tanked.
5:39 am on Mar 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm affected by Panda - each month a lower traffic.

In January I've seen signs of a possible turn of odds, but on 14 Feb the down trend is on me again (on the remaining ranked keywords), so my suspicion is that google is mad about freshness, even in "evergreen" domains.

So I see some very spammy results in the 4-8 positions.
10:03 am on Mar 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Before this update my bounce were less than 15%, now bounce is near 100%. This -> to be a quality update?

ALL! ecoms i talked to, see the same. This update prevents all buyers from seeing/clicking on organic serps.

ecom, germany
12:59 am on Mar 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Mentat I'm seeing spammy results on page 1 now also. My page 1 positions have been replaced by sites that are keyword stuffed to the max!