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Google Updates and SERP Changes - November 2014

     
9:59 am on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 8 messages were cut out of thread at: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4706161.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 9:17 am on Nov 1, 2014 (PST -8)


"Anyway, something happened in the past 24 hours and things have gotten MUCH worse. Spotty traffic, long zero runs, non converting, page sitters...GA seems to freeze too, anyone else noticing that? "

I have noticed further drops the past 24 hours also. Really hope these new changed are only temp.
10:13 am on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I have noticed further drops the past 24 hours also.


Me too. Yesterday was very quiet (low traffic, zero conversions).

Possibly (I hope!) the UK school half-term, unusually fine weather and Halloween had something to do with it.
12:38 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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So far today unusually low traffic from China, India, Middle East and Europe, serps checking time!
1:11 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Whether or not we think houzz is worthy, users absolutely love it. People spend hours on there, pretty hard to beat that type of dwell time. We are building a house and so is another couple we are close to. I can tell you that my wife and the other wife LIVE that damn site. It is what it is.
1:20 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I think you'll find the serps haven't changed at all, if you can even check them today.
My software seems to be having a major problem getting the results back. Update: serps are checking fine, and have not been negatively affected. Seeing more positive moves than anything yet traffic remains in stasis.

Whether or not we think houzz is worthy, users absolutely love it.

Users absolutely LOVE facebook too, probabaly by a much bigger margin, but do you see it plastered all over the serps?

My point (again) is that if it's so damn popular, why does it need to dominate such a massive part of the serps? They've become a Houzzhold word, and that's the holy grail of marketing.

If I search for "Ford" I get the company website. But if I search for soap box derby car, I don't get "Ford"....but I wouldn't be surprised to see a result for Houzz there.

I'm not saying they "aren't worthy" I'm just saying that they are getting way too much broad search that is returning garbage or irrelevant results as well as domain crowding. I'm sure that's of little concern to your wives.

As long as Google is returning these ridiculous results, we'll be here to critique them. What else is there to do when your site is sitting at zero after you tried to comply to the WMG in every imaginable way?

We'd be very easy critics to silence if our sites were being listed where they have been for over a decade. Just be happy you're not in this depleted vertical.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the wannabe's...decoist,roomzaar,etc. all falling in behind them using similar tactics. UPATE: Seeing less of Houzz this morning for several previously bloated results...some of their pages are going to page 7. Did G come to their senses? We'll see.
2:38 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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users absolutely love it.


Apart from its spam dominance at the moment what really annoys me about this site is its inaccuracy and malinformation.

I am a major world supplier of specialist construction products and I love seeing my stuff on there but not when idiots say that a specific product originates from this country, that country or another country and still get it wrong.

If I were to get these kind of facts incorrect on major construction projects I'd get hauled in and fined, yes it's THAT serious, but Houzz is allowed to display whatever they like seemingly without redress even when they've been informed that the information is incorrect.

Pinterest used to do the same so I went in there and corrected a lot of incorrect information but Houzz just keeps churning any old garbage out, yes the photos are great but don't go relying on it for any accuracy when shopping for some of the products shown.
2:57 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd never heard of Houzz until it was mentioned here, and I've never noticed a Houzz result in the SERPs. So, as the expression goes, your mileage will vary.

If Houzz has succeeded in Google with blackhat techniques, its SEO efforts are likely to be living on borrowed time.
3:09 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone else noticed a SLIGHT increase in the weight given to kw domains recently? I don't think EMD's have made a comeback, but I think I may be seeing a slight positive bias towards domains that include kw's.

This is not necessarily starting today, as I haven't been SERP-following very closely lately, but may be since most recent update.
5:30 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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its SEO efforts are likely to be living on borrowed time.


We'll see however I've been referring to this site for over two years now and its rise but it's only recently that we've decided to refer to it by its name since I, personally, did not want to give it any more exposure than it warranted although now it's having such an huge influence on specific serps results that its practices need exposing.

I suppose it must be convenient being neighbours at MV?
8:19 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Taking focus off my problem child site, another site I do for a brick and mortar client is seeing nothing but positive improvements.

The site is almost two years old and has gone from 50 sessions per day this time last year, to 500 last month and on the 30th, peaked at 1009 session for the day. It definitely got a shot in the arm because it's content is static and the sudden increase appeared out of the blue.

No ads - just a straight business brochure site. The only conversion mechanism is a contact form and it's generating plenty of response.

I guess the web's not totally dead after all.
10:22 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm not saying they "aren't worthy" I'm just saying that they are getting way too much broad search that is returning garbage or irrelevant results as well as domain crowding. I'm sure that's of little concern to your wives.


I typically don't get sucked in the rants the same 5 users have going on here daily...but hey why not.

The funny thing, Google IS concerned with how my wife likes the SERPs. Why? Because she is your average surfer and the type of person who makes up a good majority of their user base.

You can sit around and nit pick on certain results...but something tells me Google's not going out and checking on an obscure 3, 4, or 5 word search term and saying...oh man that is so far off base, change the algo til we get this one right. They work on massive scale, so long as their main source of traffic "general public" is happy with the overall results, win for them. Users expect to see houzz nowadays, for the most part their content (images) is pretty good. It's great for ideas (which is why the people I know use it), and if the written content about a product on the page in the picture isn't accurate...so be it. Atleast you have an idea what you like and you probably spent hours on their site clicking on related projects, sytles, ect. It is a massive database and it's easy to get around. Dwell time matters to Google. Making users happy is important to Google. Webmasters...Google doesn't care, dime a dozen when it comes to us small webmasters. I promise the people who are using Google and ending up on Houzz are quite happy and the end result you see it in the serps. Get over it and quit complaining. Find a way to make users like your site more and you'll probably see better results too. Or just sit on the forums complaining....
11:09 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd never heard of Houzz until it was mentioned here, and I've never noticed a Houzz result in the SERPs.


Me neither, now that you mention it. It might well be plastered all over the SERPs, but I've never seen one result from it either in my niche or any of my clients.

My point (again) is that if it's so damn popular, why does it need to dominate such a massive part of the serps?


Because Google wants to rank popular sites. They're not interested in making sites popular.
11:12 pm on Nov 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We're discussing Google updates and SERP Changes, comparing notes on observations, not belly aching about other users, so if you don't like it, you don't necessarily need to read it. Besides, you're looking at it from a completely different reference point and you're not even in the affected vertical.
1:07 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Everyone's observations are welcome here. Even the ones you don't agree with. Even the ones I don't agree with.
1:47 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't agree.
2:35 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Dwell time matters to Google.

People can think that, read it, hear it, believe it, but I've argued with people about design "upgrades", been "overruled", told to install them, had the changes double the time on site and page views, take the bounce rate from 85% to 55% and watched the site's traffic completely tank.

The site was easier to use, people found the info the wanted faster, and my interpretation of the stats previously/today is people were much more more satisfied before someone told me to "make the numbers better for Google, because the site would rank better based on what everyone said" rather than making sure visitors found what they were looking for as fast as I could.

No joke, after I didn't get to call the shots on the site I'm talking about and had to "make the numbers better for Google, because time-on-site, page views, and bounce rate mattered in the rankings and if the numbers were better traffic would increase since that's what everyone says..." Rather than giving visitors what they were looking for quickly with a crazy-high bounce rate, the site's traffic tanked.

I'm sure there's some really bad information about "user metrics" out there, because I know people who have "bought into" what "everyone" says and the outcome from following their advice was the complete decimation of traffic.

I mean they have 4% of the traffic they used to because they "believed the hype" rather than sticking with what worked and I *cannot* fix it until they stop buying into all the BS people spew. According to GA the site went from an average of: Time on site from 50 seconds to almost 3 mins. 1 page view to 3. Bounce rate of 85% to 55%. Traffic is now at 4% of what it was... Yeah, everyone who tries to manage the numbers has it all figured out, cause the numbers really matter more than people finding what they're looking for. Hah!

No offense intended to anyone, but the info I've seen and read about on-site numbers mattering is complete BS, usually coming from people who don't know what they're talking about but either have an SEO business they need to keep going or webmasters who respect them as SEOs and believe what they say is true rather than seeing it as a sales pitch the "SEO gurus" have to make and sell people on to stay in business.
2:55 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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People can think that, read it, hear it, believe it, but I've argued with people about design "upgrades", been "overruled", told to install them, had the changes double the time on site and page views, take the bounce rate from 85% to 55% and watched the site's traffic completely tank.


Yep, Google loves it when you click a result and then click the back button right after landing on that page back into the serps. This might be the easiest signal to measure
3:08 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm not saying they love that, but when you "end the search" like the site used to, the effect was *way* more positive for the site than making "the numbers everyone talks about" better -- I mean seriously, the time on site more than doubled, the page views did the same thing, the bounce rate dropped to almost half, but the traffic is 4% of what it was.

Do people really think managing the numbers rather than visitor satisfaction and giving visitors the info they want is important? Wow, and if they do, it's too bad they can't "move past" what "everyone who needs to stay in business" says, cause most of it's a sales-pitch -- Sh*t at least one of the "big names" still provides data on aggregated keyword density? LOL! Are you kidding?!

Anyone who knows search knows it's at the best niche specific and generally irrelevant these days, because co-occurrence of related phrases is more important to determining a subject/topic.

[edited by: JD_Toims at 3:15 am (utc) on Nov 2, 2014]

3:09 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I mean they have 4% of the traffic they used to because they "believed the hype" rather than sticking with what worked and I *cannot* fix it until they stop buying into all the BS people spew. According to GA the site went from an average of: Time on site from 50 seconds to almost 3 mins. 1 page view to 3. Bounce rate of 85% to 55%. Traffic is now at 4% of what it was... Yeah, everyone who tries to manage the numbers has it all figured out, cause the numbers really matter more than people finding what they're looking for. Hah!


Sounds like they made it more difficult to find the information to boost metrics. To me that doesn't sound like the right way to create a better quality signal. Not sure this is a good argument against dwell time? I am referring to dwell time because people are genuinely engaged. You're being compared against the other 9 results and my guess is you're screwed if you're trying to fake it if they're not
3:22 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I am referring to dwell time because people are genuinely engaged.

No one can algorithmically/heuristically determine if "dwell time" on my site or yours is due to a person being actually engaged or trying to find the answer they're looking for and viewing more pages and spending more time on the site because they can't find it even though a search engine said it was there.

Idk if you code or not, but it's really next to impossible to tell if someone spent more time on a site because they were engaged or couldn't find what they were looking for when a search engine provided it as a result -- Checkout csszengarden.com sometime. Did you spend some time there because it provided the CSS the answer you were looking for or did you surf a bit because there are some cool designs and you got distracted?
3:34 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like they made it more difficult to find the information to boost metrics. To me that doesn't sound like the right way to create a better quality signal.

Yup, they sure did, and it's not better, but unfortunately, they believed what Google implies and the "SEO gurus" say about how much the numbers matter rather than sticking with what worked and giving people what they were looking for quickly and easily.
10:08 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Yesterday again produced unusually low traffic, with a substantial drop in Impressions (less of a drop in Clicks) in WMT over the week as a whole.

Looking at Mozcast ([mozcast.com ]) I reckon something - with most of its impact yesterday - has probably changed, but again I don't see it in the SERPs from here.
10:58 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Woke up today to yet another rollback... this is getting ridiculous!
11:32 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The whole "dwell time" metric is no good anymore. I show plenty of visitors who are on my site for 1/2 hour or longer. The problem is, they are lazy cell phone users who visit a page then get distracted and move on to Angry Birds while leaving the browser session open. That's a page sitter.
11:45 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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move on to Angry Birds while leaving the browser session open


...or while waiting for the page to finish loading.
11:55 am on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For us today (Australia - Sunday 2nd) we have had the lowest visitors and sales since starting the business 9 years ago! :(
12:02 pm on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Anon - do you see a corresponding drop in the serps or just no traffic? Here in the states, the same problem persists, stable positions and even some new and positive moves, yet no traffic coming through. Virtually zero traffic yet serps look OK. They certainly appear to be testing some new traffic diversion techniques - unless someone else has a rational explanation for this behavior. It's been a long time since we had an ON period of traffic.

WTF is up with Googlebot? I've been watching it for the last few hours and it is hitting random and excluded files? I tell robots.txt to exclude wp-content/plugins, yet there is google bot poking around in that dir. It's even trying to re-find 410'd pages.
1:02 pm on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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JD_Toims --
The main reason that Google went to all the expense and trouble to create their Chrome browser was to improve their ability to measure user metrics. With hundreds of millions of Chrome users, Google is now able to collect a gold mine of information about user behavior.

But forget "dwell time" and "bounce rate", because there are much better ways to measure user engagement. For example:

-- the user bookmarks a page as a favorite
-- the user prints out a copy of the page
-- the user visits other pages on the site
-- the user makes repeat visits to the site

These are such good signals that Google would have to be really stupid not to use them.
1:20 pm on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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the user bookmarks a page as a favorite

Oddly enough Google's new bookmarking manager just went live a few days ago. Though I don't know how much influence this would have on ecommerce websites where the average user is an impulse buyer, it still offers a difficult to fake metric for Google to evaluate.
1:40 pm on Nov 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Since Penguin rolled out I have a very strange zig zag pattern for Google crawling my site. Usually the pattern is much more irregular.

[i.imgur.com...]

Since Penguin did roll out, it takes a very long time for Google to index my new pages (1 to 24 hours). Page changes also take much longer to be recognized (according to the cached version and snippets). I had to resubmit a changed page through WMT 4 times in seven days before Google showed the changes. First time this happend. Usually it takes 2-5 minutes after submitting it.

Analytics show weird user patterns too, with absolutely NO changes in hourly visits. Very strange. No idea what the hell Google is doing.

And oh - one of my competitors skyrocketed in his rankings. While we had nearly same rankings for many terms, he doubled his visibility while mine dropped 20 percent. His content is much thinner, but his backinks are stronger (because his site is older). Like I said in another post: It looks like Penguin is overwriting some of the Panda signals or Google changes Panda to accept thinner content again.

Whatever they are currently doing, it's pretty bad imho.
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