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Google Updates and SERP Changes - July 2016

     
2:11 pm on Jul 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If you see a big upheaval taking place, especially on multiple sites, then you should report it. Also anything unusual. But minor hourly fluctuations don't have much significance.

[edited by: bakedjake at 2:39 am (utc) on Jul 3, 2016]
[edit reason] Create new July update thread [/edit]

2:42 am on July 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi All - I've removed all of the off topic posts from this thread.

As a gentle reminder, the point of this monthly update thread is to compare observations that we may not know are trends. We've found that by using one thread for all but the most unusual SERP changes, we can help more people and sometimes see patterns with Google that are not otherwise clear.

We'd like this thread to become the defacto resource to check when looking for ranking changes. Please help us to keep it civil and elevate the quality of posting this month.

Thank you.

[edited by: bakedjake at 9:36 am (utc) on Jul 3, 2016]

4:18 am on July 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note. Thank you, Jake. That was something that needed doing. I'm adding a link here back to the June thread, just to provide month-to-month continuity....

https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4807611.htm [webmasterworld.com]
5:49 am on July 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@bakedjake One good way would be to create a Template for reporting daily or weekly changes from WMT or Google Analytics. That way, it can help everyone understand the google changes that are impacting them. Hope it make sense.
9:39 am on July 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm confused how in 2016 a parked EMD (used to be a popular site, many backlinks) can rank top 5 for a competitive single-word query. Are backlinks still that big a signal, one that trumps having zero content? I can't imagine a parked domain sends out any other positive signals.

I wrote in the June thread.

The parked EMD is gone from the SERPs now. From top 5 to not even on the first 5 pages.
10:53 am on July 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, Jake!
6:23 pm on July 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yes, Thank you Jake.
10:04 am on July 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This weekend was very worse. And this morning we see a >50% drop in google traffic. bounce is 100%.
Checking some ranking and seeing we gained a lot of new 1 to 5 positions. ?! What the heck?

I still bet that this is a new Panda.

ecom, germany
8:26 pm on July 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Some observations regarding about 20 to 25% loss in organic traffic starting towards the 20th June and still continuing in trickles. Careers/Jobs space in North America.
Two sites with roughly half a million uniques.

Little movement in the relative placement of result items.

Massive movement in the absolute positioning of the items.
The results for about 15 to 20% of the queries observed look like this:

Above the Fold Ad 1

Above the Fold Ad 2

Above the Fold Ad 3
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Large Blurb of listings taken from one of the top 5 sources.

Not one link in the Blurb is Clickable.

More of the Same Blurb

Details here but you can't click on them.

Link to one of the top 5 results here.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SERP1
SERP2
..

SERP10

The same pattern exists on mobile.
Pretty much the entire above the fold space on both desktop and mobile sites is now consumed by ads or useless non clickable blurb.
Interestingly, this useless blurb initiative in our domain was pioneered by bing a few years ago.
And Google, picked it up and adapted it mass scale.

The higher up someone was on the SERPs, the deeper the impact. But pretty much everyone is likely to feel the impact of these.
The writing is on the wall- can you survive without organic traffic coming your way?
10:50 am on July 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@niuk_piku, it seems that google is on the way to become the biggest scaper and should-suffer-100%-from-panda page.

If you take it seriously, none of the google result pages would stand googles own algos. But its google, it seems okay so.
3:28 pm on July 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Martin Ice Web Last weekend there was Germany - Italy :D
2:28 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Seeing a huge spike in keyword positions (+22% increase in KWs in pos 1-3 - up from 204 to 249). Large finance/affiliate marketing site. Anyone seeing anything similar? This is probably the single largest change in position we've ever seen in such a short time.
4:13 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is probably the single largest change in position we've ever seen in such a short time.

I'm not seeing this in my industry (USA ecommerce). The jump you are speaking of is quite dramatic. Was your site under a penalty?

Having good organic search positions is not enough anymore. I have them and they produce very little in revenue. The traffic quality has been so poor out of Google for many months that anyone hoping to survive off it had better make a plan B and C. And no, Adwords is not siphoning all the buyers off either because Adwords also suffers from the same poor traffic quality problems.
7:03 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is probably the single largest change in position we've ever seen in such a short time.

For our information site, rankings haven't changed significantly (either up or down). Just "same old, same old." Ad and affiliate revenues have been up over the last few months, but I suspect that has more to do with seasonal factors than with changes in traffic quality.

Isn't it likely that, as Google's main algorithm incorporates things like Panda and RankBrain, frequent slipstream updates (with isolated, limited impacts) will replace big updates? (Or maybe that's already happened.)
7:12 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Isn't it likely that, as Google's main algorithm incorporates things like Panda and RankBrain, frequent slipstream updates (with isolated, limited impacts) will replace big updates? (Or maybe that's already happened.)


I would agree with that. In fact I would be very surprised if we ever see any single day major shift in the serps again. My feeling is that the days panda and penguin are a thing of the past.
5:13 am on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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We have a site that has gone from 7K sessions in Jan 2016 to 4K in June 2016 sessions for google/organic results. Average bounce rate is 29%
Whatever traffic that now comes to our website from Google is poor quality and doesn't convert much.

On the other hand,
Yahoo generated around 255 sessions in Jan 2016 and 258 sessions in June 2016. Average bounce rate is 30%
Bing generated around 236 sessions in Jan 2016 and 244 sessions in June 2016. Average bounce rate is 24%

We started AdWords, and conversions have been poor there too. We are still holding our SERPs for some of our TOP keywords.

Now the dilemma is to wait this out or start making drastic changes to the site....
7:02 am on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Searchmetrics is convinced that it was the Phantom 4 last week!
2:05 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Since last few weeks are are noticing a strange listing for one of our main keywords. We see a listing with only one word (brand name and unrelated to the keyword) in the Title link. and 6 words in description.... the listing has been there consistently. strange..
2:18 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Since last few weeks are are noticing a strange listing for one of our main keywords. We see a listing with only one word (brand name and unrelated to the keyword) in the Title link. and 6 words in description.... the listing has been there consistently. strange..

I've seen Google re-write title and descriptions for our site that were far off the main topic of interest. This must be contributing to the high bounce rate and low Google driven sales. Something I would like to test are product pages with very limited but concise descriptions. This would give Google less text to re-write with potentially more accurate information listed in the search results without the Google re-write hack job they are now doing.
2:21 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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We definitely weren't under a penalty. Just seemed strange to me that we'd be seeing that much keyword fluctuation (confirmed by several sources and spot-checks of the SERPS) without some sort of major update, and I haven't seen much chatter from others about an update. Some of my other (lower-quality, but not spammy) sites seem to have taken a hit - a forum site I run is down to 90-day lows by quite a bit. This all happened the 24-25th, and we're finally getting enough data in to establish actual trends.

Edit:
Uptick in keyword positions occurred on a DA 77 domain that has been performing highly in the SERPS for years, and is normally very resistant to change. Decrease in positions occurred on a DA 42 forum site that has historically not ranked terribly well (usually page 2-3 for most major keywords)
2:38 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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From what i can see is, that all sites, that we have insight, got a stronger treshold. After reaching this treshold, google traffic suddenly shuts off and only some foreign users come through google search. Prior to this 25 update, there was at least a +/-20% traffic change every day. But this one is new.
Reaching this point is at about 5pm. Right when privat users come from work and start to buy in internet.

ecom, germany
4:00 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I seem to be having a zombie day after a few record breakers earlier this week. Almost zero interaction, dumbass questions that are answered in my articles on all websites, annoying queries about really cheap products and buyers that don't buy anything are back. Same with adwords as I turned it back on just to see if I was getting quality traffic.

Anyway, as Simon suggested I did a bit of digging to find out what is happening with the SERPs during this period. I used a fresh browser and VPN and did a few searches.

Here's what I found:

- Domain crowding - some top results included up to 3 organic listings, and later on down the page Amazon. I am outranking Amazon for these keywords, but still below the first "crowd" of results. My site is also domain crowded with 2 pages ranking for the same keyword.

- Very thin websites ranking for competitive keywords. I have an in depth article on a particular topic, but this exact match keyword domain is outranking me, while I am on page 3 for the result. I think this one is important, because it shows a blatant lack of relevance and quality in the results. I know a lot of people say that their websites are "high quality" and they're really not. But this particular term has a very relevant, 3000+ word article written on it on my website.

- Rank tracking from several different tools giving WILDLY different results on organic keyword positions. When I searched for my own keywords, I received number #1-#2 positions, but rank trackers all show between #3-#5. Not going to worry too much about this one for now, because there are dozens of ways Google probably knows who we are behind the VPN anyway.

- Google keeps swapping relevant pages on my site for some keywords. What I mean is that I have a page that was ranking #3 for a certain keyword. Google then decides it's not relevant, or for whatever other reason decides to drop the page from the results and put another VAGUELY related page there instead. Rankings also dropped to #20+ for this term. It's only 2 words, and not very difficult to figure out.

However, one thing I will say is that this is a information piece of content on my site that was ranking, and was then dropped and replaced by a commercial page for the term which is buried on page 2-3.

Those are some of my observations. I'll be turning off my adwords campaign now because they depleted my budget in a hurry and I have no sales to show for it.
4:11 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've been monitoring the SERPs and i've seen some fluctuation over the last ten days which, in some instances, doesn't make great sense.

Desktop: There are some pages ranking very well, and they are definitely not the best for the site, but are well optimised on-the-page. In some instances there are very few inbound links. These pages are not ranking well on Mobile.

Mobile: On these SERPs the same search brings up similar sites, but is only showing the mobile friendly pages, and the desktop optimised pages just don't show. At the moment the four ads at the top of the mobile SERPs dominate.

How close is Google to the mobile only database? Your guess is as good as mine right now.
5:17 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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No zombies to reports because traffic is basically at zero. What a relief! Several long held positions dropped off page one. Long time #1 positions replaced by thin, ad riddled content farm articles. significant changes taking place in my vertical.
6:55 pm on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@MasterJoe I'm glad that someone else is finally seeing this stuff. People keep saying that little to nothing is going on in the SERPs lately, but I've noticed more shifts now than I have in the past 6 months.

1) A fair amount of highly competitive queries dropped. Usually only 1-2 spots but certainly enough to make a significant impact on traffic and sales. Lots of thin content sites are ranking in top spots.

2) What used to be highly commercial/transactional KWs are now showing informational results like articles.

3) Rank tracking is all over the map no matter what tool I use. As I was looking more closely at some of the terms losing ranks, I found that several were exactly where they were historically.

4) Many KWs that had strong historic ranks are now ranking low for pages not even optimized for that term. The alternate pages being served are only somewhat related to the query.

If this is Rankbrain, it's got some serious learning to do. For example, if you search "velvet rope" (a crowd control product), you get a bunch of results related to Janet Jackson's 1997 album (actually called "The Velvet Rope") in organic yet all the shopping results and images results are crowd control products. I might understand if it was a new album, but I can't imagine there is a huge rush to research/buy a nearly 20 year old album.

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1:59 am on July 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I agree. I will see what happens once this zombie period is over, and whether the relevant pages are returned to where they should be. It's unbelievably poor from what Im seeing at the moment, after billions of dollars invested into search you'd think they would have sorted it out by now.
7:42 am on July 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@seohhh
That is normal. Like a million Peoples were looking for the album when only a couple of search was for that crowed control product. As we know, the whole process is automated, For G, "widget" is an album what peoples want, not something else. I read an article about "why musicians are better as SEO" and if you do a search for "lemonade", it'll return you results for an Beyoncé music Album. Because in last 10 years, how many time peoples were looking for a soft drink on G instead of how many peoples are looking for that album. Think
1:07 pm on July 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@sqimul It's not normal. That's my point. The "velvet rope" query used to serve different results. I understand the correlation and you make a good point about Beyoncé, but I would argue that she is much more relevant than Janet Jackson. Not to mention, if you search "buy velvet rope", it's all crowd control products in organic so based on your logic wouldn't you expect to see more Janet Jackson results? Or are you saying that more people want information about a 20-year-old album than want to purchase a very widely used product (you might also consider why the album was titled as "The Velvet Rope" in the first place)? Sure, lots of people bought that album but I'd venture to guess the majority did not do so recently.

I disagree with the notion that musicians are better at SEO. Fun topics trump boring topics, that's all that is happening there. You also have to think about where customers would expect to buy a product. While you could buy lemonade online, most people will buy it at the grocery store. What physical store would you go to to purchase crowd control products?

I'm not saying that I don't understand why this is happening, I'm simply pointing out an example of inconsistent/unhelpful search results.

I thought.
1:19 pm on July 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I will see what happens once this zombie period is over, and whether the relevant pages are returned to where they should be.

masterjoe, what makes you believe this zombie period will ever be over? I've seen it for almost a year now, and it feels quite permanent to me. Also I'm not seeing any real SERP changes in my sector to suggest that we are in the middle of an update. All I see are massive numbers of tire kickers coming from Google.
1:48 pm on July 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I will see what happens once this zombie period is over, and whether the relevant pages are returned to where they should be.

"Should be"? Isn't that in the eye of the beholder?
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