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Google Updates and SERP Changes - August 2016

     
8:05 am on Aug 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 11 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4811319.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 9:11 am on Aug 2, 2016 (PDT -8)


It seems to me that whatever happened over the weekend / last week has now rolled back. My positions were quite mixed up with some gains and some losses but traffic up overall. And sales were great. I am now seeing the results I have had for months again. It's too soon to tell is sales / conversions are on or off yet. Is anyone else seeing that?
3:34 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It was suggested that it is not in Google's interests to mismatch paid traffic, because that will just result in advertisers reducing their bids. I hope I've explained that's not the case and that mismatched traffic does not change the optimal bid point, it just changes the profitability of the optimal bid.

The theory definitely explains a lot of the data I'm looking at with my website. And for Google to extract 24% growth out of an ecosystem that is not growing anywhere near that rate, it explains where Google's massive growth in revenue is coming from (our losses).

Hence, the advertiser ecosystem can generally quite happily support a level of mismatched paid traffic.

Maybe it can't. I'm in a very, very small industry with little competition. If Google has less advertisers to spread the mis-matched traffic to, it would explain why our Adwords results and conversions from free traffic are so poor. How would the others here with zombie traffic consider the industries they operate in? Highly competitive, moderate competition, little competition?

Hindsight is 20/20 for sure, and it's becoming clearer how Google put together the pieces of the puzzle in preparation to disburse irrelevant traffic:

1. Re-write Meta Titles/Descriptions: Gives searchers the illusion what they are searching for is on our websites to prompt more clicks.
2. Remove Sidebar Ads: Increases competition for the few ads that appear at the top and reduces choice to the searcher - prompting more clicks on higher paying ads.
3. Ad a Forth Ad Unit: Pushes organics beneath the fold and increases the likelihood of paid clicks.
4. Zombie Apocalypse: Start pushing irrelevant traffic to a limited but higher paying number of paid ads, thereby increasing profits. Spread the zombies across organic too so as to obfuscate the true intent of zombie traffic.

There's no conspiracy here - just a timeline that supports what we are now seeing (zombie traffic). And those facts are supported by Google's 24% profit growth and the losses we've sustained in Adwords. Does anyone else but me view what Google has done as an abuse of their marketshare? I know some industries are so big that they can absorb paying for irrelevant traffic, but many smaller mom and pops can't.
3:56 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yep, I've not just turned off my campaigns, I've deleted them. Might have been a little hasty, but I don't give a damn now. Google has taken all of us for a ride, we all KNOW for a FACT that this is deliberate... their outrageous profit boost is proof in the pudding.

I am having better results with SEO (even though returns are slow) and simply using extrapolation methods to figure out new keywords. There is a lot of guesswork, but I know my industries well and can rank for keywords easily. I will only be using free methods while I put more money into Facebook and figure that out, as well as yahoo and bing which from my testing are actually profitable besides not getting anywhere as much traffic.
4:05 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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To answer your question glakes...I'm in a pretty competitive industry...lots of players.

In regards to your other question, "Does anyone else but me view what Google has done as an abuse of their marketshare?"

Yes, I lean this way about 75%. I still hold out hope that this is just an algorithm glitch but John Mueller never responded (that I know of) to the data sent to him from the roundtable people. I know this relates to ads too but not even a finger was lifted. I think it's out of his control anyway. Also, the Google rankbrain people answering questions on Reddit did not answer the zombie question asked. So I'm with you...I don't hold out hope that the U.S. government will help due to Google being the largest lobbyist in the country (from what I read - don't know for a fact).

I think the only way to make this go away is through everyone here spreading knowledge. Going to other boards - showing other "e-commerce" webmasters who may not be aware of this "possible" problem. Secondly, a class action lawsuit may be needed. The Google Rankbrain people could be called into deposition?...many of their names were listed on reddit. Not to mention the adwords executives and programmers being called into deposition. Not saying it would be successful but should be at least explored. Not sure if I want to spend the time on this or just deal with Google's boot on my neck...

All of the above is just theory - I have no idea if I am right or not - I have no idea if Google is doing this intentionally. All I can do is come up with theories until someone with more experience in these matters looks into the problem.
5:11 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google has taken all of us for a ride, we all KNOW for a FACT that this is deliberate...

Both Dooku and Simon helped solidify my opinion of Google. All of the puzzle pieces fit and Google's profit is the proof in the pudding as you so accurately described. Hopefully with your Adwords campaigns deleted you won't be tempted to lose anymore money with Adwords and find great success at ranking for organic keywords that send people that convert. All my money keywords in Google rank well from everywhere I checked, but they don't convert in Google anymore. The same keywords rank good in Bing and Yahoo and convert just fine for the little traffic they get.

@ ecommerceprofit

I would think the Reddit people would be inclined to at least respond to the zombie questions to learn more if there is indeed a problem. But they didn't, and that suggests that they are in avoidance mode just like John Mueller is.

You are right - knowledge is power and the more people that know about the conversion problem the better. Google may avoid us, but they won't ignore their profit numbers if they start to fall or public discussion of poor Adwords performance gains momentum. And I can't see how they will be able to keep posting massive profits because there is only so much they can extract out of an economy.

You are also right about the government not doing anything. That mention of the watchdog story was telling. It's at [watchdog.org...] for those who have not read it. 250 people transitioned from Google to government and vice-versa since Obama took office. Hillary Clinton, so far, is projected to win the Presidency and it's quite likely she will continue the open-door policy. And with all the fury surrounding her, and some of the actions of Federal agencies that investigated her, it would appear on the surface that there is a lot of political pressure to protect certain people.
5:37 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This last few day's do shed some bright light on this matter, and this really makes sense. It's not in someone's benefit to use Google Analytics .... actually, it's a disadvantage, a BIG one. Even if my rankings will drop, it's better to persist and keep it off.... and resist the temptation... :)

Figuring this out now when one of my referral customer/leads ( mouth to mouth ) visit's our website directly ... this is a decent part of my new traffic on my site........ He get's tagged by GA as "interested in product X" because the Google Analytics tracking code helps Google to do just that..... The latter makes sense as he will be probably redirected to a informational competitor website about my products next time he searches on my brand name in the search index ... this competitor get's bloated with "zombie traffic" as my referrals will abandon ( hopefully ) ... and after that click on my brand Ad instead of my organic result as my organic search result probably isn't showed.

As the other way around is also possible, that also explains why i get Zombie traffic on my website from other competing websites and company's as people were not searching for that product at their "thrusted" source, they will abandon my site also.

@piwik ... here we come ;-)
6:06 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It's past 4 am now in Australia, and I've been doing manual searches on some of my keywords. What is mind blowing to me is that Google can't even figure out what my site is about when it comes to certain queries. This particular site is very niche and and well known, topically every article on the site contains my main keyword. But in between, I see that results are a huge mix of information and commercial queries, but largely irrelevant because they are "mentions" on random websites, articles from authorities, and of course the token amazon listings for a crap product. My site ranks somewhere on page 7 (no penalty).

I also see that results are heavily weighted where links have been built, and I believe this may be skewing some of the results... for example, pages that have a large variety of closely related anchors all seem to rank very highly, but pages with little to no links struggle to rank anywhere significant even though the content is far above any of my competition. From previous history, these terms all used to rank very well... I think I've found one of my problems. The only solution at this time is to rank for as many of them as I can.

Google is also still failing to rank informational/commercial queries as one of my informational pages ranks high for a very ambiguous term, but another less relevant page (commercial) page sometimes gets relegated to page 5 while the informational one drops off page 5+.
6:36 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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By rewriting meta Titles / Descriptions in organic results, google can test in real time buyer's intent. Google knows what keywords / titles likely buyers would click on and they can rewrite it in organic results. So it could be that now organic results are just a testing tool for google to classify a searcher and present them with an optimized set of results when they search the next time. That may explain some of the zombie visitors.
8:40 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am not convinced zombies are real humans searching for what they pretend to search for...
9:28 pm on Aug 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Wijnand schouten

makes no difference if analytics is on or not, chrome is there to do the job
12:04 pm on Aug 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hey guys, I am new here and after some years reading the forum i wanted to tell my story.

First, i understand Google is a private company and they do what they want but after two strong penalties i am #*$! tired of it. Why?

2014 First penalty: Thin content. I accepted it because the content was #*$!. I spent 40K more in articles.
2016 Second penalty: "Overused Phrases & Keywords". They think that i wrote more than necessary. (Thin content 2014)

Actually i work on my websites again but i search for the keywords and guess what? I found this in every search.
1) pinterest.com: copied text and thin content.
2) buzzfeed.com: Thin content , only pictures (my websites in 2014)
3) amazon.
4) Aliexpress: Overused Phrases & Keywords. Similars text for 201020103003100 urls.
12:38 pm on Aug 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just wanted to fire off another report as to progress after removing GA. SERPS seem to be holding yet traffic is just about gone. Site went from about 2500 unique /day to now about 300. If all those search positions are real, then there is nobody searching for these terms anymore on Google....but next week Tuesday they'll all mysteriously return for 6 hours then disappear again.
4:08 pm on Aug 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@samwest, it is hard to see a logical connection between removing GA and your reported fall in visitors, especially when serps are unchanged. A more likely explanation is an inconsistency in the way you are now measuring visitors and how you previously measured using GA.
7:51 pm on Aug 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@samwest not trying to sound smart but I wonder if you have been filtering out ghost traffic in GA from seamalt sites like see-your-website-here.com, buttons-for-website.com, semalt.semalt.com and so on in the referral data? A drop from 2500 to 300 is huge.
8:57 pm on Aug 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That drop has been since 2010, not overnight, sorry for the confusion. Basically it's just going sideways and down. Should be seeing a seasonal upswing starting about 2 weeks ago...nuthin so far.
9:29 pm on Aug 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yeah sorry the drop is huge
5:42 am on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@lefrontal - the reason you are seeing this is because huge websites like Pinterest, Buzzfeed and Amazon have millions of pages. Now if less than ~15% of these are scraped/thin content/not-related-to-category , they would never get the penalty, because they are whitelisted. Basically (and I have seen this a couple of times since 2014) what happens is : 1) You get huge amounts of content, if user generated, even better. 2) You start climbing the SERPs because now you are operating with big amount of topics, most time interconnected. 3) If your stats are good enough (overall engagement) and the users not only dump content on your site, but also share it in social media, in 6-8 months you should get the VIP card, meaning you will show on top 5 spots in the SERPs even for obscure keywords that are just mentions or comments. Seen it happen twice in the travel industry where I've spent quite some time doing work on big websites. I know my story sound like some crazy tinfoil hat conspiracy guy, but I have seen sites gaining more than 600% organic traffic increase, just because they have a small army of scrapers from China, India and the Philippines, churning hundreds of "content" pages on a daily basis. I've seen it work and I was disgusted by it. Oh and before you tell me this was the "old way" of doing things, this was in mid 2015 and the website in question is now utterly dominating the topical keywords (more than 4000 of them!) gaining more than 45k visitors per day. Funny thing is, because they have little clue how to convert the traffic they struggle to keep the business behind the website afloat...oh well.
8:25 am on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sunday was the lowest ever seen traffic day ever from google. It seems like something changes again. Traffic is very low, only zombies, no conversions from google visitors, 100% bounce.

Conversions from amazon rock, while organics in our niche are filled with amazon pages ( up to 7 entries in a row! ).
Time to put all eggs on amazon horse now!
11:27 am on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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7 entries in one SERP?!

We've seen another drop organically. 8 years of experience and I have no idea where to go with this. The only common ranking factor seems to be be high volumes of exact match anchors in our niche. Wont ever do it, but at the moment its hard to swallow.
11:51 am on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Martin Ice Web
same here
sunday very low traffic + today from morning seems not any better

conversions? well, no comments
12:49 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Gary Illyes ‏@methode Aug 11 Zurich, Switzerland
Isn't it great there are more people outside Google who can "authoritatively" talk about RankBrain, than inside? I think it's amazing!

The statement from this Google guy is super arrogant...hey, why don't you communicate a little more about something that affects people's lives. Google has a dominant position in in my eyes has a fiduciary duty to treat everyone fairly in a even handed way. You don't have to reveal your secret sauce but little communication breeds distrust.
1:56 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing a similar result a very low traffic and almost no conversions. The thing I find most interesting is that there are days when there is low traffic but there are high concentration of buyers, and other days where there is high traffic and very few buyers. I don't use GA anymore, I get much better results from other web analytics anyway, they tell me more about what's going on than GA ever did. In fact, there are some insights that I gained that could not have been produced any other way but by dropping GA. I believe G is not really a search engine anymore, I know that sounds funny but like everything else these days it's all about control. They don't represent the true search anymore, instead represent what they want you to see. This is so pervasive throughout our culture and nobody seems to be apologetic for it. I accidentally did a search in Google for this forum in regards to search results and I didn't see it on the 1st 3 pages. I find that odd because I can go to Bing and it comes up 1st on the 1st page for the same search. And yes, this is a very relevant forum that discusses what's really going on and I'm sure the people at Google are bothered by the things we say here. It exposes something we're seeing across culture, the want of more control, the want of shaping your opinion and telling you this is what you should do and that this is ok and normal. This is so far from where we began with the Internet all those years ago, it was wide open, opinions were shared freely and you had the general feeling that anything was possible.
2:04 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google appears to care less about trust. As their balance sheet shows, they are mainly concerned with turning a profit selling thin air ads and profiting from our collective content. I think we all lost trust in them the day that the "don't be evil" statement was released. I'm not saying they are "evil" but that black box sure ain't nice. The problem with communication is that once you give any hint to the inner workings of the algo, many are going to rush to try to exploit it. The real problem with Google's tight lips is all the greedy bad apples out there. It would be nice to know what level of Penguin or Panda dings have been applied to our sites, but even that is too much information and would be abused. I do however believe that some sort of oversight is needed to be sure what they are doing is truly not "evil". The apparent "whitelisting" (as Nutterrum describes) and "free pass to sling garbage articles" is still a big problem. Good content should rank above number of backlinks. Hopefully it will one day evolve back to that....but I'm not holding my breath.
2:17 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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* I do however believe that some sort of oversight is needed to be sure what they are doing is truly not "evil" *

Exactly. I am not saying Google is doing anything wrong either...I'm sure Pfizer and Wells Fargo have honest executives...but they are still regulated. Time for Google to have some sort of oversight.
2:57 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The reason doors have locks is not to keep the bad guys out, it can only slow them down a little bit. If they want to get in, they're going to find a way. Locks on doors are to keep honest people honest. It will deter an honest person from being tempted at all. So yes, some oversight does need to occur because at this point there are no locks on the doors to the digital world.
.
3:04 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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One more "remove GA" observation. I still have my webmaster tools account active and it shows time spent on crawling at a new all time low...sudden drop. Traffic is fast approaching zero. Not sure why I decided to do this...bad advice is rampant. Funny how these folks who advised this just pooped out of nowhere and then pooped back into obscurity.
3:25 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My remove GA observation: ( only 5 days now ) > A drop in Google Chrome traffic... Ranking / traffic stay the same.

Conversion ratio is up, probably because the people visiting my site are now not hunted down anymore by Adwords/my competitors who are targeting " people interested in " as Google cannot determine this anymore... at least not from the people visiting my website.
3:54 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I wonder what sort of effect has the special tool Simon mentioned bidding on likely buyers, how many competitors have exclusivity and if it is "barely legal" anywhere ?
7:00 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Ok Google is slowly killing my second site that was not affected neither Panda or Penguin. First hit was on July 13 then it was hit again on July 26 and last hit was on August 10. Every time traffic was down on on 20%. It looks like new algorithm will punish sites slowly so you will not be able to say what exactly is going on. It looks like Monday will be slowest business day for us for last 3 years.
7:03 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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First one site affected by Penguin also was hit on June 29 and then August 10. Looks like new automatic penalties applied.

The funny thing is that leader in our niche has link profile full of footer site wide links and spamy forum and comments links.
8:41 pm on Aug 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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link profile full of footer site wide links and spamy forum and comments links

these may be in a disavow file already, the real spammers create blog networks and block majesticseo, ahrefs spider IPs so competitors never get the chance to report them because only google sees them
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