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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?
6:39 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I don't get the remove GA thing. It should not matter at all whether you have GA or not. There are many sites tuning Adobre Marketing Cloud or Kissmetrics or some other solution and never had GA for whatever reason, yet they did not do better or worse compared to the rest. This is some pure speculation that some desperate folks here are using as a mean to grasp at a straw. Not pointing fingers or anything but guys use some critical thinking as otherwise the new people making accounts and looking for advice will be left wandering where the hell did they end up.
8:01 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Biggest drop in traffic we have ever seen from google. Even panda did not hurt us that much.
Keywords didn´t seem to change but got even better, But traffic is a mess. 100 % bounce.
Traffic from google is limited to 1 user.
Amazon & ebay are dominating first page.....

It must have hurt many sites as we don´t even get traffic from forum pages any more.
germany
9:47 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@martin - same. We're soldiering through. I have so many legacy crawling errors materialising from way before i took on the site, i have to think it is an indexing issue that has seen us fall. Alot of these URLs, were dropped into the robots, but since they keep appearing again and again, even after trying to 410 them, I made the decision to start redirecting them. it does seem to be clearing them down, but it goes against everything i have ever learnt.

Equally, our canonicalised URLs that link to a derivative page (unique content) have been dropped out of the index ~23rd June. it seems to fire a canonical to a page with unique content, its not just the 'seo weight' thats passed, but the canonicalised URL is de-indexed entirely. Just stupid. Tell me why there's such a marginal difference between a no index tag and a canonicalised page that points to a master.....?!
9:53 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Can anyone describe the types of changes they are seeing...? This is hard to describe, I know, without knowing the referrer query. But is it, as I'm guessing, a change in how long tail is seen, something which would be consistent with other comments around the forum?

I'd also expect that short, very broad queries would be hit... as these might have one time just been achieved by a lot of focused anchor text, but now that implied breadth might also require a breadth of useful content in the site.

IMO, the Google Analytics thing is a "red herring", a diversion from the real problems that a site is having... It probably feels good, though, if you feel that Google is trying to deny you all good fortune and happiness, to be able to blame your problems on Google's using their analytics data against you. This has been debunked a million times. No one has every found a smoking gun, or even one that's slightly warm. I can see Google looking at all analytics data in the aggregate and learning what they can from it, but that's not going to sink an individual site... You could argue as much that it might help sites as hurt them.
10:15 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Nutterum

I don't get the remove GA thing. It should not matter at all whether you have GA or not.


Look in Google Adwords under the remarketing tab. There you will find a list to target called "people like". If your website is about coffee machines and someone visit's your site ( with Google Analytics on it ) then you enable your competitor who advertises on Coffee machines to target your visitor.

Not pointing fingers or anything but guys use some critical thinking as otherwise the new people making accounts and looking for advice will be left wandering where the hell did they end up.


This is not speculation, these are true facts. You can try run a campaign yourself in Adwords if you want to check. If you don't want the visitors on your site to convert elsewhere, then you should not enable Google to make that happen in the first place because that's the tool Google uses for this rip-off. I have not seen a button on the analytics page telling Google to not share my data with my competitors, so GA stay's off here until there is one.
10:16 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Robert, the changes I'm seeing are the adverse of what you'd expect there. The top performing domains are those with heaps of referral exact match anchor text... They rank predominantly for the generic phrases.

Interesting story, about a week ago when i saw this pattern emerge, i ran a diagnostic on an ex-client who we had to drop because, at the time, their SEO manager was keen to build exact match anchors. This was about a year and a half ago. I wanted to see where they were today and sure enough they rank #1 for their targeted term. What a surprise.
10:24 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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IMO, the Google Analytics thing is a "red herring", a diversion from the real problems that a site is having... It probably feels good, though, if you feel that Google is trying to deny you all good fortune and happiness, to be able to blame your problems on Google's using their analytics data against you. This has been debunked a million times. No one has every found a smoking gun, or even one that's slightly warm. I can see Google looking at all analytics data in the aggregate and learning what they can from it, but that's not going to sink an individual site... You could argue as much that it might help sites as hurt them.


See my reply above. This feature in Adwords is not around for many years, it's around for months. There is a difference in learning and using the data to enable big advertisers to target your visitors.... and yes, i see the leads who visit my website by mouth to mouth referrals as my leads and i don't want my leads to be targeted over the web with display ad's as soon as they have visited my website.

Let's turn this around ..... Are you a fan of display advertising and show people Ton's of ad's about the product you sell as soon they have landed on your page and hit your GA code until they really really get frustrated and never visit your site again? Perhaps your competitors are, and with the GA code you enable them to do this, where you don't run any display advertising campaigns at all because you don't want to harass them.
10:45 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@robert, our usefull content pages have been hit hardest. Pages with lot of descriptions, pictures and EAT.
In my niche brand sites with very low content, no descriptions but H1 and H2 tag and many, many internal crosslinking are ruling.

From what i can see, is that all what panda rewards has been wiped out by trust and brand.

Has someone noticed that google doesn´t show snippets for ecom sites anymore? Only useless words are displayed. Only amazon and ebay and some big brands still have a usefull snippet.
11:33 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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We have 60% drop in our traffic 5000/ Day vs 13 000 for a MEDICAL informative Website. While our serp remains very good. We do not have any AdWords.

France
11:59 am on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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When you see just amazon amazon amazon and then wholesale websites on first page for (very big keyword) products you know google is garbage.
12:25 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is some pure speculation that some desperate folks here are using as a mean to grasp at a straw. Not pointing fingers or anything but guys use some critical thinking as otherwise the new people making accounts and looking for advice will be left wandering where the hell did they end up.

@ Nutterum

You are right in saying that some folks are grasping at straws. But these straws are not grabbed for out of ignorance. Desperation and removing Analytics from their sites comes only after all other logical methods to rid sites of zombies has been exhausted. Many of us tried making changes to our sites, some more than others, to get rid of the zombies without success. Most of us are still getting a lot of traffic from Google and we know people are still buying these goods (August 1st Google conversion flood witnessed by many), but where is Google sending them? And to send them somewhere else, I see Google analyzing Analytics data to help control the buyer pattern since RankBrain can do that for them on the fly. I tested with a very high CPC in Adwords, with enhanced bidding active to bid even higher for users Google has determined to have greater buyer intent, without success. Google may be having MAJOR problems in that area, I'm not sure. But major problems don't last for almost a year with Adwords reps downplaying complaints about poor conversions.

Eleven months into this zombie mess I feel Google is attempting to intentionally change buyer patterns, and RankBrain crunching Analytics data to alter buyer patterns is quite likely IMO. This does not bode well for us webmasters that have followed the rules and it does not do the consumer any justice because what Google is doing has resulted in them overlooking the quality signals that differentiates good businesses and superior product from the bad - all in the name of their profits

@ samwest and others reporting Analytics removal info:

Thanks for keeping us updated. I do have Analytics on my site with ecommerce tracking. I may follow in your footsteps and remove this as well, especially considering Google is not giving me anything (no buyer traffic) for it. Instead of helping us, Analytics may be doing more harm then good.
12:48 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Remeber to get rid of gstatic font and any other sneaky way for google to to spy on your users.

Also I prefer piwik over google aanalytics
1:31 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm done fighting Google's stark fist of removal. The site has had no traffic all day so far. SERPS exist for main term, but no traffic. I'm sick of their sneaky little games designed to suck every penny out of the same people who provide the content that makes Google useful. Have fun folks.
2:03 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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FTR, I had a non zombie day yesterday. Yippee.
3:12 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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GA or not, Chrome is still sending browsing behaviour and still enable competitors to bid for "people like"

Let's just say that few competitors are allowed to bid on "likely buyers" (visitors with high potential to convert) and we are bidding on junk would that not explain the zombie phenomenon ?
5:20 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I personally think the whole GA paranoia is bunk. This whole mess for Mom & Pop type sites is a result of years of competition and the natural evolution of the web towards capitalism. M&P's are clearly being pushed out. Not all, but most. I was an early victim starting to see the decline in 2010. My niche now belongs to well financed startups like Houzz and of course Pinterest. Their listings consist of one-page-wonder articles that rank across a very broad range of terms. LIke FB and eBay were, Pinterest is a "Google Fad" or their flavor-of-the-moment. Eventually they will knock that crap out and maybe we'll rise again, but when I see 3 Pinterest listings in a row on page 1, I figure it's useless trying to compete against their zero-content-image-only pages and huge backlink profile.

Google is wasting their serps on sites that really need no listing in Google. Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, Houzz...all have their own following and large enough audience to survive on their own. When I shop, I don't go to Google first, I go to Amazon first. Same with the rest of those sites that are already household names. Regardless, these well know sites that require no "Google" top their SERPS.
Google is best for finding the obscure...if they decide to list it.

I put GA back and I'm now seeing multiple visits again and two conversions today so far. So, to Dooku and Wjinand I say "bunk"...at least for my site. I think it works differently on sites that are afflicted with other issues more limiting than GA.
5:46 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google is best for finding the obscure...if they decide to list it.

As you said, the whole purpose of a search is to find something that would not otherwise be found. But producing diverse search results cuts into profits so out the window goes the primary function Google's search engine. Fortunately Bing still offers a fair amount of choice but still slants towards favoring big brands. At least the major domain crowding problem and buyer traffic manipulation is not happening in Bing (yet). But sooner or later I fear Bing will too try to load up the first page of the search results with domain crowded big brands to force businesses to buy ads like Google is doing.
7:09 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The bottom line is that adwards bids are way to high for all competitors to make money so high converting traffic may go to a few only to keep them profitable but our problem is that we do not know for sure cause there is no transparency and keeping complaining on this forum will bring no change.
9:13 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, Houzz...all have their own following and large enough audience to survive on their own.


It's never been about survival. It's about growing as large and big as humanly possible. And continuing to grow. That's what drives our race - in my opinion.

When I shop, I don't go to Google first, I go to Amazon first.


I, for instance, don't. Even when I'm searching for specific products I'd like to buy specifically on Amazon, I rather use Google's search because I find it more accurate and I'm more used to reading it than to reading Amazon's search results, plus it's faster

Option #1:

1) Click address bar
2) Type Amazon.com, go
3) Click Amazon search bar
4) Type product name, go
5) Click product name

vs Option #2:

1) Click address bar
2) type product name, go (running a google search from address bar)
3) Click link to Amazon product near the top.

Option #2 provides same results, in two less steps. And hey, maybe I find out about another large store near the top of Google's page #1 that's probably trustworthy and where I don't need to spend 20 minutes on the site reading their policy before I can feel safe buying, while I'm at it? That would be sweet, CTRL+Click those babies for a quick side by side comparison. Thanks Google! You just saved me a few minutes or more - I'll be back.

People using Google for product searches are not using them because they don't know where to buy and are hoping to "discover" something new - I don't want to discover anything, just want to buy as quickly as possible at a trustworthy place that won't require me to do mental work before I feel it's trustworthy to buy there. They just use it out of convenience, because it's faster than actually going to the individual stores. On the other hand when doing information searches, I'm usually looking for more diversity of results - and Google tends to deliver. But I'm not looking for diversity with e-commerce. I'm looking to save time.

Again, just my opinion.
9:43 pm on Aug 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Conspiracy theories about brand preference are crutches and excuses. The excuse that makes me cringe the most is the idea that google is making serps bad to in order to push clicks toward adwords. It's always a little sad to see people spout that last one as if it's a new and original idea. Both ideas are crutches.

I'm kicking Amazon's ass in every direction for ecommerce. My relative smallness is a strength, not a handicap. That's my proof for myself why brand preference and Adwords preference is a load of crutches.

Beyond that all it takes is to step back and review all the millions Google's spending on technology and scientists to advance the science of information retrieval and the picture snaps into focus. Presented against the hard FACT that Google's spending so much on IR technology, the idea that Google is sabotaging organic search to push clicks to Adwords gets pushed into chemtrail land.
1:19 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm kicking Amazon's ass in every direction for ecommerce. My relative smallness is a strength, not a handicap. That's my proof for myself why brand preference and Adwords preference is a load of crutches.

I would not call that proof but instead a personal experience. The zombie, non-converting, fake, bot, irrelevant or whatever synonym traffic one wants to call it is real and is being experienced by a number of people on this forum - most of which are small retailers. For most of us it hit around the same time. And most of us saw a massive spike in converting traffic on August 1st. That's collective proof Google is limiting converting traffic to us, which IMO trumps a personal experience. Whether removing GA will do anything to rid a site of zombies has yet to be proven. But removing GA is not like biting the hand that feeds us when all Google sends is crap traffic.

And are you really kicking Amazon's ass? Ranks don't mean anything. I sell on Amazon too and my Amazon sales are easily dozens of times that of what Google sends, even though my site has great ranks in Google. As it has been said before, Google is redirecting buyers and they have the technology to do it and offer it as a feature in Adwords.
4:25 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sorry if this has been stated before i wasn't prepared to wade through all the conspiracy theories, I'm just going to report what i see.

Ok just what I'm seeing from my data on GA and search console, and comparing it across highs and lows of converting traffic.

On days where traffic is very "bad" and converts terribly, I'm seeing a lot of "clicks" both in console and GA's Search console queries section with search terms containing the plus sign, basically search terms that appear to be using the "broad match modifier" structure. keyword1+keyword2+keyword3+keyword4, but basically every space would be replaced with a +
real long tail terms and terms that this site has rankings on the first page, whether it ranks 10th or higher doesn't seem to matter, when you look at the impressions that those keywords receive the CTR is always very high, which doesn't make sense when looking at the sites above, that 3 impressions and someone has scrolled down to the 10th spot to click on me.

So what are they doing on my site, well from limited data so far it appears that these “visitors” are scraping my content and then reproducing it on other sites, I’ve only run a few results through Copyscape at the moment, but once what was unique content, now appears to be reproduced across on other pages.

Am I 100% sure that it’s this type of traffic that’s responsible for scraping my content, well no but it does seem a little to coincidental, I’m still trying to pin point dates when pages were actually visited and cross reference.

Anyone else seeing these search terms appear in their data via Console or Analytics, when i remove the traffic volume with +'s in the search query I’m seeing conversions as they should be.
7:43 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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QUESTION: those of you that are seeing zombie traffic, do you have tabed content on the page?
8:08 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thats a very good question, those that do have content behind layers and don't have event tracking on that tab, won't see the interaction of the user and it'll appear as a bounce.

Vimes
9:00 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Wijnand schouten - Running a multi account master on Adwords, I have been experimenting with this feature a lot. Even deliberately tried to change the business niche of a small website I use a guinea pig. You what the result is? - Same as before. The notion that Google will be somehow oblivious to what your website is all about when you do not have GA data is baseless, because if that was true, this would have been used by the black hatters to "place" their insurance spam websites on to the second-hand car buy niches years ago. Google knows what your website is with or without GA. Whether they can use the data to fine tune and funnel some potential clients to "more relevant" websites is as much as a conspiracy as a statement can get. Not saying it is 100% not true.

What I am saying is that for the past 6 years of heavy duty SEO and Digital Marketing work for both small and enterprise businesses I have yet to see enough compelling evidence to support your statement. Trust me when I tell you that I have heard C-suits raging over my head that this must be true and that Google is trimming their sales or leads funneling them to websites that they indirectly own. You are not the first to see this by any stretch. What you and they however have in common is confirmation bias.
10:05 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Nutterum

It seems you miss my point. When someone lands on my website i don't want them to be "tagged" and targeted by my competitor with their ad's. Disabling my GA solves this problem for me. It's really simple ... if you want conversion's happening your website, you should not enable competitors to target your visitors so they go elsewhere.... and that is what you do when you have GA enabled.... it's not an opinion, but it's a fact > see:

[support.google.com...]
[support.google.com...]

For those that say that running GA enable's increased rankings .... i don't believe that. Same as for a decrease in rankings or traffic .... but that's not the issue here... the issue is that i want conversions to happen on my website and a first step should be that i keep the visitors where they should be ..... at my website ... we can all agree on that i think?

As a side effect i hope ( yet i don't have solid proof yet ) that stopping GA also disables Google's ability to track my visitor as potential buyer.... Perhaps not with Chrome, but sure with Safari and IE / Edge, because then i have a double win-win. I however don't think they track with Chrome ... they only do this with GA... but's that's a personal thing...

And for what it's worth ... i have seen an increase in conversions for about 25% since last week.
11:48 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Im sure google tags them when they click on your link in the serps anyway.

If they search for coffee (or whatever it is), and click on your coffee site, why would they need GA installed to tag them?
11:58 am on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@londrum , because a large percentage of my traffic isn't via Google, thank god.
12:28 pm on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Day two of resuming GA and adsense...traffic is back and converting at least to some degree. Removing GA and ads, at least in my case, had a very negative impact on traffic. I suppose if they can't peddle ads through your site, why list you. It seems some top secret filter was instantly applied to the site. Like someone else said above, if Google want their data, they'll get it any way they can so why fight it?

One odd observation though...running PIWIK and GA side by side, they numbers don't add up. PIWIK says 1 person on the site, GA says 4. It runs like that all day long.
12:30 pm on Aug 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If they search for coffee (or whatever it is), and click on your coffee site, why would they need GA installed to tag them?

To expand on what Wijnand schouten has said, any visitor that bypasses Google search. This includes traffic from places like social networks, direct visits (in my case often repeat customers) and visitors from referral links.

But there is a lot of Google trackware on the market. Analytics is just one data collection point. Then there is Chrome, Adsense, etc. For a user to slip through a crack in Google's trackware, they almost have to possess skills like a modern day Harry Houdini. However, that does not mean we have to make it easier on Google to remarket our visitors to our competitors. This is a major point of concern, especially to those of us that are seeing crap conversions from a large quantity of Google traffic. Converting traffic is spending somewhere else, and could it be that Analytics is just a trojan horse?
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