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Google Updates and SERP Changes - December 2016

     
9:52 am on Dec 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 11 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4824428.htm [webmasterworld.com] by goodroi - 1:19 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (utc -5)


Maybe we wish to keep focus on the important observations posted on this thread:

1 - On/Off conversions pattern.
2 - On/Of ranking of main keywords.
3 - High ranking of main keywords on Google SERPs doesn't necessary mean more organic traffic.
4 - Organic traffic could be productive or non-productive.
5 - Judging of present and past posts on this thread, It seems not all website are affected by above 4 points.

I think that Google bright engineers know exactly what they are doing with Google algorithms, and I can imagine Googlers are aware of above 5 points reported on this thread.

As such, I suggest we start looking at those sites affected by some/all the first 4 points mentioned above, and discuss for example what those websites have in common and what could be the reason behind that those sites are affected?

Thanks and God bless.
9:55 am on Dec 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mboydnv I am in the same boat with the filtering thing. No matter what keyword or how much effort I put into a piece of content I cannot go beyond position 11 and just hover around page 2.
Even vogue has liked some of my content and linked to me but even their expert views arent good enough.....complete fix.
10:36 am on Dec 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

at least 70% of websites are affected by the 4 points you mentioned but the webmasters do not know, it is called natural selection or collateral damage if you like...

Who knows how much the traffic is worth and where it goes?
4:25 pm on Dec 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu

Lets assume that 50% of websites on Google index are affected by the 4 points I mentioned. Thats still leaves us with the 50% of websites which aren't affected. In an attempt to understand (and maybe find a solution to the issue) we end asking ourselves the important question: what have the affected websites in common?

As to point 2 of my previous post (2 - On/Off ranking of main keywords.) I just wish to mention for the record that I/we have already discussed identical issue already in 2005!
I used the term "Rotating Algos" to describe the issue of fluctuation of ranking. Please view my posts on this thread of June 2005 [webmasterworld.com...]
8:40 pm on Dec 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

I agree with you we need to share what our sites have in common but we should not pull our hair over security issues and other stuff.

For example we have analyzed a new launched site in the same industry. Everything different company, ips, ownership etc. Regardless how much the owner spent they will not get sales more than 1500 a day. Some days they have spent 3000 and sales were still 1500.

Saturation is the problem. The more competition the less money the long term adwards spenders make. Result is lower bid per click. No point building a pyramid on a weak foundation.

Rest of us and God help you if are new get only junk. I would like to refrain from defining what this junk really is.
12:37 am on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I noticed some chatter on the 10 November and again around the 17th of the Month. It seemed like some people were spotting large fluctuations.

Three of our sites seemed to get demoted / penalized on 17 November.

All three followed the same pattern:

1. The domain names are partial EMD e.g. "buybobswidgets.com"

2. All three were on page two of the google results in competitive niches for their main home page keyword and its variations, e.g. "online widgets", "best online widgets", "online widgets uk" etc.

3. On the 17th for those main home page targeted keywords they plummeted to page 7 / 8.

4. Sites have varying age.

All other rankings for inner pages have held up.

I have found one other webmaster who has experienced something similar in the same niche but in a different language and country.

We have a theory that this is related to a google EMD update. That google is demoting sites that appear to be over optimizing their link anchors if part of those anchors are present in the URL.

Our second theory is that what we saw is a culmination of links being devalued and some sort of index update went live and we just saw a "natural" slip because of links devalued in the index.

Trying to see if anyone else has spotted this pattern. Pulling our hair out.

Really trying to work out if we have an issue with over optimization of anchor text which would be surprising because many of the ranking sites are going hell for leather on exact match anchors.
1:30 am on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Reseller --
In my opinion it's not a productive use of time to always be watching the hourly ups and downs of a site's traffic. I learn more from looking at monthly charts. Monthly data smooths out the short term fluctuations, and a month-to-month chart shows the long-term trends, which are what really matter.
6:29 am on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If you aren't happy about Google business policy, please share your opinion in our Google Finance & Business section [webmasterworld.com...] and keep this thread on topic :)


I posted a long and detailed post about Google business policies in the Business section and it never saw the light of day.


Regarding the on/off traffic people are seeing. we are seeing that as well. Retail, USA, niche market, Penguin hit. (We've been on an NSEO spam drip for a while, about 5-10 bad links per week for years. Over 900 domains disavowed and counting).

Near the end of October things started to pick up and I thought we were finally going to take off post Penguin. Then things crashed again like pre-Penguin. Funny thing is, numeric ranks are at an all time high using rank checking tools, they are higher than they have ever been for competitive keywords, and holding steady. But the conversions don't match the rankings. If you go from #14 to #7 for many competitive words, why do you get 1/4 the conversions from before? That makes no sense.

Also, orders turn on at a certain time, like 11AM, then boom, boom, boom, orders every few minutes then Google decides we've had enough for the day and cuts us off an hour later. Not one more sale the rest of the day. Next day? Same pattern. A rapid fire window then dead the rest of the day.

I want to guess that this is AI related, since machine learning does what historically works best, then does occasional experiments to question the existing assumption. See: [en.wikipedia.org...] But what doesn't make sense is why these experiments would run all at once in an hour long window, rather than affect 1% of the queries all of the time, which would be less disruptive.
1:20 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If you guys are running ecommerce sites and are collecting customer reviews than it is very easy to see how much zombie traffic you are receiving and how much similar size competitors receive if at all... Looking at some similar sites and the their number of reviews can be 10 times greater? Can you imagine that?
1:29 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I haven't been active here for a few months now, mostly just to take a break from my website and also from speculating about traffic. I've been monitoring sales and traffic the last 2 weeks, and things have been extremely jumpy... noticing far worse "zombie" patterns than before. Absolute ZERO days, to days where I make up for all that I lost. Yesterday, for the first time I also noticed an extreme traffic reduction (about 60%), which I simply can't attribute to anything. We'll see if it holds true today and the weekend, I am hoping this is just because of holiday fluctuation in the states.
4:32 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mj - it's supposed to work the other way around on holidays. No need to speculate, the MO is clear. Regardless of dozens of top 3 Google SERP listings, the lions share of converting traffic is now coming from Bing, Webcrawler and paid social media (FB ads). The exception is for brief, sporadic non converting bursts from Google. Connect the dots.
Expect 25 billion+ next quarter.
10:33 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It seems that most websites which are affected by one or more of the 4 points I mentioned have been hit by one or more of Google updates. Also it seems that affected websites might have different ages.

Its true that webmasters have no influence on Google algorithms and Google updates. However its also true that webmasters have 100% control on their own websites and can make changes and improvements to those websites as they wish.

I think we may wish to focus mostly on the affected websites and discuss and maybe find ways to bring those affected websites back in business.

Maybe we need a fresh brainstorming session to discuss observations and suggest solutions no matter how crazy they might sound :) . In this connection I'm wondering whether moving affected websites to new domains might help.
11:40 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Also, orders turn on at a certain time, like 11AM, then boom, boom, boom, orders every few minutes then Google decides we've had enough for the day and cuts us off an hour later.
I've seen several very clear illustrations of what lightnb is describing. This could well have nothing to do, though, with throttling, zombies, or Google rationing.

It's the nature of some queries and purchases that they occur at certain times of day, or days of the week, and correlations can be made quite precisely... at least on the scale of large amounts of data. I'm not at liberty to reveal particular product niches, but with some patterns the nature of the niche area is a strong part of the searcher interaction.

Separate from my comments above... but having to do with drop-off over months or years... there are also products that are simply no longer searched much in the US, or at least whose demand has dropped off notably. In some cases you can check this out in Google Trends, which only is useful when there's lots of data. In some of these cases, you can also see a shift from the US to other countries. So a consumer item that was once popular in the US, because of changing demographics might now show a shift to, say, India.
1:02 am on Dec 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I would like add a few points here as well:

How reliable are rank checking tools given that the "typical" Google serp no longer exists due to multitude a variations that exist such as mobile search, with amp, without amp, with images, with knowledge graph, ads on top, ads on the bottom, Google shopping, and on and on. So the question how can you interpret the value that returned by these rank checking tools.

What is keyword? With rank-brain and humming bird the focus is far more on user intent and semantics then it is on the exact matching of words typed in the search field. So again how are the rank checking tools accounting for this?

The only ranking tool that I can think of that can potentially provide some kind of idea of position is the Search Analytics" in GSC and this is only in the case where you have traffic coming from a relatively narrow range of search terms, a lot of data, and you look at it over wide time frame, and most importantly only view at the highest level of aggregation essentially the avg.position figure.

@lightnb in the period where you went from #14 to #7, what did GSC show as an average position over those to periods?

From November 11, to 17th I saw increase in traffic, the increase was mostly from mobile devices. After the 17th this boost seem to have rolled back. This seems to coincide with what was reported by SER, that there was some testing of the mobile only index followed by a roll-back. So if I go back to GSC, it shows that I had 9% increase in clicks from search, 7% increase in impressions and 4% drop in position (that is positive as position 1 is most desirable) and this coincides with what I have seen in terms of increase traffic in GA and revenue from Adsense.
6:26 pm on Dec 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

a 301 ideally should sort out the problem but some have have tried and said no success, if anyone has experience with a 301 it will be great to share

out of curiosity can you guys watch a video of these zombies journey ? even a free trial from luckyorange.com will give some insights. To me they do not make sense
1:54 pm on Dec 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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< moved from another location >

Seeing drop in rankings for all long tail keywords but sales are up by 50%


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:33 pm (utc) on Dec 3, 2016]
[edit reason] moved post to this thread [/edit]

10:16 pm on Dec 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu

Yes... it would be very interesting to hear from WebmasterWorld members who have tested moving their affected websites to a new domain.
10:32 am on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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a rollback now? (western europe)
2:53 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Moving website didn't do anything. When did this all start for most of us? 2011 or 2012? Seemed like something was manipulating how sites ranked and what the searcher saw in results? How many of us saw Russian and Ukraine IPs, links etc. Google never said much at all about it. Now look at the information in the news the last 2 months in the US. You see anything familiar? 2012 and 2016
7:52 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mirrornl
it seems so

@awarn
any conclusions? notices? please share
9:05 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Awarn

Moving website didn't do anything.

Would you be kind to elaborate more. Thanks.
9:56 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Awarn

not sure moving site means 301 to a new url, you are right about 2011-2012 when zombies stated to take over
10:14 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just wish to recall Matt Cutts replying to a question at SMX June 2013 which might be of relevance to our current discusion:

Q: All penalties have a timeline from 48 hours to months. What’s the maximum?

Matt Cutts: “They can go pretty far. For total horribleness, the penalty can stay until the domain expires.”
11:28 pm on Dec 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I tried with a totally new domain, new server, different owner. It ranked but only made to page 2. There was no 301 involved. I also tried switching from a custom site to more a packaged eCommerce site. I questioned if the cart or duplication was the issue on the old site. I addressed this as well. That made it to position 11. I have tried increasing load time with both server improvements and code improvements. It was definitely fast, Now one thing I notice is I have 10K products. The Structured data works. I am positive. Yet only 600 products show in GSC as having structured data. We had a large customer base. We always sent out a monthly email. It is a joke that it is the magic email. It doesn't matter what is said in the email but sales really fly in when it hits. So that tells me people want the products and the site works but obviously they can't find us.

I have thought for some time that this doesn't add up. There are some smart people here who I am sure can regularly get a site on page one. What if there are terms that spammers hit. Google may not be able to control the results like they want so do they place the sites on page one and page 2 and beyond are the natural organic results? Google would not want it known if there was an outside source affecting the results. Look at a graph of Google's revenue source over the years. Advertising was king but went flat after 2011. Now the movement is in licensing and other revenue. That is a little vague but we all know Adwords is not too good anymore.

I have never sold anything in Russia or the Ukraine but I saw a lot of activity from Russian IPs in the logs. It never made sense. The only reason why they might be there was to hack and try to get customer data. I couldn't really even talk to people I know about it because you sound like a nut saying oh yeah the russian hackers are hitting my site. But then this election and they bring up supposed attacks on databases. Personally my reaction was - doesn't surprise me at all. 2011 may have been the start of where a party or government was trying to influence the people of other nations. Look, was Brexit expected or was it a shock? Could information have influenced voters? Look at the US election. Was there information that could have influenced things? If results were being manipulated and you were Google would you announce that? How would you make the SERPs look somewhat normal? Does that match what we see?
12:02 am on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Awarn

Nice to hear your experience:

10 000 products is a lot have you created unique content for each product? Like at least 200 unique words?

Ukrainian/Russian traffic generally is ghost traffic abusing the google analytics id on our sites.
12:15 am on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

Intresting a penalty to last forever but is a bit out of touch

Zombies seem to atack long established sites where certain levels of traffic have been always in place and it becomes suspicious if the traffic disappears

New sites get no organic zombie traffic at all but still do get lots zombies if pushing it in adwards

Which takes me back to the "a saturation problem"
7:10 am on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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While we are talking about moving your current affected website to a new domain. Here is a very interesting video of Matt Cutts "Changing your website's domain name" [youtube.com...]
7:15 am on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Awarn

Thanks for generous feedback. Much appreciated.
9:44 am on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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10 000 products is a lot have you created unique content for each product? Like at least 200 unique words?


we have more than 10.000 products online. A lot of them are similar and have only different lenght a.s.o. We put this items on one page with one description and put a canonical tag on the items pages. Product description is as far as it can be very descriptional to the point that we don´t blow it up with unrelated stuff. Instead we put much effort in EAT. We see some very good results for this pages and we are in many cases on page one.
But this all means nothing as google is manipulating the queries in a silly way. Keywords in our niche produce serps that are useless like searching for cars and get planes.

Also the 200 word magic treshold is somthing that webmasters should ignore.
We see website outranking us with 10% of description ( like this: "This is a usb cabel A to B" ). Maybe it fullfills the needs of the customers. Who knows?
Menawhile i think that a small well written description with NO SPEELING ERRORS are much more worth than a 200 words essay with some spelling errors.

Finally we changed our minds and checked the needs of our customers. Why sould they buy in our shop and not at amazon? Or why are they shopping in other shops and not ín ours?
This made of think of some technical solutions to give the customers an easy way to shop. Up to now it works. It means a lot of work with changing even small things. We still see heavy up and downs but we have more returning customers.

To play googles game is very risky. They have all the data to route users, change their "minds" and manipulate them. As long as there is no political intervention this will continue.
11:10 am on Dec 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

great suggestion on 301 but we are battling zombies so not sure if anyone have tried a 301 and escaped the zombies
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