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Google Updates and SERP Changes - January 2017

     
1:39 am on Jan 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 3 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4827670.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 5:19 am on Jan 1, 2017 (PDT -8)


Many of you are familiar with my struggles with Google and our 12 year old site.

After a check of my GA, and noticed tons of referral spam from twitter, reddit, lifehacker etc, I was concerned. Some people told me not to worry about referral spam it doesn't hurt your site.

Well WHERE THERE IS SMOKE THERE IS FIRE!

Couldn't help think about zombie traffic, referral spam, and the current update.

I checked "under the hood" some more and discovered gazillions, yes gazillions of Brute Force Attacks on my wp-login page (we are a wordpress site). This does affect bounce rate, drains servers and who knows what else. It's not good. The December update had to be responding to the Brute Force attacks. Perhaps sites that are being flooded with this type of attack are not welcome very well by the Dec update?

So I installed Wordfence, paid $99 for the year to block countries (sorry this is not meant to be an ad). I blocked the Sh*t out them too, boy did I ever! No Russia, No Ukraine etc.

I redirected the login page too.

Well, I made a few sales last half of December. I really thought I was gonna be at zero when the month started,

So I would recommend to everyone to tighten there firewall. Russia is indeed hacking USA sites. Brute Force Login attempts are through the roof for December. I reckon Google doesn't like it.

Thoughts?

And hope that helps someone....

Happy New Year.

Turns
8:45 pm on Jan 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In my opinion it's very important to always choose your page titles very carefully before you launch the page, and then leave them alone from then on.

I think that, as with most things, it depends.

Constant tweaking may not be productive (and could be counterproductive--who knows?), but it might sense for, say, a guide that's updated annually to be retitled at the time of revision. If I'm a searcher looking for yodeling clubs, a title that says "Yodeling Clubs in Widgetville - 2017" tells me that the search result is likely to be current. Surely the people who run Google Search are smart enough to understand that.
7:29 am on Jan 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I believe that suddenly changing the title of an old page is a big change, likely to be a red flag for google's algorithm that usually causes a temporary drop in rankings and traffic
aristotle... what EG said, plus some further observations. Like you, I've come from a long history of paying meticulous attention to titles. I still think they matter, particularly on new sites, and on competitive terms, product pages, etc.

It started becoming clear, though, around the time Google began rewriting titles, that Google was now evaluating some pages independently of titles. This is not to say that Google's title rewrites would change the rankings, as some felt, but rather that the ranking for a query was determined apart from the title, or only partially by a title, and that the query was affecting which title Google displayed.

About a year ago, I noticed on a site I'd once optimized that the new owner had either completely goofed or thought they were fixing things by changing all my well-optimized titles to exactly the same title for every page... precisely what those of us who know what we're doing have learned not to do.

Much to my surprise, this site kept many of its rankings... not all of them, but many more than I would have supposed. I just checked, and the site has knowledge cards, drop down knowledge panels quoting cited in-depth articles, inline site-links, and top 10 rankings. I know that the new owners have done nothing to build backlinks, so current rankings are largely influenced by a combination of onpage factors and existing or ongoing natural backlinks. If anything, it's odd to me that Google hasn't rewritten the identical titles of these pages in the serps.

I should add that I'm seeing the inline sitelinks on the site as a sign of testing, which could signal an eventual adjustment.

Also, worth noting... the suggestions in autocomplete are more personalized than I've ever seen them.

9:34 am on Jan 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Looks like am no longer getting zombies from google search :) anybody experiencing the same thing?
10:38 am on Jan 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Halaspike - Here's the same. Zombies disappeared from Monday Jan / 16.
12:45 pm on Jan 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As for page titles, in my opinion a properly-chosen title is timeless, and there will never be any reason to change it.

If a page is doing badly in the rankings, and you initially chose a poor title, then you probably have nothing to lose by changing it. But most of my articles are doing pretty well, and I haven't touched them in years, and don't expect to.
10:23 pm on Jan 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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But most of my articles are doing pretty well, and I haven't touched them in years, and don't expect to.

I don't change titles, either, if there' s no reason to do so. But sometimes there is a reason, and one shouldn't let outdated SEO beliefs prevent the exercise of good editorial judgment.
3:22 am on Jan 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sadly still seems like I am on the zombie train here. Keywords seem to be dropping from result #2-3 to result 80+ and then popping back up, even though they are extremely relevant.

Also tried to turn on a test adwords campaign on proven keywords but they still managed to drain my balance without providing anywhere near enough converting traffic.
12:08 pm on Jan 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Seems "best..............." searches now for anything will just show affiliate spam/liar websites with made up reviews for the top 10 whatevers! Awfull results.
5:10 am on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My organic traffic keeps getting worse everyday. What's happening with google? I have no idea, the problem is definitely not from my site tho. This started happening around December 15th of last year.
9:59 am on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Halaspike

This started happening around December 15th of last year.

I think there was a Google Algorithm Update on 15th December 2016 (which Google hasn't confirmed yet). Several WebmasterWorld members (including yours truly) have reported on December and January threads that they remarkable parts of their website(s) organic traffic. As with any other previous Google Algorithm Updates, not all websites on Google index have been affected by the update of 15th December 2016.

Search Engine RoundTable posted on 15th December 2016 a relevant article:
December 15th Google Search Algorithm Update Signals [seroundtable.com...]

IMHO, Google Algorithm Update of 15th December 2016 is "The Father Of All Google Algorithm Updates" because it has included all previous animals and birds signals in the search algorithm.
3:40 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Just today I am seeing less zombies but there is no need to follow any updates on the rankings cause zombies are still active and it seems that the higher the rankings the more zombies we get and also the more money we try to put in ads the more zombies there as well. Any similar thoughts?
4:00 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Seeing the same here. I have had converting traffic for the last 2-3 hours, won't it be a surprise when we all see a sudden drop to zombie land at the same time again? Oh yeah... no.
4:15 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Halaspike @reseller - Here's a weird one for you that most likely goes against the grain. We saw big improvements in organic on the 15th Dec, but then around the 12th Jan, we saw declines again. To confirm, we dont use interstitials or popups. Very strange.
4:23 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@BushieTop we have seen something similar but kind of in reverse. We saw slight drop around the Dec 15, then a pickup around Jan3. A record day Jan 11, 12 and now back down to normal. None of these changes are statistically significant. To confirm, we dont use interstitials or popups either.
5:01 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Just wish to recall some of my observations posted earlier on this thread. Several WebmasterWorld members have posted on current and previous months of this thread:

1 - On/Off conversions pattern.
2 - On/Off ranking of main keywords.
3 - Organic traffic could be productive or non-productive (Zombies).
4 - High ranking of main keywords on Google SERPs doesn't necessary mean boost in productive organic traffic.
5 - Not all website are affected by above 4 points.

I'm still wondering what makes some websites attractive to non-productive organic traffic (Zombies)?
5:11 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@reseller thank you for the list of tautologies
5:31 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Intense organic traffic right now. Very rare for being a Monday.

Someone else?

Tourism, USA
7:24 pm on Jan 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

What is your best guess to what is attracting non-productive organic/adwards traffic? Also do you think it is related to first page results where the big money is or is specific to a website? [webmasterworld.com...]
12:16 am on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Just curious - have we all ruled out HTTPS? Personally, I am not using it but I don't deal with much sensitive information.
8:53 am on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@masterjoe

Some of our sites are on https and still zombies
9:16 am on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@MJ all of our sites are https - still no signs of recovery this morning.

I'm still really frustrated (which, granted, is worth nothing) with the top contenders in our most competitive verticals. Spam wins, EMAT wins. Its incredible. Like we've dialled back to 2012.... So we are now in a psootion where small companies (who can afford to leverage their future) are building thousands of links per week. Its almost unbelievable.
11:59 am on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As things stand the internet eco is unsustainable now. You get affilaite spammers appearing as Featured snippets just because they have a list. If that is the best google machine learning/pigeon update whatever thinks is a good result then there is a big gap in the market right now for a good search engine. It is utter garbage and it is harming consumers... who will fall for these affilaite lairs and is damaging small buisnesses who cannot afford to pay millions of spammers to write fake reviews online!
1:01 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for confirming. I was thinking about making the switch to https but I am done with Googles guidelines. They are pushing it because they know SEO's will do anything for a tiny boost. Same story with AMP, where you can only display adsense (surprise surprise). It's amazing that this isn't a slam dunk in the ongoing anti-trust suit against them.
2:36 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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AMP is not restricted to Adsense ads. There are plenty of networks supported [ [ampproject.org...] ] also, you can always display iframe with ads of your choice.
5:11 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Still in zombieland for 3 days straight now. Adsense and conversions both dropping of a cliff while visitor numbers are at an all time high. Absolutely incredible.

Happens once in a while, but almost never around an update. idk its weird.
5:25 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Ah, guess I was mistaken. Still, the conversions are probably a lot lower with the formatting of original posts being completely stripped off. Anyway, its business as usual... the magical conversion rate I experienced yesterday has halted and now its completely useless traffic.
9:26 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@BushieTop - is your website US based or UK based?

Anything to do with Google's mobile first index?

The curious part for me is in their blog post, where they stated this about the mobile first index:
"We’ll continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and we’ll ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have a great user experience."
[webmasters.googleblog.com...]

The 'ramp up this change' over the coming months is what is making me think that what they've come out with in January, has potentially made their mobile signals much stronger.
10:26 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You may wish to keep in mind this date; 24th January 2017. Maybe a Google Algorithm Update underway :)

I guess there are also happy websites which have been receiving much of productive organic traffic today. Anybody wish to share a happy story :)
11:11 pm on Jan 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu

@reseller
What is your best guess to what is attracting non-productive organic/adwards traffic?

This is not a general reply to your questions, just few thoughts and assumptions. I guess those are websites which have been hit by one or more of Google Algorithm Updates (especially Penguin) and haven't been able to recover regardless of the efforts done to meet Google Quality Guidelines. I also guess the said websites are in a grey zone regarding Google search algorithm. In previous posts I have suggested moving such affected websites to new domains. Of course I might be wrong :)
6:45 am on Jan 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A relevant article from Search Engine Roundtable of 24th January 2017:

Google Update Brewing? Chatter & Tools Point To Algorithm Update [seroundtable.com...]
This 122 message thread spans 5 pages: 122