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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2017

     
11:07 am on Jan 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 8 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4830556.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 4:05 am on Feb 1, 2017 (PDT -8)


Here's something I found happened at the start of January across smaller, medium and massive websites, across verticals, within my GSC account.

I will write down the exact steps you can take to check if this happened with your properties as well.

1.) Timespan last 90 days, select all metrics, group by countries (there is no possibility to write in a country you're looking for so you need to find it manually in the next step)
2.) Sort by impressions descending
3.) If I'm right, most likely you'll see "Unknown Region" within the first 30 results for larger sites (in terms of organic traffic), first 10 for smaller ones
4.) Click on the Unknown Region to filter by that, what you should see is a 10x drop in impressions and a 2x spike in avg. position at around January 4th-5th -> clicks actually remained the same (so CTR rose also through the roof)
5.) This change is maintained and steady for the data I have so far (last day for which I have data is January 29th, because of the GSC delay of course)

Just sharing this 'cause it looks like a wide-spread phenomena, so hoping to get confirmations from others, feel free to report if you found something similar.

One of the questions arising from this observation is: could this be related to the general observation about country of origin traffic shifts that other members noticed (at a later date though, January 24th if I'm not mistaken)?

Another hypothesis that leaped to mind is maybe a SERP tracker or some other major bot that Google started counting out of the equation since this date. I based this on the fact that most of those impressions were evenly spread across queries and the number of impressions per specific query was the same each week.

But let's see if others see this same pattern in GSC
10:42 pm on Feb 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@rustybrick

Just wish to mention that I think both Google Algorithm Update of 24th January 2017 and that of today belong to same new generation of Google Algorithm Updates. The impact of those updates display gradually during the several days (week) to follow the day of rolling out of the update.

As you have noticed, Google has neither announced nor confirmed the update of 24th January 2017 and I wouldn't expect Google to confirm the current update of today. No harm done :)

Since February 2005 when I joined WebmasterWorld, It has always been our community members who have been first to notice and discuss possible changes in Google Search Algorithm. The kind GoogleGuy/Matt Cutts used to confirm those updates later.
12:22 am on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I saw a spike in traffic starting on Sunday evening. Monday was my best day ever, traffic was up more than 20% from the previous week's average and about 12% above my previous record. There has been a bit of a roll back but I am still seeing traffic levels well above average.

I have been seeing short bursts followed by roll back since mid December but this week has been the most thus far. Hopefully this continues.

This is latest spike also coincided with a big change in my links report in SC. Many old links were dropped and many new ones added. So not sure if this spike is systemic or specific.
9:07 am on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We should keep in mind that Panda and Penguin have been integrated in the current Google search algorithm. I.e both updates of 24th January 2017 and of 2nd February 2017 might be related to both quality and backlinks.
10:03 am on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Traffic I reported losing on one of my sites 25-26 of January seems to be coming back. Traffic quality seems to be good too. Some ranking declines for benchmark phrases, so must be getting more long tail, which is all good.
12:27 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Dammit boy!
I've migrated one domain to https on 1st of January and I see -30% in terms of visitors and money.
This is not as expected to be.

All checked.
Few GSC errors, canonical are correct, sitemaps upgraded with ssl, both version in GSC (SSL and NON-SSL).
Redirect is working, so what's wrong. Is google bot scared?
12:44 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I was considering the move to HTTPS but I am also concerned about the traffic loss. I already get low quality traffic as it is, there is no way I am going to risk losing a chunk like that for being a good boy. I'll wait until all the kinks have been worked out or until it becomes a more serious ranking factor before I move.

Also, seems like I am getting average traffic (which is phenomenal compared to zombie days).
1:34 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have experienced decline in Rankings from mid January. There was a recovery (just slight) from 2 Feb. Traffic still 20% from Dec 2016.

But adsense income dived to almost 40% of December 2016 earnings.

Never used blackhat strategies. Don't know why there is a general decline of rankings.
2:49 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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third day in a row huge number of zombies
4:27 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Mentat a move to HTTPS will almost always cause a ranking drop and it lasts for many weeks.
6:24 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A relevant post of Search Engine Roundtable dated Feb 3, 2017:

New Google Algorithm Update Targets PBNs & Links, Penguin Tweak? [seroundtable.com...]
6:27 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I switched my site to https last summer and it didn't impact my traffic at all.
6:43 pm on Feb 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@reseller thanks for sharing the post. Probably explains why my site has been sliding down even without doing a single blackhat action.

Hope the "update" does not penalise innocent sites. Looking forward to recovery
5:23 pm on Feb 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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~ upon closer look, I think I am wrong. Nvm.

[edited by: frankleeceo at 5:38 pm (utc) on Feb 4, 2017]

5:38 pm on Feb 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@zeeeze not using blackhat methods provides zero benefit. Your site is ranked based on the relative quality of the content. And by relative, I mean relative to the content published by your competitors. In other words, you can't just publish half hearted content and then expect to rank because you don't engage in a link buying scheme. And you may have some truly awesome content, but if the users believe that your competitor's content is better, your competitor will outrank you.

Also the post, referred to by reseller, claims that sites using blackhat methods are seeing drops in ranking and traffic while those that don't use these tactics are not seeing much of a change.
9:16 am on Feb 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I can confirm the update of late January on an old big site that was receiving around 300,000 daily visitors from Google. Not sure if it was an algorithm change but instead i think that it was just a data refresh.

On 24th January 2017 i had the famous 'sinister surge' in traffic and since that day the traffic started to stabilize on 410,000 UV, that is nearly a 40% increase.

It was the first time since Nov 16th 2012, aka the "Metafilter penalty", when i had a 40% drop, that my site experiences a change like this. On these four years i never had a bump/drop of this magnitude.

For those not familiar with the Nov 16th 2012 "Metafilter penalty", which was an unconfirmed update, later confirmed on a SMX by Matt Cutts, we talked about this a long time ago:
[webmasterworld.com...]
[webmasterworld.com...]

Of course i couldn't say for sure that this was due to being released from the Metafilter penalty, but since the site never was impacted by Panda/Penguin and any other changes on a noticeable way, i think that this is related with the data refresh.
2:10 am on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The last 10-12 days have been the worst days we've had in 12 years. Tourism Las Vegas. World boycotting USA? Who knows... but we have the same positions but no sales, traffic in half too. Very sad.
2:26 am on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@mboydnv you've said it all man, that's exactly what's happening.
3:00 am on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@mboydnv Conversely I have been having some decent traffic over this period of time. Its nt completely zombie free, but it is significantly better than it used to be last year. My site still only makes half the money it should for the amount of traffic it has.

Renatoviera, would you be able to confirm if your traffic has improved (we seemed to be having similar patterns).
10:36 am on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@masterjoe

My numbers have not improved. Since 20/Jan the falling is being constant and gradual. Yesterday there was a slight improvement, but I believe it was timely.

@mboydnv

I think my patterns are very similar to yours. Between the 20th and the 25th of January things started to get strange.

Tourism, USA
5:25 pm on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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On 2/2/17, I noted that we were seeing two traffic sets, one good, one bad. It looks like big G has settled on the sub-optimal traffic set, but dialled it up to 11.

We're getting an unprecedented concentration of traffic in certain areas. Total traffic is marginally up, but it has taken a huge dive in various sub-sections. Revenue is down fairly substantially.

Lines-per-order and units-per-line have been hit.

It's a pretty substantial revaluation of what type of user would be happy with our site. We seem to be getting shown to consumers more than business, and end users more than Trade.

All of which is bad.

Not moaning, just sharing- this was a big one for us, rolled out 1st Feb
7:47 pm on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Shaddows, that's an interesting point regarding how Google is interpreting types of users. I've been thinking this was a test on a large subset of users. Some getting a "new" set of results, while others seeing the same old results (or close to it). What I've been thinking is a test may be Google actually turning the dial on trying to guess user intent?

Our traffic is flat, but rankings are way up for some searchers. Conversions are relatively flat too.
9:18 pm on Feb 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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different sets of users?

not possible to have a set of users with similar bounce rate who never convert and that goes for hours or days
9:56 am on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Since February the 1st Google is not showing in mobile serps the URL for the mobile version for many sites. Its showing the desktop URL instead.

For example, if you search for "Ikea USA" you get www.ikea.com/us/en/ instead m.ikea.com/us/en/. Same for Macy's or Zalando in Europe,

Did you noticed?
1:11 pm on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Three things over the past two months that have reflected heavily in February. Helped launch the new versions of two top traffic website in their respective niches. Few observations:

1) The December algo change is real - many related keywords were stripped from the two websites by Google. Direct synonyms and the likes.
2) keyword in domain name gained heavy in terms of search query relevance
3) Brand positioning was stripped in a sense that only the core business was left.
4) Non-SEO created backlinks like forum mentions and media articles lost their weight, as if these links "expired"
5) Mobile gained heavily where non-mobile friendly websites (read the competition in my case) lost many positions.
4:48 pm on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Nutterum

Seeing the same thing.
5:05 pm on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Whatever happened over the last 2-3 days has put me back on the zombie train. Same traffic, zero conversions. I can't see that domain authority has been given less weight because I still see articles which just mention a keyword here and there get ranked very highly, as opposed to smaller niche sites with much more significant content. I do suspect that keywords in the domain have been given more weight, because I see a lot of exact matches (which are spam) get ranked and then go down slowly, presumably because Penguin starts devaluing the links and they lose their fake authority.
5:06 pm on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm noticing something I hadn't seen before that's pushing organic listings down even further, at least for question-based queries. It's a box that gets included under the ads and under any featured snippet that says "People Also Ask." For instance a search for Who Makes the Best Snow Blower produced results that showed two ads (one with images), a snippet from a website and then the People Also Ask box, that had several related questions (ie, what is a snow blower?) If you click on any of the related questions, you get another website snippet. Result.. all the traditional search results are pushed way, way down the page.
5:34 pm on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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SERPs movements again in our vertical. We're seeing some recoveries from previous penguin casualties and some domain crowding. Spam STILL having a huge positive impact.
10:14 pm on Feb 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So far, approximately 1/4 of my traffic from Google' search engines still had a referrer (with the parameters and so on). And today, all these referrers are gone. 100% of visitors from Google shows the "default" referrer (Google's main URL).
1:58 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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people keep talking about the total amount of google traffic to their sites, but what actually matters is the amount of well-targeted traffic. If most of the traffic is poorly-targeted mis-matched traffic, that traffic isn't worth much. So what you should be talkintg about is the amount of well-targeted traffic.
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