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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
3:28 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I read this a few days ago, and it seemed like it might apply in this instance:

Determining a quality measure for a resource
[patft.uspto.gov...]
8:06 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So what you should be talkintg about is the amount of well-targeted traffic.
I think it's important to talk about total traffic levels, as well as well-matched traffic. Traffic quality (and any insight in influencing traffic quality) is important, which means you need to determine total traffic, converting traffic and the proportion thereof.

Our traffic is still converting at roughly the same rate, but the average transaction value has crashed. This means we are getting traffic from different cohorts of users. Which is an important dimension which is not usually discussed here (raw traffic and conversion rate being the preferred indicators).
8:39 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Shaddows that is an interesting point, when I have periods of zombie traffic the very few conversions I do get are for very small transactions. Perhaps frugal and more affluent users are targeted and sent to sites which are switching in between zombie and non zombie traffic (as opposed to informational vs commercial intent).
9:31 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Nutterum - can only confirm 2) and 5)

About media and forum mentions - it seems like that to me too, because the more prominent brands suddenly lost a lot of weight for the main money keywords (especially in today's SERP shakeup of 103 degrees as recorded on Mozcast), but I can't pinpoint it. Even though I feel there's still a whole lot of Penguin 4 going on in this specific vertical, the link profiles are pretty chaotic and there's not a lot of organic competition (in terms of professional work)
10:57 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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how funny?

all stingy users are sent to our sites?
11:50 am on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yesterday (Tue 7th) I saw a huge spike in organic traffic, ~30% over avg, and 18% increase from previous record day in November. It's a Canadian financial-related site. Increases from both Google.ca as well as other search engines.
4:39 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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all stingy users are sent to our sites?
It's not personal.

Cohort A is in the market for $100 goods.
Site X converts A at 42%
Site Y converts A at 38%
Google prefers to return Site X for cohort A

Cohort B is in the market for $1000 goods
Site X converts B at 44%
Site Y converts B at 46%
Even though Site X is better at converting Cohort B than Cohort A, Google prefers to return Site Y for Cohort B.
4:51 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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ok but we bid 20 USD a click to get to the top of results how do we miss cohort B ?

our rankings are high too
5:49 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Significant SERPs changes going on, and i'd have to wait and see if it settles, but traditionally high placed sites appear to have been booted down the SERPs. I haven't had time to analyse it just yet, but it looks like a major shift.
6:04 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Today 8th February 2017.

2 of SE tools are showing high level of fluctuations:

RankRanger = 75

Algoroo = 2.75

It seems those people at Googleplex are really bored and have had nothing better to do during the latest three months than keep rolling out algorithm updates. Stop it now please. Go take a vacation or visit your parents or something :)
6:09 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yep, seeing a lot of my keywords getting the boot from the top of SERP's after having great movements in the last 2 weeks. Hopefully once these settle down they'll improve, but so far, I am seeing a lot of non sensical rubbish in several niches that don't deserve the rankings they've got. Seems like a penguin refresh or something to do with spam or links in general.
6:34 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Things have been going strong since Jan 30, there was slight roll back last week. But yesterday ended just shy of a new record and today is going strong.
7:13 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Can you identify what's changed? panda related, penguin related?

Please theorise.
7:33 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@engine, In my case if I had to choose one it would be more Panda. But I really I have no way of knowing. My boost may well be the result of competitors falling back in the rankings, and they may be impacted Penguin.

One thing that has been different for me (based on GSC stats), my boost on Jan 30th was related to a boost in ranking as opposed to an increase in impression in search, my impressions remained constant and the boost was a result of increased CTR. However, as of February 1st, my rankings were pulled back but the number or impressions increased and the CTR returned to its normal range. I am curious to see what is happened yesterday and today, hopefully GSC will update quickly.

9:20 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Oh my God where do I start?

Just coming out of a session of three hours of zombies, I noticed that 2017 zombies changed patterns in terms of timing but also behaviour so all the awareness webmasters try to bring on this forum just had no result. Website sales will not grow regardless how much quality links and content we produce or how much we would like to bid.
10:29 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu
Interesting post. Do you mind to share it also on the Zombie Traffic related thread [webmasterworld.com...]
Thanks.
10:58 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@reseller

Sorry but staying on topic is not like only talking about penguin and panda. It all depends where traffic comes from. If your sites are getting revenue only from search/adsense then I understand your concern
11:14 pm on Feb 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As of Jan. 24th, our conversions have dropped around 20%. We are getting the same views, but conversions are down. We did mover from one hosting company to the other around that time, yet this was done late at night without a hiccup.

My brother in a totally unrelated business is seeing his conversions down the past 2 weeks by a minimum of 33%.

Scratching my head over here.
3:43 am on Feb 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Our unique visitors and repeating visitors looks the same, it looks good, but no sales. Have not made a sale in days, and having the worst month in 12 years. We have been holding #11 for quite some time. Our wordpress and plugins are current. People aren't buying travel ? is that right? Travel ban? Or is google just sending zombies more often now?
6:56 am on Feb 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Today 8th February 2017.

2 of SE tools are showing high level of fluctuations:

RankRanger = 75

Algoroo = 2.75

I saw it on sales coming in from Google on the 8th. Normally when they do these updates I get a zombie-free day or two. Today (the 8th) was one of those very rare days where Google barely exceeded the consistent conversion percentages of Bing and Yahoo. If the zombie pattern holds true, tomorrow Google will send almost all dead beats that don't browse much or buy anything while Bing and Yahoo remain consistent in sending quality traffic. FWIW, I see no changes in SERP positions in Google - just a short lived improvement in traffic quality that lasted all morning and afternoon only to fizzle out in the early evening.
11:26 am on Feb 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Mobile is certainly in the flux. 1600 keywords in several verticals and 70% or more have changes in their positions.

Waiting a bit more before I can tell anything with high degree of certainty for desktop. But there is a flux alright. No Penguin signs thus far. I think it is more related to adjusting the core seed values of the topic crystals to me. It's core adjustment, for sure, because it affected both, .com and many, many cTLDs at the same time. This happens only if the core "values" of the search queries change.

I think Rankbrain is involved(or evolved?) here.
2:37 pm on Feb 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Although I am tiring of posting the same old same old here, I'll toss in to concur with glakes observation. Not sure what day your are referring to, but the 6th experienced half a day of lucid traffic which ended abruptly in the evening. No serp changes, just a temporary and very obvious improvement in traffic quality. No new social posts to attribute this to either. Just BOOM ON / BOOM OFF.

In a related observation, the next day a particular post article was again seeing HUGE surges in traffic. GA usually hovers around 2 to 10 uniques...well this one page would all of a sudden get 80 to 100 uniques, but all zombies. Every one of these surge visits bounced. That same page has been seeing these surges for the past 6 months. It's not constant as one would expect, but appears to occur randomly and independently of any site actions or social posts. No change in SERPs either.
5:07 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've been monitoring my main keywords since Monday.

I see a completely non-standard float. Right now my main keyword went down to the eighth page, a few hours later it returned to normal.

This has been happening since monday.

Are you noticing the same?
5:11 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Come on Google, sort out the domain crowding! It really wastes a SERP position each time that happens.
5:23 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Seen massive changes in serps again over the past few days. Something has definitely rolled out.
5:27 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A few US members have reported an improvement in traffic quality, including geo-targetting.

Can I ask if that is still the case, as I (in from the UK) am seeing a lot of US ecom, where normally there are plenty of UK-based shops to go round.

I am also seeing Amazon.com outranking Amazon.co.uk on selected (but non-esoteric) searches, which almost never happens.
5:41 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@shaddows I have seen a big increase in traffic over the past two weeks. Based on my GA data I have had 15% from 27 of jan to 9th of feb, as compared to the previous 2 weeks. But when I check my geo stats for the period, there is no change in weighting by area, it remains statistically the same. My site is a US information site, so obviously most of my traffic is in the US.
8:37 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We've had a noticeable increase in Google traffic in the last few days. It started on Monday, and the increases for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday over the previous week have ranged from about 10 to 13 percent.
9:21 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Same here rankings gone through the roof this week, getting more orders but all orders are very small.

Is it safe to assume that ecommerce tracking on so many sites have labelled certain users as stingy and now are being sent to zombified websites?

Sorry I have no information on penguin, panda or rankbrain...
11:11 pm on Feb 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@engine

I really wish they did something about this too. One keyword I'm trying to rank for, our competitor has the top 4 spots same domain!
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