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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
7:14 am on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hey, guys!

I`m reading this forum for a very long time, but last week kicked my websites hard and I registered to post this message. One of my websites (IT topic, 7 years, 108k/month, majority of traffic - US, GB, India, Australia) was kicked by Google filters in 2014. All 2015 year I was doing a lot of tech fixes, correcting on-page SEO, I added +30% of great quality content. In 2016 it was recovered from all filters after Google Penguin Live update.

Since then everything was going fine - my traffic was increasing all that time - I have +200% organic for last 6 month. I want to repeat - I made a lot of technical fixes and just was adding a new GREAT QUALITY content (I`m sure for its quality for 100%, it`s very well studied IT manuals).

All further updates were giving me only traffic increasing and nothing more, and everything was good. I want to mention - I DIDN`T USE ANY BLACK methods (I only purchased 1 or 2 packages on BLACKHAT forum about 2 years ago and since then I realized that black techniques is just a harm my website and never used them again).

But... after 7-th February update my traffic decreased for 12% and it keeps going down. It`s only Google organic, Bing, Yahoo and others source of traffic are keep increasing).

Please, guys, share some opinion - why this could happen? Could this be due to flux that is happening right now? Will it roll back or I need to realize that now this is my destiny and I can’t do nothing? :) I will be very glad for your opinions.
8:13 am on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@cyril

Sounds like natural selection, the bigger fish always eats the small fish

Adding quality content is not a big deal if you do not get a lot of links and shares and same subject content people find on the bigger fish websites, instead of adding content try create content that no one has
9:04 am on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@sench The same scenario here. The content on my site is clearly more quality than those posted by the bigger sites (some of their posts consists of only two short paragraphs).

Have not used blackhat methods but my site just keeps getting penalised by the day. Though my site is one year old, but the quality content was holding up really well... till the last two months when it started to lose ground against the older more established sites.

Is Google giving top priority to the established sites, putting content quality aside
10:09 am on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu +

Thanks for opinion, but in that case why did I start to lose traffic only now? Why all previous updates were giving me more and more traffic? In this case - all the things I was doing before was good for Google and now, suddenly, I started to make bad things and was penalized? It doesn`t make sense to me and to Google job...

About my content - I`m always publishing UNIQUE QUALITY CONTENT (I mean that I know what I`m talking about, it`s not a content from "writers" from BlackHat forum). I`m pasting cool specific IT guides (deployment, powershell etc.) with unique free scripts for visitors, unique IT guides on how to manage corporate network etc.

One of the biggest IT websites, that is look similar to mine, is having the same scenario - <snip big fish site> ("the bigger fish" as you mentioned). All that time traffic from Google was increasing for this website (as mine too) and now suddenly it stopped to rise and begin decreasing after Monday, 7-th February (in this time I`m reading here that webmasters see an INCREASE actually).

You can see this pattern fro this "the bigger fish" on Semrush:
<snip semrush link>

All this things just make me angry, because they are absolutely UNLOGICAL from Google side.

[edited by: goodroi at 12:41 am (utc) on Feb 12, 2017]
[edit reason] Please no site specifics as per forum charter [/edit]

10:30 am on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@cyril

It takes a few months after many CTR computations to get credit for a piece of content and from what you are saying you are competeting with serious big fish.

I personally do not take on big fish with same content even if it is unique and higher quality but try to build content that they do not have and go after high CTRs with it, this seems to help your related content that you trying to out rank big fish.
3:55 pm on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Cyril_TechWebistes if you have had a 200% increase in traffic over the past few month I wouldn't stress too much about a 12% correction. Rome wasn't build in a day. Competing in a very competitive niche is not an easy task and from what you describe you seem to be doing okay. So keep up the good work and don't stress.

As for the Semrush data, be very cautious basing any kind of decisions on it. This type of data tends to be inaccurate. If I look up my website data, it is off by several orders of magnitudes. If compare it to Similarweb data, which is equally as spurious, the <snip big fish site> graph looks completely different, it shows steadily declining traffic.

[edited by: goodroi at 12:43 am (utc) on Feb 12, 2017]
[edit reason] Cleaning up site specifics [/edit]

4:40 pm on Feb 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS +

Thanks for your words, I really know that at overall my website is OK, I`m keep rising. I made a lot of work to keep this website rising and it seems to be the main thing, that makes me angry in case of even 1-2 week of non-increasing trend. I realize, that I just want a lot and in a moment! :)

I don’t believe Semrush for 100%, but (it`s my opinion) – Semrush is the most accurate online tool in world internet, that can give you some near trustful information about the website traffic if you don`t have access to its Analytics (at least you can get some understanding of what the website is).

Just checked Similarweb data for my website and it doesn’t show any negative trend (but of course, its visitors data is inaccurate too).

I just hate when you are working hard and someone kicks your business after that (and Google actually must be some kind of judge for webmasters, isn’t it?). I have another small website (gadgets, IT guides, 50k/month), I`m pasting some new content on it (but it is not the main goal for me and I`m not working hard on it) and don’t do any additional work. And this website is GROWING (and after that update too, +6%). That’s unfair from Google side, are you agree?
11:30 am on Feb 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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30K a month has gone to 15K a month.

Thats how hard I have been hit with this update. Spent last 2 years improving the entire site and spent well over $30,000 on site. Have no popups no adverts just some amazon links... fresh content added 3 times a week every week for past 4 years. Feb the 7th I got hammered, Why ? i dont know ..maybe my site does not have enough adverts ? not enough popups ? ...The problem with this model of business is you can spend a lot of time on something and it ends up all turning to nothing. Its a horrible place to be..lucky i have a second job.. I feel for others without that luxury... Just imagine doing your house up for a year or two, spending loads of money on it.. then finding out your house is now worth 30% less than when you started.. This is how bad things are with this business model DEPRESSING
11:54 am on Feb 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I notice a nice improvement since 2 days. The same kind I've observed last November. Better quality trafic (measured by the number of page views by visitors, and the time they stay on these page, and adsense income is finally returning to the normal, after 10 days very low).
12:03 pm on Feb 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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same here Dimitri, absolute same scenario + i got even same conversions as November.

mostly in my scenario these are directly tied to ranking for the main money keyword, which also spiked this way last time in November

imho, from what I could analyze, it's the continuation of Penguin that's obviously working with a lot of data and slowly getting to every corner of the web. I might be wrong, but worth a more detailed check
12:18 pm on Feb 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I sympathise with a lot of people here. We are planning a complete site redesign, which has had £££ on R&D and it worry's me that we are in a lose, lose situation. Hopefully the drastic changes i am making to our site will have a huge positive gain. I'd like to release the main changes gradually, but our decline is forcing my hand. It seems in our industry, without spending £20k per month on links, you wont dominate. Whilst good quality UX, performance and content are factors, links rule this market without question.

Whats worse is that some of our smaller competitors have begun to realise this, give that this has been the status quo since June last year. We're now getting overtaken by companies that operate out of their bedroom and whos sole marketing strategy is to go out an buy links from mummy bloggers and directories in high volume. i agree, its depressing. It feels completely rigged.

System

4:04 pm on Feb 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The following message was cut out to new thread by goodroi. New thread at: google/4835844.htm [webmasterworld.com]
11:54 am on Feb 13, 2017 (utc -5)
9:43 pm on Feb 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@BushieTop "We're now getting overtaken by companies that operate out of their bedroom and whos sole marketing strategy is to go out an buy links from mummy bloggers and directories in high volume."

Nothing wrong running a business from home. I always thought buying links was a no-no with Google, but now it sounds like a good idea. Thanks for the tip.
6:41 am on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm just shocked of what is happening. My website loosing keywords day by day after 7-th February update, the website lost 20% of traffic and keeps going down. My second website begin decreasing from yesterday too. It's just some kind of magic... Everything was great for last half year and now Google decided that I have a bad websites... As I can see from other forums, a lot of webmasters loosing their traffic too due to this update - more than 20-30% in different niches...

My stat are horrible - av. time on site decreased for 20%, pages per visitor stay on place. Like I`m receiving a non relevant traffic after this update.
7:09 am on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm not seeing the point of this update either. I have added loads of fresh content that is well written and researched and have had natural as well as some hand built links pointing to the site. Nothing outrageous or spammy, but it seems like my website got a good drop after this "update". It looks like rankbrain is having a meltdown because the serps are terrible, its taking a lot longer to find what I'm looking for now because the results aren't very focused on exactly what I search for... more like what it THINKS I am looking for, which is really annoying.
8:14 am on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Here is a relevant post from Search Engine Roundtable dated Feb 13, 2017:

February 7th Google Algorithm Update Was Big [seroundtable.com...]
8:37 am on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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reseller +

Yes, you can read a lot of comments on this Seroundtable post even with screenshots of decreases after update. Something big happened I think.
10:42 am on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Coincidentally enough, I posted on another thread that we used to get funny referral shifts just before a major update, but none for a while. And then we got serious traffic disruption from Feb 1st, with a major update generally acknowledged on the 7th.

This data is from 1st onwards...

Traffic is flat (looks down but within variance for 9 weekdays of data- might call it slightly down as confidence level increases)
Transactions are up more than 5%
Ave Value is down more than 20%

The landing pages are significantly different to previous.
Bounce rate is up
Cart abandonment is up

This is a really, really substantial shift in traffic profile.

I'm not sure if it's a Query Intent change. Or a website bucket change. Or a traffic distribution methodology change (think "wear levelling" to avoid feast-or-famine result of SERP lottery).

But it's a change. And it's big.
11:20 am on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I didnt notice anything new on Google.fr by the way ...
12:10 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@shadows

Same here rankings and transactions are up but all small, I only see this as result of ecommerce tracking profiling.
Also is there any chance that you can find out what is the turnover of your competitor that you suspected it has fake customer reviews?
12:13 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm not sure if it's a Query Intent change. Or a website bucket change. Or a traffic distribution methodology change (think "wear levelling" to avoid feast-or-famine result of SERP lottery).

The 8th of February conversions from Google spiked and have dropped back to zombie quality levels since. It's typical for me to see normal conversions from Google on the day a major update occurs then it always returns to zombies. My page views are up slightly (.3), but nothing to boast about.
6:40 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Feb 7 "update" looks more like a panda refresh to me. While my site traffic did increase slightly, I am sad to see the fake review markup spam doing very well in the SERPs again. At this point Google is just making me feel bad for not putting up 200 fake 5 star reviews on every page of my site.



[edited by: not2easy at 4:39 am (utc) on Feb 15, 2017]
[edit reason] see charter [/edit]

7:32 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I quit the game because some sites are misusing luck.

What's weird are sites with some urls on the first page.

Right now the first page is as follows:

1º Place: Competitor 1
2º Place: Competitor 2
3º Place: Competitor 2 with another URL
4º Place: Competitor 3
5º Place: Competitor 4
6º Place: Competitor 4 with another URL
7º Place: Concurrent 4 with another URL
8º Place: My site
9º Place: Competitor 5
10º Place: Competitor 5 with another URL

It's hard enough that way.

PS: I was on the eighth page. I returned to the first only today.

And these spam sites? It's not fair to us (webmasters) and to the Google users.

This has been happening since February 7.

Google, fix this! :)
7:54 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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5º Place: Competitor 4
6º Place: Competitor 4 with another URL
7º Place: Concurrent 4 with another URL

creating shortage of space it is called, I have a feeling that in two years time there will no free listings any more
7:58 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In almost all cases that I see domain crowding, it is only for a short while during an update, and gets sorted out. Do others see lots of domain crowding that just sticks around?
8:14 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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yes, domain crowding sticking around for 3 months now
Europe, entertainment
11:32 pm on Feb 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I could never expect such a behavior by Google. My traffic is now 40% lower than the same period of last month, and this happent since 7th February. My traffic kept growing until now for a year, but now suddenly down, this could kill my website after years of work.

Quality content added everyday, we are an eng information blog in Google News, never bought links, all natural. Google doesn't understand for many people this is a job and they live with it. We can't trust this, it's not possible to work online without injustices, even relyin on Google. Deeply disappointed
1:36 am on Feb 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Many webmasters and founders of quality websites have invested years and long hours into building quality content.

Like many others, I have relied on My website for a living. This unexpected punishment and drop in traffic is causing a serious threat to my income.

If I had used black hats or link buying, or any other illegal methods, at least I know what to remedy.

The problem is that there is no explanation.

To devalue (push my site ranking down) my site after one year plus of increasing traffic is inexplicable. To suddenly witness the traffic dropping uncontrollably really hurt.

There are too many duplicate results hoarding the top spots.

Yes I am in the entertainment niche and sites do not need to dominate the first three spots of a search, when their content is just a few lines long.


[edited by: not2easy at 2:36 am (utc) on Feb 15, 2017]
[edit reason] see charter [/edit]

5:52 am on Feb 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I want to add some important (as for me) thing. When guys from Google started to fight black SEO methods it was great: after well-known 20**-x algorithm updates all websites, that were using black SEO tanked very hard.

Google employees announced, that they are fighting with these black SEO methods and it was understandable for webmasters (I mean why they were tanked). We all begun to make some changes to help our websites – we all knew where is the problem and we DID understand what we were doing wrong.

But I want to mention one important thing – right now (after some updates experience) thousands of webmasters decided to follow Google quality guidelines (use quality content, natural links etc.) to compete in SERP from that time. We started to create a GREAT content for people, we stopped buying links and clean our link profiles, we started to make a lot of fixes to make our websites work faster, be easier to navigate for users etc.

But after 7-th February update Google DIDN’T say a word. We all know, that they are reading this thread and other SERP related forums. I saw a lot of screenshots, which shows that after all previous updates webmasters had increasing traffic all time for their TOTALLY WHITE HAT websites and now tanked in a moment. Their websites were created and functioning using GOOGLE QUALITY GUIDELINES.

Why we lost 50% of our money and what can we do now? Because, as I understand, Google quality guidelines is NOTHING, it’s not important to follow Google quality guidelines – they just mean nothing.



[edited by: not2easy at 7:27 pm (utc) on Feb 15, 2017]
[edit reason] see charter [/edit]

6:43 am on Feb 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Don’t keep silence, we are all getting mad and angry because of your silence (we begin to think that you are just simple cheaters!).


I think that reality is that with Panda, Penguin, all the other "quality" crap and trying to be the "police" of the internet Google messed things up so badly that they no longer have their own search engine under control. Be honest ... Google is no longer a good search engine ... Actually I have been usin Bing and DuckDuckGo myself often lately.

Also Google should stop stealing our photos and bandwidth in image search. It's theft, it's wrong ... everybody knows it. A real honest search engine managed by a clean company wouldn't do such a thing. To me this fact illustrates how low Google is going and I completely lost my trust in this company and its search engine.
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