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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
9:40 am on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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studies suggest it was Phantom


yet we see big updates on monday nights since 07 Feb.
Interestingly is that we see large drops in quality traffic but see a lot of bots starting crawling our sites on monday nights.
From monday 5pm you can see quality traffic slowly shrinking to 12pm. At 12pm til 7am we only see garbage coming form google.
This is the third time. It takes 2 days to get back to normal quality levels.


Side note: Amazon is now much more present in our niche. You canīt find a result set where amazon does not occupie 1 to 7 slots. I realy canīt see anything good for users, except to pay more attention to GSA.
10:49 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

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With all due respect....lets forget all about Phantoms and Batt-mans :)

Because as during the past years, we have ended talking about Google Algorithm Updates which are more or less related to two types:

- Panda: related to quality

- Penguin: related to backlinks

As you might have noticed, webmasters/SEOs communities have enough qualified resources to observe, identify and discuss new Google Algorithm Updates without the need for Google Search Quality Team assistance :)
5:36 pm on Feb 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Very very weird action today. Google traffic plummeted 50% for 2 hours, and then shot back up to even better than normal at about 9:35 Pacific.
6:34 pm on Feb 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Guys, anyone seeing recovery?

My websites started recovery for 3-rd day after disabling irrelevant links from Amazon (which were pasted 3-x time in every of 670 posts content automatically with certain keywords using WP Auto Affiliate Plugin – altogether about 1800 links).

Had -15% drop since update, now around -8%. Traffic keep slowly increasing on both of my websites day by day.
12:10 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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no recovery here in terms of traffic.still 30% down.

System

1:02 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This thread is for Google SEO updates. Let's keep the Adwords conversation in the Adwords forum :)

Off-topic comments will be deleted or moved.

The message was cut out to a new thread at: Temporary Zombie Traffic When Logging into Adwords? [webmasterworld.com]

[edited by: goodroi at 2:19 pm (utc) on Feb 23, 2017]

5:31 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Search traffic is still low (30-40% reduction), even after adding thousands of words of painstakingly researched and edited articles online. This feb 7 update did not target "thin content", because my properties are anything but. I have however seen a few reports of people saying that after removing ads they were seeing an increase in rank. If anyone is willing to test this theory, please let us know how it goes.
5:44 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In my experience, thin content does not matter. It's how useful your content is. You can have the longest article in the world with the most details of anything out there. But, do most searchers want that info? In many cases, they don't. We live in a world that wants information faster, and many people don't even want to put a few minutes into reading a very informative article, no matter how helpful it will be.

From time to time I struggle to find high quality articles on Google. It's almost like they need to include a checkbox under the search box that says "I am trying to thoroughly research right now, not look for a quick answer." Using quotation marks in my search query does not work as well as it used to. I don't think they will do that, but I wish they did.
7:29 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I hope today would be a happy Google organic traffic day. I have a feeling that some of you would be happy. Its just a feeling :)
11:15 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You can have the longest article in the world with the most details of anything out there. But, do most searchers want that info? In many cases, they don't. We live in a world that wants information faster, and many people don't even want to put a few minutes into reading a very informative article, no matter how helpful it will be.

That may well be true, but some people really do read (according to the "Engagement" numbers that I see in Google Analytics), and there can be value in creating content that attracts and builds trust with those intelligent, educated, and (often) high-income readers.
3:13 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I agree @editorialguy. I'm not sure Google is good enough at understanding who/when to show that great content. I think we all know there is value there. If and when Google figures that part out, people will be talking about a big "Google Update" and if it was Panda, when in reality it will be Google learning more about individual searchers and their intent.
3:29 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If and when Google figures that part out, people will be talking about a big "Google Update" and if it was Panda, when in reality it will be Google learning more about individual searchers and their intent.

Could be. I've always thought that personalization has been ripe for improvement. A lot of people think "personalization" means "you like Widgets dot com, so we'll show you Widgets dot com pages," but there's no reason why it has to stop there instead of evolving and improving over time.
5:06 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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New member here. I've read through all 3 threads for Google and SERP Changes for December, January, and February. Trying to figure out what is happening to my site.

My site is 12 years old. I have never bought links or joined any link farms. My site has quality content and has always ranked high. With every single Panda or Penguin update from the past, my site has only improved in rankings. I have never changed my writing or linking strategy. I am mobile responsive. I use AMP. I have no interstitial ads.

Actually, I take that back... for most of 2016, I was using the Google Adsense Interstitial. Then right around December 15, I removed the Google Adsense Interstitial because I heard they might penalize sites for it. That has been my ONLY change.

But then on December 15-18, I lost 30% of my traffic. In January I lost another 10-15%. In February, another 10-15%. I am now down 50% or more since early December.

This is across all keywords, all pages, all countries, and all devices. My sitespeed hasn't changed. My bounce rate and time on site hasn't changed. I still get the same traffic from Bing, Yahoo, DuckduckGo, etc. All the loss has been from Google Organic searches. I did look at the "Unknown Region" filter as suggested by @Sench, and while I have seen a drop in visits as suggested, this drop matches the same drop I am seeing from all other countries as well.

My impressions have gone down about 50%, and my average SERP has dropped 20-30%,

i have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out what happened. Since I have never been hit by any penalty before, could it be something completely new?
6:50 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yes, maybe a new player in your niche, taking all of your positions.
7:05 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@jeremeyers1 A fair amount of my clients have started to see quite a bit more rich snippets and "People also search for" boxes in the SERPs for their industry. Those could be making you lose some visibility on terms you don't regularly look at. Don't just look at organic rankings. Look at everything that's showing on the search result page.
10:11 pm on Feb 26, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I just finished putting NoIndex & NoFollow tags to about 50,000 pages on my website, i wonder how long google will take to de-index this pages and if it will have any positive effect on my website's organic traffic. These pages are mostly duplicated, thin or not well written.
10:41 pm on Feb 26, 2017 (gmt 0)

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IMO, it's a mistake to use "nofollow" with "noindex", because "nofollow" blocks natural PageRank circulation that could be flowing through those pages. By itself, meta robots noindex defaults to follow, and for what you're doing that would be the best configuration... essentially noindex,follow.

Without knowing anything more about your site, like how many other pages there are and what your structure's like, it's difficult to say more... but offhand that seems like a lot of noindexed pages. I'd look at ways to remove the extraneous pages. If they're bad for Google, it's likely that they're bad for users too.
11:10 pm on Feb 26, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Robert Charlton thanks for your suggestion, am going to use noindex & follow instead. My site has about 84,000 pages.
1:59 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I wonder if part of my google "Penalty" is due to the fact that my blog is listed in a lot of blogrolls. (I didn't know people still used these!). So I submitted a disavow file to GSC for these. Was that wise?
3:16 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Robert Charlton when google is done removing those pages can i delete them from my blog?
3:36 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Halspike... if I understand you correctly... if you plan to delete those pages, then I would not noindex them. Noindexing them first is an interesting approach, and is not something I've tried. My initial take on it would be to allow Google to see clearly that they've gone, and to register 404s.

Therefore, I'd leave them indexed on the site, then remove them from your navigation and then delete the pages. Also remove them from your sitemap. Any urls that are requested by Googlebot will return 404s, but that will diminish over time. I'm thinking this would give Google the clearest algorithmic picture of what's happened... but it's not something I've thought about.

It would be interesting to get other opinions from someone who's done it.
8:11 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'll share my experience

I have football team website that is 2 and half years old, i post 10 articles a day, like matchs recap, club news, etc. I write everything in my own words, and i dont buy links or anything, only natural SEO.

It really picked up in november when i was accepted on a big and old aggregator. Google followed. I was getting like 20k hits a day + 5k on AMP.

Then February happened. Big drop in audience, now at best i'm getting 6k a day and lost more than 50% in adsense revenue, even 70% on a slow day. The biggest drop was from feb 21 to feb 24... nowhere to be seen in Google search. Went from 3.5 in position to 12 or 17 ! Looks like it's slowly coming back though, very very slowly.

From what i see some competitors have been hit too, but they are far older than me so the hit doesn't seem so bad. To my experience from the past month, Google has pushed some really non quality website during february, like website spreading rumors and with completely stupid headlines.

So it's not just a case of quality, there is something else.
9:29 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@andymorris Did you check what happens when you manually enter the different search terms in Google? Google may display the results from your matches in their SERPs directly. Do it from various GEOs.

Is your site a reference site or would you say a news site?
9:55 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@andymorris true talk man, I've been seeing those type of websites on my niche doing very well on SERPs and am like WTF!. Those websites don't even have the answers to questions asked on google but google still throws them in on the first page i hope i didn't just waste my time de-indexing about 50k pages i think are low quality.
10:26 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@guggi i'm fairly new to all this so i'm trying to figure it all out. I got accepted in Google news last June and got some pretty good result on the front page, like the 3 or 4th result in top stories. I was pretty proud since i have zero marketing team, zero adwords. Sometimes i was before some big other websites that were dealing with the same news, probably with a lot of money invested in SEO and Adwords.

I manually enter many keywords each day, or common search like "what team won" or "this team against this team goals video" "this player done that" or "what channel is on"... stuff like that. And it worked until early february. I was actually giving good content i think so i consider myself a news site, because i give transfer news, recaps, analysis, player's reactions that i write myself with my own style (i'm an ex journalist)... etc

Now my news are still in Google news and SERP, just lower and not so much in Top Stories.

@Halaspike yeah that's sad, i believe those sites actually have deals with google. I dont see it any other way, i mean, their content is appaling. I just cant be considered as good content by Google.

edit: Adsense has also completely dropped. I used to get 0.17 per click in december, and it got to 0.06 mid february, now 0.09.
10:53 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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"This team against this team goals video" - Is it YOUR video? Were you in the stadium and took it or are you pointing to a YouTube or someone else's video?
11:01 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@guggi2000 i only post official content posted by the channels or the league, no youtube video. My competitors dont have the same rules and will post anything from youtube.
11:16 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Do you get the rights from the league to post it? Is the video content unique?
11:19 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@guggi2000 no, content is shared by the channels / league that has the rights in my country and you can freely embbed their video via the embbed code they provide. If they dont want to share it, there is no embbed code.

That way, they get money from the ads that is played before the video and i get to make a content out of it, usually with a shorter summary of the match (i also do a text summary in another article, like 10 paragraphs). It's in everyone's interest.
11:21 am on Feb 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@jeremeyers1

If WMT shows a manual penalty for unnatural links you will have to submit a disavow file for sure if it is not the case and you just assume that low quality links have caused the drop this February than disavowing links that you know are being of low quality and shady is the right thing to do

February looks to me that brands are gaining and content farms are loosing, It is ok to create content on a subject only to became authority but when a lot of content is being created (even if great content) on many subjects I see a problem
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