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Google Updates and SERP Changes - March 2017

     
9:55 am on Mar 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 3 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4834186.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 11:19 am on Mar 2, 2017 (PDT -8)


CTR and position going up on the 28th, not to the december and january levels, but slowly up. Was doing an average of 6000 clicks from search, and on the 28th it got past 1000 for the first time since early feb.
11:10 am on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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huh this started on Feb 7th so its over a month not a week
11:50 am on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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this is the March thread, the Feb one about "Phantom" is here:

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12:22 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Seeing some reversals to pre-Fred this morning just checking rankings.
12:55 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If you have Adsense on it, Google wants to rank your blog/site as high as possible to sell more clicks. This update can be about short content or specially links. In my case, i have on homepage about 500 words, all websites has 3 pages, Home, About and Contact, all of them has ranked with Pbn and also another type of links but separately. So there can be a problem as link diversity too because i use just 1 type of links on each website. I admit that i used blackhat links to get the rank. Those who tell me that they used no links and just content and rankings are dropping, they lie for sure. All my friends that used blackhat links was hit by this updated this week. Period!

My guess is your friends are like you - building thin websites and trying to use links to overcome the deficiency in site depth. I'm not sure how someone with three page sites can say it's all about black hat links when thin sites are deserving of an algorithmic hammer. There are many people who reported no black hat linking that were hit, and many of them had thin pages that primarily pushed monetization through ads or affiliate links. If I were you I would rethink the whole three page website business model if you want sustainable ranks, irrespective of links. Knocking out such thin sites should be relatively easy for Google to do without the need of any other signals. Furthermore, no depth to the site means fewer internal links pointing to the pages that matter most to you, making it harder to rank those pages.
1:26 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@glakes I had 5 sites with 300 posts, each post was 1000+ words long, each article written by my writers... All sites were extremely good ranked for several months. I was on the position no. 1 for dozens if not hundreds of keywords. And what happened? One morning I received 5 notifications about manual actions against my sites. It was about "thin content". So, my sites were good enough to be on the first position for 6 months or so but suddenly they were so bad according to Google that they decided to send me to oblivion. When was Google right - When my sites were on the position no. 1 or when they penalized me? If my sites were so bad, why Google kept them ranked so high for long time?

These updates are not about quality at all. Right now my new sites are replaced in SERPs with spammy, 400 word long posts with loads of adSense ads. My sites aren't the best sources if information in the world but are definitely much better than sites which outranked me last week.
1:51 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Vantelli great logic. Why did the sites rank well? Did you have many links pointing to them?
2:05 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Quality content is not about XXX amount of posts or XXXX words long.
2:06 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS What I usually do in the post Penguin era is to avoid link building. I just create a few links on legit sites which are not involved in any link schemes. My traffic starts to double each month and then people starts link to me naturally. They cite my posts, refer to my sites as image source etc... All those links provide additional strength to my sites and I reach 5-15K unique visits in 6 months (per site).

Google include me in "Google News", more and more visitors are coming, everything looks perfect, I think that I finally managed to create quality sites that will live for long time and BOOM! From the page 1 to position 50 for all search terms without any explanation.

I would understand if I drop a few spots, it would be okay if Google mix my rankings a little bit from time to time, but why they have to destroy me completely? From their favorite to the worst webmaster in the world in one night? Really?
2:08 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Vantelli how did google justify that the content was thin if they were 1000+ words long?
2:32 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@nonstop Yeah, each article was 1000-1300 words long. Written by a few guys who hold degrees in English language (not natural speakers, but their knowledge is unquestionable). Before I post articles I check them for duplicate content etc... There was nothing wrong with all those posts. I tried several times to improve sites, changed a lot of things, filled many reconsideration requests and finally gave up. Then I started new sites.

After March 10 traffic on my new site is down 30%. I'm replaced in SERPs by:

- Low quality sites(400 words articles, spun content, 4-5 adsense ads)
- High authority sites, but inadequate posts. Instead of exact product review, Google now offers me a similar product just because it is posted on big brand site.
2:38 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Vantellim I see exactly the same and my content is 100% english spoken high quality and unique... and between 800- 3000 words

My site has been replaced by pages with very little content just because they are authority sites.
2:47 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Prior to Fred, were the searcher's needs met? What were the goals for the searcher's that used to land on your site? Did they want an in-depth 1000 word article, or did they want a quick answer? If most people wanted a quick answer, then possibly your 1000-word article was not fulfilling the searcher's need.

Playing devil's advocate here..
2:53 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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thejimster the items I sell are over 3K and research is definitely needed prior to purchase.

The authority sites just list a few products with generic specifications to them. Average time on site of 9 Mins and a bounce of 40% in GA proves it was doing its job.
2:55 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@thejimster Good question. Most of visitors land on my pages after searching for product name only. Other are landing after queries such product name + pictures, product name + price etc. So I guess most of them are looking for general product info, others are looking for a quick answer. However, bounce rate is always high, around 80%.
2:58 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Anyone know how to change username I dont make this sort of money anymore LOL
3:14 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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it's very difficult to determine if a site is useful to a user based on the bounce rate.

for example a fact site, someone searches for 'how many miles to the moon'

the site could just tell you the answer, the user is happy and clicks back. bounce rate is high like 99%

or the site could tell you then answer and then some other facts such as how the moon was formed, how it's moving away etc...

some users might stick around to read a bit more so the bounce rate is 80%

or it might take them longer to find the information they need so bounce rate is 81%

how do you determine that one site is better than the other?
5:19 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We're seeing a fair amount of disruption again, similar to the run up to the Feb 7-9 update.

Also (and possibly related) a lot of branded searches in my niche have lost their 4-, 6- or 8-pack navigation links
5:19 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If you're Google, one way is to track whether or not the user continues searching after visiting your page. If you're looking for information and you don't find it on the result you clicked, you generally do one of two things:

1. Hit back and try another result on the same page
2. Tweak your search keywords a little bit and try again.

Both of these indicate that the user didn't find what they were looking for. I'm sure there are other clever ways buried in Google's vast troves of user data as well.
6:06 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@lostshootingstar good point

@Shaddows I seem to have lost my pack navigation links for my brand term
6:18 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Had a look through some clients that were hit and it seems that the also targeted sites with multitopic articles to me. All the pages hit had articles that were focused around too many keywords, spread too thin overall.

May also be bad quality overall... Panda.
8:26 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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for example a fact site, someone searches for 'how many miles to the moon'

the site could just tell you the answer, the user is happy and clicks back. bounce rate is high like 99%

or the site could tell you then answer and then some other facts such as how the moon was formed, how it's moving away etc...

some users might stick around to read a bit more so the bounce rate is 80%

or it might take them longer to find the information they need so bounce rate is 81%

how do you determine that one site is better than the other?


This is one of those things that scares me with Google. If you just answer the question then Google might hit you with a thin quality penalty. So what I tend to do is answer the question immediately (so that the searcher isn't frustrated, there's nothing worse than looking for a simple answer and having to find it among 2,000 words of filler text)...

Then I will do what you listed, and add some facts.

What I have noticed though is the really detailed and long articles, which always do well and get lots of Facebook likes have dropped, and the shorter, poorer quality articles are ranking better. I've been slowly going through my articles for the past year and improving them by adding/updating information or expanding on it. I don't understand why they would have been hit.
9:35 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I do not understand if so called Fred was about punishing "bad" websites or Google now simply rank higher sites which they consider better? I'm asking because I don't know if there's some kind of penalty on my site now. If there's a penalty and my site is now marked as problematic I'll rather start a new site. If I'm simply outranked by better sites and my site is not punished I'll continue with improvements and will stay in the SERP race... Hope you understand what I mean. Any ideas?
9:41 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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These updates are not about quality at all. Right now my new sites are replaced in SERPs with spammy, 400 word long posts with loads of adSense ads. My sites aren't the best sources if information in the world but are definitely much better than sites which outranked me last week.


Google has you marked down as an affiliate/advertiser and they are trying to destroy all of these. So, your sites or sites will now carry a penalty. This is because you are taking business from them since they would rather provide all the ads themselves. They will have found one of your sites and then used the affiliate or ad links to find the others. A reconsideration request might succeed if you remove all your ads (which by itself speaks volumes) but otherwise no matter what you do those sites are now dead.

This is what happens when a company gets such a huge monopoply. Don't bother trying to sue them, the legal jurisdiction is in the USA and they have far deeper pockets than any of us. All we can do is hope that government action can reign them in but I wouldn't hold your breath.
10:04 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Shaddows

I saw it yesterday as well. But after observing it today a little more, I believe serps is being switched back and forth between datacenters or something, one with the update and one prior at least in my vertical.
10:26 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Vantelli, my prior post about the three page site was directed towards andynicky89 only. Just as many believe zombie traffic is not real, others believe "Fred" is about poor content, toxic backlinks, etc. We'll probably never know, which is sad considering how much unregulated influence Google has over the global economy. There's no doubt good guys get unjustly punished in Google's algorithm updates, and you may be one of those. There's still some shuffling going on, possibly minor tweaks, so let's hope your loss in ranks is temporary.

But as others have noted here (superclown2), and also in the past, sites with affiliate links get extra scrutiny. I think that's part of Google's larger war against links. Fewer people linking out on their sites, whether to other sites or as an affiliate, leaves people more dependent on using a search engine. Being the dominant search engine, Google gets the lions share of this traffic. And the owners of the products and services with affiliate programs will see their sales drop and be more inclined to dump more money in advertising or start selling in Amazon like I did (Amazon spends big with Adwords). That's one scenario, which I'm sure is no more provable than the "quality" updates that Google pushes out. One thing we do know is that Google's profits keep rising at an astounding pace at a time where sales originating from Google are at an all time low (for me and some others in the same zombie class).
10:31 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You know, maybe Google is simply testing new results. Just to see what happens, and learn with it.
I saw this in the past, in a smaller scale, with some big keywords. During a period of time, the serps were completely changed.

They can do that.
10:44 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This is what happens when a company gets such a huge monopoply. Don't bother trying to sue them, the legal jurisdiction is in the USA and they have far deeper pockets than any of us. All we can do is hope that government action can reign them in but I wouldn't hold your breath.


There is an EU anti trust case going through about this now, Trust Pilot, Expedia, Yep - and at least 30 companies in total all form part of the Google anti trust case against Google. I wonder if other companies can join too? maybe something we can do?

the problem is that it's been going on for 5 years while the EU investigates, the EU may give Google a massive fine (billions) or take them to court to force google to split up search from it's money making activities.

If google has penalised affiliate web sites to inflate it's own profits it could be adding more weight to the anti trust argument. At the moment Google isn't communicating with webmasters about the recent changes which is creating more anti trust.

[theverge.com...]

Google sounding about as truthful as Trump, web search becoming a dirty business of burying your competition. - Jeremy Stoppelman CEO and Co-founder of Yelp


I just wish Bing was more popular so we didn't have to rely upon the whims of one company so much.
11:28 pm on Mar 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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After 1 week, I was checking my new competitors and I am astonished: many sites with duplicate content at top, too many google ads and youtube videos at top and bottom of search page.
And my site continues to get 1/3 of your original page views, including in weekends, with the same pages. It is like a filter: Google decided my site will get only 1/3 of pageviews daily.
I am getting less amp traffic. Almost 85% of my website traffic is mobile. Actually, my mobile traffic is viewing more responsive content than amp pages (20% amp, 80% responsive).

I do not have any affliate link, except adsense. And with adsense, my "invalid clicks" always stays below 4% .
12:25 am on Mar 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Why is it that everything always boils down to some conspiracy to the effect that Google is out to get the little guy?

The dynamics of using affiliate links is fraught with problems. The biggest is one is that the companies that use affiliate marketing have an incentive to make there links available to as many websites as possible. They have very little concern about where the links appear. All they care about is that there is constant in-flow of traffic. Yes there are some that may be more brand conscious and vet their affiliates with more care but not that many. As such when one has a site promoting these links one isn't alone, there may be hundreds of other sites promoting the same links. So you are forced to do better and really strongly differentiate your offering. So let's say you are within the top 10 best sites for that link, there are still 10 others who have essentially the same content. Your site might be cleaner, better written whatever, but at the end of the day the content is essentially the same. Objectively what value do you bring to the game?

So Google weeds the affiliates out of the serps, not because they have anything against affiliates per-se but simply because there is so much low value similar content out there.

Now add to this the fact that the weeding is done algorithmically, even if you have the best site in the world the risk is still high that you'll end up a false positive and get weeded out anyways.

So if you have a site that publish great content about a specific topic, and you happen to have an affiliate link on your page, maybe you'll be spared. But if you have a MFAfL site (Made For Affiliate Links) site, then it is just part of the business model, accept it, find a way to work around it.

But this is not Google preventing sites from showing links to sell more ads. Why would they waste there time with weeding out millions of small sites amongst billions of others when they could just sink the mother-ship. Amazon is still on page 1, as is EBay.
12:59 am on Mar 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Re affiliates: We have a lot of affiliate links on our site, and we do quite well in Google. But ours is an informational site (not an "affiliate marketing" site), and the affiliate links are subordinate to the content.

IMO, people using affiliate links should ask themselves, "If I removed the affiliate links from this page, would the page still be useful?" Intrinsic value for the reader is what makes a page attractive to Google (and to searchers).
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