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Google Updates and SERP Changes - May 2017

     
8:21 am on May 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 5 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4842918.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 4:18 am on May 2, 2017 (PDT -8)


Last month April 2017 hasn't been a nice month to webmasters as far as Google Algorithm Updates and SERPs fluctuations are concerned. There are several WebmasterWorld friends who have lost big portions of their organic traffic. If you just take a look at RankRanger's Google SERP Fluctuations chart you would notice dates of medium to high levels of fluctuations on April 17th, April 20th, April 25th, April 29th and April 30th. Those are just indications of the "volatile SERPs environment" of April 2017.

I'm just wondering what would the current month brings us of Google Algorithm Updates surprises :)

Personally I wish to see on this thread happy posts reporting recoveries and the return of at least parts of what have been lost of Google organic traffic during the latest few months. Let's hope so :)
10:47 pm on May 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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>> @Shadows: You might as well accept this, and aim for satisfying the non-crap-eating, discerning searcher who would not dream of clicking on the vacuous, slow-loading, ad-heavy, mindless drivel being served up at #1.

Ha-ha!

I bet you did not know but I'll add to this. We have here some Amazons, Lowes and Home Depots that sell small types of widgets with 0 understanding of how widgets work. None whatsoever. They are on page 1. There are also several .govs on page 1 who copied content , one just flat out stole ours down to the structure of specific section. At least .gov is not meaningless drivel.

There's 4 specialized competitors in that top, none of them small, all have multi-million $ per year businesses, 2-10$ mln.
There's so much $ thrown at being on page 1 that wikipedia is on page 4. You can fill pages 2-5 with big corps and big brands, .govs and .org , easily. Abt, Best Buy, Wallgreens, Electrolux you name it are on pages 2-5, carrying maybe 3-10 widgets most. Junk like Kohls and HomeDepot.ca (for Canada) and a site from new zealand (for US?) are also in the top 100. There's also 5-6 Google Books on page 11, they figured not the right thing to rank themselves Page 1 and gave themselves -100 penalty. Starting at page 11 it's all garbage, news sites, UK , NZ and canadian sites etc. what a mess of results.

None of the top 3 competitors I usually encounter are there.

Yet. The long tail is comfortably thin. I usually encounter less than 10 adequate sites as soon as you step away from big, main KWs. I guess SEOs get paid big bucks for 1st positions.
11:24 pm on May 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've noticed an insurance company is now ranking in the number one spot. So we have a global food company and an insurance company climbing the rankings for help/information type topics.

I saw an article yesterday which outranks me. So went to check it out...after 30 seconds I am thinking 'hmmmm, that's awfully like how I write', turns out they had scraped my article and now outrank me. Not the first time.
12:57 am on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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iamlost wrote:
What is different on the web is that the cost of entry is much lower (than B&M) and the possible returns much greater


Fertile ground for people looking for a get-rich-quick scheme.
1:02 am on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've lost about 50% of the organic traffic i get from African countries. Anybody facing the same thing?


Nice care to share how you did it?
9:15 am on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts said that only quality of content mattered for years but webmasters laregely didn't listen because we discussed and experimented with small methods of getting an edge. In fact HUGE amounts of time and resources were spent on exploiting perceived edges. Now we're at a point where none of the code on your site even matters, including the page title, keywords and anything not explicitely visible to a visitor. If you have great content behind a poor title it doesn't matter, Google will come up with a better title based on their interpretation of the intent of your content along with their best guess of what the visitor is looking for.

Quality of content matters, it Trumps EVERYTHING else, period. I'm up 97% in traffic and even more in earnings since April 3rd and I've largely ignored SEO and focused 100% on making the best content possible. I don't settle for good, it's got to be great(and fast) or it has no room on my website. My measure of great is "does this answer a question or solve a problem?" and if I can't say heck yes, or I see that what I wrote is basicaly the same a hundred other sites have written in different words... I want none of it.

If Google hates mediocre and your visitors despise mediocre why are there mediocre pages on your site? They have become the new poison. I've spent the past two years producing that calibre of content, or as close to it as I could manage, and today I have 33% fewer pages than I did a year ago because I was aggresive in merging content that overlapped and flately deleted a lot of content I was not 100% satisfied with, which happens over time. Observation: there is much less churn of internet rankings on page one today than there has been in the past despite there being more and more content available for any given subject. I believe this is because much of the new content simply doesn't measure up or provides little actual value regardless of quality.
10:11 am on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I agree with JS_Harris.

I stopped bothering with SEO things since a while.

An example, I don't put any keywords in the URLs of my pages. It's just an alpha numeric string, which is the hexadecimal (to be shorter) representation of the ID of the article in my Database. ( site . com / article / 1ab87 . html )

Then I just focus on making my page nice looking, easy to read, I also try to get it pass HTML/CSS validations. And of course to be responsive to adapt to all kind of screens.

And so far, my traffic continues to increase. Moderately, but it's constant increase which at the reading of lot of comments here, is already good.
4:25 pm on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And yet, a surprising number of webdevs take the traffic and revenue problems they face as personal targeted attacks rather than as a result of simply being pushed aside by one or all the above points. That month after month it is largely the same group that is suffering (and I do acknowledge that the suffering is real), some alternating between better and worse, a few that routinely say things are great, and a huge amount of silence from the vast majority tells it's own tale.


Why are all my posts followed by the same retorts? Who is saying that they are personal attacks? It's merely and observation of facts. In a vertical of stagnant competitors and until recent years largely static results, nothing that any self proclaimed expert says can explain sudden ON/OFF traffic and conversion patterns. I was the first to identify Zombie traffic along with OhNo and Tedster. As a veteran webmaster of 21 years, to imply that some of us have not already "tried everything" or have not followed the basic webmaster guidelines is laughable. To think that every vertical responds identically is also naive. I manage over a hundred sites that give me a very good "mile high" view of changes as they roll through. When I see something odd, I report it, so if you don't like the reports, move to the next thread. We don't need a lengthy lesson in "how or why you think Google works" and what I'm NOT doing to fix it.
5:59 pm on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@JS_Harris
The quality content argument is thin. Not because it is wrong per-se but because it is insufficient. Most websites produce "quality" content. That is content that meets the requirements of Google's quality guidelines. So saying, "produce quality content and users will come" is of no value. I'm not saying that the opposite is any better.

The key to understand is that the serps are ranking based on multitude of criteria. To rank in first position, not only does your quality need to meet or exceed the guidelines, but it needs to be better in every way. Better than the next best site. Objectively better. And since the next website is probably improving, you always need to be improving as well. If you happen to be in niche with little to competition you may even be able to rank first with a poor quality website provided that the others in the niche are of worse quality. To prove the later point, simply search for a keyword that is deep in the tail, there will be hardly any sites returned in the results and most of the returned sites will be of poor quality.

Also, let me add, that just because you as the creator of the content think something is better (and you may even be correct) if it is not perceived as better by the users then it is not objectively better.
6:44 pm on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I went back and reread the original zombie and throttling/shaping threads. Fascinating and frustrating. I admit that I'm completely on the outside never having seen evidence of any of this across ~100 sites in 6-niches. Perhaps being wholly info without an eCom input perspective is a significant difference.

I remember a similar frustration among webdevs regarding the perceived 'sandbox', which eventually was, I think, accepted not as a specific 'thing' but rather as a resultant artifact of several other 'things'. And I have always thought that that was much more probable for the zombie phenomenon especially given that while it is significant, i.e. experienced by many, it is not universal. So, some combination of Google indexing/ranking behaviours is affecting susceptible edge cases.

I have always wondered, as was brought up back when, how much was/is the advent and rise of the smartphone and Google's attempts to direct mobile traffic. That on top of their continuing attempts to personalise results certainly has made my Google searches increasingly YoY a pita. Actually the results since RankBrain went live have driven me to only use G when another SE fails. Often only one in ten results is germane to a query. If my experience is not unique (and I don't know why it would be) then a great many people are going to a great many sites they didn't really want to. Which certainly might be a zombie factor.

The part that I find frustrating, however, is that given the above I should be seeing similar misdirected traffic to my sites. And while Google search is and pretty much always has been my worst converting traffic source it is actually converting at twice these past couple of years than what it was a decade ago. Perhaps Google's abilities and not merely behaviours vary that much between verticals. Or perhaps the ediface is crumbling.

What I still haven't seen and which feeds some of my frustration on reading the same concerns from the same people are analytical breakouts. For instance: here is 'normal' traffic by volume and conversion rate by device and OS and geolocation and referral datacentre; here is 'zombie' traffic by same. Plus, and these days increasingly critical, here is how/why said traffic is human and not bot (whether 'good' or 'bad'). And anything else you think helpful or significant.

Sharing time sequences and correlations is interesting but the meat is missing. And without that one is simply chasing UFOs instead of frisbees, ball lightning, secret projects, and aliens. I'm not saying they don't exist; I'm simply not sure that everyone is seeing the same thing nor exactly what that thing might be. The smoke is certainly there; figuring out what all is burning is, imo, waiting on more information.

@samwest:
My apologies if I seemed to be speaking to you. Not at all. You are one here whose words I read with care and attention because of your expressed knowledge and experience. My response was, here, as elsewhere, simply my frustration that where there is obviously an impediment that isn't going away or being overcome so many keep pointing out the shadow. Perhaps with more shared data the shadow can be deconstructed - pretty much what I've said earlier in this post - or, as the comment you found irritating, if it is insurmountable perhaps a business decision needs to be made as to the viability of continuing as usual.

Not that you, or anyone else, don't know what you doing either technically or business professionally; I know nothing in either regard. Apologies for awkward negatives. Simply a comment made to the information available as the problem appears chronic and, to date, without remedy. And I'll shut up now. Good luck.
6:45 pm on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The fan boys have already merged with the machines, they have been educated at the singularity university and only they can write content that AI would rank.


lol
7:55 pm on May 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think that a lot of users here do understand what zombies are, and described them as unacceptable in a very nice way but you have the fan boys trying really hard to discredit the idea that zombies exist.

Despite all disclosure here zombies are only going to grow for about 70% of all online small businesses, the amount of real human converting traffic is drying out and everybody should be allowed to compete for. Is that too much to ask for?
5:46 pm on May 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My organic traffic has been hit by about 30% since yesterday. Very strange for a Sunday as I usually get a good number of conversions. I've also noticed my indexed pages are starting to de-index as well after a very solid surge following a switch to HTTPS in January.

Hoping this is just a blip.
2:05 am on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@iamlost

You brought up some good points in your post. Since I'm not familiar with how your sites are monetized, I'm not sure how easy it is to differentiate zombie traffic from legitimate traffic. What I mean is that if your sites are monetized with ads, interaction events have a lower bar for a visitor action than whipping out a credit card and buying. Considering the search results for some queries are so loosely related to the users intent, especially when re-written title and meta information is artificially displayed (not as we webmasters have intended) to entice these users, their inclination to click on ads at your websites may feel natural even if they too were loosely related to what they are looking for. However, if you operate affiliate sites than shifts in traffic quality could be easily pinned down to the abnormal lows and rare highs we see in ecommerce sales.

As one that does not like leaving sales on the table, or relying more heavily on Amazon and their 15% per sale cut, I have a renewed interest in doing some things differently on my site. It's not like the loss of sales coming from Google would put me out of business - POs via email and fax keep things moving along with Amazon sales. I recently made some slight changes on my site and will gradually change even more, taking note of successes or failures I encounter along the way. I don't expect a zombie recovery in Google to look like it was just a few years ago. It's a fact that just over half the buyer traffic goes straight to Amazon these days for their first product search. But I know Google still can drive a lot of sales, and during major updates when I'm temporarily released from the zombie pattern I normally see a large spike in sales coming from Google. The key is figuring out what it is that's holding my site back in Google, and incremental changes may reveal something. But it's important to note I made quite a few changes when the zombies first appeared in late 2015, so I'm not holding out hope this round of changes will result in anything different.
4:00 am on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@glakes
My revenue stream breakout is currently ~45% direct ad sales, ~10% AdSense, ~25% direct affiliate presell, ~10% affiliate coupon offers, and ~10% Amazon Associates affiliate referral.

I also have a major analytics system behind the scenes that plays with a lot of data in a lot of ways for a lot of reasons. I've touched on some of that in various threads over the past few years, however many/most here aren't interested beyond Google Analytics.

The key is figuring out what it is that's holding my site back in Google, and incremental changes may reveal something.

Logical, sensible. I wish you well.
5:47 am on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I just did a search for a type of widget and the entire screen was taken up with images of that type of widget. I hadn't run an image search. I had three rows of four images which took up the whole screen, below that were web results.

I tried differen't types of widgets and saw a few images to the right, but content to the left, searched for the original widget again and it was all images above the fold. I've never seen that before.
7:11 am on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@glakes

What makes you think that is something to do with your website? What changes have you got planned maybe some of us tried already.
12:07 pm on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@iamlost

With such a diverse moneitization strategy, I believe this insulates you from some of the ill effects of zombie traffic. But it's also reasonable to believe the problem with traffic quality is not widespread and appears more confined to ecommerce than info sites. My guess is that years of Google ranking Amazon at the top for product search queries, many times with domain crowding, has taken its toll on where people now search and shop. The rate at which people are migrating away from Google for product search queries is substantial; a 17% increase in 2016 from the year prior, if memory serves me correct. In other words, Google can't drive the product sales they once did and the expectations of those in ecommerce need to understand this as well (including myself). If this rate of migration continues, Google's traffic quality will continue to rapidly deteriorate for those of us in ecommerce.

Having your own custom analytics is interesting. I'll have to search through some of your old posts to learn more. I don't like sharing data with Google by using Analytics, though I confess it's free, easy and covers the basics. The cost may be in sharing too much information and being restricted in how data is interpreted.

@mosxu

I'm not convinced there is really anything wrong with my site, but instead how it is being interpreted. The changes I have made thus far are designed to increase time on site and improve the sales funnel. Technically these changes are not being made for Google alone, as I believe there is plenty of room for improvement that will positively impact conversions from all traffic sources. But I am paying close attention to how Google reacts to these changes before moving on to the next phase.
1:47 pm on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@js_Harris, are you totally ignore SEO in regard of site speed? I think it is nice for users when divs have smooth scrolling a.s.o. but in most cases this needs a external library like jquery. Are you using external scripts?

I see big brands dominating the serps using many external scripts with very bad sitespeed but the site - once it has loaded - is nice to look at and nice to use.
8:36 pm on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@MartinIceWeb, some of these "nice to look at" sites are so bad I can't order anymore from them. Their ecommerce part just completely broken.

Over the weekend tried to order from 2 big retailers. Big, as one would be Bed Bath & Beyond. Tried 2 weeks ago on that site, failed, tried 2 weekends ago, failed. Tried last week, eventually after 3 chat sessions with their staff was able to.The other big brand I tried , completely failed to process CC, after numerous chat sessions and trying two different cards, them blaming my bank, me calling bank and confirming their data never makes it to the bank etc... anyhow had to call customer service and place an order over the phone.

All I run is Adblock plugin, nothing fancy. In fact, tried it with Adblock disabled , same thing.

If I had stuff on my site broken like that I'd be out of business in 2 months.

The amount of clueless middle managers who have a saying in their sites without any regard to how everything properly and barely works (usually by duct taping 20 technologies), that should have 0 saying in this, is astounding.

But yeah, it may be nice to look at :) that's why Amazon is eating their breakfast and lunch.

This is RE a bunch of external scripts that fail miserably in the real life.
9:44 pm on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My website is recovering from Fred.
In 29/04, the organic traffic started to come back.
But it still not in the same level of before, something like 13k-16k before Fred and now is 10k-13k.

Edit: site in Brazil, pt-br, wordpress, old domain, https, amp enabled.
11:31 pm on May 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My affected websites also recovered from Fred. i was surprised no one has made mention of this before. Happened 29th for me as well for all affected sites. But like Leo they have not regained all their lost traffic
8:56 am on May 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@LeoKesler
@cabbie

Thanks for the happy news of the recovery of your websites.

Any body else care to share similar happy recovery news :)
8:59 am on May 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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are the affected sites reported here exact match domains?
4:07 pm on May 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I see a huge amount of rubbish in this thread regarding content being the most important ranking factor. WHAT A LOAD OF COMPLETE RUBBISH
4:24 pm on May 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@30K_a_month are you saying that your website consists of poor quality content that is ranking at the top or the serps?
4:40 pm on May 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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LOL, "quality content". Yeah... we've all heard that before. a 200 word description for an out of stock Amazon item can and will outrank a page dedicated to a topic altogether. But even if you do manage to outrank them, then you have to deal with these moronic "knowledge" boxes... and it's been a few weeks since I reported that a search for the query, "who invented email" is dead wrong. Still hasn't changed. More fake news from the content thieving plex.
6:02 pm on May 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In the past week or two, results in my verticals have been up and down like a yoyo. It appears very similar to the old "bubble-sort-like" re-indexing we used to see in earlier days where we would move down, then up and then down again as big brands pile back on. After months/years of static listings, I am finally seeing some movement in certain areas...likely temporary. The big snag is that no matter how many page one listings we regain, it seems like traffic is as stagnant as ever. GART traffic looks like it's being delivered by a fully throttled drip method. Me thinks something new has been added to the secret sauce. Probably more frog's breath.
8:06 am on May 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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any update last weekend? we lost over 35% of our traffic since sunday;
target keywords still looks good and still keeps high positions so, guess its longtail
anyone noticed the same?
thanks guys
8:34 am on May 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have to agree with masterjoe there, I don't think quality content is everything it's cracked up to be. I have seen over and over again in the results it's not the case.

And once again, today I search for a phrase and my main competitor has the top three results.
9:31 am on May 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Me thinks something new has been added to the secret sauce. Probably more frog's breath.


Without a doubt, something very smelly has appreared on all my sites. I wonder now long this will take to pass through?
This 427 message thread spans 15 pages: 427