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Google Updates and SERP Changes - August 2017

     
7:14 am on Aug 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 12 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4856114.htm [webmasterworld.com] by goodroi - 8:21 am on Aug 2, 2017 (utc -5)


Google is, or should I say has, just become or is closely becoming an actual website. You know. The place you go to get what you need and not go somewhere else. It's almost officially the era of the Google tax. They got a piece of everything that comes through the web.
9:01 am on Aug 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Interestingly, I wrote an article today, which was published 7 hours ago. I recently switched to ecosia and was really surprised to find my article is ranking no. 3 in their search engine already. I only searched it to see what other information is out there as it's not a topic which many in my niche would write about.

I then searched Google for it and I'm nowhere to be found, the results are pretty crappy for the topic (which admittedly is quite geeky), Google chose the lowest common denominator.

My personal belief is Google know the have the monopoly so they can and do behave in an often unethical fashion (and there's too many ways they do this to list). I think they meant well when they started, but becoming a PLC changed that. I do hope (and I think it will happen) they will eventually get some decent competition and actually become a decent company again. I'm not a Google hater, but money has certainly come ahead of user experience over the last few years.
9:03 am on Aug 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Google is, or should I say has, just become or is closely becoming an actual website. You know. The place you go to get what you need and not go somewhere else. It's almost officially the era of the Google tax. They got a piece of everything that comes through the web.


They have indeed become the gatekeepers of the web, I am sure many of the older webmasters who got involved back in the 1990s are quite horrified that one company has managed to do this and destroy the great democratic promise of the web.
8:09 pm on Aug 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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They have indeed become the gatekeepers of the web, I am sure many of the older webmasters who got involved back in the 1990s are quite horrified that one company has managed to do this and destroy the great democratic promise of the web.

I'd argue that Google has contributed to the "democratic promise" of the Web by making it possible for any Tom, Dick, or Harriet to compete with big media firms. (Google's predecessors and peers, from Infoseek and AltaVista to Bing and Yandex, have also kept the Disneys, Time Warners, and Springers of the world from controlling the Web.)

While it might be nice, in theory, to have half a dozen major search engines we did in the mid- to late '90s, I'm not sure it would make any practical difference. When I look at results (at least for the topics that I watch) in Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex, I mostly see the same sites. IMO, all of the major search engines do a pretty good job of supplying useful search results.
12:31 am on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'd argue that Google has contributed to the "democratic promise" of the Web by making it possible for any Tom, Dick, or Harriet to compete with big media firms.


That was then...we're talking about now. Google has become the embodiment of all those companies mentioned rolled into one all controlling force. Google's overwhelming dominance controls the web for many of our market verticals. Maybe not yours. Feel very lucky if you've been spared their wrath so far. For many of us, their punitive control is the antithesis of "democratic promise".
3:17 am on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'd argue that Google has contributed to the "democratic promise" of the Web by making it possible for any Tom, Dick, or Harriet to compete with big media firms.

That's funny, because I don't see Tom, Dick or Harry on the first page of Google's search results. I see Amazon, eBay and Pinterest instead. Where are Tom, Dick and Harry? In the unemployment line....

This is pathetic. The whole purpose of search, especially in the days of big online brands, is finding pages/sites that you would otherwise not think of. Instead, Google dishes out a short list of big brands for many queries. That being said, Google is worthless for many search queries. If I want to search for a product, I will just go to Amazon because Google acts like an Amazon site search for any product. If I have a health question, straight to WebMD I go. And the list goes on... Who the hell really needs Google for these types of search queries when much better and more refined results can be found elsewhere?
3:43 am on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've had a hard time lately as an end user. Forget about myself as a webmaster. In terms of finding what I need? Challenging right now. Far too many crossed out keywords which to me is just F crazy. I'm not an idiot. If I type two words and one word is disregarded by Google? WTF is that. However, to summarize, Google has search results these days have zero to do with discovery. Nobody is discovering any niche expertise website or article. Maybe in the most obscure nothingburger of searches they are, but most everything else there is no discovery. And with Google being "it", this is a sad state of affairs. Spoken as an end user. OK Google, show me something I don't know --- A: Cannot compute. They cross out "don't know" and insert "know", then they can compute. That's the AI for you. Here is where shills step in and say use the idiotically named gogogogogduckgogog or Bing "the world's ugliest" search engine.
3:47 am on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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straight to WebMD I go


Google loves WebMD, so much that they return multiple listings for them and their offshoot. Their love of this company has harmed my site significantly.

Sorry, rant over.
10:33 am on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The crossed-out keywords is the most annoying 'feature' since that stupid paperclip in MS Office back in the 90s. Sometimes I wonder if it is some kind of social experiment to test just how much irritation people will accept before giving up. Either that, or it's a drive to increase hardware sales as people smash their phones and computers in sheer frustration!

It makes Google useless as a search engine, and it does drive me to DuckDuckGo. Not that I think DuckDuckGo is all that good, but at least it doesn't remove the most important words from the search.
11:07 am on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Tom, Dick or Harry on the first page of Google's search results


I see plenty of Tom, Dick and Harry's.

Our growth continues. We are up over 270% since March. In a highly competitive industry.

As I have documented on here...we have seen the bottom. Twice. We have now (starting January 2017) created resources, with our own voices, that are not found anywhere else in our industry. Proving through our writing that WE are the trusted expert. Resources that are so good they are being shared by the brands we talk about. Contacted by other brands that aren't happy about truth we speak of, even threatening lawsuits because of it. This is real value. It is impacting the industry, everyone is noticing. We are changing the way customers view our industry with truth about all products and brands.

Now google is rewarding us for it. Growing traffic significantly. Is it as easy as it was in 2005 for us? Of course not. It shouldn't be.
12:16 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I see plenty of Tom, Dick and Harry's.


Not in my main niche or the parallel niches that I operate in or follow.
In all cases the main specialist website (the ones that used to be #1) are now mostly in positions 6 and 7, and in some niches there are no specialists on the first page at all.
The exact same websites now dominate the top 10 in all parallel topics: Wikipedia, Tripadvisor, a UK Newspaper and some major multi-national sellers. One major specialist publisher of printed books is also in the top 10 for every search, even though the information that they provide online is very limited. The information from the UK Newspaper is poorly researched and often just plain wrong (describing, in positive terms, things that have yet to be built or repeating misinformation that they have found elsewhere online) - all written by SEO specialists from the comfort of their offices, 1000s of miles away.

None of the 2nd tier of specialist websites appear in the top 10 for any of these subjects.

So, no Toms, Dicks, or Harrys in my sector - and very few people telling the truth either.
1:07 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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we have seen the bottom. Twice


The third is around the corner no doubt.

Either that or you will get sued and lose. I hope it works out but these things seldom do. A business based on the house of cards google is will surely tumble.

Good luck for now but you are the exception rather than the rule.
1:28 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Our growth continues. We are up over 270% since March. In a highly competitive industry.


@SM - I am curious, is this with a new site or by overhauling an older existing site?

In my case, I still have plenty of page one results, but when examining the keyword volumes and the traffic it gets (or should I say DOES NOT get), the math just doesn't work out. A site that is above the fold on page one for dozens of good volume and popular key phrases should theoretically never be sitting at zero traffic. Yet there it is, sitting at zero as I write this.

Granted, long tail has totally disappeared...used to rank on over 15k key phrases per month. Now the same content (yet highly reviewed and refine over the past several years) now ranks on less that 150 phrases per month.

I'm guessing those who are experiencing success and growth have somehow managed to escape the "gated" effect the rest of us seem to be seeing and live in better digital neighborhoods. I've had offline third parties look at my articles and products vs.the Google results and my content wins hands down every time with them. Not with Google tho...

To give one vague example. For a specific "my blue widget" search term, my site consistently ranks below a lazily written "the balance" (formerly about dot com) content farm article. This article simply lists a collection of 9 links to various low quality third party articles (some broken) that hardly relates to the term "my blue widgets". Not only does it rank for the term "my blue widgets", it also ranks for "my 'any color of the rainbow' widgets". It's also over 7 years old and never budges. I think we've all seen the same garbage ranking across the board. This is not a quality result and only pushes good content down to the graveyard.

Yeah, some may have success where this kind of trash does not exist, so consider yourself lucky. The web looks different for every single point of reference. BTW - That site is still sitting at zero.

[edited by: goodroi at 3:01 pm (utc) on Aug 2, 2017]
[edit reason] thread formatting [/edit]

1:31 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In all cases the main specialist website (the ones that used to be #1) are now mostly in positions 6 and 7, and in some niches there are no specialists on the first page at all.


Exactly the same in my niche. Cloaking scraper Pinterest is the new "specialist" in my niche, taking up to 5 spots on the first page. Some of the real specialists (some used to be my major competitors for page one spots) who have really great informative websites are penalized to bankruptcy and are now on page 4, 5, ... after being on page one for many years ... before Panda. Panda is where things started going wrong and after that it got worse year after year.

I wonder how much longer before the general public will realize that Google is no longer a real search engine. Things can evolve fast, very fast. Remember Alta Vista?
3:43 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The third is around the corner no doubt.

Either that or you will get sued and lose. I hope it works out but these things seldom do. A business based on the house of cards google is will surely tumble.

Good luck for now but you are the exception rather than the rule.


Appreciate the kinds words. While Google isn't our only means of business, it surely brings in some of the best leads.

The first time we were hit was out fault. Panda. Plenty of reasons for the site to get hit by Panda. We gut a lot of the site and decided it would be in our best interest to disavow manually built links (just in case they were a problem). Our site eventually recovered during the soft panda update. Not 100%, but close enough considering the stuff that we had removed. I wouldn't have expected it to come back 100% without the pages that had previously ranked not existing on the site.

The second time was a domain migration and HTTS change. Google picked up the new domain, then dropped it in the rankings. After taking a closer look at the site, we had a real chance to think about the value we brought to the table. Regardless of why they dropped us. Sure we had some decent content on the blog. We had some tools that people shared and linked to. But were we really an EXPERT? Answer...no, not that you could tell without calling us. We didn't do enough different to separate ourselves from the competition. Since 95% of the people never call, we needed a way to show our expertise through our site and content.

Looking at sites that do VERY well being a thought leader in the their industry, we knew the opportunity existed for us to be that expert in ours. We started to put out in depth resources that average 1500 to now over 3500 words, photos and videos all done in house. Dissecting products, explaining different processes, educating customers on what is good and bad. Even on our own products. Being an actual thought leader in 2017. We get emails, calls, comments daily that thank us for our resources. People saying they bought from us because they thought our content was honest. That we were the only people writing like this.

I understand the skepticism. It's easy to become negative during a time that feels like stuff is out of your control. If you are willing to do something different. Really be different, there is plenty of room to be successful online and with Google organic traffic. Sure, we could have sat there and blamed google for not bringing back our site to where it was pre migration. Complained that others had sites that should have been hit by panda, but weren't. That our site ranked well for years and now it didn't. That's not the route we have ever chosen. instead, we have always gone the way of making our site better. Reinventing what we do. Being better. Should we have been hit? Does it really matter? At the end of the day there was room for improvement. A lot actually.

The choice is yours. It's proven to work for many others, in different industries. Killing it, year after year. Competitive niches. Doesn't matter. The metrics that we see now from our improved content is insane. People spend hours in there, going page to page. Coming back on direct hits, searching us out on google, sharing us on social. All of these things have really helped us with the core updates. I believe that is the reason we continue to move up for all of the updates.

Maybe we are lucky...maybe we are an exception to the rule. Believe what you will, but the effort the goes into every piece of content put out on our site makes me believe otherwise. But that is just my opinion.

[edited by: SnowMan68 at 3:44 pm (utc) on Aug 2, 2017]

3:44 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I wonder how much longer before the general public will realize that Google is no longer a real search engine. Things can evolve fast, very fast. Remember Alta Vista?


Actually, the unbelievable current situation with the crossed-out words does give me some hope that Google's downfall isn't too far away. If you sit back and actually consider that a Search Engine is removing the words that people search for from their searches. It is amazing really.
4:09 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I wonder how much longer before the general public will realize that Google is no longer a real search engine.


I hear many complaints every week about how "useless" G is, obviously some of these complaints are extremely valid however I also wonder at times how badly worded the search term is but this is the very worst search I think I have ever done and only this week.

It was for keyword1, keyword2, keyword3 in my specialist widget trade, I have this widget on my site, the results 1-28 were all from the same site!

To explain, it is a Chinese widget trade directory site and Google listed 28 different suppliers from this site one after the other,. My result was by far the best at #29, all the preceeding ones were generic supply ones all using the same image, WTF?

If they continue this way then they will soon become history, I wonder whose content they will scrape for that?
10:47 pm on Aug 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It was for keyword1, keyword2, keyword3 in my specialist widget trade, I have this widget on my site, the results 1-28 were all from the same site!

And I thought the crowding I was seeing was bad. You beat me by a long shot!

@glitterball

If you sit back and actually consider that a Search Engine is removing the words that people search for from their searches. It is amazing really.

Amazing is an understatement. It's downright insulting. It's as if Google wants to treat their users like children by telling them that they know better and it's obvious that they don't.
12:56 am on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There have been times when google dropped a word from my search term, but I didn't notice it at first. I did notice that the results looked shabby and irrelevant and wondered what was happeneing, until finaly I saw that the word had been dropped. and my time up to that point had been wasted. You have to add a + sign to the word
11:27 am on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There have been times when google dropped a word from my search term, but I didn't notice it at first. I did notice that the results looked shabby and irrelevant and wondered what was happeneing, until finaly I saw that the word had been dropped. and my time up to that point had been wasted. You have to add a + sign to the word


Not sure if you are being sarcastic or not, but the "+" operator was removed years ago.
12:29 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You have to add a + sign to the word
aristotle, I tried it this evening, for a word that kept dropping out because it was a very rare word on the web, and it didn't work. Instead, results continued to be returned without it, and other words in the query took over. At least the serps showed the dropped word with the line through it, indicating that Google thinks it has a better match without it.

Ditto, I've tried using quotes to keep the words in a phrase together... say someone's first and last name... and that doesn't always work. Happens most, I think, when eg there are two phrases representing entities, and Google doesn't have enough context to know which of the entities is more important... but they don't occur combined very often.

I agree that I've been seeing a lot of this recently. and I've attributed it to RankBrain trying to reduce various long queries to shorter "core" queries, and IMO failing. I've been thinking for some time now that since Google has moved to AI, it has made enough of a switch in algorithms that it's having to re-learn some stuff it used to know.

The old saying about AI, which I know is true, is that Artificial Intelligence is initially very slow to learn, until it has lots of data available, and that when that happens, it learns very quickly. I'm hoping that happens before too long.

With common vocabulary, I'm seeing RankBrain pick out some useful results that keyword matching never could have returned, but with uncommon words it can be a mess.

1:19 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Well google eliminated the + operator in search some years ago because they wanted to use it for something relating to Google Plus. But when Google Plus flopped, I thought they re-introduced it to search. Maybe it works sometimes, but not always. In any case, this whole situation is really dumb.
2:39 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I am accustomed for a long time now to do almost all complex searches in Google putting them between quotation marks. I had enough of seeing my queries automatically altered by Google though that terrible and faulty "Did you mean?" algo just because Google didn't recognize a sligthly uncommon term. I well remember the days when Altavista ruled; Google destroyed it because it was a better search engine, though only marginally better. Now, if the 1999 Altavista could come back through a time tunnel directly on my desktop, I would switch from Google to it in an instant.
3:27 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I don't think we should complain too much about bad results. This is just part of the game. The AI can be to blame. What isn't changing is ad relevance to search terms and the company value. So long as those matter, this is the only concern. I'm sure with legs up on the desk, these types of complaints are a source of humor and laughter from execs. Paying out less, making more with the main product functioning as it is. I have concluded for quite some time THEY JUST DON'T CARE. This is how I operate and move forward. They don't give a rats A about who or what makes the serps so long as profits rise and that PR stays intact. Search QA team? For me Cutts was the last of that chapter.
3:58 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have concluded for quite some time THEY JUST DON'T CARE.


Don't worry. There's a saying: "Arrogance comes before the fall"
4:31 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yup - Google really does a horrible job at search these days. Most of my recent G searches returned results from 2011-2014 and nothing recent, Hoping it was good at older results, I just tried searching for an audio driver for an old Gateway PC. I tried to find the specs of the audio hardware, but only found scammy download sites. One #3 results led me to a page that could no longer be reached. Nice.
I had to actually switch to Bing which provided me with all the answers I needed and fixed my issue in minutes. Now if there was ever a Coke vs. Pepsi / Google vs. Bing challenge, then Bing wins hands down. Might not be pretty, but it gets the job done. It's clear that today Google is more of an ad engine than a search engine.
5:36 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Does anyone have any theories on why webmaster sites are being pushed down in the results? I've done all of the usual:

1. Change titles and headings (numerous times)
2. New backlinks from very high authority sites (above board links, just a few)
3. Increased CTR and time on site
4. Decreased bounce rate
5. Re-arranged content to improve user experience
6. Added new content

None of these things has caused any meaningful change. It's as if I'm allotted a certain number of people per day and cannot exceed that threshold.

The new content is about obscure topics. I'm trying to create content that is not on my authority site competitors site. I'm not trying to hit a home run, just a bunt single, yet the new content does not rank. It's odd that I can hit #2 for competitive terms, but cannot hit the first page for "one eyed one horned flying purple people eaters support group". I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. If I'm being penalized, it's a pretty minor penalty. Not -10 or -30, more like -2. Just enough to kill off most profitable traffic.

I have a theory that the late May updated might be a minor Panda update. As such, I am going to noindex about 90% of my site. Anything that does not rank will be excluded. If that doesn't work, it's time to move on. I've spent hundreds of hours of tedious ctrl-c ctrl-v over the last two months and my time would probably be better spent doing something else.

Has anyone ever heard of that site called Pinterest? hehe.... I'm thinking of migrating my entire site to Pinterest. I'm only half joking.
5:53 pm on Aug 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It's as if I'm allotted a certain number of people per day and cannot exceed that threshold.

I've been experiencing that for several years now. Natural patterns are gone.
Traffic starts to drip at 6am, gets a few surges throughout the day, then promptly stops at 11pm.

In the past, traffic continued 24/7 and followed the countries in the daylight zone.
Now it's total lights out over-nite.

Likewise, my total conversions is exactly the same each week.
Then every few weeks it drops by one.

What's really hilarious is when one landing page on my site suddenly goes from zero for hours on end, to over 100 non converting visits within 5 minutes, then back to zero.
It's like the throttle broke for a few minutes. Or to pad up my stats. Who knows.

Daily patterns show surges then back to zero for up to 30 minutes, then a surge, then back to zero. Rinse & repeat all day.
Almost like they are trying to say, "here's a carrot, now re-start your adwords campaign".

Crazy!
7:03 am on Aug 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We got to #4 for 4 weeks on a keyword keyword target phrase but have now been banished to the second page.
5:27 pm on Aug 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A new observation while researching an article today:
I spent several hours researching a particular topic today - reading mostly complaints cases against a specific company.
Anyway, after moving on to the next section of the article, and an unrelated topic, Google started injecting seemingly random articles related to the previous topic into the results.

To make the standard WebmasterWorld widgets example:
I spent a long time searching for "Red Widgets" before moving on.
Now when I search for "Blue Sprockets", I see a few pages related to "Red Widgets" mixed in.

Just in case you are sceptical, I did click through to those pages and search for both "Blue" and "Sprocket", and neither of those words were present on the page.
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