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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2017

     
10:45 am on Sep 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 4 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4860963.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 3:25 am on Sep 2, 2017 (PDT -8)


How do you compare your pages with those in the top 10?


User intent.
3:56 pm on Sept 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Thank you @Cralamarre for your candor. It is disappointing to hear that any conversion to be mobile-friendly could result in a hit -- obviously there are scores of factors involved in the conversion, I know, but I agree with providing what people want/need (sometimes that seems to involve click-bait articles and Lowest Common Denominator info, etc. unfortunately -- so there is an element of what I see as "selling out" in giving people what they want).

People want and think they need fast food to satisfy their hunger and refuel, etc., but it is likely not what they need if they want to live long-term...
4:36 pm on Sept 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@honestman, I think it depends on your audience. Knowing your audience and catering to your audience are key because you need your visitors to be satisfied. If Google sees that most of the people who visit your site end up backing out and going someplace else for the same search query, Google will lose faith in your site, which will negatively impact your rankings.

This is just my opinion, but at this point, I think traditional SEO is dead. Or at least, those old rules have much less of an impact now. Knowing your audience is the new SEO.
7:47 pm on Sept 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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G's SERPs are simply getting worse! I just did a keywords1/2/3 widget search and got the following result:

#1 Houzz 404 page with a 10th Sept cache date
#2 Houzz 404 page with a 10th Sept cache date
#3 Houzz Correct page with a 10th Sept cache date

What the heck is going on?

Domain crowding serving 404 pages, this is a farce!
8:00 pm on Sept 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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One of the sites that recently started appearing on the first page of Google for my main keyword actually has no usable content on it at all. The site used to be full of training videos, but all the videos have been moved to a completely different site and are no longer accessible on the original site. Yet the original site is now appearing on the first page of the SERPs. The site even has a disclaimer at the top stating clearly that all content has been moved to the new site. Basically, the original site is just sitting there, gutted and dead in the water. Yet it's only 2 spots below mine on the first page. Sure makes me feel good about myself.
2:16 am on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If Google sees that most of the people who visit your site end up backing out and going someplace else for the same search query, Google will lose faith in your site, which will negatively impact your rankings.


No, that's not true. Google uses click data to train the algorithm. But it does not use it as a ranking factor. So if the algorithm is getting it wrong and showing users a kind of site they don't want to see, then it will use that data to learn how to better determine user intent.

For example, if it is showing a commercial site instead of the informational site the user wants. This means there's a flaw in the algorithm. What it will do is look for common patterns in millions of similar negative experiences and from the clicks of those millions of searches will create new signals to use in order to show the sites users want to see.

It's not that Google loses faith in a single site for a single keyword phrase. No, no, no. It's not about the site nor about a single keyword phrase. It's about the algorithm and it's ability to determine what it is that users want when they make a search query, any search query.
4:09 am on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Well maybe it's going to get worse before it gets better, since most of my user metrics in Google Analytics (pageviews per session, bounce rate, etc) have worsen compared to last year, with few changes to my sites to explain it. Google is sending me less traffic and that traffic is even less happy.
6:05 am on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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G's SERPs are simply getting worse! I just did a keywords1/2/3 widget search and got the following result:

#1 Houzz 404 page with a 10th Sept cache date
#2 Houzz 404 page with a 10th Sept cache date
#3 Houzz Correct page with a 10th Sept cache date

What the heck is going on?

Domain crowding serving 404 pages, this is a farce!


No, you are wrong. This is Google "quality". The more 404 pages you see, the bigger the chance that you will go back and click on a Google ad or Google property. For some queries I'm getting up to 5 Pinterest results on page 1. There must be a strategic (money) reason for this. Why else would a search engine be so stupid and send us to PInterest where you have to create and account and login before you can see the content?
10:15 am on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing an up tick in multiple amazon listings. Lots of product queries now just compose of lots of amazon results with affiliate AMAZON websites. Is it really good user exp to shows tons of disingenuous “best 10 widgets” reviews from people who have obviously never tested the products?
10:50 am on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think it depends on your audience. Knowing your audience and catering to your audience are key because you need your visitors to be satisfied.

It would be interesting to see what would appeal to Google's bot like traffic. My guess is giving away even barrels full of cash would not improve signups/conversions. That's how crappy Google traffic has become. What I am trying to say is that for a user to be happy, Google must first match the user to a set of relevant SERPS. When users are exhausted from being SERP spammed by Google with thin content pages and domain crowding, they are less likely to interact with a website and are instead more inclined to abandon the search altogether. Google can call this quality all they want, but it is just plain ole crap.
5:13 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@martinibuster

So, let's say that you and I both have websites that teach people how to create widgets. Both of our sites are information sites, with the only difference between the content itself. We cover the same topics, but I have my way of explaining things and you have yours. For arguments sake, we'll say that my site is currently ranked #1 in the Google SERPs and yours is ranked #2.

So, because my site is ranked above yours, people searching for "how to create widgets" on Google typically click on my site first. But, more often that not, people are not satisfied with my explanation of how to create widgets. So, they hit the Back button on the browser, return to the search results page, and click on your site below mine. On your site, they find the answers they're looking for, and their search ends. This pattern of people clicking on my site first, backing out and then going to your site for the same "how to create widgets" search continues, day after day.

Are you saying that Google does not take notice that people are routinely going to your site after mine, and that this behaviour will not eventually change the ranking order of our sites?
5:57 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre I am pretty sure google does use that data, at least 1) it seems like a good idea and 2) the data is probably easily accessible and 3) it is likely to result in happier surfers!
6:05 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre
Let me step in for Martinibuster

Are you saying that Google doesn't take notice that people are routinely going to your site after mine, and that this behaviour will not eventually change the ranking order of our sites?

Yes

But the real issue is not that, it is in how you frame your example.
For arguments sake, we'll say that my site is currently ranked #1 in the Google SERPs and yours is ranked #2

To really get what Martinibuster is saying we need to switch paradigms from a world where websites are naively ranked from #1 to infinity, to a world where search results are matched to the user, and the user's intention. Many sites can rank number one for any keyword. Google is using all kinds of information, from browsing history, geo-location, time of day, seasonality etc.. as factors for ranking. Even if, pogo sticking were used as a signal, it would only be one of many, in some situations it may count for much in others in may not be considered.

I often check the keywords report in search analytics in GSC. I click on the link next to the keyword to see the serp for the keyword. Say the report says I rank #12. When I click, my site is not #12, not #10, not on page 1, not on page 3, it is nowhere to be found. I then check the next keyword, and I find my site. Both keywords are statistically the same but for some reason the site shows for one but not the other. Is the report wrong? Or are the other factors at play?

There must be other factors at play because the record of the traffic reported by those serps exists, I just don't see the serps for what ever reason Incognito doesn't solve the problem, because it is one of an infinite states that users can be seeing the results for.

Times have changed, creating content for search engines is utterly useless and even trying to predict what content will work is useless. The only strategy is to create content specifically for the user and even that might not work.
6:12 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And to support my point here is a link posted by @RLillly in another thread here on WW showing that Bing is head in the same direction as Google.
[webmasterworld.com...]
6:41 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS, so basically, there's no such thing as #1 on Google anymore, because the site I see at #1, and the site you see, and the site someone else sees, are probably different. I've actually noticed that if I search for the same keyword on Google using different browsers, I often see different ranking orders for the results. And as you pointed out, when I view my keywords on the Google Search Console, the ranking that GSC displays is usually not the ranking I see when I click the link to view the SERP.

Since search engine results have become impossible to predict, would you say that social media is now more important for getting your content in front of your target audience?
6:59 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yes,

So what Nick telling you is that if a genuine buyer is searching for what you see yourself as no1 in the rankings you might not show and it is all down to personalisation like whether, geo-location, history of spending and so on...
7:46 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Surely, there must be something that some sites are doing better than others, even in this new "personalized" world we live in. The SERPS are not like a slot machine where you get different, random results each time you pull the handle. My site may not show up at #1 for everyone who searches for my main keyword, but I get enough traffic from Google to know that it does show up there a lot. So while they may be personalized, the rankings are not random. There must still be some set of quality control rules that Google is using for general ranking purposes before personalizing the results.
8:31 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Anyone noticing a big bump in traffic today? We are up over 15% compared to last week.
9:12 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Nope, traffic mediocre to say the least ... I think my widgets have died and gone to heaven!
9:53 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There is no point in jumping for joy or crying over the results from one day. My mobile traffic was down 47% yesterday. Now it is back up again. I believe that Goo is using a round-robin technique to test user-experience for a wide variety of sites in preparation for the mobile first index.
11:19 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Not jumping for joy over one day. Our traffic is up 450% since March. Just noticed a bigger jump than usual and wondered if anyone else saw something similar.
11:20 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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People need to realize that most sites get a lot of mis-matched traffic from google. This is the a major cause of high bounce rates, poor conversions etc. Some of the mis-matched traffic is due to poor search results on google's part, and some is due to poor searching techniques on the part of google's users.
11:41 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre
So while they may be personalized, the rankings are not random.

No the serps are definitely not random but at the same time it is impossible to predict the impact that any change in content will have on the outcome of search. A small change could have a dramatic impact or no impact. A change that caused a positive outcome for one, may be useless for another. Not changing can have an impact.
2:25 am on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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showing that Bing is head in the same direction as Google.


Sure it's not the other way around?
9:42 am on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Speaking of this ancient search engine Bing they do a good job not mismatching traffic delivering a conversion rate that is almost double and the bounce rate is the same as other search engines.

It is interesting that the mistmatched traffic does not bounce.
9:44 am on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Ended up being a 18% bump. Conversion rate remained the same. Bounce - 2% and time on site was + 1.5%. All gained in the tail.

We continue to win with strong content marketing. Answering peoples questions better than anyone else can or is willing to. Pretty amazing to see how people move from post to post, some staying engaged for hours. With over 180 well written posts, plus videos and 1000's of custom images. All posts are 1500-5000 words, so there is a lot to read and look at.

Note: We don't have a minimum word count per post, just write how much is required to answer the question properly.
11:37 am on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@SnowMan68, unfortunately I could make the exact same claims about my site (except with over 500 well written posts), yet my site has still lost 50% of its traffic over the past several months thanks to Google updates.
12:12 pm on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sure it's not the other way around?

In the video interview (linked in the article, that was linked to in the post) James Murray, EMEA Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft Bing is using terms like "what we are going to see". So my understanding is that this is new.
1:22 pm on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So my understanding is that this is new.


That might be the impression. But it's not new.

Links have always played a lesser role in Bing than Google. That's why Bing has been such a mystery to SEOs.

Links have been diminishing at Google since the beginning of Google. A few years ago in a blog post about cultivating links, I made the analogy that most links are somewhat like chaff, the stuff that gets thrown away in the process of getting to the grain. The grain is a real citation, where a web page links to another page because it's relevant.

That signal has been dirty for a long time. Google's Hummingbird update (2013) was Google's first step in the direction of understanding content. Bing was already down that road with machine learning and their learning to rank algorithms [wwwconference.org] (2007 - 2009).

Bing was never about links, that's why SEOs have had a difficult time understanding Bing. Someone in a private FB group posted they were confused about why a certain site was ranking. I asked how it was doing in Bing. They answered it was top ranked. That answer was what I was expecting.

Those weren't "quality updates" to the core algorithm. Phantom and Fred? Those were bogus theories. The truth is that once you understand content you don't have to rely so much on weeding out negative quality signals. Once you know what the grain looks like and how to get to it, you can strip away the chaff and not worry about it anymore. Think about that and what it means to SEO.

Google's moving toward being like Bing, since Hummingbird. Guess what the role of links are now? Today I wrote a post about it, read it here. [webmasterworld.com]

[edited by: martinibuster at 1:54 pm (utc) on Sep 13, 2017]

1:29 pm on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@martinibuster your are wrong about Pogosticking, see the link to SER. Apparently Google is now use click data in ranking.
[seroundtable.com...]

Regarding Bing I am just reporting what was said in the interview. It would surprise me if this were entirely new, so what you say makes sense. Let me just say that I have never had success from Bing, and my impression in my niche is that Bing's result are far more spammy than what I see in Google.
1:34 pm on Sept 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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No. You are wrong. Read the article, not just the title. ;)

It was not 100% clear if he was talking about just training the models or if it directly impacts the live search results.


We've been discussing that on Barry's FB timeline and aside from one mozzer, most people who know the algo agree that CTR data is used for training, not ranking.

All the scientific research papers on CTR are about the use of this data for training the algo, not as a ranking factor.
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