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Google Updates and SERP Changes - July 2018

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5:43 pm on Jun 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 22 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4904681.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 10:35 am on Jul 3, 2018 (PDT -8)


On a year like this with the 4th of July mid week, many Americans will take their week summer vacation that week. I expect unusual traffic patterns for the next 8-9 days.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 6:40 pm (utc) on Jul 3, 2018]
[edit reason] Split off to new monthly thread... [/edit]

6:31 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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We're having a better week than usual, in terms of traffic, despite the U.S. July 4 holiday. (Affiliate bookings are down somewhat, though.) Maybe some people are escaping local heat waves by browsing the Web in their air-conditioned homes?
8:16 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am rooting for DuckDuckGo to get a substantial piece of the search pie. They are now 0.5% of the search market, while google is over 80%, but duckduckgo is growing at 50% a year. Google cannot ever compete with DuckDuckGo on Privacy and Tracking issues. So those that want clean results and no tracking will go DuckDuckGo.

So even though DuckDuckGo is only .5% of the search market, it gives me 5% what I get from google. Why? Because I rank so much better. So if DuckDuck grows to 5% of the search market, it will account for 50% of my google clicks all else being equal. Small internet businesses can benefit from DuckDuckgo being successful. I have shared the article below, as it pretty much lays out the advantages of DuckDuckGo.

Great article on DuckDuckgo: [blog.p2pfoundation.net...]
9:15 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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You might want to focus on Bing. It has really good market share in the US.
10:19 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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You might want to focus on Bing


Is there any difference between DDG and Bing - Same data isn't it?
11:10 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Qaeron,
Same data isn't it?

Nope, DDG now uses Yandex.
11:26 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Back in March I changed the theme on one of my sites and saw a big drop in traffic. It was also around the time of a Google update, right?

The thing is, even though I a lot of my traffic and lost a lot of my rankings on google, I am still in top positions on other search engines.

Does this point to an algorithmic penalty by Google? or was it that I messed up after I changed the theme? My site was growing so rapidly as well. I disavowed a bunch of spammy links that kept popping up about 2 months ago but only saw modest improvement. My friend linked to me from her new website and has a low DA/PA (5). Would that cause it? It shows like 50 backlinks from one a link on one page of hers.

Would reallyappreciate if anyone has any idea? :S It's not my main site, but it kinda sucks because I posted around 60 articles on this new website and everything was going fine and then a massive drop happened. I know the permalinks didn't change, but the link structure may have after the theme update. My DA and PA dropped a LOT too. It's like everything was reset.

This is the growth and drop: [imgur.com...]
12:42 am on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@whoa182 I notice I tend to lose rankings in Google whenever I make significant changes to various pages on my site. In some cases, the pages disappear altogether.

Maybe just a matter of Google needing to re-evaluate them, and hopefully re-instating them after they get a better idea of what the newly-designed page is about. Just hoping this is the case though as there's no guarantee of this happening.

So, I guess, if you're not prepared for the above to happen, maybe just make incremental changes to your pages (e.g. an extra paragraph here, some additional info there, etc) as opposed to revamping the entire page.
2:59 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Seeing some significant testing in the SERPs

these are new to me:

1. knowledge "card" (whatever that block of information is being called) on the right hand side of SERPs with multiple images above text. link to source and images.

2. missing AND must include, (example search "big red dog") where it used to say "missing: big" now says "missing: big | must include:big", clicking must include: big re-executes the search forcing the omitted word to be included. I like this.
5:47 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Its normal, its Friday, its hot, plus holidays. Traffic is lower on Friday and Saturday, picks up on Sunday.
7:25 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The number of people with access to internet has grown so has grown the number of online shoppers in terms of confidence putting a credit card on a website.

All this evolution translates for us in less and less sales with same volume of traffic.

Maybe I should have become a gardener...
7:27 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I like the "must include" link also, nothing was worse than not knowing if a result truly had one of your keyword or not, it was an awful regression.
8:35 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I haven't posted in a while as we shifted the focus away from worrying about Google following an 85% drop in traffic in March 2017 (though off a rapid increase prior to that Ė it was more like a 60% drop off the average of the recent months prior).

We did a lot to try to clean things up for Google algorithms which may have hit us. Iím still convinced it was mostly speed-related issues tied to a negative SEO attack that sent fake, slow, traffic, reporting those results back to Google. There were (and continue to be) lots of dirty backlinks to us from hacked sites, #*$! sites, and other shady places, which weíve disavowed.

I canít say what worked, precisely, as we cleaned up everything, but over the last two months traffic has returned, and itís now basically back where it was. I still think it was largely speed related, and the return started about a year after the last serious slow-speed attacks stopped. Itís just a theory, but perhaps the repeated signals of very slow site speed triggered a one-year penalty and then, rather than an instant recovery, things improved as that flag was removed and the other algorithms (which may themselves have considered the existence of a speed flag) reprocessed the site. I canít think of any other great explanations Ė we finished cleaning things up about a year ago and didnít really change much otherwise after that.

At any rate, weíre seeing big increases in the last few weeks. It could be an algorithm change, but I suspect itís just a (long-awaited) recovery. Also, FWIW, I estimate this penalty cost us about $1.5 million, when it's all said and done... I guess the takeaway is that it's not a good idea to rely on organic Google search traffic to pay the bills.
10:24 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@NYCTech

Welcome back. Any compromised device using chrome can start slowloading any website after a opt in chrome data sharing agreement.

Is this a loophole or just naivety?
11:39 am on July 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@NYCTech

Your post sounds similar to my own situation - except I have experienced a slower and more gradual decline - approx. 10-20%/month since March 2017.

Before this I was seeing a pronounced increase in traffic and improvement in rankings in the prior 6 months as well.

I've attributed this decline to: 1. Slow site-speed 2. A massive influx of bad backlinks from hacked sites that began in January 2017. 3. Persistent fake traffic, at DDOS levels at times.

I have improved my site-speed considerably, and have disavowed tons of backlinks - and continue to do so every day.

Do you have any tips for blocking the fake traffic, or mitigating the negative effects this causes?

I've considered blocking all traffic from outside the US, but this seems like a very extreme measure that could have unintended negative consequences of its own.
12:47 pm on July 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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A great number of my sites became mobile first indexing enabled today.

My sincere condolences.
3:33 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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after some website problems in 2017 (platform switch caused various problems, end up switching back, fix issues etc after many months) we saw returns to about 80% of post issue level in Jan / Feb 2018 , sales increasing again and what I expect for time of year. From March onwards I have been steadily falling and traffic down to about 50% of Jan/Feb levels and conversions the same.
My sales are now about 30% of what they where the previous year and I have closed one office down and am considering closing altogether (or doing some serious downsizing in other ways) as I now have loses week on week.
Im sure some of this is down to google algorithm updates, some still a bit from echos of past tech problems and a large part due to increased competition which massively increased during the last year. I have one competitor that has clearly employed an seo last year and they have aggressively been using lots of black/grey hat tactics which are working and im struggling to compete with them (they have a team of 10 to 12 people working purely on seo and content - I have just me).
The most frustrating this for me is that their content is not good, mostly made up of snippets copied from other sites and changed slightly (think it is human spun not automatic), target keywords and then backed up with a number of blogs they run linking back to them ( these are old blogs they bought for the history and they have changed all the content,pretending to be independent , review sites always recommending their own products etc) , plus lots of paid reviews on other blogs.
Feel like I have been in a war day in day out all this year and i am exhausted. Been on the edge in all honestly. Ive been working on improving speed, site usability etc and doing the best content etc - doing things the "right way" but im seeing very little in the way of results and things are still on a downward trend. It is so frustrating that I see bad content from my competitor constantly coming above me simply because of all the tactics they use that supposedly google should ban them for , or at least penalize them - yet they are winning. Ive reported them multiple times for the paid links, the doorway pages etc but of course nothing is done or has an effect.
At this stage im close to giving up - i cant keep playing a game that gives you some of the rules, keeps changing the ones you dont know and rewards the people that dont stick to any of them. Its like im living a real life version of the "the good place" at times.
3:45 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Do you have any tips for blocking the fake traffic, or mitigating the negative effects this causes?


have you looked into or are you using a service like cloudflare or another cdn with additional security type services?

Ive not used any for your particular issue but it was what sprung to mind. Im presuming the traffic is coming from multiple changing IP sources so you cant block those IPs or ranges in your server config or at firewall level?
4:15 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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"Slow Speed Attacks"

Anyone care to elaborate on that? Is is a common attack?
6:19 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Slow Speed Attacks

In previous posts here I've jokingly referred to these as "slow-motion DDOS attacks".

They come from botnets, and can last for years. The first time I saw one in my logs, some years ago, I thought it might be a practice trial for an impending full-scale DDOS attack on that site. But it stayed in slow motion.

I've never seen a conclusive explanation for them. I tend to think that they are botnets that someone tried to build but never finished and abandoned when they were still too small to use for an effective attack. But that's just a theory.
8:51 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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At this stage im close to giving up


Don't give up! The answer is always around the next corner.
8:56 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Slow Speed Attacks

Is there any way to time out the connection in Linux?
8:58 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Don't give up! The answer is always around the next corner.


Ive been round so many corners im dizzy!

Im still plugging away but the fact i am now losing money each week could be I have no choice at some point in the not too distant future.

Ive decided to take a few days off trying to appease the google gods and work on UX and site improvement this week as that is of course of course just (probably more) important and it can at least give me a change of focus for a while and likely a bit of a sense of achievement.
9:04 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The answer my friend is usually more simple than that. Go to basics forget about code and UX, concentrate on your content. What are you doing wrong? what are you doing right?

Its as simple as that.
10:25 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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It may be as simple as this:

Hack a device agree in google chrome with data sharing and start making slow requests to competition sites.

If most of the sites load fast on that device and not yours then rankbrain may try exterminate the human traffic trying to reach your site.

As you can see AI is trying to help humanity. ďIn Data We TrustĒ
10:25 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The answer my friend is usually more simple than that. Go to basics forget about code and UX, concentrate on your content. What are you doing wrong? what are you doing right?


That is what I have been doing actually for ages , focusing on better content , ensuring it is better than my competition (which im sure it is - theirs is not very good at all). whilst ill admit i probably had some thin content issues on category pages (which is where im losing out in the serps) i have been fixing that - its not all done yet, but im working on it and it is getting there , but i still have bad quality content coming above me. I have simplified the category structure (use to have same product in various categories), ensure canonicals are using the shortest url for products. Lots of things.
I do need to get more quality inbound links, but its quite hard to get them if your not paying and when my competitors are , that is where im loosing out.

The UX thing I do think it is important though because I know there are some issues with people just finding checkout too complicate for example. Ive just simplified some of that today that I could do quite fast (i have some other things that will take a lot longer but they can wait)
11:58 pm on July 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My situation is similar to Milchan's, except I'm still profitable at this stage, though nowhere near as profitable as I was two or more years ago.

My current attitude is just to build the best possible site in its niche that I can and let the chips fall where they may. At the very least, at the end of all of this, I'll have a product that I can be proud of having built.

But of course, that's easy to say when you're not losing money (yet).
12:24 pm on July 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My situation mirrors in many ways to Milchan and jmorgan. I am still profitable but took a big hit in March of this year. A lot of sub par websites (for a variety of reasons) moved higher and large websites that cover many niches took over with content that is out dated and thin (or content that is really long, rambles, and doesn't say much of anything).
12:55 pm on July 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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(or content that is really long, rambles, and doesn't say much of anything).


yep , that is exactly like my competitors - seems more about placement of keywords than actually well written , useful content.

Frustrating that all the noises coming from google are that the latest changes are about rewarding quality content and more relevent content when in fact it seems that the exact opposite seems to be happening
1:58 pm on July 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@cr1t1calh1t

What you're describing sounds remarkably similar to what happened to us. Like you, we also saw gradual declines, though following an initial massive drop. Then, later in the year, a slight, gradual increase, and then a much more rapid increase in the last few months. All this time, we were also disavowing bad backlinks, continuing to get non-search traffic, adding content, and getting regular organic backlinks (including some decent media coverage on somewhat prominent sites).

As far as blocking the bad traffic, we implemented a firewall and logged IPs that were slow-loading. Multiple repeat offenders were blocked, and, over time, this grew to be a very large list, but it also encapsulated most of the IP addresses they use. They still add some periodically, but with the vast majority blocked, it's a much smaller ratio of slow-loads to genuine loads (which are quite fast). From what I can tell, the ratio matters - if 1/3 of loads are very slow, it throws a flag. If it's 1/10th or less (on a given day), it doesn't seem to have much of an impact.

It's a slow process to recover from this attack, but it seems like it works once the history has been clean for a year or so.
2:19 pm on July 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@NYCTech

Ive seen a few strange behaviours in analytics like traffic referrals arriving from google ads I didnt create (i dont have any), arriving on the homepage but with an anchor #important (I dont have that nor never have) and also have had slow loading time warnings for certain countries- but I haven had a chance to investigate all this too much.
I am thinking that it might be a good idea to have a seperate thread on these "slow ddos" attacks somewhere, that yourself and others could share some insights on how they identified it , analysed it and have been trying to deal with it. Could be useful for people (think it would be for me) and probably better to seperate it out of this thread.
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