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Google Updates and SERP Changes - December 2018

     
3:13 pm on Dec 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 7 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4926691.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 4:47 pm on Dec 1, 2018 (PDT -8)


It just keeps getting worse and worse... I was seeing a slow daily uptick from November 4th until day before yesterday and hoping I would finally start to recover from September's massacre. Now I've lost all the ground I made up in two days and back to where I started. No calls, no emails, no inquiries. Meanwhile the huge corporate competitors keep ascending. Google is just determined to kill us all off.
9:48 pm on Dec 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Shepherd @Jori

I see what you mean and it looks like super synonyms. They seem to have mashed together several queries that aren't quite synonyms of each other to serve one set of results. I've been seeing more of this in my niche too and it isn't serving what people are asking for at all.

The problem is if you mash three queries into one, you now have 30 different results competing for the first ten spots. And they're choosing the top spots from each different real query and ranking them first in their one super synonym query.

I'm finding Google's behaviour increasingly suspicious. They're taking the first few results and showing them to more people, and all the rest of the results are becoming less visible.

They must realise the effect this is going to have on the economy? That this is going to kill so many smaller businesses?

Did they not think it through? Did they think it through and they don't care? Are they doing it on purpose?
10:44 pm on Dec 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't believe in conspiracy theory, at least for that particular point.

What's the point of killing small businesses on purpose ? Do they want to rely only on a small group of companies who buy google ads ? I always thought it was best on an auction to have multiple persons to fill...

Do they honestly believe they are serving better results ? We do not have the big picture. Are they waiting a year or two to see if the machine learning is working ?

We just don't know. For some of us complaining, how many are happy ? Maybe if we add somewhere a poll just to ask people if they are happy with the serps on their niche ?
4:13 am on Dec 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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What I have seen is that during periods where Google has hit my traffic, the number of impressions is much lower but the CTR rises. Over the summer Google was sending a lot of organic traffic and the impressions were much higher while the CTR was lower. It may be that Google is trying to allow more exposure to more sites by experimenting with fewer impressions for all of us, but a better CTR on the impressions do get. I am seeing a better CTR in both web and image search now despite the low traffic.
11:05 am on Dec 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Then searched for: "buy red widget"
Site in 0 (answer box) and #1 spot.


I've been seeing this for quite some time now and did mention it here a couple of months or so ago yet no one picked up on it however don't rely on it all the time, it doesn't always work and can actually throw-up some absolutely bizarre results.
3:27 pm on Dec 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Not really seeing alot here at the moment. I'm concerned that i might have over baked one of my main money pages. Whilst its holding an reasonable ranking, it doesnt move. Feels like a sandpit on page 2
9:36 pm on Dec 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Shepherd I did a bit of research into queries with quotes around them. Apparently those queries tend to show the pages that are best optimised for the keyword on the page, whereas queries without quotes get resorted to include "other factors." Presumably all of the other panda penguin super hummingbird backlinks social type stuff. So, at least your on-page is optimised!
12:49 am on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Wikipedia has a huge (HUGE!) "banner" at the top asking you to donate.

While I like Wikipedia and understand their need for funding, I'm wondering if Google will be consistent and demote them based on their intrusive "advertising".
1:23 am on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My rankings shot up and my traffic shot down..
11:27 am on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@jmorgan - I don't think that banner is different to any other year plus it disappears very easily.

QUESTION - Before I go hunting elsewhere, is anyone else seeing a massive reduction in traffic today?

After 11 hours of a Googleday, all of my international sites are running at 10% of average with one site having had zero traffic so far and my most consistent .co.uk site is likewise down where I've never seen it before.

Has something happened, my server doesn't appear to have been down, or is my day going to be diverted and lost trying to ascertain what has happened?

Don't tell me Google's fubard The Net again, please.
12:44 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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We have just gone positive on Google Organic visitors, last 30 days compared to a year ago, the main change being in the last 2 weeks. We have been adding lots of new and interlinked content over the last 5 months, I hope that is what is having an effect.
12:52 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Just a thought - if you see a big change a few days to a couple of weeks after an algorithm update, or after making quality improvements to your site, it could be Penguin related, it seems to take a while to reprocess links. Panda as far as I can find out uses a month or two of user data.
3:45 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Jori
>I don't believe in conspiracy theory, at least for that particular point.
>What's the point of killing small businesses on purpose ? Do they want to rely only on a small group of companies who buy google ads ?

I don't think I believe it either - but you can see how Google would benefit:

If they could get away with only serving organic results from (say) 250,000 trusted domains without losing significant market share - that would save them a FORTUNE in hardware / bandwidth / data centres.

They could experiment with this by simply not returning non-favoured domains high in the SERPS. If they can drive traffic away from "everyone else" without losing too much market share - they can simply purge the rest of us from their index altogether. Solves the problem of spam at the same time.

I remember seeing some graphs a few years ago showing how Google got the vast majority of its ad revenue from a very small number of companies - like only a few hundred. So it's very unlikely that any of the advertisers they care about would be impacted - they wouldn't even need to favour them deliberately.

Not saying this is what they're doing - but if they were cynical enough - it might be a profitable approach.
4:05 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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There are some businesses whose model is very suitable for Ads, lots of individuals can become customers and the value of their business is high, (this pays for a lot of high CPC Ads) such businesses can ramp up their spend to levels not seen by ordinary B2B type companies. I am talking several hundred thousand pounds spend each month.

I don't know how the 80-20 rule splits for Google Ads though,
4:39 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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recoverd keys was stable for the last 3 weeks. Today is something happening again...
7:50 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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What is it with these websites that force you to click twice to get to what you want to see. You notice a link to an article or news story, but when you click it, the new page makes you hunt around until finally you see the same link along with "click to see article" or some such. It's irritating.
8:53 am on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'm noticing that I'm getting more and more traffic from duckduckgo over the last few months. It keeps increasing... so I guess that's a good sign.

But I think I'm just going to stop looking at my analytics for a while and just simply work on the website. This rollercoaster is exhausting.
9:37 am on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My traffic is going up recently, this is the first time in months. But my average rank position is still the same, bounce rate / pages per session / session duration are getting worse... AND no more conversions or sales and that is very bad for my business.

Seriously Google, the same old zombie traffic story? I can read all the symptoms in Analytics.

Also found this news about a recent update: [seroundtable.com...]
2:52 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'm already instructing my visitors to use DuckDuckGo. On some pages still, because I do not know if it will become a negative problem in SEO. I'm preparing the future. The only way to deal with Google is to drain its power. I don't use Google anymore in mobile devices.
3:21 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Anyone else having problems with real-time analytics today?
3:30 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Malanje I have been noticing a few sites that are actually placing a small DDG logo on their website, any little bit helps, unfortunately, the company has big pockets and still encourages different companies to promote their search engine. While it will take time, if Google continues delivering the results it has been over the last few months it will eventually become less popular. it may take years but it is possible, people are only willing to put up with so much.
3:41 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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if Google continues delivering the results it has been over the last few months it will eventually become less popular.

It's hard for people who's sites are doing well with Google to not take offense at some of the comments posted here.
4:17 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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It's hard for people who's sites are doing well with Google to not take offense at some of the comments posted here.


Hi Cralamarre, i think the maths in on the side of the unhappy. Only the top 2-5 at most of the SERPS are going to be truly happy with Google and then there are the rest of P1 and then P2-P200 who aren't anywhere, and presumably aren't happy about it either.

I don't know why you should take offence though?
4:49 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't know why you should take offence though?


@Mark A,
What I take offense with is the common belief here that if my own site isn't doing well in Google, it's proof that something is wrong with Google and Google needs to change. What about the sites that are doing well in Google? Well these sites are called "garbage" and nothing but proof that Google is completely messed up.

I get it. We all like to believe that our own sites are the best sites and they deserve to be #1. But just because Google's algorithm doesn't agree with you doesn't mean that Google is broken. And wanting to believe that all the sites ranking above you are garbage doesn't make it true.
5:00 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I know I can't speak for everyone here, but the search is not good, Google says user intent there is none, most of my sites took a hit ( that's ok). I pretty much know why and now I am resolving it with new sites.

The sites I am currently working on do not have quality (they don't need to) because the ones ranking right now don't have quality so I am building them to compete with the sites that are currently ranking.

Quality is not a factor right now, if it does become a factor later (again) then my sites should return.

Its actually in a way much easier right now, shorter articles, scraped content, the only hard part is the budget I need for buying quality expired domains with backlink juice but right now if that is what it takes it has to be done.

At least next time I have an A/B backup plan to cover the algorithm ranking requirements be it quality content or the spammy stuff. Maybe not foolproof but I hope I am better off with the next updates.
5:07 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Quality is not a factor right now, if it does become a factor later (again) then my sites should return.

See what I mean? These are the types of comments I just love. I guess my site that's ranking well is obviously low quality, but if quality ever matters again, my site is doomed. Give me a break.
5:13 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre I can't speak for your site, I don't know what niche you are in but in the ones I am in right now they are pretty bad, I mean 90% are hard to read and the grammar is horrible.
5:24 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@southernguy,
I understand, but you should at least state in your comments that you are specifically referring to your own niche, and not Google's results in general.

In my niche, there are a few sites that rank higher than mine for certain keywords. But after analyzing and comparing their content with my own, I can see why Google is ranking them higher. It's not that my content is bad, but theirs is structured better, and they deserve to be ranked higher (for now).

Yesterday, I published an updated version of an older article that had previously done well but had lost 50% of its traffic over the past year. The new version is shorter, and much more structured, streamlined and focused. Today, Google traffic for the article is double what it was the same day last week. And this is not the first article where I've seen similar results. Overall, my site traffic is now 20% higher than it was the same time last year.

This is what Google is looking for now. Short (within reason depending on the topic), structured and focused.
5:44 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'm just curious @cralamarre is the traffic increase you are seeing translating into conversions and sales? One of my sites that is getting good traffic has 60% fewer conversions than it did 5 months ago and yes, I am taking into account the holiday season.

Other friends I have spoken to have been experiencing similar results so maybe a better rank and an increase in traffic but no conversions which is where the biggest flaw is with Google, people are not getting what they are looking for.

From my personal experience and use I am getting better results with DDG and Bing no, they are not perfect, but I am getting much better query returns there than I am with Google.
6:07 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Quality is not a factor right now,

In this context the word quality means nothing. It is a misuse of the word and refers to intangible concept that is entirely subjective and relative to (in this case) @southernguy's perspective.

Quality is ones ability to consistently build or create something to meet a specific standard. A Toyota Corolla is a high quality vehicle, nearly every car was produced to meet the exact standards that it was sold as. It was said to be reliable, nearly every car was reliable, it seats were lame grey, every seat was the exact color of lame grey and so on. But is was no Lexus. Lexus is a luxury vehicle so instead of lame grey fabric seats it's specification calls for fancy black leather. The fact that the Toyota has fabric seats instead Leather does not reduce the "Quality" of the Toyota. It simply means that Toyota is lower grade than Lexus. Quality is reduced when the black leather seats specified are delivered by a dark grey-ish leather that is spotty.

What constitutes good quality content? It is actually impossible to know as it relative to the searchers query and intent. You can take your most popular keyword, check the SERPs for that keyword and look at what you competitors produced and then try and repeat that. This is now your standard and your ability to meet that standard will determine you level of quality.

The only problem is that your view of SERPs is singular and thus biased. You may well produce a "high quality" website that meets that standard, but really what you are doing is producing content of a specfic "grade" that grade made be more or less popular. So you may be lucky and increase traffic as there are more people searching for that grade of content or you could be unlucky and achieving the highest ranking for fewer searches.

But the bottom line is that you can't produce one vehicle that is both a Toyota and Lexus at the same time. One can't produce content that is point form list style, and in depth, well researched, well explained, well sourced. Choose one, or the other. Or one can choose both, like Toyota with the Toyota/Lexus brands but then these are distinct products (distinct pages or websites). One needs to chose the one that will generate the most profit. To determine this, one needs to do research outside of simply relying on bogus "keyword tools" and test to see which approach is best for one's specific niche.

The worst possible strategy is to try and continuously adjust your content to meet the flavor of the month.

@Cralamarre, you seem to be fortunate to have found the optimal positioning within your niche. Keep it up and simply ignore the noise.
6:12 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@cralamarre There’s a sample bias problem here.

People whose websites are doing well don’t tend to hang around webmaster forums. The people who tend to hang around forums like this are white hats who have fallen afoul of algorithm changes. They’re the people who can’t afford to pay big SEO companies to fix their websites. They’ve lost their livelihoods and businesses and they’re desperately looking for glimmers of information that might help them get their rankings back.

They often have genuine reason to be upset about what they’re seeing in their own niche because undeserving entities have figured out or accidentally chanced across ways to exploit Google’s algorithms.

Google doesn’t always make the kindest choices and there is often a lot of collateral damage to innocent sites who get hit by algorithmic demotions designed to control spam.

There is a general feeling in the SEO community (not just here) that the serps have become worse in the last few months, mainly because they’ve become rather vague and nonspecific.

However, that’s not to say ALL serps are worse, I’m sure plenty of well deserving sites are being rewarded.

Now I’ve mostly figured out what’s going on I can see the loopholes that are letting the bad results through, and how Google are unintentionally(?) punishing good sites for not conforming to a rather strict template.

That doesn’t mean high ranking sites are bad, it means those sites are conforming to what Google expects or wants to see, and even that sometimes they’re so good that they’re getting rewarded in spite of not conforming to the template.

It sounds like you’re on track. I think they’re not only checking for bounce back to serp but also time on page compared to expected reading time. I think they may have altered how they measure the user satisfaction element of Panda.

@southernguy It depends on how you define quality. Google has some rather specific definitions and people have figured out how to exploit them. I finally figured out what’s going on in my serp and it involves the interaction of four or five different high ranking websites making bad choices. The low quality websites you see ranking are probably doing some very specific things with keyword placement in addition to black hat link building, and these factors currently seem to be overriding Panda user satisfaction signals. And let’s not forget they are ignoring most backlinks these days which may be making the serps very volatile.
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