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Google Updates and SERP Changes - January 2019

     
3:01 pm on Jan 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The following 3 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4929562.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 7:58 pm on Jan 1, 2019 - (PDT -8)


@MayankParmar, it's just New Years. Same thing happens every year. My traffic won't start to really pick up until next week.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 4:04 am (utc) on Jan 2, 2019]
[edit reason] Splitting thread to new month and new year. [/edit]

2:30 pm on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Anybody else seeing their CTR dropping through the floor after 12/17? My average CTR went from 1.3 down to 1.0 for no reason at all apparently. Only thing I can think of is I changed the schema tags for many of my pages about 6 weeks ago and now they are all updated to the new schema classification. Does that affect how they are presented in the SERPS?
2:45 pm on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous, on the contrary, that's the day I got a big traffic boost and have done since.

Things seem to be a bit more shakey yesterday and today. Seeing a big dip in traffic. Update brewing?
3:04 pm on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Something happened on the 16th through the 23rd for me where I got a sharp increase in impressions but overall clicks did not go up but stayed the same, which meant my CTR dropped. It went back to normal after Christmas, then since 1st of Jan I've seen increasing divergence between CTR and impressions again, although my total clicks and position are still going up. I think it must be related to how results are presented in the serps, I've noticed a lot of new info boxes on some queries that are undoubtedly reducing CTR.
3:07 pm on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@broccoli Yes, I drew the same conclusion...my SERPS are going up according to SEMrush but overall traffic down and CTR way down. Perhaps image thumbs not being included anymore? I haven't had time to test
3:17 pm on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous I've lost a lot of image thumbnails this year on mobile search. They only seem to appear on partial match search terms now apart from a couple of pages that Google just really loves (I think something to do with their definition of link quality - they got quite a few press links but didn't get shared around tumblr that much...(!)), which is really frustrating because it was the best way I had (apart from better grammar and using title case!) of showing in the serps that my site was of a higher quality than others.
9:31 am on Jan 25, 2019 (gmt 0)

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No big changes for our editorial travel-planning site. We had our usual big jump after the holidays, but it's been business as usual since reaching that new plateau. Affiliate bookings are up wildly (for the same amount of traffic), but that's a normal seasonal pattern that has nothing to do with Google.
1:54 pm on Jan 25, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Same issue we are facing after new year. traffic is still drop
1:52 pm on Jan 26, 2019 (gmt 0)

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AMP errors, anyone? Up to 250 AMP Crawl errors and it was first detected last year, not sure why it popped up now. Is it just me?
12:55 pm on Jan 27, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Yes, same AMP errors. Lots stemming from incorrect image sizes - requirement been in place since 2018, but Google seems to be clamping down now
2:46 am on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Traffic is still trending down... hopefully its just a crazy news week and people are looking at other things but i see webmaster tools is showing my average serp position is up up up.. meh
2:50 am on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing relatively big drop on my main site. It's been trending down for about two weeks but the drop is becoming very worrisome at this point. Oddly enough my secondary site is seeing a nice boost in traffic, unfortunately there are orders of magnitude in the difference in the traffic levels, so the later does even begin to make-up for the former.
8:35 am on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The algorithm change will hit news sites really hard - some info here: [webmasters.googleblog.com...]
11:39 am on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We had a quiet Friday, about 30% of normal traffic and no conversions.
G organic visitors were low
G cpc was also in a hole
B cpc also way down

UK technical B2B
2:39 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@MayankParmar, we saw the same. Not sure why really.
3:00 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TalkativeEditorial sounds to me like they're just cracking down on people gaming Google News. In which case, imo you were on borrowed time anyway.
3:12 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I don't do google news at all - but I am willing to bet they're trying to crack down on that. Webmaster tool is still showing an ugly downward trend through the weekend but my EPMV on Sunday shot up so i'll be looking forward to seeing how this week goes... honestly i'm not gonna be mad if i have less traffic but earn more in the end if that's googles goal.
3:15 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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There is this [seroundtable.com...] about AMP pages not showing up in search.

If I go back in my stats it sure looks like I am being impacted by this, AMP pages account for nearly all my loss in traffic. Trouble appears to have started on January 23rd.
3:39 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is google's "mobile first" index heavily in favor of AMP or should good mobile pages show up in serps? I hope amp just dies already and an open PWA standard with an open distribution/CDN concept wins out. I really don't like Google owning the front door and the content with AMP and i really didn't like how my link juice was being passed to AMP page links... which begs the question, is AMP the reason G is trying to expand out of link juice as such a heavy score?
3:42 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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As if errors were not enough, Google is no longer displaying AMP pages.
3:56 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Yes and no re Google News change. Most publishers will use some form of wire copy / agency service. Managing this in the ranking is a minefield. But ja, I get you, we're seeing it with some competitors gaming the system who have started dropping off badly.
3:58 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Oh thank goodness - thought the PWA devs (they handle amp) had stuffed something up on their side.
So things are deffo tweaking out all over then?
3:59 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Mayank it appears to be a bug, and the "false positive" errors seem to be related. Hopefully this gets sorted out really soon.
4:05 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My experience --

Traffic was in a trough till September. Started climbing in November and has been pretty high in December and January. The average monthly traffic we're getting is now 3x of the best month we had in 2014-2017 period.

Why? I have no clue. But I'm getting traffic from organic, apis and news. I guess it has to do with that update in August.

What's interesting is that I have not seen any fluctuations. It's been pretty steady after hitting a high.

However, what is concerning is that 90% the traffic is related to a particular topic/keyword that accounts for less than 5% of our total content (total content is around 7000 articles).

Posts about other topics have seen an improvement, but not to the same extent. While the traffic around other topic has more or less gone back to what it was before the trough began, for this subject, it's uncharted territory. It could be because there's a lot happening in that area right now in India, and there's a lot of search interest. But it will die down in about 10 days, and things should go back to how they were before the trough.

The bump in Dec and Jan partly made up for the lost revenue of several months due to the trough (penalty?)

We've made no major change to the content.
4:37 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@elos - does your content show up on the Google discover feed?
4:39 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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So here's a summary of my adventures with Google in the last month:

For some time I've been struggling to rank my home page on the short tail for my niche after switching to SSL during the summer. On investigation I found Google was trying to rank a less relevant subpage on my site. I couldn't understand it at first because it had a lower keyword density. I tried everything to get it swapped out for my home page, I really deoptimised it, literally removed the search phrase from the page, but after weeks of waiting it still wouldn't drop out of the search. I eventually realised it was because the title contained a really powerful LSI keyword that other people had scattered all over their home pages, whereas I'd created a specialist page for the subject. I realised I had no choice but to delete the page and redirect it to the homepage. I didn't want to lose any of the content on the page as it was pretty important, so I copied the content across to my home page, where it made up about 50% of the copy there.

As a result of the change I at last got my subpage swapped out in favour of my home page, and my site rose about 40 spots in ranking, because guess what? My home page is more relevant than a random subpage.

A few days ago I found the following warning in my "Crawl Errors" section of webmaster tools:

"URLs redirect to an irrelevant landing page instead of the equivalent, smartphone-optimized version of the desktop page. If there isn't a smartphone-optimized page, show the desktop URL with this content. Showing irrelevant pages may result in a ranking change."

My entire site is responsive and the same on smartphone and desktop. So what happened is Googlebot smartphone crawled the page and jumped to the conclusion that 1) the home page wasn't a relevant redirect despite containing the same copy and 2) that this must relate to mobile users only.

I've learned Google have a practice of 404-ing redirected links if they believe the page content has been deleted and the redirect is irrelevant. Yet my home page contains all the same copy as the subpage, word for word, with the same headings.

In addition to this I used a link tool to find out how many backlinks I really have. It turns out I have over 300K links to my old domain name, all natural, all created by users over a 10 year period, all redirected to the exact same pages on my new domain. Google is acknowledging less than 10K of them in GSC. My new domain has about 100K links, and Google is acknowledging about 40K of them.

I was so annoyed I decided to hell with it, and I redirected all my links from my old domain to my home page. Guess what? That redirect worked fine. Apparently I get to keep the 3% of the backlinks to my old domain that Google is bothering to acknowledge.

Conclusions I've drawn from this experience:

1. Googlebot smartphone assumes the worst about your site and thinks you're out to short change your mobile users without even checking against Googlebot desktop.
2. Google doesn't read your content and doesn't actually know when a redirect is relevant or not.
3. Google puts so much weight on LSI keywords that their keyword cannibalisation algorithm will punish you for having specialist pages covering LSI topics.
4. Google doesn't care if your links are real, if people made them on personal websites, you don't get to keep them.
5. They're taking away the crawl errors report because it provides webmasters with too much insight into what their broken link algorithms are doing.
6. Penguin 4.0 has devalued so many white hat links that it's become the greatest gift Google ever gave to black hats.
7:18 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Our site shows up in Google Discover feed but only in India. I am not sure what we are supposed to do to include us in other regions. Certainly not in our hand :/

Google Discover brings a huge chunk of traffic.
7:34 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Mark_A @NickMNS I am mystified how Google keeps squeezing my traffic. My ranking across 500 terms has edged very painfully slowly higher for weeks now, but traffic still stagnant or lower. So, they are either loading the page with their own properties or changing the look of the listings so that the CTR is low. I have seen a miserable CTR since December 17th in the USA SERPS...much higher in UK and Australia. Oddly even though I'm located in USA east coast my customers are more and more located in Sydney and London. Very odd.
7:51 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@elos42 Enjoy it now, because it won't last. I saw the same thing from June 1st to Sept 27th, 2018...sky high placement, impressions and CTR. Then it fell off a cliff and never recovered. Make sure you tend to your links night and day...keeping higher placement now is very dependent on obtaining links all the time it seems.
9:24 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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In most cases the home page should be used as a general introduction to the site and as a navigational guide to where on the site a visitor can find the information he or she is looking for. It might not sit too well with google's algorithm if you try to use the home page for some other purpose.
11:18 pm on Jan 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have the some problem. My organic traffic drops 30-40%, but my SERPS are stable. How is the possible?
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