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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]

6:32 pm on Jan 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@RedBar @broccoli I am US based and my US traffic has declined considerably since the latest updates. UK/CA traffic still the same and AUS traffic has exploded. I attribute this to setting up a CDN so my load times are dramatically reduced internationally. Have you tried that? If your pages are loading slowly in US or UK then you simply won't get the traffic. Also, for what I sell there isn't as much local competition in UK and AUS. There is in the US, so perhaps that's why my domestic traffic is shrinking but not international. Unfortunately the high US dollar is not helping sales though.
1:20 am on Jan 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If your pages are loading slowly in US or UK then you simply won't get the traffic


I can assure you that ALL my sites are in the top fastest 90% on The Net, this is not an issue.

There are other "things at play", otherwise known as manipulation, and whilst many do not want to acknowledge or accept it, it is occurring.

my US traffic has declined considerably since the latest updates.


How much of "your" traffic is mobile?

Do you understand how many "users" have dedicated apps installed these days and NEVER use the real www?

The vast majority of devices I have to "sort out", whether it be a pc/laptop/tablet/mobile, is because Joe Public has accepted the standardised recommended settings which is "gimmee gimmee, gimmee" all your info!

Things are beginning to change though, even today I had a customer asking me to change loads of personal info of her site ... yes ... thank you .. I told her years ago not to do it, now she realises:-)
5:14 am on Jan 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@redbar About 30% of my traffic is combined phone and tablet, I saw the drop in US traffic across the board in mobile and desktop. Apps may definitely be canibalizing some traffic but I have no intention of making an app for my business as not many would use it I think.
8:31 am on Jan 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Just feel that something brewing in Search Results while checking keyword positioning manually.
11:17 am on Jan 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous That's interesting stuff! I've managed to get my site reasonably fast but it can definitely still be improved. I don't know enough about CDNs, I need to do more research, but I have a very dynamic site that creates content for users on the fly so I'm not sure whether I can use one. I'm currently programming a software upgrade to separate my user interface from my data layer so I can host them separately and also create a mobile app and just bypass Google altogether.
7:35 am on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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A lot of reshuffling going on. Seems new sites are getting more coverage. More focus on local domain extensions.
10:44 am on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Seeing alot of movement today, coupled with spam falling into database. Feels like something fairly strong is bubbling.
3:46 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Another big drop for me...my site shot up for one day and then proceeded to drop lower than ever. 2019 is going to be a misery if Google intends to kill off all of my online business. There is nothing on my site that should have ever caused a 40% decline in traffic over 3 months.

Can anyone really offer any real and verifiable ideas on what to do to stop a site from sliding into the abyss? My site already has a very high trust score and has been around for over 15 years...it has links from very high level .gov and .org sites. This is not about a lack of trust in my case. Perhaps the low word count on my pages needs beefing up? (it's not an article based site, more like a large archive site). Or those links from third party sites connecting to my pages need rewriting or removing? They are all legitimate high-quality sites, not paid links.
5:56 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous,
Unfortunately no one here can offer you real advice without seeing your site. However, what I would suggest is taking a serious look at the sites that are now replacing you in the SERPs and noting the differences. You mentioned the low word count on your pages. That may or may not be an issue depending on your niche. But comparing your content with your competitors, especially the layout and structure of the content, is what I would do. Of course, that would be after I first ruled out any technical issues.

My site has a high level of trust and authority, and yet I was able to improve traffic on many articles by updating and restructuring content.
6:32 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre The thing is nobody is replacing me. I am tracking the same top 20 competitors for two years now...I am still in second place just as I always was. My competitors got whacked just as hard if not harder. Some of them are down 75%! The one site that ranked higher than me before still does, and hugely increased its presence at the expense of all the rest it seems. It was just bought last year by Wal-Mart, and spends millions per year on ad buys through Google.

As for the smaller competitors, they were well below me and stayed there without much change at all. For reference, I was at 23% in SEMrush, now down to 12.4% since end of Sept. The smaller competitors are at 2.5%, while one major competitor dropped off a cliff from about 20% down to 7% and has now bounced back and sometimes pushes me from 2nd to 3rd place at around 13%. But the top two that I am jousting with are multi-billion dollar corporations.

I have been slowly losing links from one high trust site to my pages over this same time...I had about 600 links, now 200. They renamed their site and all the old URLs are 301 redirected, so not sure why Google is dropping all those links slowly since they are still there. Perhaps this could have something to do with my drop as this yo-yo linking may indicate spamming to Google but it was not under my control. These links as well as from two other high trust sites with hundreds of links to my site drove up my traffic and ranking considerably in 2018. It could be that I am being penalized for all those direct links to my pages now, where they helped me a lot before.

[edited by: ichthyous at 6:43 pm (utc) on Jan 3, 2019]

6:41 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My site has a high level of trust and authority, and yet I was able to improve traffic on many articles by updating and restructuring content.


Yes I have been looking at this for months, and there is definite room for improvement in the navigation from page to page on my site for sure, but the content is well laid out and looks great on mobile. For me it's not an issue at all to rework my content, except that my experience with hiring new programmers has been less than optimal...so it's not something I eagerly want to revisit based on my past experiences.
7:17 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous,
Regarding links, I have over 120,000 links to my site and have never spent any time caring about them. Some are probably great links, others are probably spam, but I have no control over it so it's not anything I worry about. Even with all those links, the vast majority of my traffic still comes from Google. And as I understand it, Google does not penalize sites for having low quality sites linking to them, so I wouldn't focus on links as being the source of the problem.

However, having a main competitor bought out by Walmart, with a multi-million-dollar marketing budget, could very well be the issue. If everyone else is losing traffic except for your Walmart-owned competitor, I'm not sure what you could do about that. You'd basically be a "mom and pop" store located across the street from Walmart. I hope that's not the case.
7:28 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous
you say that "I am still in second place just as I always was"... perhaps that explains a little bit of your drop, because 2nd place just doesn't get as many clicks these days as it used to.
in my experience even 1st place has suffered a big drop in the number of clicks because it no longer appears as 1st place when visitors look at the serps and see all the gumph that google puts above it
7:45 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre Yes and no...my competitors have never really been exactly in the same niche I am in, so they are "roughly" competitors. To be specific they sell much cheaper price point reproductions, not originals. I sell much higher price point originals, not reproductions, so we are not competing in what we actually sell. However, we do compete over the same search terms, or at least there is a huge amount of overlap. Perhaps it's a bit of a unique situation there. I end up throwing away the great majority of visitors to my site who mistakenly think the pricepoint is much lower. There's nothing I can do about that except start a new lower priced line of reproductions, which I have considered.
8:00 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous,
Sounds like you may have a business-related issue more than a website-related issue. Most people will choose price over quality, especially if, in their mind, a less expensive reproduction is all they need.
8:22 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre Oh yes, that's for sure. But you see I am not interested in serving that market, because it is already flooded with competition. Selling based on price alone is just a race to the bottom. In that sense Google traffic has always been a poor fit for my business, as it takes many more inquiries for me before one sale occurs. The sheer volume of traffic and the price point still made it very profitable, as there was basically no cost to acquire that customer. It was like panning for gold nuggets in a river.

Still, I see the writing on the wall and I am opening a bricks and mortar location in mid January. It was only this three month massacre by Google that basically forced me out of my comfort zone to look for an alternative way to sell...a physical retail space. To my surprise I found an affordable space in a great neighborhood in my area, and I plan to drive whatever remaining site traffic I have to in-person sales now. The higher end buyers who do have bigger budgets often request in person visits, so I will be able to oblige now. I'll never give up on the internet sales, but it's long past time to diversify...and frankly sitting and competing with Google is making me miserable and cranky.
8:43 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous,
That's certainly a switch. We don't normally hear about merchants these days taking focus away from their online business to open a brick and mortar store. But in your case, it sounds like you have a good handle on the situation, and that it makes sense.

I know what you mean about the need for a lot of traffic to make a few sales. Along with the content I offer for free on my site, I also sell memberships for exclusive content. Most people come for the free stuff and then leave. It takes a lot of visitors to earn a few membership sales. Unfortunately, my traffic is down roughly 40% from what it was a couple of years ago thanks to Google updates in 2017, so membership sales have dropped along with it.

Good luck and all the best with your new location!
9:24 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous
To be specific they sell much cheaper price point reproductions, not originals. I sell much higher price point originals, not reproductions, so we are not competing in what we actually sell. However, we do compete over the same search terms, or at least there is a huge amount of overlap. Perhaps it's a bit of a unique situation there. I end up throwing away the great majority of visitors to my site who mistakenly think the pricepoint is much lower.


It's possible that could be the problem. If people are coming to your site and seeing the price and clicking back to the serps it could be causing you Panda issues. The same if they add things to the cart and then abandon the sale. It might be worth emphasising in your page title and meta description that you're selling original high value artwork to clearly differentiate yourself from the low price sites. It might be worth taking a traffic hit in order to target the right buyers more specifically. Though that is obviously quite a risky change to make.
9:33 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ichthyous Also! Don't worry too much yet about immediate traffic changes. I've made a series of big changes to my pages in the last few months and Google always responds with a spike and a dip and then a recovery over the next few days. See if things settle down.
6:05 am on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm noticing so many sites lately that are having their articles reviewed by PhD's, MD's etc.

I was thinking to myself tonight that a lot of these big sites that can afford to do this are doing it, and then wondered how is this any different from buying links to increase your trust or page rank? Unless these kind people are doing it for free (maybe they think the content is awesome like on livestrongcough (not) and they want to help rich people get richer).

If something like this really moves the needle, and you aren't a doctor yourself but are simply rich, you can buy your way to the top by paying doctors to review your content. I know life isn't fair, but it puts smaller bloggers at an even bigger disadvantage.

And I know there are so many ranking factors, but it was just a thought.
7:46 am on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Yes, many of my competitors in my niche are doing this, they are paying off fitness gurus and the rest to vouch and put their picture up there to supposedly add authority.

This is all a farce as far as I'm concerned, as usual, Google supposedly trying to solve one problem has instigated the creation of another. My stance on this is the same as when Google wanted to implement (or tried) to implement their authorship program and it failed and of course was eventually dropped.
1:27 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Traffic is still down 40% :( I hope it gets back to normal next week.
1:48 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@londrum when I say second place I am not referring to the #2 serp. I am referring to my overall ranking for 500 terms among my top 20 competitors. I have dropped like a stone and lost ~40% of my traffic since Sept. 26th, but so have many of them. The ones that havent were much smaller to begin with and haven't changed. This algo update seems to have taken out very large and well established/trusted sites.

Despite whatever nonsense justifications Google makes for that, the only real reason to knock out big trusted sites is to shake them down for money. Google is a monopoly and the mask is off now, they're going to squeeze us all for revenue no matter how much we play by their rules. I have seen large Corp sites drop like a stone this past summer and fall... I doubt highly that they were spammers.

But you are also correct that ranking at the top simply doesn't count for as much as it used to. I learned that lesson years ago when Google made 90% of my image search traffic disappear overnight. Ever since then they're grabbing more and more of the pie and we are simply the free filling!
2:23 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Was there a confirmed update right after Christmas?
3:17 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It's very quiet around here...

We've seen quite a big traffic disruption today. Headline levels are fine, conversions are on track, but the products they are viewing are very different.

We often see similar just before these boards go crazy with traffic loss reports, so heads up!
7:51 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Was there a confirmed update right after Christmas?


The sheer volume of crazy-a$$ed changes that are occurring makes me wonder if even G knows when they have updated / downgraded / changed / altered / improved / allowed / disallowed / reward / unreward / whatever these days.

The only sites that seem to consistently rank well are middle-of-the-road widget sites with reasonable text and reasonable images, spammy and keyword-stuffed sites G loves whereas most other SEs spot them a mile off, whatever you do, do not create a high quality site with quality images and plenty of pertinent information ... G will slit your throat for that however as soon as someone rips off your images and your text no matter how long it has existed, they will reward that site as being the original!
9:33 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Something is going on with my traffic today. Iím getting more of it from more diverse search queries.

Iíve been trying to make my site titles and headings look less templated and Iíve removed my brand name from my title tags because it duplicates keywords.

Praying this isnít just another start of one of those double humped camel traffic patterns I see at the start of every update, but who knows.
11:37 pm on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is domain age a thing now? I see 4 aged domain around (15-20+) years old dominating the {clickbank product} review keywords in health,fitness niche and they just started posting articles yesterday. Wow!
6:28 pm on Jan 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This is a general question to all...I have been evaluating on page factors that could be contributing to my traffic decline since Sept. (it's still dropping as of yesterday).

My "product" pages contain blocks of links to all the categories that the product appears in. Those can be numerous if the product is included in a lot of categories. Also, the link text is the category title, and when I started the site I used a "more is better" approach and used longer category titles. The same keyword tends to repeat over and over in all the link titles, i.e. "black and white widgets" vs "black and white".

The links could be cleaned up and shortened so the terms aren't so repetitive, but I worry how that might hurt me rather than help me. I did this in the footer links of my site and it made no difference, traffic still heading down. Has anyone made this type of change to their site before and did it help in any way?

Interestingly, one of my main competitors (who completely fell off a cliff in august and has never recovered) uses this same type of block of category links with descriptive link titles.
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