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Google Updates and SERP Changes - February 2019

     
2:01 pm on Feb 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The following 2 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4931890.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 7:24 pm on Feb 1, 2019 - (PDT -8)


Just to update on the AMP issues, it appears that the issue is solved on my end. My traffic has gone back up to the pre-AMP-errors levels.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 3:32 am (utc) on Feb 2, 2019]
[edit reason] Cleanup after thread split to new month [/edit]

3:50 pm on Feb 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, I'm seeing SERP shakeup on mobile and desktop US... my position average is all over the place again

Edit: Yay! I'm Seeing positions back to what they were before January's catastrophic update!
4:02 pm on Feb 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I've seen no drop at all in Canadian visitors lately.


Pretty sure it depends on the niche. As I remember your websites are not within the IT niche. So maybe these holidays didn't impact your traffic. Here how is it looks like on the screenshot:

[imgur.com...]
9:21 pm on Feb 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thereís an update going on. I noticed a shift in the number of links GSC is reporting a couple of days ago. I think it also has an LSI keywords and a quality component. Because YET AGAIN google has decided to rank another one of my internal pages on the short tail instead of my home page because it has an LSI keyword in the title and a higher quality score than my home page. But because itís less keyword dense than my home page Iíve fallen 10 spots in ranking. Iím just furious with the stupidity of this algorithm. Google is dictating the structure of my site to me based on other peopleís entirely different sites that have different content and purposes to mine. I really donít want to have to delete yet another valuable page from my site because google canít get their algorithm together.
12:01 am on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Big drop on traffic this week - something is brewing!
9:59 am on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Some SERP change in India also. But Not sure how it will impact News Media Houses.
11:07 am on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My god, I'm looking at the UK serps and whatever they've done in this update has really screwed up the short tail for my niche. It isn't just me who's been affected. There are random subpages for really random queries showing up everywhere. I mean *really really* random. I wish I could think of a way to explain this because it would make people laugh.

I think they must have done something overly granular related to quality score and the pages showing up are the ones that happen to have what they think is a better quality score, but somehow the quality score isn't linked properly to the exact query?

Also there are now only six results returning on the first page because they've cluttered the bottom of the serp with a massive questions panel with idiotic questions. As if it wasn't already screwed up enough by them giving the entity name and a huge link panel to a random and not very good EMD. I just don't know how this site is maintaining its quality score, the bounce rate must be so high. I guess it must just be traffic volume keeping it stuck there.

I give up. I don't think I'm ever going to get to rank on the 1st page again, like I did before they penguined 4/5ths of my natural links. I invented this niche, and they've just destroyed me over the last year. I think the only way I can survive is if I make 4-5 new specialist sites and just chip away at the long tail.
11:43 am on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Broccoli - What terms are you looking at?
12:13 pm on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@RareBit I can't say, but it's the equivalent of if the short tail keyword was "red apples" and Google was randomly showing subpages for really obscure and unpopular cultivars of red apples on the short tail serps instead of or as well as the home page for people's websites.

Also I just have to correct myself. They didn't penguin 4/5ths of my natural links, they don't even acknowledge 90% of them.
12:43 pm on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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What terms are you looking at?

broccoli, thanks for observing our no specific keywords guideline.

Rarebit, Welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com]. We traditionally don't discuss specific keywords in this forum. Too many chances for promotion and looking for links. Our Terms of Service [webmasterworld.com...] (TOS #13) requests that users not post "specifics that would lead people to your site", and broccoli was following this guideline.

There are lots of ways to describe the characteristics of keywords without actually posting them... "long tail variants of competitive technical terms", eg, might be one such description that would be OK.

We also use the word "widget" a lot to exemplify... eg, as in "big red widgets"

Thanks.

3:59 pm on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thank you for welcome & the clarification! I had no idea it was an issue, but fully understand why! I will have a read of the terms now.

@broccoli - I get you now - my niche has pretty much gone back to normal now but was seeing something similar (random LT associations for exact match keywords)

What I don't get is there was 2 sites above me that had dropped out of the SERP's for at least couple of weeks now - these are all suddenly back. Some sort of correction for the update on the 20th Jan?
4:08 pm on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Seeing a lot of volatility in South Africa - for both news and niche.
5:13 pm on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@RareBit Did this random LT thing happen recently and then fix itself in a short period of time?
5:47 pm on Feb 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Broccoli - Yeah over the day yesterday, I assume whilst the update was rolling out. I am more mystified why the 2 pages have re-appeared above me again, both from completely different sites, gone on the same day just after the last update then both back with the next update. How are you suppose to compete/optimise/whatever with that?
1:02 am on Feb 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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As usual, no change on my end.

And as usual, disappointed not to see a rankings boost, but relieved there was no demotion.
9:24 am on Feb 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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2 days very dodgy traffic, no conversions
12:14 pm on Feb 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Im getting slammed by google for the past 2 months. As i see, this happens to you also.
I lost almost half of the keywords i used to rank relatively well, i don't know what is happening.
7:38 pm on Feb 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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From October to mid February each year my site goes dead. It is very seasonal.

I await each year for the recovery in mid February with some trepidation.

Recovery has now begun this year as hoped for!
10:00 am on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We are witnessing the slow death of small business on the 'net. And the monstrous enrichment of the very few. This does not bode well for society.
.
11:16 am on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The UK has a schools half term holiday coming up. I don't know exactly when, as I don't have school age kids any more, but it will likely mean more UK adults on holiday and therefore less online work activity.
12:47 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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UK half term is 18th - 25th Feb
12:53 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks RareBit
2:53 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I could be completely wrong but I think I've figured out what they're doing in this last update. Page title seems to have become very important, and I think in particular the keyword density of the page title. Except it also seems to have something to do with LSI keywords.

I have two pages on my site competing for the short tail. One is the home page and the other is a subpage. They both contain the short tail keyword phrase, and the same LSI keyword. All the quality signals from the home page are better - bounce rate, CTR, and return visits. The keyword density of the home page is higher. The home page H1 is an exact match. Yet Google decided to randomly swap it out for the subpage, and then drop my rankings because the page body is less keyword relevant! Why? Well I know from listening to the people that run scientific experiments that page title increased in importance in this update. The only thing I can see that's wrong so far is that the keyword density of the page title is lower on the home page than the subpage. So I'm going to run an experiment of my own and see if I can fix this problem without deleting yet another important page.

I know how to improve my rankings, I just don't want to do it. I'm really unhappy with the way search is going, and I don't want to ruin the quality of my site by pushing for higher and higher exact match phrases and keyword density in order to compete with the spammy EMD that took my traffic last year. I don't even think there's a penalty for keyword density right now. So I'm going to create some new sites that use different strategies, and one of those will be designed purely please the keyword algorithm and compete with the EMD.
4:16 pm on Feb 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Update: Ha! The change I describe above worked already. I wonder how long it will last and how long it will take me to recover to my previous rank?
6:58 am on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Interesting that you mention page titles. Seen weak competitors gain a lot of ground in different cities in AU, using location based pages with location based keywords within the title tag.

Not worried at the moment - have a feeling this won't last.
10:02 am on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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There's waves in the ocean too but if you've built a solid ship it will still be there tomorrow, I'd worry more about creating top quality content than checking the waves. If a big one hits there's nothing you can do about it in advance anyway.

Same with guest posts, Google doesn't hate them. They merge the reputations of the guest and the site owner. If it's a crapy guest post it will reflect badly on both.

When Google says "don't guest post just for backlinks" they aren't warning you not to guest post, their algos will decide if you're doing it well. Spam on someone else's site that links to yours reflects badly on yours, too.

I don't even like the term "guest post" anymore. If someone writes a guest post for me and I publish it on my site I simply attribute them as the author, I don't label it "guest post" at all. Multi-author sites do well too.
12:30 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My rankings have now gone back to pre-update last night/this morning and I haven't changed a thing - the changes in my niche must have just been the usual update 'shuffle'
12:43 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@broccoli - I have seen similar signals. Good content that use to rank for years that has fallen this past year has gotten a small boost if I update the page title with longer text that is different from the H1 tag. Doesn't work for all pages though.
3:31 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Looks like the serps reverted me to the wrong page again. Hoping it's a temporary flip-flop, we'll see.

@Rarebit My theory about what seems to happen with these updates is they tweak something related to keywords or links, and then after that process any monthly/fortnightly/rolling quality data, so it makes all the obvious mistakes vanish again, even though they're still present underneath in the keyword algorithm. It might be that the two sites you're seeing disappear/reappear are borderline cases that are being A/B tested because Google is unsure of their quality. They might have done something like acquire some suspicious links. There's one site that's being constantly tested in my niche and it appears/disappears from the first page of the short tail because it has dubious quality signals. The owner has made a slick looking site with other sections that are useful and have good traffic, but the content of this particular section is poor, and he's spent the last year building a link profile to this section by commenting on people's blogs and articles.

@JesterMagic It's funny you should say that, I changed around all my page titles and made them different to my H1 tags just after Christmas. I think there's a competing tradeoff between having an exact match title that ranks based on keyword density, and a title that's attractive to users which will increase your CTR and eventually bring your rankings up past the exact match pages.

@JS_Harris I'm a firm believer in having a solid ship. Unfortunately, despite being the inventor of my niche, I had my traffic trashed by an EMD in March last year, then when I changed to SSL, for various reasons (some beyond me) Google decided to treat my site as a new site and trashed my traffic even more. I'm currently trying to climb my home page back up the short tail for my niche, and I'm being constantly frustrated by these little tweaks and updates, because I don't yet have the quality signals for the short tail query necessary to make real progress. Google currently keeps trying to rank any of my pages with LSI keywords on the short tail instead of my home page, despite my home page having better keyword density and quality signals. The irony is the only reason these pages are considered LSI keywords for the short tail, is that people came along *after* me, copied my ideas, and created specialist sites about this keyword, and they're currently ranking above me. As you can imagine I'm quite annoyed and frustrated about all this!
3:32 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Seeing minimal ranking changes today, but traffic has fallen off a cliff. Definitely not correlating, must have lost something in the long tail.
10:08 pm on Feb 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Here's what we ended up with today with SEMRush sensor in the yellow: [i.imgur.com...]

Freaking awesome. Another potential update, another decimation of traffic in favor of thin affiliates and spammy exact match domains.
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