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Google Updates and SERP Changes - March 2019

     
8:52 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The following 11 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4934804.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 4:52 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (PDT -8)



biggest hit last night into the day.
Refs from google are down by 99%.
Seeing it across several domains.
And again serps are full of shops that i would trust a penny. If it is this that google tries to compete against amazon, google is lost



[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:11 am (utc) on Mar 2, 2019]
[edit reason] Cleanup after thread split to new month [/edit]

1:43 am on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If Google really cared about users theyíd allow searchers to filter and sort search results based on different parameters...
2:23 am on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps there can be a sub thread about Google conspiracy theories and keep this to the actual updates.

From reading the BWH forums, it appears that a lot of PBNs got hit in the last few updates. I've never used but I guess my competitors did as a few of my sites have seen a huge up-tick. Hopefully it lasts for a while and I'm not back to where I was a few months ago with another update later this week :)

I'll also state that I've made a lot of changes to my site over the past few months, not released a new piece of content for 3 months, and focused on on-site and off-site optimisation. I can only assume it's a combo of everything I've done that's got me the up-ticks. Will revert my focus back to creating content now.
5:25 am on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Anyone else using a wordpress and have errors with AMP? I took the amp off months ago because the plug in said so many errors in search console GWT.
8:15 am on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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browndog
so you are getting single digits meaning under 10 visitors a day?
What do you think happened did you have a surge in bad backlinks from one domain?

Search is acting very strange especially for google news, Im always curious how a computer chooses who to favor and who to demote.

And 5 or 6 years ago was the last time I made any sort of money off my adsense, I had to quit blogging and work two jobs,it was painful I was enjoying doing something I loved from home and had lots of traffic and people commenting and then bam the day I made the most money in a single day on Adsense my traffic vanished.

Ever since then I haven't been able to make any real money off my blog, I still hope though, but my health is suffering working two jobs and the stress sucks, this is why Im hoping I can salvage my blog but Its feeling hopeless.
12:23 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Says who? Specialist government departments have 1000 times the web technology know-how than you and me. I am fed up of listening to this populist simplistic nonsense leading nowhere.


Most leaders do not understand tech. Just look at Trumps tweets about Google search or the Facebook inquiry and some of the questions asked by officials. Government intervention is is far from simple but it has been done a number of times including the break up of phone companies and oil companies. Microsoft faced the threat as well and was forced to do a number of different things including investing in Apple.
12:44 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This update was definitely a link update. Some of my blackhat friends were hit pretty hard. I don't think they're just hitting PBNs though.

All 400K of my backlinks are wholesome, natural, organic grown. Yet I lost another 15K from my GSC report on the 27th. I currently have about 36K links left on my report, down from around 60K in October 2018. I believe the GSC report is an accurate measurement of what links Google are counting because I check it, and I often see significant shifts when the report refreshes.

I'm convinced that despite claiming there's no such thing as negative SEO, they are actively punishing sites with link profiles they deem suspicious with some very clandestine algorithms.

I know my problems are Google specific because I rank very high in every other search engine. I have a lot of exact match links from a copy & paste share box I've had on my site for the last 15+ years. A lot of my links are from forums and personal blogs (I do have press links and other high quality links too).

I just saw a site with 1.5 million backlinks that is at least 20 years old drop from rank #2 on the short tail in my niche to rank #3 or #4. On mobile it was overtaken by two single page offerings from brand websites. On desktop it was overtaken by a very big but very slow niche site. So mobile speed is playing into this too.

The top site is still a 2 year old EMD with only 300 backlinks, only one of which is a high quality link from a big viral site. This site is not very good, but it has been given the short tail entity for my niche. It seems very clear to me that despite all of the fear and warnings around EMDs, EMDs are getting huge rewards and the only way I can compete in my niche is with my own EMDs.

I keep coming back to this article by Bill Slawski about the "Groundhog Update". It describes actively demoting sites that have backlinks that don't produce much traffic.
[gofishdigital.com...]

Of course, they may be chasing blackhats, but an old whitehat site like mine or the site that dropped which has tons of old backlinks are going to get demoted by this algorithm. I really don't think they care about collateral damage. They're in a war with the blackhats and they don't care how many whitehats they hit.

My site is currently still increasing in traffic and rankings from my low last year despite this insanity. It's entirely possible everyone in my niche has been hit. Many of the old and originating websites have been hit very badly. Some of them are legendary meme sites. It's just not right. One site I've been monitoring no longer has an Alexa rank. It got completely flattened by a copycat. I tried to boost it up by giving it a link, but that only worked for a couple of months.

The sites who have been increasing in traffic over the last few months are the "cheaters": brands from outside the niche with paid-for link profiles, one site whose webmaster persistently makes links with comment spam (his presence in the niche is like Morse code though - the site appears and disappears regularly), and the EMD that is apparently getting grossly rewarded purely for being an EMD.

I'm managing to claw back traffic by refreshing all of my content regularly, making an effort to broadcast on-page trust signals like email, address, disclaimers, disclosures, about, contact & terms pages etc, and by optimising on page keyword and LSI density and trying to stay on top of the algorithm changes, which seem to be happening every two weeks at the moment. I feel like a hamster stuck on a wheel! I figure since the EMD took most of my traffic all I can do is fight fire with fire and make some EMDs of my own.
1:03 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps there can be a sub thread about Google conspiracy theories and keep this to the actual updates.

@ BangkokBaby : Why do I not feel comfortable with a newly registered member flaming well established past members? Maybe there is something wrong with me . . . .
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1:08 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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After just reading your post, broccoli, I checked my backlinks in Search console and it appears that hundreds of links have disappeared. They're genuine backlinks that pointed to my blogspot page as far back as 2006 (now redirected with a canonical tag).

I get lots of referrals from my blogspot page every day, so I'm surprised that almost every link pointing to it has gone.

I also had a big spike in googlebot 2 days ago; about 5 fold higher than normal.
1:45 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@whoa182 Yes, almost all of my links are redirects thanks to switching to SSL and moving my site from subdomains all to one main domain to try and recover my traffic. I am very suspicious that they assess redirects differently from direct links, since theyíre used so extensively by blackhats.

I donít think I will ever do any site moves again, it isnít worth the pain. Iím not even sure SSL is worth it, I donít have an ecommerce site. Iím actually wondering whether to revive my old domain where most of my backlinks go to (300K of them and Google acknowledges less than 10K in GSC).
2:39 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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In two of my niches, I am getting constantly hammered.

When this whole update thing started back in August I was bombarded by sites with incredible link profiles and ranking for major keywords and outranking everything.

While they would have one site sitting in the number one spot there are dozens following and ready to rank.

As I suspected those top ranking sites got nailed over the weekend only for others (waiting in the queue) with the same characteristics now taking the number one spot again.

Most of the domains ranking in my niche (Health/supplements) are expired domains in the medical, cancer research etc. They have huge backlink profiles and rank immediately.

Once I see the domain begin to rank page 2 in a few days I can expect their Alexa rank to shoot through the roof and within days they are taking the top spot for thousands of major keywords.

Yes, I am pretty pissed, mainly because I wish I had the $$$ these guys do to at least replicate a site like that myself and dig myself out of the financial hole I'm in right now.
3:04 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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No change for Auto.
4:16 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Seeing this talk about PBNs had me excited for a minute as one of the top sites in our industry has a blatantly obvious one that they don't even try to hide. We're talking hundreds of anchor rich homepage links from scummy looking blogs with crap content on them. Unfortunately it seems like Google is unable to figure out even this super simple and obvious PBN, I don't know how they'll ever deal with the actual good ones.

Tried reporting multiple times, nothing is ever done.
4:50 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Iíve actually heard/read multiple comments over the last few months that they havenít taken out any big PBNs in a long time, but that in this last update there was quite a large hit to what is known as a ďs**t tierĒ PBN. It wasnít just algorithmic, they actually deindexed a significant part of it.

The bigger threat is hacked links, which are on the rise, and G doesnít seem to have a way to detect them.
5:28 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hopefully, there will be a reversal. If you take a look at this result for the term [loans] in the UK, it shows players in the Chelsea football team who are 'on loan', so really not the most relevant result to show; I will give over on the fact that it is purely showing only in the knowledge panel, but if this were an update based on relevancy, then this very obvious disconnect between the term [loans] and [footballers on loan] would be easier to separate out.

More information on this Twitter thread here:
[twitter.com...]
5:31 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Traffic is down on most of our client's sites and nothing has changed on our end except major improvements to our sites in terms of more useful content and improving technology (bootstrap, amp etc).

Some quotes from above: "How would the government stop Google from becoming a monopoly?" ..... "because their understanding of technology is so limited"

Not only is Google a search monopoly, they are a monopoly in search advertising. But their biggest violation of all affecting every website on the Internet is their prohibiting websites to link to each other which is Restraint of Trade, a common law doctrine. The proof is right here: [support.google.com...]
"Link to me and I'll link to you" (obviously when relevant) should NOT be prohibited. The average small biz mom/pop website has no clue about nofollow and disavow. Tim Berners Lee invented the web to link to each other, not for one search engine to drive traffic on a one way street. This is a blatant violation of US Restraint of Trade Laws.

Here is the further proof from the media that exists to date courtesy of 60 Minutes....

From [cbsnews.com...]

" Gary Reback is one of the most prominent antitrust lawyers in the country widely credited with persuading the Justice Department to sue Microsoft back in the 90s, the last major antitrust case against big tech. Now he is battling Google.

Steve Kroft: You think Google's a monopoly?

Gary Reback: Oh, yes, of course Google's a monopoly. In fact they're a monopoly in several markets. They're a monopoly in search. They're a monopoly in search advertising.

Right now the only one taking aggressive action against Google and the power of big tech is Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner for the European Union. During her four years in office, Vestager has become a thorn in the side of Silicon Valley, fining Facebook $122 million for a merger violation and ordering Ireland to recover $15 billion in taxes owed by Apple. Last summer she levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google for depriving certain competitors of a chance to compete with them.

Margrethe Vestager: Just as well as I admire some of the innovation by Google over the last decade-- well, I want their illegal behavior to stop.

Steve Kroft: And that's what you feel has gone on.

Margrethe Vestager: Not only do we feel it, we mean that we can prove it.

In researching the case, Vestager says her staff went through 1.7 billion Google search queries and found that Google was manipulating its secret search formulasóor algorithmsóto promote its own products and services and sending its competitors into oblivion.

Margrethe Vestager: It's very difficult to find the rivals. Because on average, you'd find them only on page four in your search results.

Steve Kroft: And why so far down?

Margrethe Vestager: Well, because then you don't find them. I don't-- I don't know anyone who goes to page four in their search result. The-- jokingly, you could say that this is where you should keep your secrets. Because no one ever comes there.

Steve Kroft: Do you think this has been deliberate on Google's part?

Margrethe Vestager: Yes. We think that this is done on purpose.

Steve Kroft: How do they do it? I think everybody has this idea that Google has this algorithm. And they put the best searches right at the top.

Margrethe Vestager: Well, it is exactly the algorithm that does it. Both the-- the promotion of Google themselves and the demotion of others.

Steve Kroft: So, they're rigging the game.

Margrethe Vestager: Yes. And it is illegal. "

It is time for the US FTC and DOJ to put the reigns on Google's illegal practices. Rigging the game affects SERPS and with no competition, this evidence I present above is relevant to this thread.

[edited by: cnvi at 6:38 pm (utc) on Mar 4, 2019]

6:13 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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^^^
above post @ cnvi deserves beyond 1000 likes!
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6:20 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My traffic hasn't gone down from Google but it's conversion quality has. Information seekers not interested in buying. Is that Google's change or are people less interested in spending suddenly? Time will tell.
7:24 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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browndog
so you are getting single digits meaning under 10 visitors a day?


Sorry, no...I'm referring to live view. In the good old days I would sit on around 100 visitors at any given time, now I'm averaging between 8-20. Haven't looked today, off for a run and don't want to be depressed before I go out. But have searched a few common phrases and can see Google is telling me I'm down for all but one...again.

I really don't know about links, I've never asked anybody to give me a link. I just wish Google would ignore links altogether, surely it's too easy to manipulate/or penalise for? I had somebody in my niche ask me to link to their article last week. They'd paraphrased mine, but it was absolutely woeful...and I only link out if I've used information such as 'XYZ = 123', and link back to the source.
8:17 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Mobile App developers also suffer to a degree by search placement in the stores and the cost of using the stores infrastructure for payments, but at least Google has competition in this arena with Apple. The amount of money these companies charge developers is very high, 30% of their income in a lot of cases. Both companies seem to accept the status quo as they know developers can't really use other stores as consumers will never find them.

A few companies have had enough... Fortnite is so big they decided not to post their app on Google Play store (not sure what they did with Apple). If you want Fortnite on Android you need to go to their website. Netflix also recently stopped accepting charges for new customers through the Apple App. They now have to go to the website. Forbes estimates Apple will loose hundreds of millions of dollars from this change.
9:35 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Oh Iím glad to hear that JM. I heard one guy in Sydney wanted to pay cash in the Apple store for an iPad case, and they kept pushing him to use Apple Pay...eventually the guy walked out and bought the case from another store.
9:49 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Whatever happened to "Google Updates and SERP Changes - March 2019"?
11:32 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Whatever happened to "Google Updates and SERP Changes - March 2019"?

@EditorialGuy : it's here, you are at the right place : feel free to post something relevant.
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12:20 am on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My site holding steady (or maybe just an extremely minuscule gain) as usual despite all the supposed volatility.

If I could offer any suggestion to you at this point, it would be to focus on editing or re-writing just one of the articles that was bringing in good traffic in the past. Make whatever improvements you can think of, and then publish those changes and see what happens.

While I agree with this suggestion in general, what I'm finding is that it's still extremely difficult to unseat the top domains from their ranking positions even if you literally have the best webpage on a particular topic.

A site-wide quality score still appears to play a major factor in rankings which means that an inferior article will rank higher by virtue of the domain. Good luck trying to compete with Wikipedia on any topic even if you can do a better job.

I guess the only thing we can do is to keep improving the site (i.e. as many pages as possible) overall to get our own site-wide/domain quality score up.
2:31 am on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I don't think content quality has much to do with it, at least in my niche health/supplements. I have been looking for an expired domain for weeks and have finally found one. I am going to duplicate what my competitors are doing. The domain is strong with some incredible metrics so I will see, I will try and report back once I see some improvement (or the opposite) and confirm my theory that its more about the strength of the backlinks more than the quality of the content (at least for now)

I have ranked some smaller sites doing this a few months ago that have not fluctuated much but they are very focused niche domains with only a dozen pages, the one I am experimenting with will have close to 100 pages so we shall see.

I have a couple of authoritative sites some with over 500 pages and they lost their ranking in August maybe a blip here in there but then they tank again and at this point, after 6 months I don't expect them to recover.
12:16 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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More shuffling going on today in my industry...
12:38 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@southernguy People keep saying expired domains are doing well but new sites seem to have stopped breaking through.

From what little I know Google are supposed to have a cache that lasts for about two years and an algorithm to check whether the pages are still the same when the site comes back or gets moved to determine whether the links should pass juice, so people go as far as copying content out of the wayback machine. I have no idea whether that's necessary.

Don't give up hope with the lost sites. I know people who've had sites removed that have just pinged back in again exactly where they were after an update months later. It's happened with a couple of my pages.
1:01 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@glakes - same - lots of flux in Finance in the UK.

Seems to be a continuing trend from the update on the 27th, with further updates on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th.
1:15 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I had an almost full recovery towards the end of October, but then it reversed again about a month later, so I do still hold some hope. I've looked at many health sites on SEMRush and they had the same thing happen to them but to a much larger extent (gains and losses of 100s of thousands to millions each month - up and down like a yoyo). Like others have said here: you can't catch a break. Just when you start to see signs of recovery, another update comes and wipes out your gains. And this has been the pattern since August.

Does Google feel no responsibility in destroying the livelihood of so many small businesses? At least before August, it felt like you really could compete against big sites and rise (one day) to become a big player in the niche. Now, it's heavily biased towards a handful of sites.

These days, it's hard to come across websites and blogs that are interesting and have a unique perspective or personality behind them. It's just a few big corporate sites competing against each other with millions of dollars in funding behind them.

I don't know how others feel, but I actually liked to hear the opinion of bloggers and individuals in their respective niches. Not constantly come across the same content churning machine (sites) from hundreds of employees. How about a search engine for small businesses, individuals, and bloggers lol.

Even Facebook with their algorithm updates in early 2018 pretty much killed off lots of big pages. People who post their content to Facebook find it harder to reach people than ever. I used to post a blog article on my Facebook page and get hundreds of visits within hours... Now I might get 10-20 likes.

The giants of the tech industry are competing against each other wanting to become a trillion dollar company while the rest of us, well, who cares? We're all hooked on Google and Facebook now. Even Amazon with their record profits year after year decided to drastically alter their commission structure and cause people to lose 30-40% of their income overnight.

Some of us are taking hit after hit.

Organic traffic for my blog

[imgur.com...]

That growth was all from writing content every day. Zero link building. I've drastically improved my site over the last few months and added a lot of new articles... but zero growth.
1:43 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@whoa182 Do you remember Google Blog Search? I used to love it. I used to find so much good health info from people who actually had my conditions. I donít even know how to find good blogs anymore. I donít know why they did away with it.

Regarding sites disappearing and coming back and almost recovering and going away again: my theory is the instability is deliberate to a) act as an anti-seo shield and b) churn different content to the top in order to test it with the quality algorithm. If you manage to hit the first page then you have a chance of sticking due to quality score. But I think they might have some buggy code somewhere in their quality/trust algorithms, perhaps relating to link quality or some other algorithm that A/B tests pages, that sometimes just knocks pages out and doesnít let them back in in a timely manner.
1:45 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@glakes

Spending in Adwords like crazy but traffic we get I do not trust it at all.

Our product is not sold by amazon and still get no conversions. Site is insanely fast and prices are at the lowest ever.
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