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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]

2:04 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I got a nice bump this past weekend after a miserable February. Of course I've made improvements to content, UX etc these past few months (as always). I've also gone all in on Pinterest marketing. Don't know if it's related.
2:42 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Browndog, with 1000 quality articles built over a period of time it is absolutely not normal to have zero search traffic unless it's got too much aff or sales stuff, the content is not long enough or the CTR on your titles from serps is too low. Don't throw the white flag in yet, you can figure this out.

What I'd do first

- Head over to your google search console and go to the pages tab. Sort them by impressions. You're looking for pages with lots of impressions receiving a very low CTR. Impressions means it's being served in results but low CTR means it's just not getting the click very often. The fix for this issue is better titles(not clickbait!). From that individual page in search console click on the queries tab to see it's top keyword or keyword phrase that is receiving those impressions. Make sure that's in the title since it's what was looked for. Google is telling you what got the visitor to see that title, does the title fit the intent?

- Next I'd go look at the direct competitors to my top pages. Run a backlink profile on the top 2 or 3. If you see a relatively new site(2-3 years) with an exagerated number of backlinks (100,000+) then start visiting the pages that are linking to your competitor. You're looking for links that don't even point to your competitor, they point to a massive site or content farm, and if you click the link you are redirected to the competitor site. This is giving the competitor credit for the backlinks accumulated by the content farm. Solution, reach out to the webmasters who are linking to the farm and let them know the page is not there, see if you can get them to link to your page instead.

- Site content audit. Pages receiving zero impressions in search should be evaluated. Thin content, typos, a really bad title, duplicate content, your site having too many pages about the same topic/keywords so Google has chosen another page to rank from your site instead etc. Mistakes like bad redirects, canonicals pointing to the wrong pages, dead links etc, etc... search console is golden here as well.

I don't usually need to go further than those three things to see dramatic gains. I'd love to know what the site url is, it's actually pretty hard to have 1000 pages of solid content not get traffic without something major happening.

To be clear - I recommend you dig into google's search console, not google analytics. There are $5 offers people are buying that fool analytics in every way to appear human now making it unreliable. Unless you've got awesome software to break down your server logs then Google's search console, or Bing's equivalent, will be your best bet imo, along with a good backlink checking tool to spot competitor shennanigans.
3:26 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Head over to your google search console and go to the pages tab.

In new GSC: Performance > Pages
5:00 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu

We use the same campaign data in Google as we do in Bing, and conversions in Bing are normal. We are getting ZERO converting traffic from both Adwords and Google's organic SERPS the past few days. It's quite ugly.

We sell some of our products on Amazon, and I do see sales on Amazon have increased despite better pricing (particularly shipping) on our website. Prior to this update we would get some converting traffic to our website's kit/quantity product pages, but that has dried up. For what we sell, most shoppers need kits/multiples anyway (imagine buying four tires for a car as most people don't buy just one). These shoppers can save up to 10% on the product cost when buying on our website and pay up 50% less for shipping then they do on Amazon.

Normally when Amazon product pages in Google get demoted, I will see a lot of other sellers discussing rapid drops in sales and I have not witnessed any such threads. Based on that and my own sales, it appears Amazon is immune to this update which has impacted transaction based traffic. Our info pages appear to have a slight boost, which is making up the loss in transaction based traffic so that net daily visits from Google are up but severely lacking in conversions.
5:59 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I've been wondering why Google would always list the oldest date if there are two blog posts (related to the same topic) on the same page. For example:

Post 1: Jan 5, 2018
Post 2: Feb 2, 2019

Google visits the page multiple times after Feb 2, 2019 (and indexes the new post as determined in the cache version), but it will always leave the original date: Jan 5, 2018 in search results, and it seems to ignore the fact that the article was updated by a lot of new content on Feb 2, 2019.

Is it a feature or a bug? It seems to penalize writers and promote spammers because on Google search the oldest date always appears so that users think the page was not updated since over a year ago. I hope Google doesn't want webmasters to create new / multiple URLs on the same topic just to get rewarded with a new date; it's not friendly to users to have to click on multiple / strongly related links to read the comprehensive information on this topic.

Just like my competition, I could try to trick Google and change the date of the original post to the fresh date, but it would only confuse users.

Sigh.. it seems that when a webmaster wants to be honest and not use any tricks, he or she gets no rewards.
7:29 pm on Mar 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Google needs to realize that not everyone wants to shop at the big behemoth companies especially in the niche that I'm in. Amazon just cannot and will not give the technical support that 99% of our products require.

I personally prefer to shop small businesses when making purchases, but I'm having to go 4+ pages deep to find them.

It just seems to be that google is giving extreme organic serps preferences to amazon, ebay etc. And preferences to websites that give fake reviews of products, I've seen so many reviews that have absolutely nothing to do with the product at all on the page that it just blows my mind.
7:22 am on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to vote the following, from JS_Harris, as the Tip of the Day!

Head over to your google search console and go to the pages tab. Sort them by impressions. You're looking for pages with lots of impressions receiving a very low CTR. Impressions means it's being served in results but low CTR means it's just not getting the click very often. The fix for this issue is better titles(not clickbait!).


I clearly don't spend enough time in GSC, as this took me straight to a key category page that's had just shy of a million impressions in the last 3 months... with a 3% CTR (versus ~20% for other key pages).

Thank you JS_Harris!

I have work to do...
8:21 am on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Not much has changed since today... still a bit of a depressing slump. When you work hard to improve your website over the span of 4 years and in that period, the last year has been amazing from an SEO point of view, then this update happens... you've got to only think that it's no longer worth it.
10:15 am on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@glakes, i can confirm your observation. It feels like google search for good going items and demoted them.
Our best runing pages have been cut to half. Even items that we are producing and normaly selling every day in our shop are not selling though. But sales on amazon are still runing (like yours).
Amazon is growing and growing (germany) and i canīt see them to be stopped. googles quality efforts are only filling their pockets while customers go directly to amazon.
12:49 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Slight uptick in referrals from goog. But the number of pages people even looking at is in a gutter on our ecom site.

2 is an average, where 7 was a solid number 6 month ago. Nothing changed in NONE goog referring traffic.

Oh, Oh and 0 sales to date this month to people arriving from Google Search! YeeeeY!

Amazon, Yelp, etsy and crap...

Gotta tell ya something: 80% of ecom stores that sold things worth a spit are now gone, hysterically just on Goog.
1:08 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@martin

There was an article the other day that half of households in US are prime members, not sure about Germany but technically Google is running out of buyer traffic.

I personally do not believe that Prime members are doing research of products using google or bing.

My problem is that regardless of how high I bid in Adwords my ads never show to buyer traffic. Adwords people seem to have a say here probably looking first at their bonuses or something.
2:43 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu,

i donīt know about prime members statistic in germany ( and amazon wont tell ) but it is that 80% of ecom in germany is now on amazon.
Many of our friends to who i talked said that they directly go to amazon. And they allways have two answers why they buy at amazon
#1 it is easy to use
#2 on google there are allways the same stores
With google you allways have the bad feeling that they donīt show you what you want but what google wants you to do next
3:12 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@broccoli @whoa I am also seeing links disappearing from my GSC...and the good quality links. The spammy crap is still there. Google is constantly updating now...last week I shot upward in SEMrush, then dropped every day after and now dropped one full point. Yesterday there must have been an update because after one week of almost silence with no inquiries I received five inquires in a span of a few hours. This is ALL just manipulation of traffic on Googe's part now. I find it interesting that even when the traffic is steady I have very long periods without any inquiries now, punctuated by big bursts of inquiries. Not sure how or why, but being in business online since 2003 I can tell you it's not a normal traffic and inquiry pattern at all.

I am preparing every day for the time when Google is no longer part of my business strategy, because it's coming I assure you. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, etc. all suckered businesses and 'influencers' into building their livelihoods on their platforms and then yanked it all away in one second by changing the algorithm. It's been a slower process for Google, but it's coming. I never trusted social media so I never put many eggs in that basket...but once Google goes there is effectively no place for small business online. You will need deep pockets and millions of dollars to create a brand from the day you launch so as not to depend on search or social.
3:47 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Much better day today than it's been for the past week or so. Traffic seems to have recovered from the drop last week.

As for Amazon, I always go to Amazon first when looking for a product. I'm familiar with Amazon so I trust it, and I know there's a good chance they'll have what I'm looking for. I get free shipping with Prime, and they have a great return policy. Of course, when you're paying for Amazon Prime's "free shipping", you're more likely to buy your products from Amazon, which is how they get you. Still, Amazon works well for me.

However, I do still try to shop locally whenever I can, even if "local" ends up being my local Walmart. I still like the experience of dealing with an actual person, and I feel good knowing I'm helping to keep a local person employed. So if I can shop local, I do. If not, I go to Amazon. And if I can't find it on Amazon, then the Google search begins.
3:59 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I am seeing a lot more fluctuations again this morning. Mostly down for us as we had made some gains in the last week or two. Happens every single time though, so I'm not terribly surprised.
4:29 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This is ALL just manipulation of traffic on Googe's part now.

If there are google ads players in your niche what you experience may not be ALL google manipulation. google ads has really become more sophisticated over the past couple of years. The data advertisers have available and automated biding have made it fairly good at picking off the "buyers" and leaving the chaff. Even competing in ads has become difficult if you don't have the data to poach the buyers.
4:36 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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On the contrary I noticed that google entries increased
8:03 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Wow JS_Harris, thank you so much for that. Webmaster tools has always gone a bit over my head, so this information is so helpful. I'm going to do that today. Thank you again, I really appreciate you taking the time to provide some help.
8:15 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It just seems to be that google is giving extreme organic serps preferences to amazon, ebay etc.

Maybe because that's what shoppers want? I'd imagine that Google has pretty good insights into user behavior.

From Google: "Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful." That mission statement says nothing about how the information is presented (e.g., whether in the form of organic search results or, where appropriate, ads).
9:08 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello Webmasters,

I am new to webmasterworld. I really need your help!
My rankings are dropped yesterday (Almost all my web pages).

<snip>

Thank you

[edited by: engine at 6:45 pm (utc) on Mar 9, 2019]
[edit reason] Please see WebmasterWorld Tos [/edit]

9:12 pm on Mar 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thank you JS_Harris, that was some super helpful insight!
12:33 am on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It's the end of the work day on 3/6/19 and conversions from Bing are over 400% better than Google organic and paid ads combined. LOL Thankfully I only run Adwords during algo updates to see if anything changes. Google's traffic quality, whether organic or paid, just gets worse as time goes on...
5:49 am on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I never see ads for Amazon, but I never buy from Amazon, so maybe that's why? I also never see ads for eBay.

My site is down 35% from this time last year, with over 100 new articles added to the site. I always thought the site would be my retirement, but the writing is on the wall. It's close to costing me more money (for hosting, and subscriptions) than I'm making.

The frustrating thing for me is that several times this month they have pulled returned results which weren't relevant to the actual search. I don't know if this is AI at work.
9:34 am on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing two different sets of results served for the same query throughout the day. The top two results are constant, but the rest of the page is completely different. My own site disappears and reappears in the results seemingly at random.

Things really have gotten bad with Google lately haven't they?
9:43 am on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Users do not want amazon in search cause most of them go direct on amazon app or website to buy actually most of them may be looking for an alternative but all they get is a big map, amazon again and 3 selective advertisers.

This is more to do with hiding information not organising it.

All I see in my industry is driving the buyer traffic to certain players and the rest of us are only allowed to show if these players do not convert.
11:22 am on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Crallamarre, how often do you need google for shopping because you couldnīt find it on amazon? 1 out of 10 times?

The realy annoying thing about google is, that they tell you to have a competetive website. So we worked on it. When i compare our site with the site a year ago, i would say we got 100 points on top. We added informations like (PDF) datasheets, guidelines.... things that the actuall ranking shops donīt have. We had some problems with UE for mobil and i would now say its pretty easy to use now with short click ways.
But it seems that with every step we rise our quality we got hit more.
1:20 pm on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We had a fairly good G organic February, as a niche player, it is important to make the most of what we do get, G Organic accounts for 27% of our inbound traffic.

In past years I recall getting a site right for G causing literally many thousands of converting traffic to arrive daily. Despite much work on my current site we have not achieved this, and maybe the times of achieving such results are over because of things outside our control.
1:48 pm on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@martin

Yes, because you made your site better it converts better and that means you are getting more share of the pie.
The theory of the pie is that 70% of advertisers and others will have to share whatever is not converted by the big dogs. This way too little to keep everyone spending so it has to spread equally to everyone in the 70% regardless how good your website is.

This where personalisation comes from buyer behaviour is easy to predict and sent intially to a few players. I think that not everyone is allowed to compete for ready to buy searchers because the pie will be shared equally and in the long run will not justify high price on the click.
But if 2-3 advertisers get only quality buyers then for them is easy to agree on a high CPA.

I feel how personalization works because I only sell what others do not have despite the fact that I am competitive on everything.

Also noticed that for whatever everyone one sells and we manage to sell some we get the most occurred buyers! Coincidence I guess!
4:22 pm on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Martin Ice Web,
how often do you need google for shopping because you couldnīt find it on amazon? 1 out of 10 times?

Yes, that's probably right. Really, the only times I can't find what I'm looking for on Amazon is for when I'm looking for a specialty item. For everyday products, Amazon usually has it, in stock, with free shipping.

I've noticed that a lot of retailers have their own storefront on Amazon so they can sell their products directly on Amazon. Is that a legitimate option, as opposed to struggling with getting your own site ranked on Google? I don't know how Amazon storefronts work so I'm honestly curious. Or does Amazon take too much of the profits from the sales?
6:10 pm on Mar 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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For everyday products, Amazon usually has it, in stock, with free shipping.

Much of what I purchased in the past on Amazon can be purchased on eBay for less money. If it's Chinese made stuff, it can be purchased on AliExpress even cheaper if one can wait a couple of weeks. Amazon has become too expensive on many items and some supplies we had purchased there for work are no longer available as those manufacturers pulled out of Amazon entirely. My guess is the 15% Amazon fee on every sale cut into their profits along with liberal and often criminal return policies that stick sellers.

In 2016 the ecommerce marketing studies noted Amazon received 55% of first time buyer searches while search engines received just under 16% (shared between Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). The remaining shoppers went to eBay, Walmart, etc. and all the small mom and pops. I could only imagine what Amazon's share of first time product searches is today - probably upwards of 70% with search engines likely getting only 10% of shopper traffic or even less. While it's important to be found in search engines, they just don't drive a lot of sales and they can't when shoppers go to places like Amazon first.
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