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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]

10:41 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Weird situation since last update, rankings have improved but traffic from Google has drastically gone down.
12:27 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Pretty hard changes today... Fingers crossed that this will roll back...

P.S. Revenue also dropped as it's happening during updates for my websites.
4:54 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Cralamarre, thanks. I've gone from being annoyingly positive to just downright depressed. I have had knock backs before, but I have never seen anything like this in my 16 years of owning the site. With almost 1,000 articles, I am down to single digits. I hopped onto webmaster tools in the hope I'd been given a manual penalty, but nope.

I searched for something in my niche today, and Google returned a result for Eric Roberts. It wasn't even an article about Eric Roberts featuring my niche topic, ie: Eric Roberts talks about his favourite unicorn. It was so bizarre.

I can't sleep, I can't eat, I just feel so awful. Thankfully, my part time job will help financially, but it's hard to want to carry on (with the site) when it's just been trashed. I think I'll just focus on editing some of the older content, I don't have the strength to add new.
5:24 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@browndog, I'm sorry to hear you're having such a tough time. Financial worries are the worst. It's hard to focus on anything else when you're worried about paying the bills. I went through that a couple of years ago when I lost 50% of my traffic overnight.

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. Use Fetch as Google to get the changes indexed as quickly as possible. If you see big gains in traffic after making the changes, then apply the same changes to a second article. If you don't see the gains you were expecting, try to find other ways to improve or restructure the content of that same article, and then try again. Keep focusing on that one article until you see results, rather than spreading out your time and energy on too many things at once.
6:32 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We have seen some drastic drop in our traffic from last 3 days onwards, I have checked with few of my other websites too, seems something happened from google algo side.
6:45 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My traffic isn't really "down" so much as it has simply reverted back to what it was at the beginning of February, before the slight uptick in the middle of the month. Still doing better than last year at this time.
9:25 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I think this end of month update is bigger than I first thought. For the first time in almost a year Iíve noticed significant shuffling on the first page of the short tail for my niche, and Iím now on the verge of breaking through to the first page. Somehow this is happening despite Google trashing my backlink count in GSC.
9:37 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Our traffic is down 5% to 10% since last Saturday. Big media sites are getting multiple listings on the results page (spread out over the page not one after the other). Google Search Widgets like "People Also ask" for some reason getting top billing. Why not show them the search results the person asked for first Google?

Google's AI is really wonky. A lot of Featured Snippets do not make sense. People Also Asked answers are more often than not, incorrect.
11:17 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm not going to waste any more of my time playing around with that "People Also Ask" thing. It just keeps expanding, then starts repeating. It leads you around in circles, and gradually guides you away from ever finding the specific information you wanted.
11:32 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Here's something that people also (should) ask, why put a "people also ask" box between the ads and the organic results?

That's a rhetorical question...
2:33 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I've seen a healthy up-tick since the last update on the 27th Feb. I have been making tweaks to my site for the past few months so hopefully it's a reflection of the work put in.
8:40 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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First about "people also ask" and other bs: Seeing this being massily rolled out last couple of weeks, so even if you gain rankings you loose traffic/visitors from google.

Second about feb ends update: this was anti relevance & pro brand (as opposed to the one end of jan/beginning of feb), the biggest ranking gain in a set of >100 watched projects is for one that is dead (404s on all pages) since about eight month. Perfect, Google :D
12:36 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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SEMRush showing high SERP volatility - 8.0..
3:05 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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SEMRush showing high SERP volatility - 8.0..

The sad thing is it has been very difficult in ecommerce to notice any of Google's recent updates in the past 3-4 years. Google has pushed big brands to the point of no extreme, and the slim to no converting traffic from Google just does not change for us. Thankfully what has changed are user habits. Consumers have migrated away from Google and instead go right to a marketplace to search for products - bypassing Google entirely. Though I'm no fan of marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, etc., they have helped small businesses survive Google's culling of small businesses. But such marketplaces have their problems as well, chief among them being high marketplace fees such as Amazon's 15% commission of any product sold. Domestic businesses are ill-equipped to absorb such losses in their margins which has made marketplaces an offshore seller's haven. It's estimated that over half the sellers on Amazon live in China. And to cater to these sellers, Amazon owns a Chinese cargo ship company subsidiary to help move product from China to Amazon warehouses.
3:32 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I find that the "People also ask" box, while annoying, is also a great source for potential topics. I just did a search for one of my most popular search terms, and the "People also ask" box showed me at least three related sub-topics that I would never have thought of but would make great additions to my content. I'm not talking about "content-farm" topics like "How to eat red M&M's", "How to eat blue M&M's", and so on. I mean legitimate topics related to, but not identical to, my initial topic.
4:26 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Sure, the PAA box a decent tool (among many) for topic discovery. If the SERPs were primarily a related topics tool I'd say good job...

So, at face value the logic behind having the PAA box listed above the organic results just doesn't make sense. A question is asked (query) and google shows other questions before showing the organic answers to the original query. Doesn't make sense unless one understands that the SERPs are geared to generate ad views/clicks.

Alternatively, maybe AI is just entering it's teenage years...
Parent: Where are you going?
Teenager: Why?

Or, maybe HAL 9000 genre
Searcher: google, show me websites that sell widgets
google: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
4:29 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The problem @Cralamarre is "at least in my recent experience" is that if you click on one of those suggestions in the box it takes you to a different page and displays the same old results, nothing different.

So you get the same crap with no variety which is what has made Googles search useless.

I am amazed that people using Google for search have not realized that the queries they are getting in many ways are an insult to their intelligence but it is what it is.

I myself am for the most part using Bing and DDG for my own personal research, it's not perfect but at least if I scroll through page one or page two I still get a variety of results which end up answering my queries. With Google I seem to get garbage on page one followed by non-relevant or spammy results on page two.
5:04 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My thinking for why the "People also ask" box exists is that a person may know in their head what he or she is looking for, but doesn't know how to ask for it. This is probably the biggest roadblock that people encounter when trying to find information. They don't know how to ask for what they need.

So instead of searching for "How do I use a widget?", or "What's the difference between this type of widget and that type of widget?", they just type "widget" into Google and hope for the best. That's when Google's "People also ask" box steps in with a list of questions about widgets that they can click on to find the answers to. I'm sure a lot of people actually find this feature helpful.

One my own biggest challenges over the years has been trying to match, as closely as possible, the topics of my articles with what people are actually searching for. An article on "What are widgets?" may be great at explaining what widgets are, but may not be useful to someone who really wanted to know "How do I use a widget?" or "How do I make a widget?", related but different topics. And if one of these related topics is the more popular search term, then the "What are widgets?" article may get little traffic no matter the quality.

So from that standpoint, I think the "People also ask" box is invaluable.

[edited by: Cralamarre at 6:03 pm (utc) on Mar 2, 2019]

5:33 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm not questioning the existence or usefulness of the people also ask box, I question the placement and motive of that placement. It's counterintuitive to place it above the organic results for a query unless...
1. google feels that the organic results don't answer the made query
2. google doesn't want the searcher to see the organic results for the query
5:55 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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But what would Google's incentive be to use the "People also ask" box to keep people from seeing the organic search results? It's not like the more you click on the box, the more ads that appear. All that happens when you click on questions is that the box keeps extending further and further down the page with more and more questions.

I think Google's research has probably shown them that more often than not, people don't actually search for what they meant to search for. And the "People also ask" box is an honest attempt to help them find that they need.

Now, does the box benefit me as someone who relies on those initial organic results for traffic? No, it sure doesn't. But is it helpful to people searching for something on Google? Yes, I think it probably is.

So the question then becomes, how can I benefit from this "People also ask" box (which is most likely not going away) instead of being a victim of it? And the answer is to use the questions you find in the box to better structure your content and make it more relevant to these questions. At least, that's what I'll be doing.
6:16 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Whatever train wreck hit my site recently seems to be reversing, I was up 15% from the same day last week and I can see my site improving its ranking once gain...thank goodness.

I really like the people also ask because often give me ideas to include in content. I sometimes finish an article with a FAQ section, and check the 'people always ask' to quickly answer questions.
6:20 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It's not like the more you click on the box, the more ads that appear.

The more one clicks on the on the box, more opportunities to initiate another search (see: Search for: Why would someone... in each opened people also ask layer), more searches, more ad impressions. Also opens up the opportunity of steering searcher to higher value (cpc) ads.

Could it be an honest attempt to help the searcher find what they need? Could be. The organic results could also be a good opportunity for google to display what the searcher needs...

It would be more natural, and less nefarious, to show the organic results for the query and then other options/suggestions.
6:35 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@browndog, Glad to hear things are improving. I hope it continues.

@Shepherd,
The organic results could also be a good opportunity for google to display what the searcher needs...

I would agree if more people were better at knowing how to search for what they need.

If I'm looking for specific information, the faster I find it, the better. If I didn't ask the right question in my search, then the organic results are less likely to be relevant to me. So placing the "People also ask" box after the organic results forces me to wade through potentially useless results before allowing me to streamline my search. But placing the box above the organic results helps to make sure I was searching for the right thing to begin with.
7:36 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I just used the "People also ask" box to change a few headings in my latest article to better match those search queries. Seems like a good idea. Hopefully it shows results.
8:05 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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>> I find that the "People also ask" box, while annoying, is also a great source for potential topics.

That is the only good thing I see from it. Still it is a huge repeat of the "Searches related to" box at the bottom of the first page. Google will keep adding more of these type of widgets and snippets to keep everyone on Google.

I am against government intervention especially because their understanding of technology is so limited but by allowing Google to become the monopoly it is doesn't help anyone except Google. The only one that could maybe challenge them is Apple but they appear to be more than happy to receive 12 billion this year from Google to remain the default search engine on Apple products. [fortune.com...]
8:35 pm on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I am against government intervention especially because their understanding of technology is so limited but by allowing Google to become the monopoly it is doesn't help anyone except Google.

How would the government stop Google from becoming a monopoly? Force them to start showing Bing and Yahoo results in the Google SERPs? And how would that be fair to Google? It's not Google's fault that everyone uses Google. Go tell someone that you looked something up on Yahoo. They'll laugh at you, right before they ask why you didn't "just Google it".
5:18 pm on Mar 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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because their understanding of technology is so limited

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.

It is the political lack of will (for all sorts of reasons) that constitutes the problem.
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5:25 pm on Mar 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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How would the government stop Google from becoming a monopoly?

Break up indexing and display of results. Like with all energy and communications utilities in all civilized countries, where infrastructure is run by an entity split from multiple end providers.

It is going to happen, sooner or later.
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6:00 pm on Mar 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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How would the government stop Google from becoming a monopoly? Force them to start showing Bing and Yahoo results in the Google SERPs?

Many of the listings that appear on Google's first page search results are either owned by Google or Google has a financial interest in. Instead of trying to force people to use a different search engine, a good start would be for regulators to force Google to disclose their interest in any listed website with an appropriate label. Add in a search button that excludes all Google owned or financially backed properties from being returned in the search results. But I'm not convinced this is the solution. In eccommerce we see shoppers have long abandoned Google and instead visit a marketplace like Amazon to search for products. Google has cannibalized their search results which leaves users chasing their tails and dissatisfied. The free market is working, which is why Google seems desperate to add stupid/useless features to keep users on their properties. Myself, I rarely use Google anymore.

I'll call Google's latest update the oligopoly update since it appears Google is shoving even more Amazon down our throats. Seems fitting since Amazon's forecast is not looking the to be the brightest. Google seems happy cornering info searches while driving as much ecommerce related searches directly to Amazon, where it's estimated half the sellers live in China. LOL I have Adwords running as I do during most known updates and Google can't even squeeze a converting visitor out of their terrible search results if they tried. Meanwhile Amazon sales are off the charts and Bing/Yahoo are converting normally. It would appear, yet again, that Google is trying to squeeze small ecommerce businesses even more by redirecting traffic that converts to Amazon. At least this is my observation. My only hope for Google is that more businesses abandon Adwords and their users start using a different search engine.
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