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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2019

     
8:38 am on Sep 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2019
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4957935.htm [webmasterworld.com]
by robert_charlton - 1:31 am on Sep 2, 2019



I've seen a comparable drop to the first of June. Like alot of people on here (I'm becoming increasingly frustrated) I feel like alot of the drops are down to the size of our brand and not the state of our SEO. Conversations internally in the business mean that i am going to have to lean away from some of the principles that i have leaned on and tweaked for maybe 10 years. I'm going to redesign the site.

We have a high proportion of non indexable pages. Whilst these obviously dont rank, I'm starting to wonder whether the high numbers of these pages proportionally across the site are maybe having an impact on our indexable pages. I know that might sound crazy. In my head, I dont understand how that would be an issue, but maybe Google thinks i'm trying to hide something?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:56 pm (utc) on Sep 2, 2019]
[edit reason] cleanup after splitting & combining threads [/edit]

4:03 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@RedBar - Don't bother, I switched 5 years ago and my site just tanked.


@SamWest and @RedBar, are you asking about WordPress? If so, then no, please. Moving to WordPress is not something you want to do. Far too much of a known and in my opinion highly discounted management system that Google used to love but treats today as though it were a platform merely used by spammers. I've done a few tests over the past couple of years and WP has nearly no value for several coding/footprint related ranking signals today compared to before.

If you are going to roll with WP then i suggest an optimized variant like ROOTS or just a straight move to another platform like Grav. For new sites/clients I only use WP for Tier 1 or lower and money sites that are only short turn churn n burn.

Note: If I didn't pick up on some nuance regarding your conversation between each other I apologize.
4:23 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@steffanlv

Noooo, no way am I going down the WP route, that was a rhetorical joke based upon my experience with it some 8/9 years ago ... I'm a text pad code hacker since the mid 90s and love creating my own stuff that works far better than any off-the-shelf garbage:-)
4:34 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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[nytimes.com...]

This looks like a big change for news publishers. Google has been ignoring my original reporting since the June update.
5:02 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It'll still rank other stories just that the original reporter will have a longer time span Very tricky for them when the actual story is collagulated with opinions.

We'll see what rolls out and its influence.
5:13 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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New results again, different pattern on all three devices. Also seeing cluster traffic from different sections of the USA...in strange patches. The Google Polka continues.
7:37 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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GSC is about 3 days behind, but so far, going back the the 6th, what has changed? It's clearly user behavior. Are they biasing users again? The few that do make it to the site are clearly and suddenly uninterested. Is anyone else noticing this stark change?
8:15 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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yes they are browsing not buying and that includes Google shopping
8:45 pm on Sept 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This looks like a big change for news publishers. Google has been ignoring my original reporting since the June update.


Here is additional information - to the New York Times link - on what changes are coming and how Quality Raters are used in the algorithm. [techcrunch.com...]
1:28 am on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Noticing some fluctuations in search. But maybe just me. Anyone noticing anything yet?
11:26 am on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Ok, as things settle out, I'm seeing exactly why my site totally tanked and my initial suspicion was correct, now to find out why...

As I first reported as the flux began, my meta description was bouncing from the true meta to the captions in my meta slider.
The meta slider is at the top of my home page, so either the slider whacked out or Google decided to use that instead of my meta description. Now, once everything is settling out, I lost page one, which devastated traffic.

What changed on my end?
Well, a few months ago I decided to switch to the ever popular DIVI theme for WP. I also use Yoast SEO. I'm not sure, but there is a lot of chatter online about the combination of those two messing up your SEO, so beware. This may need to go into a new thread or if someone has started a thread on this topic, please let me know.

It's either that, or Google has just decided to disobey my meta description and to handle indexing my site totally different that how it has for 20 years.
If you are tanking since about Sep 6th, then common denominators to look for would be:
1. Using DIVI theme.
2. Using Yoast WITH DIVI theme.
3. Using Meta Slider near the top of your home page, with 1 and 2 above.

Seems to be a deadly cocktail.

I will add that this could just be temporary flux because I am still seeing THREE different results layouts in the SERPS for my site for mobile, tablet and desktop. I really do think this is a Google issue, beacuse I cannot imaging how the long used slider could affect my SEO that drastically, but as it appears, it has. Also, another debunker is that my conversion rate on my remaining trickle of traffic is at absolute zero.
That's not normal at all. 2 sales all week when I usually do 20...and just a few short years ago used to do 80 to 100/wk.
Now wondering if this was a manual action.

[edited by: samwest at 11:36 am (utc) on Sep 13, 2019]

11:32 am on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@samwest - are you recovering or is it dead for you?
11:47 am on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@SI - totally dead - SERPS are all over the place. One set shows my true meta description, the other the CAPTIONS of my meta slider. Not the meta descriptions, the CAPTIONS. That is bizarre. The more I look at this, the more I feel it is a manual action in my vertical. I am not seeing the nice listing images my site has always had. This is clearly a very big change or it's a complete re-indexing of my niche. What's winding up at the top is all non authoritative, ad loaded content farmers. User behavior is also completely whack. This makes me think Google turned the knobs too far in their favor, again.

With nothing else to lose, I just switched off Yoast and installed SEO framework. With that, the site actually improved a bit in speed. Not trusting this Yoast/Divi combo either. Think I'll dump meta slider too while I'm at it.
Hope this isn't too knee jerk, but it's time to switch it up and work up my SEO again.
Maybe do some black-hat to regain my listings...lol, jk.
12:02 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Sorry to be a topic hog, but lots to see and say on this update...
Now looking at this mornings GA Home display, My trend is going UP over the previous week, yet my real-time display is showing very, very little action and no cross page action. All Zombie traffic. This looks like big time user biasing...but who knows what they are up to. My back-links also recently climbed up logarithmically, yet traffic and conversions appear to be tanking. Really feels like a manual action. No messages in WMT and GSC trend looks totally normal and actually trending up! I just don't get the sudden dead user behavior. Maybe I'm looking too hard at this. Maybe it's just Google doing what Google does best...f***in everything up again. Maybe it's time to just walk away for a while.
[youtu.be...]
12:38 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@samwest

I have a bad habit of changing WP themes - always looking for a better design to suit my wants, and cleaner (less bloat) code - and as me, and others, have mentioned in the past, google may not like like these big changes, so there seems to be a penalty of sorts until a site gets stable again.

Yes, the core code is still based on WP standards, but something in how a theme developer codes must be different enough to throw red flags. This part of I agree with RedBar and others about the downside of WP, as the code can be more complicated than need be.
12:44 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@SP - right, but is Google now ranking us by code or by content? I agree with the complexity of WP. You can get plugin happy and totally destroy your site speed and user engagement. I keep a pretty good tab on that and keep it and the server up to date. The other recent change was that I upgrade PHP from 5.6 to 7.2...but what would that have to do with traffic and user behavior. I will also add that desktop traffic has all but disappeared since last week. Loading up the boat to go fishing today. I need to walk away for a bit.
1:53 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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but is Google now ranking us by code or by content?


I am under the impression that both matter, which is why I tend to upgrade themes when I believe they may deliver my content better to the user and apply more current and better coding standards.

A comprehensive list of signals that make google and other search engines react…and use for quality standards, would be of great help.
3:51 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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but is Google now ranking us by code or by content?


IF I were building a current search engine, and I have built one in the past for fun, I would definitely penalise unnecessary code bloat, but that's me, I have always preferred the KISS principle for ease of use, speed and to assist browsers.

It definitely sounds as though you have a WP/plug-in/Google conflict going on. Are you going to wind it back and go fishing for a few weeks to see how it settles down or, and this is what I would do, re-construct on a completely new platform.

If you do that then take your time, when I converted to html5 I spent two full years coding and testing until I was happy with what I'd created. Yes, I had the time and nobody pressuring me nor any company board urging me to complete it but it was well worth the wait.
4:12 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Im seeing SERPs all over the place also . There is an update id say, pretty sure about it.. Not only the serps changes drastically but ive noticed all domain names are now displayed without www. in front and Im not seeing any favicons any more.
5:42 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing even more USA company sites in the G.co.uk SERPs for my widgets yet not one of these companies could supply the UK market with these widgets ... The mess simply gets messier and less relevant with every update.
5:45 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Well, too windy to go fishing today. I'm thinking this is just a nasty update that like the wind, will have to pass before doing any drastic changes. I won't be changing platform, that's for sure. Not practical to throw that much time and energy into something that may or more likely, may not improve things. Divi is used by 5 million sites and it does the job. WP is constantly being improved by an army of developers. I think this is just another major speed bump for my site, which like the weather, I'll have to ride out. The road of life is rough. Patience and time are now required.
6:08 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I would personally not touch it, I began changing things on a few sites after the first updates months ago and if anything it made things worse.

I'm so flustered right now, my sites continue to lose rank and are continuously being outranked by churn and burn expired domains. These are all sites with 10-30 pages of affiliate promotion pages and products, not one decent article with any substance in any of them. But they do have incredible link profiles.
6:24 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@samwest Manual action message in GWC will be after ~24 hours. I last week got 3 manual actions first time! For a thin content :)) But content is far better my competitors... only for content spent ~35k euro (editor's salary not included).
6:52 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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10-year-old site, decimated by this update. Daily google traffic from around 1000/day to 200, but much of those are not potential customers, just readers. Our primary keyword is now, laughably, on page 11 of the results. This is a custom built site (asp.net). At one point (just before Panda update?) it was on page 1 at position 6 (in a field where 3 of the top 5 are multinational corps). In an unbiased world this would be the fair position, or at least the first page.

I do virtually no external SEO, just site improvements, content creations etc, so in my case this had nothing to do with an SEO penalty. At first I thought it was some sort of manual penalty, but I guess it’s just a very extreme update penalty (Sept 5 or so). Pretty much all pages that have the possibility of converting traffic have been pushed down to page 4 or worse.

The site does old fashioned advertising (direct relationship with advertisers), and the commission junction affiliate program. Many product pages have CJ affiliate links, while others link directly to advertiser sites. CJ links are nofollowed, advertisers are followed (not for SEO - our advertisers don't really understand SEO). In the last couple months the nofollow CJ links were being “crawled” for the first time – CJ showed huge spikes in clicks on some days. Now I'm thinking that was Googlebot figuring stuff out as part of their new nofollow policy?

So in my case, this very much looks like an overly aggressive move by Google to destroy non-adsense affiliated sites, and take even more control of the “shopping experience”.

IMO, Google’s ranking system is designed to maximize its very complicated profit network. Providing a quality experience for the average user is secondary. The only moderating factor is “how stupid are these results making us look?” I’m guessing manual intervention is used to fix that as modestly as possible with their human reviewers. But the majority of internet users really can’t tell the difference between quality content and recycled second hand information, and there are enough sites that provide seemingly “passable” information on any query, so Google has a lot of leeway when it comes to presenting search results.

I don't think any amount of SEO, guideline following, or trying to placate this corporate monster is going to help our case because the penalty has been so harsh. Even going from page 11 to 3 would be useless. The site is good enough already to deserve more attention. The only thing to do is tighten the belt and wait it out and hopefully not starve to death. If we’re lucky we’ll get a manual reviewer within the next year who says “ok that was a bit harsh” and adjusts our penalty. Or enough governmental litigation to change something. If a new algorithm makes them more money, they're not going to revert it back.
7:09 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@grainofsand - welcome to webmasterworld

I think youve made some good points and your observation about punishing old fashioned advertising type sites sounds completely feasible and I completely agree that your average user doesnt know either way if they are being served garbage content or the better content that is available.

I do have one note of caution though to anyone being effected right now and that is I think it is very common that the first day or two of an update usually is very volitile and is not always an indication of the outcome some days later, so I would not jump to conclusion yet
7:32 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@ milchan - I would say this is very granular as I don't see the usual volume of complaints here. I have popped back, but it's still bouncing between data sets on three different devices, mobile, tablet and desktop. Never really see this much variation, maybe because on my recent switch to Divi (a few months ago) and the fact that it is now very mobile friend, finally bumping me to the mobile index. Seems they are trying to sort out the best display for the specific device. I'm so old school that this really flies in the face of the little I know. As Doug Adams would say "Don't Panic". Now where's my towel?
7:35 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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it is very common that the first day or two of an update


Whilst I would normally agree with that statement so far this month with my supposedly "international" sites I am seeing an average 30% drop in PVs.

It is very noticeable that not only is our USA traffic down but also significant European markets for our widgets.

What also has me concerned is that Bing seems to be going down the same route as G, DDGs results are by far and away superior.
8:27 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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all im saying is that it is clearly still in progress as there is so much movement, so I dont think it is possible to gauge exactly how any of us will be effected yet. That said, I never expect anything good from these updates.
8:58 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@grainofsand 10 years is a very good run for a site that sells products through affiliate program and is not a Multinational corporation.

Hope you made good money. If things don't pick up, time to start something new.
9:37 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I am personally inclined to think (although I can be wrong), that if what's “brewing” right now is a broad core update, Google would've confirmed by now, even if they would've chosen not to “pre-announce” it. Clearly, there is somekind of an update, but one which Google is not considering significant enough to have to confirm. Instead, if they confirm anything, it will most likely be that this update is amongst many updates they release daily.
9:38 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@samwest we use Divi and WordPress constantly and there has been no problems from our side, for 30+ clients.

It's easy to rewind and blame changes, but there must be a problem lying deeper if your having problems. Spam sites and aggregators spring to mind.

Surely Google cannot judge a website based on coding, otherwise Google's algorithm is easily flawed. If that is the case then I will just go back to basic and build a html5 and responsive website because of cleaner coding... if it were that simple.

One thing I have experienced is that updates take many months to settle due to roll backs and looking at different datasets and google A/B split testing all the time.

Just look at Google's last cache date of your website and highest performing pages and take it from there.
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