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Google Updates and SERP Changes - September 2019

     
8:38 am on Sep 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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- Split out of...
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]

9:53 pm on Sept 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@samwest – My opinion is that WP or other coding isn't the direct problem. I think it may be an indirect problem if it's producing other issues such as super slow load times, improper rendering, poor scores, possibly other technical factors that directly hinder the user from having that “experience” that Google deems as a “good user experience”. Many WP sites for instance rank atop search results, for insanely competitive KWs, while other non-WP, possibly custom-built sites (including ours) also ranks. In certain cases, if technical issues were the primary reason for ranking issues, WP helps because of their plugins that adapt the right standards, assuming the developer and webmaster know how to properly utilize them (canonicalization, parameters, etc.) The disadvantage of doing custom-built sites is yes, potential damage can be done if the developer or site owner don't know what they're doing, as they'd be the ones setting the trajectory for everything. But again, not a black-and-white answer. Assuming you have no technical issues visible to the eye right off the bat, unfortunately, there may be other underlying issues that aren't directly (maybe vaguely indirectly) related to the platform on which the site is built on. But hard to say without taking a deeper look.
2:36 am on Sept 14, 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.


Im not so sure and I think the lines between "core updates" and other updates are becoming more blurred and regardless, if they have effects they have effects - doesnt matter how they are categorised. The reason im not so sure they would have announced it though is that they have only just said they rolled out a core update months ago in order to recognise original articles. They have stated that was core and is live world wide, yet didnt announce a thing about it at the time.
4:39 am on Sept 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Milchan
Im not so sure and I think the lines between "core updates" and other updates are becoming more blurred and regardless, if they have effects they have effects - doesnt matter how they are categorised


I agree with that statement completely. The scope of a “broad core update” before may be different than what it is today, factoring in all the other unconfirmed updates that they roll out in between. Nonetheless, whatever a broad core update is today by definition, they will still roll out, they will just supplement and do the job that google needs it to do in conjunction with all the other updates rolled out in between.

I think that original reporting update for news is different than a broad core update.

But yeah, everything is so multi-faceted, regardless. It is all a blur. I know of a few websites that experienced incredible recovery with the March and June broad core updates, and then lost it all (including their rich snippets) overnight during an unconfirmed update on early-mid July.
5:07 am on Sept 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Another observation I want to share - but don't have a concrete explanation, just theories. Everytime, more specifically ever since the March core update occurred, there is some unconfirmed update and serps dance around, our traffic is noticably lower for 1-3 days. Then it replenishes to normal levels.

Before moving forward, keep in mind, during these updates and dances, our rankings appear normal, and nothing outside the everyday norm shuffling.

Amongst a few obvious things I can attribute to that -- is the fact that especially during any updates if I am checking rankings manually, I would get a set of results that have our website rankings lower than usual. I immediately do one reload in the browser, and the rankings return back to normal. This would happen across various KWs that I would check consecutively. But, so far, in no way was this just a preview of the KW position sets that lie ahead. Then if I completely restart my browser, this stops and rankings appear good. Then sporadically, this same pattern would start back up again. I've noticed that during those weird abrupt patterns is when our RT traffic drops. And then when I don't notice this pattern occurring, Real time traffic gets back to normal. This occurs on both mobile and desktop SERPs.

Obviously, to the normal average Joe who is Googling stuff, they're not going to think to themselves, “oh I need to refresh the SERPs”. They'll take what they see and navigate accordingly on the first round. It's annoying, but with this pattern, there has been somewhat of a moderate correlation to our traffic drops for those specific days. But then again, over the next few days, traffic levels out and remains normal and calm until the next Google dance.

The same is occurring right now as I’m typing this. I’ll google a kw knowing where we rank, I’ll see us a few slots lower, I’ll do a reload and our position instantly returns normal.

Also, during the past several updates during the instances where our traffic would be lower, I have not noticed any ranking changes to our KWs outside the everyday norm.

Anyone experience the same or have any thoughts on this? Thanks!
10:52 am on Sept 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Ok, I accept that it is the weekend and my traffic is usually 60-70% of weekdays however I am seeing the decimation of several .com sites this morning, and bearing in mind I'm nearly halfway through a Googleday, seeing sites with 0 (zero) PVs so far is more than a little disconcerting.

I've just checked a couple of SERPs using G.co.uk and it is, frankly, unbelievable. For one specific widget that originates in Brazil 19/20 results are US company sites, only one is from the UK ... WTF?

This widget, like many others in my trade, is only imported into the US, no one manufactures it there, it is principally manufactured in Brazil, China, India, Italy and Spain yet not one single manufacturer is listed.

We've got an almighty fubar going on here.
12:36 pm on Sept 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@HereWeGo123 - I can recognise a lot of what you are saying. Tracking KW positions in the SERPs now is like a game of whack-a-mole , seems to often be constantly moving and I think that is a "feature" of google now, but is certainly more pronounced during times an update (core or otherwise) is rolling out.
I suspect that there are very regular updates that role out of differing sizes and when they do the indexes (obviously huge, distributed databases) have to apply those changes and that will then likely result in caches needing refreshes etc etc. All this on the scale of google along with the AI algos being applied and it is not surprisingly that the serps seem like they are in an almost constant state of adjustment.

Also I imagine a lot of webmasters also don't focus too much on all the different factors in play when checking their own results like location, browser, if logged in with a G account or not (personalisation makes a big difference to your results) and / or rely on SEO tools which I believe no longer can give as accurate a picture as they once did.
1:23 pm on Sept 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Wouldn't it be great to have one day of natural traffic again? If for nothing else just to see how drastically the algo has affected our sites.

System

1:33 pm on Sept 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The following 3 messages were cut out to new thread by robert_charlton.

Split off discussion on extreme localization of SERPs, with particular difficulty seeing international results. New thread at:

Issues with Google localization on domestic and international SERPs
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4964240.htm [webmasterworld.com]


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:41 pm (utc) on Sep 14, 2019]
[edit reason] Splitting off-topic posts to new thread... [/edit]

3:39 am on Sept 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have also noticed my website ranking and traffic going down but I am trying to build high-quality backlinks and unique content that may recover my traffic and ranking.
3:29 pm on Sept 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The majority of my traffic comes from a certain keyword - which has gone up.

However, what my website is actually about and writes about most often - the keyword for it has tanked. It's a fairly competitive keyword and I've gone from 22 to 34 overnight. This is after being between 6-20 for years.

Obviously, there isn't that much traffic from the keyword itself due to how low it is, but the keyword brings me a lot of traffic when I appear in the Google News Carousel at the top of results after publishing a post. Does your ranking for the keyword tanking mean it's less likely to rank in the News carousel?


The change from being 22 to 34 happened in the past 48 hours.

I was around 15th five months ago, 20th around two months ago.

At the same time, my ranking for the other keyword was 1st/2nd five months ago, around 5th two months ago and it’s gone back to being 1/2 in the past week.

I don’t have the exact dates with me at the moment, so that’s just the rough estimates.


So since these posts, the keyword that fell from 22nd to 34 (36 at its lowest) is now ranking at number 13, above the likes of the BBC, Evening Standard, The Telegraph and The Guardian. Another related keyword has also gone from being 40ish to 13.

This is the highest it’s been for about 9 months, which makes no sense to me after Google dropped me down to page 3/4/5 in the past 10 days. I can understand movement of a few places, 5-8 +/-, but this seems far too drastic.

I’m not banking on it remaining in this position for long, but it will be interesting to see if it does.

Semrush always shows high volatility for the news niche, although it’s pinpointed 30th August and 13th September as exceptionally high - [semrush.com...]

Anyone had anything similar with their websites? Either now or in the past? Did you retain that position or did it go right back down again?
7:40 pm on Sept 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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There are only those regular updates affecting some publishers for a small period of time. It's 15th of September and I haven't seen any changes for any site that I track.

Perhaps, there'll be an official core update by end of this month or October. It's been a while.
11:00 pm on Sept 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Google search is now getting totally crazy for my websites. My main website that I update daily and is super-overoptimilized (95 gtmetrix score, 0,5s load time) is dropping in rankings every few days.
And my old and outdated websites with no optimization, that I haven't touched for 5 years and was planning to just get rid off them, are now getting to top 3 results.
Just completely insane...

For anyone with dropped rankings, my number 1 advice is just to DO NOTHING AT ALL. Leave your websites be, don't update them at all and Google will start to like them again after some time.

You spend hours and hours optimizing websites and updating content and Google will hate your websites!

Seems to me that age is the number 1 factor for ranking any website, then traffic, than backlinks and then, after everything else, the content.
11:46 pm on Sept 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Seems to me that age is the number 1 factor for ranking any website,


The Three "Ls". luck, lottery or best of all, an unfathomable Google love.

No one know what the Google love is since Google doesn't know itself.
1:07 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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More drastic changes today's and surprisingly some are positive. SERPS Still appear to be in flux here.
3:19 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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More drastic changes today's and surprisingly some are positive. SERPS Still appear to be in flux here.


@samwest - glad to hear things are shaping up good for you. Our SERPs have also looked good for several weeks, including past few days, but that's not necessarily translating into actual traffic gains, at least not yet. I am hopeful though.

You spend hours and hours optimizing websites and updating content and Google will hate your websites!


@frostitomik - I see what you're saying and agree with some, especially with the fact that sometimes webmasters should do nothing and just wait. The updates don't always get it right, and Google knows and admits it. That's why further accompanying updates tone it down a bit and release sites that were previously hit as a result of a false positive.

However, in terms of optimization, everyone has their own definition and scope of understanding of what truly effective optimization is, and I don't think I have it all figured out just yet either. But if someone is updating/optimizing content and not seeing improvement, it's not a guarantee that they will because they may be still missing the mark somewhere. Optimizing/updating for the sake of updating will not be the solution if something's off. I know many sites that I closely monitor that just update every single URL they are trying to rank for, for the sake of updating but not necessarily improving or adding additional substance. They temporarily exploited the system but then got slaughtered in the Mid-July 2019 unconfirmed update. Keep in mind, the vast majority of their URLs (amongst 1000s) would not have an “update date” that's older than 3-4 months tops.
3:33 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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In other news, continuing to see a lot of SERP flux throughout the day beginning yesterday evening (Saturday night US), and right now it seemed to dialed in even more.
10:38 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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continuing to see a lot of SERP flux throughout the day beginning yesterday evening (Saturday night US), and right now it seemed to dialed in even more.

The later half of this weekend was definitely ugly. I'm seeing very low page views and high bounce rates. Just when I thought it could not get worse, I looked at traffic data this morning...
10:58 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Yes, this year is very strange. Not only are the Google search results completely broken. But even if you have good rankings, there is almost no traffic coming in, compared to previous years.
11:03 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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frostitomik, you can rank no. 1 but if Google has summarised your information, then you can rank all you want, but you won't get much traffic. Ie: time in Widgetland, cost of a unicorn, how to replace a widget. If you're no. 1 but they're providing the information the user needs in the knowledge box, you are not likely to get much traffic.
11:06 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@frostitomik - I see what you're saying and agree with some, especially with the fact that sometimes webmasters should do nothing and just wait. The updates don't always get it right, and Google knows and admits it. That's why further accompanying updates tone it down a bit and release sites that were previously hit as a result of a false positive.


Well I have bunch of exact match domains that all used to rank on the 1st positions for their terms and after the Google update 2-3 years ago, they all got smashed and penalized, no rankings at all. I have let them all just sit and earn pennies with some small traffic and now they are back to top positions. Just LOL.
11:49 am on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Oddly, on mobile and tablet, my new listings employ the featured image and well as a internal content carousel of images linked to cornerstone content pages, HOWEVER on desktop search where this is vastly more real estate and where 99% of my buyers originate, all I get is a plain text listing. In fact all desktop searches use about 50% of the screen. Google appears to be all-in with mobile and forgetting about desktop. That all said, my only traffic is now non buying mobile.

The most annoying thing in the serps in the past 5+ years has been the 'sponsored' "See [search term]" carousel at the very top of every search page. Please collect your ad revenue on OUR pages, not on the search page.

I believe if they provided an option to turn off or hide that block, they would see how popular it isn't.
12:37 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@samwest - its been like that on desktop for a while now (Since March this year I think?)
12:40 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Keep in mind, the vast majority of their URLs (amongst 1000s) would not have an “update date” that's older than 3-4 months tops.


When I say "google seems to flag a WP site because of the code" is because of how theme developers vary on how they do things. So when a WP theme is changed, the format and code can change which in turn may make google and other search engines confused, so they flag a site until there is balance again, which may take months to recover

WP code modification examples:

• Publish date may be the original publish date or the latest date when a post is updated. If the date changes (possibly show an older date) based on a theme switch, the date format change could throw a flag?

• SEO optimized theme and also SEO applied with an SEO plugin. A site will display duplicate titles, meta, and OG information if one of the SEO methods isn't removed. The duplicate SEO may create a penalty?

• The layout of scripts and content. WP theme developers vary on where they place scripts, and the order. I'm not sure if google and other search engines create a penalty if they crawl a site and see a completely different format of the information and coding?

My overall point is, what do search engines deem acceptable, and what throws warning signals that can create penalties for the information mentioned?
2:12 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Some webmasters put too much emphasis on site speed, on-page SEO, etc. that it goes to the OCD extreme IMO. Granted, these aspects are important but at some point it reaches a level of lipstick on a pig. If the content is crap, or at least perceived to be crap by a machine, then it doesn't stand a snowballs chance in hell of ranking long-term. Of course this assumes each page will be judged on its own merits and in an unbiased environment which Google moved away from years ago.

My company uses WP for its main ecommerce enabled website and it ranks just fine. The problem is Google lacks shoppers, and that problem is exacerbated when Google continues to crowd their SERPS with Amazon pages that peddle offshore junk. Regardless, we are a leader in our industry and have a lot of useful information the average consumer can use in their purchasing decision now or down the road. There's no question that this helps to drive sales outside of Google, but it is frustrating to not have instant sales coming from Google like we did 5+ years ago. Unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back for Google. No matter how much I bitch and moan, Google gets worse every year for driving direct sales. My guess is executives inside Google have similar complaints too but they also know there is no turning back with Amazon controlling 50%+ of the domestic ecommerce market.
4:11 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Someone pull the plug on the internet again today? I find it mathematically impossible to have the #1, 2 and 3 positions across my main term PLUS all the suggested terms at the bottom of the page and yet get nothing by drip zombie traffic....then suddenly a "normal" rush, 1 conversion and then shut off for the rest of the day. Guess nobody uses Google anymore....yet they still make >30B/qtr. amazing smoke and mirror work G.

Update: lots of dead wood sites ranking in the top 5 today.
This site can’t be reached
ERR_NAME_RESOLUTION_FAILED
4:48 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I find it mathematically impossible to have the #1, 2 and 3 positions across my main term PLUS all the suggested terms at the bottom of the page and yet get nothing

Where are you getting your stats from? I would question the validity of the stats more than anything else.
4:49 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm definitely seeing some good improvements for one of my sites and some huge movements in the SERPs for other sites. For instance a Quora page that has ranked around the #5-6 mark for at least the past year or more and actually cites my site (still AWOL) has dropped from the first page to halway down the 8th!

That's a massive drop, what did they do to deserve that when for more than a year G deemed it to be worthy of such a high ranking?

Update: lots of dead wood sites ranking in the top 5 today.


I have to agree there, lots of spurious sites and one I found with its domain name for sale yet ranking for its page with the keywords ... What make's it more galling is that I had never heard of the company before nor had any of my staff in the field from where the keyword originates.

Meanwhile DDG tends to look good however Bing keeps showing Google traits at times ... Please Bing, don't chase the G honeypot ... Be free, different and independent.
8:29 pm on Sept 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Where are you getting your stats from? I would question the validity of the stats more than anything else.

I did not quote or state any statistics... I just find it to be nearly impossible to rank and tank...especially when the very similar positions used to crank out six figures.
11:09 am on Sept 17, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Anyone have a take on how randomly presented content might affect SEO and SERP positioning? By random content, I mean a post carousel at the bottom of a page that changes on each refresh. From a user standpoint, not sure if that would be more annoying than helpful, especially if wanting to follow or backtrack.
11:11 am on Sept 17, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Semrush sensor showed high activity for yesterday 16/09 and today again is back to normal.
This 384 message thread spans 13 pages: 384