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Google Updates and SERP Changes - October 2019

     
12:04 pm on Oct 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 5 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4962430.htm [webmasterworld.com] by goodroi - 5:42 pm on Oct 2, 2019 (utc -5)


Dealing with Google as a business is tough and dealing with Google as a normal user is becoming a huge headache as well. I was trying to find some info about some software on the latest Smartphone I just bought and it was insane how stupid the search engine is now. It blatantly ignores keywords and uses synonyms for others which was not my intent and important for the search. It just returns articles of general information that are 5 or 6 years old. Even the stupid "People also ask" widget just regurgitates these same articles with information that is either outdated or completely wrong regarding my query. My whole mobile screen seems to be filled with either ads or search widgets.

I disagree with the use of all these widgets, and see a lot of it as content theft (people work hard to provide this information). It would be one thing if Google actually returned the correct information but in a large percentage of queries it does not making these widgets and the AI behind a huge failure.

Google please become a real search engine again instead of trying to be an information provider on the backs of other peoples businesses. (I know this will never happen unfortunately unless the government steps in)
1:12 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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also a UX issue wouldnt explain how one day everything is ok and the next bounce rates increase 30% and session time / pages per session drop 30% - that suggests the traffic being "sent" is lower quality for what ever reason - not a good relevancy match to the users search, not a real a user, a mismatch to the users intent etc. Many of us see these changes , very abrupt changes without us changing our sites, on a regular but very defined basis now. If it was UX issue it would be a constant issue.
1:29 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Why do people from my country have no problems with UX but Mexico, Bolivia, The Maldives etc do?

How do "people" in The Maldives even find a small niche widget site in Ireland?
2:49 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Traffic has slightly improved, rankings remain unchanged.
3:36 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@JesterMagic : Dealing with Google as a business is tough and dealing with Google as a normal user is becoming a huge headache as well.
Two for one! And both, regrettably, increasingly true.

For over a decade Google search referred traffic has had the lowest conversion rate, a matter of quantity making up for its lack of quality. So far.

As a searcher I use Startpage née Ixquick as a Google results viewer and only fall back to direct Google search results as a last resort as Google has been transitioning to GIGO over the past decade.

From a SE with ads to an ad network with a SE component. Evolution is fascinating.
3:48 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD

take a look at your google webmaster tools. performance -> countries -> mexico -> queries.

might give you some answers
4:03 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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YabaiSeo +

15,081 impressions, 1 click
queries - widget Ireland

my widget is spelt differently to other countries and all of those impressions spelt it the way we do and their country does not....clever bots have learned regional spelling
4:08 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD
15,081 impressions, 1 click

This suggests that few people from Mexico are coming from Search. What does Analytics show as "Source" for the Mexico traffic? Is it mainly direct traffic?
4:38 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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That is from Google search console, when I am watching in real time the source is google.com not google.ie
7:41 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD, I don't think you understand my question.
GSC shows stats of 15k impressions and 1 click, this means that your site appeared 15k times in the search results(from Mexico) but only one person clicked on the link to your site.

As a result Google Analytics should only show 1 single user from Mexico with a source of "Google" (.com, .ie, or whichever).

So the question is take a look in GA for the same time period that you used for GSC. Go to the acquisitions report, overview, organic, source, Google. Then select a secondary dimension of users/country. Then see if that agrees with GSC. You can also repeat, but instead of selecting overview, organic, source, Google. Choose overview, Direct.

The goal is to check whether GSC and GA agree, if you have one click vs 5 or 6 visitors, then that seems reasonable (GSC is far from perfect). But if you have 1 click and but your are seeing 1500 visitors from Mexico, then that likely warrants some deeper digging.

Watching real-time is fine for an informal check, like checking to be sure everything is running fine. But can't depend on it. You need to look at things over longer time periods.
8:15 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Google Analytics has gone bonkers for me, also noticed some traffic improvement yesterday, News publisher
8:32 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS - nice explanation. Wondering if you or anyone here knows what the impressions number refers to exactly in regards serp pages. By that I mean each reported impression mean that you appeared in SERP page 1 , or does it include say all 10 of the default SERP pages. Does it refer to your search result actually displaying on someones screen ? Because on mobile it might require scrolling down to make a listing visible for example.
9:00 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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NickMNS + sorry I misunderstood you, here is the GA for the last 30 days

Users New Users Sessions Bounce Rate Pages / SessionAvg. Session Duration
9(0.22%) 9(0.23%) 9(0.21%) 66.67% 1.67 00:00:10

Clear as mud!
9:32 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD

You only target Ireland so Mexico traffic must be fake.
9:54 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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mosxu + yes it is zombie but clicks through a couple of pages. I think some of us are seeing a pattern with the updates causing GEO location issues, in theory bots should not be able to land on a main page then click through to another, have the spammers figured a way around the GA filters? (not that they are brilliant but these days they are from google.com not google.sucks)
10:04 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD

Blocking these countries would be a good idea but it will not bring back the converting traffic. Also it may disapprove your feed in merchant centre even if you target Ireland only.
10:16 pm on Oct 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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mosxu + after a day of United Nations traffic this evening is all Irish, I seriously give up on trying to figure out what is going on.

My feed is superb, 2467 products all approved but my shopping traffic died at the same time as my website, whatever happened with the update in July broke my very successful shopping campaign.

I suspect the smart bidding AI is the problem, as webmasters we have all done it ........broken something and then we are running around like headless chickens trying to fix it.
5:42 am on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I don't suppose anyone noticed any temporary issue with their GA real-time stats?
6:32 am on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@jmorgan - we noticed an error in our GA real-time stats reporting for about an hour last Friday and then again today (Monday) during the afternoon (US).
8:47 am on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD

You are actually correct all problems start from AI smart bidding as it is trying to bring conversions to certain players who bid higher than it would make business sense.

Results are all about the profile of the searcher / buyer personalisation for example how ready is that searcher to make a purchase, is she /he reading reviews before? Is he/she clicking more than 3 ads before buying? And many many more signals.

However the ready to buy searchers go more and more direct to Amazon everyday and I would worry if your product is fulfilled by Amazon.

Also internal google studies show that searchers do not click more than 4 product ads anymore so you will see less and less products displayed even on desktop for this reason.

Yes it is AI at work.
9:24 am on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks @HereWeGo123. Real-time GA numbers were cut in half for a period for me which was alarming.

Not really sure if it was a technical issue or something out of my control, or just GA playing up.
12:23 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Real time error from GA or not. Today traffic really went down after noon. Its like the blackouts. Yesterday traffic was good but today again down the hole.
1:30 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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whatever happened with the update in July broke my very successful shopping campaign.

Never fear, Google is sending out another round of spam emails trying to get advertisers to speak with a Google account strategist. Google's strategy is to make advertisers pay more and get less. My strategy is simple - increase our Amazon advertising budget while cutting back on Adwords. For all intensive purposes, Adwords is dead for products though we use it for branding.

The problem for shopping campaign advertisers is that Google makes more money from shopping actions, where Google typically takes a 12% commission from each sale. You may want to look into this to see if it may be a better play for you. If nothing else, costs are fixed in shopping actions whereas shopping campaigns tend to bring a poor or negative ROI. Only a small percentage of shoppers use a typical search engine anymore, which last I saw was about 15% for first time product searches. Most consumers are going directly to Amazon, eBay, WalMart, etc.
1:42 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@TeresaD
Clear as mud!

I agree!

If I understand correctly you got 9 users from Mexico over the past 30 days. @0.22% that is 9 in 4000 total. This coincides roughly with what GSC was showing you. Not much to worry about there, I see it as noise, it certainly doesn't explain your issue with "zombies". Also, with a sample size of 9 it is really difficult to draw any conclusion about this subset of traffic.

What percentage of traffic comes from Ireland your target region? Has that number of users changed from pre-July to post-July? And have the bounce figures changed specifically for that subset of traffic?
2:31 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This are my Irish organic stats, as you can see the bounce rate was always low then went off the scale in July with no site changes.

[url] [imgur.com...]
3:23 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The sudden change in bounce rate is really strange. But the initial value of about 20% seems low and the new value of 70% seems more in-line with what I would expect. Note: I run an informational site, so my expectations in terms of bounce rate may be different yours or others.

I must also assume that the sudden spike in traffic coincides with an even larger jump in search impressions (see GSC stats). I will wager a guess that although impressions increased, CTR fell and possibly position fell also. What this suggests is that Google began showing your sites for a much broader range of keywords, and addition when Google shows your site it is also including more ads, shopping, knowledge graph results that are skimming buyers off. As a result you get less targeted users and fewer users that are ready to buy.

What appears worrisome is that your increased traffic seems to be decaying. A possible sign that users are finding what Google thinks they want. Unfortunately your bounce rate isn't reverting back.

The unfortunate thing is I have no idea what you could do to fix this.
5:36 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Impressions increased, CTR fell BUT position increased and is still increasing. I am 6.4 for mobile in Ireland. January to March I had fantastic sales even with small numbers on average 12 sales a day which for a 1 person business is enough to pay a wage plus bills.

Now hits are higher, bounce rate is nuts and no sales. My low bounce rate previously was correct as I am niche with certain products, the traffic I am getting now is far from engaged even on my niche products and I have no explanation for it.

The bounce rate is bots, I have pretty pictures and a huge range so the majority of users will click through a few pages just for a look which I can see they are doing in the live chat data.

The worrying thing is Google shopping is the exact same no matter what the bid is, whatever happened in the update destroyed my sales both organic and ppc but in auction insights there is only 1 big high street name above me.

There is nothing strange in queries, even Adwords only throws up a couple of strange ones every couple of weeks so Google has a pretty good idea of my products. No site changes apart from maintenance, too much js possibly which I am sorting out tomorrow. The new console does not make it easier to narrow problems down either I much preferred fetch.

I have no idea either!
6:01 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is the screen cap you shared only organic, or all traffic?

too much js possibly which I am sorting out tomorrow

A js-event, can cause Analytics to not record a visit as bounce. Is it possible that there is an js-event that is being triggered by a subset of users. Then after the update that subset accounted for a much smaller percentage of the total number of users, thus making it appear as though the bounce rate increased, whereas it is really an artifact of the reporting? Note: this only addresses bounce rate and not conversion rate.

I much preferred fetch

Most of the functionality of the previous fetch is still available in the new GSC, but the UI has changed. You need to "Inspect URL" and then "Test Live URL" (top right) then "View Tested Page" and then on the right side bar, you get three views, html, screenshot and more info. This provides you with pretty much everything that "Fetch and Render" did, except for the ability to scroll down the page on the screenshot. "More info" will show you your console messages, so if there is anything not working in JS the errors will be displayed there.
6:59 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I know but fetch was much easier to use!

It is definitely a different type of traffic than I have had in the last few years. The js has not changed it was something that came up in my many head scratching try every test in case something shows up, I will change it just because I found it.
8:33 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@glakes

51,3% of US households are Amazon Prime members. They grow 5 million every year and we can safely say that AI loses 5 million ready to buy searchers every year as a result.

Get the popcorn it will be more traffic from “Mexico”
8:54 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I've been looking at my CTR% in Search Console and it's interesting that even though some of my articles are between positions 10-20, they are getting up to 20% click-through rates.

It's clear that in some instances the first page does not even contain any relevant articles. But despite the high CTR, the articles aren't moving up yet.

Does this show that people aren't finding what they want at the top of the SERPs?
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