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Google Search Ranking Algorithm Tremors Continue & It’s Big

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Are you dizzy yet? The Google search results are still super volatile and we are seeing high levels of chatter spike back up over the past 24 to 48 hours and the tracking tools are also running incredibly hot. There is just so much going on right now in Google Search for an SEO that taking off for Christmas might not be an option for many.

This story was originally published on December 17th at 7:50am ET but I wanted to add more data through Sunday, December 19th. In short, the chatter and fluctuations have continued and they actually spiked in a big way on December 18th. I have added a new section below for what is new with the volatility.

Just when you thought we had enough, we didn’t. As I mentioned just before, we had tons of updates this past year, both confirmed and unconfirmed Google search algorithm updates. It seems like this is ongoing volatility from earlier this week and it is hard to say if it is all directly related to the ongoing product reviews update or not.

SEO Chatter

The ongoing chatter at WebmasterWorld is spiking like said. Many SEOs are talking about the results bouncing all around, like you’d see with a big update. Here is some of that chatter:

Feels like something big happened today. I was having minor improvements the past couple of days and then today we had a fairly significant drop. This update seems to be much bigger than the most recent “core update” they released. This “product reviews” update seems to go way beyond products because the losses we took today have nothing to do with products whatsoever.

Traffic went up 20+% on Dec 10, but dropped down 35% on Dec 15. Definitely some big thing happened today. I saw several people reporting big drop the same day.

Looks like something new is being rolled out. What I learned about these updates is that even when your site or sites benefit from a certain update it will not last for a long time. If you happened to receive a huge boost make sure to capitalize it in any way you can because it will end soon. It can be a day, a week or a few months down the road.

Huge drop this morning…

I was having higher and more stable traffic for a month, until December 3rd. It dropped off and seems to remain at around -15% USA traffic since then, mostly concentrated on traffic to my home page. Both search and direct traffic are down and USA can start the day down 65-70% these days and struggles to recover all day. This coincides again with major swings on a daily basis in ranking…I can lose 10 top ten terms in one shot and recover them the next day. All of this has resulted in very few new inquiries and of course zero new sales. The only sales I have had are from return customers.

One company that I work with is also experiencing major ranking swings on a daily basis. It is most noticeable in Search Console when you only select rankings. This seemed to start in April around the time of the Product Review Update. It isn’t an affiliate site, but it does have a lot of in-depth informative content around their products and the situations in which they are used.

“The Grinch” update continues, as does zero traffic and sales. This looks like the last year for the site.

I was also hit, pretty hard. I managed to attain global reach, initially google ranked me mostly in the US. The problem that I came with it is a huge drop in keywords. Now these keywords are coming back very slowly but ranked very poorly. If for example a keyword was ranked in 4 now it is at 94. And it’s not improving. The new update they started rolling out today will hit me tomorrow so I am really hoping for some improvements.

If you are on the wrong end of the stick with the current core update (Im not buying the product review label) this will hurt.

Traffic down 35% today…both search and direct. USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Australia…all way down. I’ve never seen such a large single day drop in my 17 years of doing this so hopefully it’s not some new and permanent terror Google is unleashing on us. One way or another Google is making sure to make all the traffic from organic search go bye bye at an accelerating pace.

For the past 12 months, I have been hit by each algorithm update. Today once again 15% down and now overall down 70% YoY

It goes on but I don’t want to just copy and paste all the chatter there.

Tracking Tools

The tracking tools are also really hot right now, virtually all of them are showing significant volatility over the past couple weeks and it spiked again over the past 48 hours. Here are some screenshots from these tools.

Mozcast:

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Semrush:

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RankRanger:

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Accuranker:

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SERPmetrics:

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Advanced Web Rankings:

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Cognitive SEO:

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Algoroo:

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So yes, a lot of signs point at a big update but what exactly is this update is hard to say for sure, there is a lot going on. It can be core update corrections, it can be the product reviews update, can be some unannounced spam effort or algorithmic shift or something else.

Recent Confirmed Google Updates

So let’s summarize the confirmed updates we had recently:

And actually more confirmed ones and plenty of unconfirmed updates.

I do hope your stress levels are manageable before the the upcoming holiday season.

Updated On December 19th

So like I mentioned above, we are seeing a spike in chatter and fluctuations on December 18th, this past Saturday.

Here is the updated chatter on WebmasterWorld:

Today traffic returned to normal trend until 11am EST sharp, when it fell off a cliff and stayed down the rest of the day until now. I’m 28% lower on the day now so it was a sudden and dramatic drop again.

It looks like the current weekend update is about backlinks. Sites with high authority that were pushed down earlier this week are now up again. Im quite confident this is what is being assessed now by the algos.

An interesting observation that shouldn’t be a big surprise, but an insight as to why we see no traffic… Today, while running two FB ads and being on page one, position two on the Google SERPs, I am watching GART and it is showing zero visitors, yet seconds later, an active signup comes in. I have a cash register sound on my phone that lets me know when a sale is made. So, it’s pretty clear the use of VPN’s is really blinding us from actual traffic.
The only way I am getting any sales is by resorting to FB ads. Not a fan, but whatever works. At the end of the day though, I’ll probably spend more on ads that I make in sales. SMH

Traffic turned off @ 11am sharp again, just like the previous few days

Some of the slowness we’re seeing has to be from the holidays. Last week, and likely the week before, offices began becoming ghost towns and especially this upcoming week due to the holidays. This is probably why some of us see discrepancies with maintaining positions (somewhat) in semrush/ahrefs, but traffic is still dead.

A very unusual Saturday with valid-looking traffic at 92% of my weekday average PVs however so far today, Sunday, the vast majority of “visitors” have been single-page US bots, loads and loads of them from all over the USA.

My global site rankings still appear to be unchanged.

Could be a knock-on effect of the turbulent weather. There are about half a million homes without electricity (or walls) across the US today due to tornadoes. There are many thousands more people trying to assist those folks, so not as much ‘shopping as usual’ for the season. Areas not affected will have holiday travel this weekend. It is bound to affect online traffic.

This is not a normal holiday drop at all. I just calculated my clicks in GSC for the period 12/3/2021-12/17/2021 to the period 12/4/2020-12/18/2020…which is Friday to Friday. There is a 35% decline in clicks this holiday period vs. last year same period. For most terms, clicks dropped to one or zero during this holiday season.

This is almost all due to Google’s manipulation during the prime holiday sales season…presumably to boost ad conversions and send sales to ads instead of organic. I have never seen this kind of drop in the 17 years that I have been doing this.

The tools have remained super hot also:

Semrush:

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Advanced Web Ranking:

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Accuranker:

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Cognitive SEO:

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SERP Metrics:

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Algoroo:

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RankRanger:

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Mozcast:

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Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gyan Sharma

    December 20, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Very informative and well written post. People looking for camphor making machine can check out the attached link.

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GOOGLE

Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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