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March 11th Google Search Ranking Update Weirdness



Google Core Update

For the past few days I have been debating if I should cover what may have been a Google search ranking update that ticked off on Friday March 11th. There was super unusual update like chatter in the WebmasterWorld forums but the automated tracking tools showed nothing – nada.

So I waited and waited and it seems like whatever happened on March 11th that went through the weekend, may have reverted itself on Monday, March 14th. Like I said, I was on the verge of reporting a possible unconfirmed Google update but held back.

Now, what I am asking, is if you saw some really weird Google update like patterns for the sites you track on Friday, March 11th and then it flip back on Monday, March 14th?

SEO Chatter

Let me first start by sharing the chatter I saw over the past few days, starting off on Friday, March 11th. Again, keep in mind, this chatter looks just like what you’d expect to see from the SEO forums during a Google update. But it didn’t last and something seemed to revert over time.

Absolutely massive 30% drop in search and 41% drop in direct traffic by 5:30pm today. USA -43%, UK -53%, even India is down -36% and that is never down. Anyone else seeing this?

The massive traffic drop continues….down 60% for both USA and UK at 11:30am. Search is down 51%. My ranking is heading higher across the board for the last week

Drop since Thursday.

My global site’s traffic was well down on Friday at 71%, Saturday was average and Sunday well above average resulting in the first 13 days at 100% !.!.! Today has started well with a notable increase in Eastern European traffic and realworld enquiries have started again.

UK-focussed sites are generally on average with the busiest one actually at 106.5% at the moment and, interestingly, it is also trading much higher than usual for this time of year. This is a traditional B&M business not an online trader.

15% downturn at the weekend; looks like it started on 10th/11th (UK informational site with lots of UGC as well as editorial)

So I then followed up the other day to ask about the status and most said it was a weird blip on Friday?

For me yes, Monday was 100.3% which is higher than a regular Monday but obviously within my weekday average.

I’m not seeing much movement within my established / evergreen website SERPs however new pages and especially so new sites seem to be almost impossible to gain any traction whatsoever and this has been on-going for far too long.

They’re not sandboxed simply kept behind to force ad sales IMHO.

Yes it lasted almost 2 days but now back to normal. Search traffic is much higher and direct is lower now…something definitely happened.

On my side, only today I see a big drop. The last weekend was of good gains. But today it all came crashing down.

Anyway, you can probably see why I held off on covering this.

Google Tracking Tools

So with this weird chatter, as I shared above, combined with the tools showing unusually lower volatility than ever before – like really low levels of movement – it just seemed weird and unusual. Can low volatility be a sign of an update? Probably not.

Here are some of the charts I track, notice the 11th forward, how calm everything is trending.


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Cognitive SEO:

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Advanced Web Rankings:

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So what do you think happened?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Google Revamps The Canonicalization Search Help Documentation



Google Cluster Grapes

Google has updated its search help documentation around canonicalization this morning. The Google Search Relations team split in three distinct sections and updated a lot of the content to provide clearer details around how Google Search and canonicalization works.

The three sections include:

All of this use to be on a single help page, which you can review on the Wayback Machine over here to compare.

With this, Gary Illyes from Google dropped another LinkedIn tip on the topic of canonicalization, he wrote:

Friday ramble: you can stack canonicalization signals to strengthen that hint.

You have a rel=canonical pointing from A to B, but A is HTTPS, it’s in your hreflang clusters, all your links are pointing to A, and A is included in your sitemaps instead of B. Which one should search engines pick as canonical, A or B?

If you just change the URLs from A to B in your sitemaps and hreflang clusters, combined with that rel=canonical it might already be enough to tip over canonicalization to B. Change the links also, and you have an even greater chance to convince search engines about your canonical preference.

Recently, Gary also mentioned to use absoluate URLs for rel-canonical.

So check out these new docs and learn a bit more on canonicalization and Google Search.

Forum discussion at LinkedIn.

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Microsoft Bing’s New BingBot Now Fully Live Today




As a reminder, since April, Bing has been slowly testing a new BingBot user agent, slowly rolling it out to more percentages of crawls over the year. It should have rolled out to 100% of all crawls last month. But now Fabrice Canel said this week that it is near 100%, and an announcement is coming sometime today from Microsoft.

Fabrice Canel from Microsoft Bing wrote on Twitter, “We are near 100% and are proactively monitoring and rolling back any website having issues. Stay tuned for more communication Friday.”

Initially, Bing said it would be rolled out by Fall 2022, then January 2023. Maybe today is the day?

Here has been the rollout so far:

  • April 2022: Less than 5% of crawls
  • July 2022: 5% of all crawls
  • September 2022: 20% of all crawls
  • October 2022: 50% of all crawls
  • February 2023: New 100% of all crawls

Let’s see what Fabrice announces today.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Update: Confirmed, it is fully live according to Fabrice on LinkedIn.

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Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai Confirms New Chat Based Search Feature



Google mobile phone texting

Last night I reported on Search Engine Land, based on the Google earnings report and earnings call, that Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has confirmed the search company will release a chat based search feature based on its own AI, LaMDA, in the coming weeks and months. Plus, there is a big new search event this Wednesday – so maybe we will hear about it there?

Yes, the other day we reported about Apprentice Bard, the reports of Google’s ChatGPT answer to OpenAI and Microsoft Bing.

Here is what Sundar said on the call:

Sundar Pichai said, “In the coming weeks and months, we’ll make these language models available, starting with LaMDA, so that people can engage directly with them. This will help us continue to get feedback, test, and safely improve them. These models are particularly amazing for composing, constructing, and summarizing. They will become even more useful for people as they provide up-to-date more factual information.”

Sundar Pichai said that he “first spoke about Google being an AI-first company” more than “six years ago.” “We have been preparing for this moment since early last year, and you’re going to see a lot from us in the coming few months across three big areas of opportunity; first, large models. We published extensively about LaMDA and PoN, the industry’s largest, most sophisticated model plus extensive work at DeepMind,” he continued to say.

During the question and answer period, Sundar added “We’ll be launching — we’ll — more as labs products in certain cases, beta features in certain cases and just slowly scaling up from there. Obviously, we need to make sure we’re iterating in public, these models will keep getting better, so the field is fast changing. The serving costs will need to be improved.”

“So I view it as very, very early days, but we are committed to putting our experiences, both in terms of new products and experiences, actually bringing direct LLM experiences in Search, making APIs available for developers and enterprises and learn from there and iterate like we’ve always done. So I’m looking forward to it,” he added.

Sundar goes on to add, “In terms of Search too, now that we can integrate more direct LLM type experiences in Search, I think it will help us expand and serve new types of use cases, generative use cases. And so I think I see this as a chance to rethink and re-imagine and drive Search to solve more use cases for our users as well. So again, early days, you will see us be bold, put things out, get feedback and iterate and make things better.”

Here is the event live stream on Wednesday:

Everyone is so ChatGPT crazed!

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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