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Backlash from Google's Algorithm Update 2011
Thursday, March 03, 2011
In case you have been hiding under a rock or away on vacation, Google has launched another algorithm updated that started in late January and continued last week as webmasters and site owners are becoming increasingly frustrated with Google. The update which right or wrong was dubbed the "Farmer Update" by Danny Sullivan was meant to clean up web spam and sites with low quality content. Well Google has a lot of people up in arms over all of the changes being experienced in Google's search results.

I do applaud Google for taking this initiative to clean up web spam, but this time it looks like they have made some mistakes. I, like many have been critical of Google's results over the past couple of years and more recently the past six to twelve months. There is no question that depending on the search query, Google results are suffering and at times are simply irrelevant. Last fall, one of the changes Google made was serving up multiple listings, for a given search query, for the same site. I'm not sure that is a better experience for me as a user. I really do not need to see six or seven different pages from the same site dominating the top ten search results. Sorry Google I would say #fail.

I would also say #fail with the recent algorithm updates.  As I mentioned there are a lot of innocent sites that are suffering as a result of this algorithm update.   The problem with this update is that Google is playing God with some people's business as some of these sites seriously rely on traffic from Google to generate revenue.  People are voicing their opinions about the algorithm update across various web forums out there.  Here is a sample of some of the comments from a number of disgruntled webmasters and site owners.  (Some comments have been condensed to allow for additional examples).  Full commentary can be found here: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=76830633df82fd8e&hl=en&start=80

We will start with my favorite quote of the forum:  "... I get the feeling this is Google's equivalent of New Coke, an attempt at something new and different that failed miserably."

Here is what others are saying:

  • Last Friday I saw a 40%+ drop in traffic. To say I'm upset would be an understatement.

  • For approximately the past eight years, key pages of my site have always appeared on the first or second pages of search results.  However, within a day or two of the latest algorithm change, for example, my once-popular and heavily-trafficked government grants page (www.proposalwriter.com/govtgrants.html) moved from page 1 to page 12 to page 10 of the search results.

  • PLEA to Google - Our 13 year old site, with several million monthly pageviews and thousands of pages of original content for K-12 educators has seen a massive drop in just the last week of 40% traffic and 50% ad revenue.

  • I am so devastated.  My main site and my life's work, cure-back-pain.org was drastically affected.  I am not a learned webmaster, I am a back pain patient and someone who writes to help others recover.  My site is 5 years old and has often led in the rankings for my topic, back pain and back pain treatment.  I was let go from my "dayjob" in the economic decline of 2008 and found a savior in the fact that I could make a living helping those who needed it most, so I turned to my site full time and found it very rewarding.  I write all my own content and work my site 80 hours a week+. I do everything myself.  I do not syndicate or outsource anything...First, with the terrible downturn in rankings, I am most likely going to lose my house.  This is not an exaggeration.  My wife and I are in free fall now, as we are both casualties of this economy.  This is a very sad to me, but I am not here to cry about money.  Just as important is the fact that I spent 5 years building a safe haven for back pain sufferers to find honest info and help without feeling like they have to spend all their money doing it.  1100 original content pages and now most are not even being read by those who need them most!  This is a tragedy to me.  Worse yet is that the sites which are now top ranked are all commercial companies selling bogus cures ( I tried many of them...) or general health sites with generic and regurgitated back pain info which helps no one.

  • A consumer review site I started almost 11 years ago.  We lost about 50% of our Google traffic from this update.

  • My site Healthhype.com is dedicated for health in general. Every one of our article cost us $100+USD to produce. Healthhype.com only publish high premium written by 10+ years of clinical experienced doctors. We are a premium publisher with Google which assigned us an account manager for our site. We lost 50% of our US traffic across the board on all the keywords during the content farm cleansing experiment.

  • According to Sistrix, I lost 71% of my keyword rankings.

  • Since the update, we've seen a massive drop in rankings and traffic (down more than 50%). I believe we were caught in the cross hairs of the "farmer" update but we are not a farm!!

  • Probably not necessary for me to specify which site I represent, since it appears that nearly every QA site (with the conspicuous exception of Yahoo Answers) took a big hit - in the range of 40-50% traffic loss after the update.

  • On February 28, 2011, we experienced a massive shift in rankings for our website. We plummeted over 50 spots for most keywords in Google.com. The plummeting was a result of the Farmer Update as it has been loosely coined.

  • We have seen a drop of around 65 to 70 percent on Google US search traffic.  We are now being outranked by scraper sites for our own content...

  • Hi, I'm Tim Carter, Founder of AsktheBuilder.com. I'm a smoldering cinder from last week's Napalm Strike - better known by many as the Farmer Update. I've lost at least 50% of my traffic because of the algorithm change.  Here's what's so troubling. First, Google for years has held me up as an example of stellar content - high quality that others should strive to achieve. Don't believe me? Go here: https://www.google.com/adsense/static/en/AsktheBuilder.html
    My content is as original as can be. It doesn't try to sell products. It tells real stories about home construction and remodeling that helps homeowners get things done the right way. Using AdSense to bolster the content, my visitors can often click through to find the exact products or services that I write about. It was a win win win win. Can a Google Search Engineer *please* explain to me why the algorithm would need to be adjusted to change that situation?

  • Our retail site that used to have over 500 top 10 rankings in Google and has been a leading supplier of products in the ergonomics industry for over 11 years has been impacted heavily.  We lost 160 of those top 10 rankings with the latest update for most of our top revenue categories.  Over a 30% reduction in traffic since last Wednesday.

  • I own a site about netbooks and mini laptops, active since 2009. All the content on it is 100% unique and on this niche, including news and tons of guides, previews and thorough reviews (with self made pictures, videos, etc). The site had been constantly cited by authority tech blogs and has over 2000 subscribers.  After the Farmer Update lost around 50-60% of its US traffic and can't seem to understand why, never thought a Google update could impact my site.

  • You know Google has massively screwed up when they're nuking sites like AskTheBuilder.com.  They've jumped the shark. 

Of course everyone thinks that their site should be number one for their top keywords.  There can only be one number one listing.  Google's results as of late have been questionable.  I do feel for some of these sites that are suffering traffic losses of anywhere from 30 - 70%, but there are a number of sites that have been affected that should have been affected.  It just seems that there are a lot of innocent bystanders in Google's line of fire.  Hopefully Google will straighten things out sooner than later.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, March 03, 2011  
  • At 9:03 AM, Blogger Rob said…

    I wonder if ads are somehow to blame - IE Google looked at the number and placement of ad units and used that as an indicator.

    I say this because in my reading it appears that many of the sites that were hit were moderate to heavily monetizing ads.

    I know that's not the only factor but I wonder if it was one of the indicators.

    Just my 2 cents...

  • At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Pam Johnson said…

    After reading all of these comments I am going to start using BING. These jokers on Google got megarich using others content. It has been said that many of the writers fail to benefit even when their content is splashed all over the web. Writing is an art form. People should be compensated for their efforts. Ken Auletta got it right.

  • At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The fact that Google has this much power to influence the success or failure of websites is scary. They are too big - and the little webmasters got them to this point.

    And the same people who made them rich are the ones that Google is ditching.

    So....this algo update - what Google is saying is that they provided low quality search results for over a decade.

    Honestly, this is a shock and awe tactic by Google for their new CEO. They want everyone to come and look at the NEW GOOGLE. Well, the new search results are horrible. Most lead to websites selling products - and who wants to click on ads when this is the case? I predict a substantial decline in Google revenue.

    And all the people who got Google to where they are today - Google is stomping them to death. They don't need them anymore.

    Google needs to take a good look at their motto 'don't be evil'.

    As to the best search engine - it's now Bing. They really need to have better commercials and they would soar.

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