June 16, 2008

Google update, reindex, or new filter in progress?

by Brian Turner

Google update or reindexing in progress?

Barry Schwartz gave a heads-up earlier in the week of a discussion in Webmasterworld suggesting a lot of sites suddenly losing traffic.

The discussion seems to centre on two main possibilities:

1. Google rebuilding its index
2. Google update for fresher content

Rebuilding its index is something I’ve seen Google do many times – where main link sources tend to be on lower PR pages (ie, low quality sites, or simply old archived links) this can result in sometimes sharp fluctuations and ranking drops.

However, these fluctuations only tend to be very temporary, lasting a couple of weeks at most and then it’s back to normal – until the next big reindex or algo update.

The suggestion that these changes may be caused by an update to how Google displays content is an interesting one – the official Google Blog recently updated to give a heads up on fresher content getting better placement in the index.

I’ve definitely seen this with news stories outside of the normal media insertions – Google ranking a news story particularly strongly in the results on the grounds that the story is fresh, and probably searched for. Potential traffic trigger here.

A third option?

I don’t think we’re seeing either of these at present – I think we’re seeing some form of filtering going on that’s new.

Reason being is that I’ve seen Google reindex plenty of times, but on a couple of sites I monitor the falls are dramatic.

Additionally, these results are not being pushed down by news items.

I think the Webmasterworld discussions are on the ball when they reference -950 filtering.

Whatever is happening looks more like a new tweak by the Google Search Quality/Webspam team.

Google have certainly been increasingly aggressively chasing up links for filtering, so this certainly remains a contender.

However, I suspect that we’re more likely to be looking at content filtering, probably related to duplicate content filtering.

In which case, if I’m observing this correctly, then those webmasters whose sites are driven by similar content to many other websites – not least ecommerce sites publishing standard product information – or else have low unique content signals on their site, may be especially facing a rough ride of it at present.

All the more reason to do as I’ve always recommended to clients – and that’s to write a bolded paragraph of direct marketing text at the top of key product pages, selling the benefits of that product for human users – while helping to try and make the content at least a little unique.

ADDED: What’s really interesting is how the discussion at Webmasterworld suggests an issue specifically on Google UK.

If borne out, it suggests we are looking at a change in how Google processes geotargeting. In which case, if so, it remains to be seen if this is intentional filtering, or a processing bug.

Personally I suspect the issue will be temporary, but in the meantime, definitely a time to double check strategy against duplicate content, good geotargeting of links, and batten down the hatches on local targeting.

Discuss this in the Internet Business forums

Story link: Google update, reindex, or new filter in progress?


6 Responses to “Google update, reindex, or new filter in progress?”

  1. David Eaves on June 16th, 2008 10:34 pm

    Hi Brian, I am pretty sure you are right about the UK thing. I think they may be looking to fix the long standing UK hosted .com site problems.

  2. Jez on June 17th, 2008 8:39 am

    Hi Brian,

    Over the weekend pages I had been trying to optimise dropped form the SERP. I still rank on the terms, but much lower down and with less relevant pages. For example, one of the “category” pages (it is a WP site) Now ranks #160 for a term the root domain had ranked #90 on.

    Another page which is linked off the front page which has quite a few external links into it was also dropped.

    Webmaster tools report no external or internal links going into this second page, but, after the root domain it is the most linked page on the site.

    Some of the -950 descriptions I have read sound relevant, but I did not really have any “authority links” linking with non relevant terms. The terms I am linking are in the domain (recently 301′d from another domain).

    Just wondered what you made of this, whether this problem is similar to what you saw on the sites you were tracking.

    Seems like a penalty for sure, not sure how long it will take to dig myself out of it…

    Regards, Jez

  3. Jez on June 17th, 2008 8:45 am

    Forgot to mention, it is a UK site I am talking about, but I have not tried to geo target as such…

  4. Brian Turner on June 17th, 2008 4:59 pm


    “I think they may be looking to fix the long standing UK hosted .com site problems.”

    That’s an interesting observation – it makes me wonder if perhaps there is some issue using the geolocation data provided for in Webmaster Tools?


    To be honest, #90 is such a weak position in the first place that a drop to #160 could have a number of factors. If I saw the same on one of my own sites I would presume that Google had failed to index some link value pointing to either the page or the domain in general.

    Either way, would just require patience – and then some stronger links to push you up a few pages more. :)

  5. Kate Phizackerley on June 26th, 2008 6:15 pm

    I suspect that re-indexing is being triggered by what people are searching for. My site is pretty low in the Google rankings yet I posted on a breaking news story and within 30 minutes my page was in the top ten on the key search term for that page which I thought was very interesting. It supports your view that Google is prioritising fresher content, but fresher in the context of what is “hot” in terms of searching rather than just recently modified.

    It hasn’t, however, promoted these new pages above other pages from the site in terms of other search terms so I also suspect that Google doesn’t just have a schedule for re-indexing pages but it has a schedule for rebuilding it’s index for search terms. Although undoubtedly indexes are updated on-the-fly, I suspect a major re-index is periodic as you suggest.

    Kate Phizackerley

  6. Brian Turner on June 26th, 2008 6:31 pm

    Good observations, Kate, and indeed – the idea of inserting news for keyword searches based on traffic is something I already covered in Google Was a Links Driven Search Engine, so it’s interesting to see that you’re seeing it in this context.

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