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Thursday March 3, 2011 4:55 pm
Traffic plummets 50 Percent for some sites after Google’s search algorithm update
On Wednesday Google opened a forum where site owners could solicit feedback on the changes. In less than 24 hours it has received 131 complaints, mostly from mom and pop websites whose traffic and search ranks plummeted as a result of the algorithm change.
Last Friday, Google altered its search algorithm to demote "low-quality" sites in its search results. The change was widely dubbed a "farmer update" because it targeted content-farming websites that aggregate unoriginal content.
At the time Google warned that around 12 percent of its search results would change following the "farmer update" last week. Google has previously said that it changes its algorithm 500 times a year, but rarely makes an announcement.
Even established sites are affected
Theteacherscorner.net, a 13-year-old site with "several million monthly pageviews and thousands of pages of original content for K-12 educators" said its traffic dropped by 40 percent and ad revenue by 50 percent. "This is a huge and devastating hit to the well-being of our website."
Another webmaster from Healthhype.com said its site lost 50 percent of its U.S. traffic, even though its articles are original and apparently cost $100 to produce. Real estate page www.c21theharrelsongroup.com saw its placement for a "Myrtle Beach" search go from a number 11 rank to the fourth page of results.
Others that claimed to be negatively affected are Automobilemag.com, online since 1996, and tech blog I4U News, which said it saw a 30 percent drop in traffic.
A Google spokesman told PCMag that sites that believe they have been adversely impacted should "extensively evaluate their site quality."
"In particular, it's important to note that low quality pages on one part of a site can impact the overall ranking of that site," the Google spokesman said. "Publishers who believe they've been impacted can also post in our webmaster forums to let us know. We will consider feedback from publishers and the community as we continue to refine our algorithms."
Durant Imboden, editor of Europesiteforvisitors.com, tried just that. After experiencing a 35 percent drop in U.S. traffic last week, he added a "nofollow" attribute to affiliate links and cleaned out archived material to "help Google distinguish our site from content farms." But so far, no cigar.
Although Google engineers use feedback in the forum to update its search algorithm, the Google spokesman noted that there was no whitelist or blacklist for sites affected by the algorithm. In other words, the search engine doesn't plan on making individual exceptions.
"Our recent changes to help people find high-quality sites are entirely algorithmic and we have not taken manual action, nor will we take manual action to address particular sites. Instead, we will consider feedback from publishers and the community as we continue to refine our algorithms to improve our search quality at scale."
So how did one prominent Apple blog, Cult of Mac, recover from its 50 percent drop in traffic? On Monday, Wired said Cult of Mac saw its link demoted in Google search results last weekend. But by Tuesday morning, before the story published, Cult of Mac was back in business.
"I have seen Google has "fixed" Cult of Mac. I would really appreciate the same treatment as we are hurting to the point to have to fire staff," 14Unews.com's webmaster wrote.
It should also be noted that on Tuesday, the day before Apple's iPad 2 announcement, searches for "iPad" and all things Apple related were at an all-time high.
This article, written by Sara Yin, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of ZDNet.
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