Categories: Crawling, indexing & ranking :

Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this.

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Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/27/13 2:27 PM
  • As of 2 or 3 days ago, we're down another 10k a day. 
  • We're not a brand or corporation, we've helped people learn English for about 12 years (for free obviously).
  • We followed all the 'vibes' you set out before us, we never engaged in Black Hat / spam / or nonsense, we hardly even played the SEO game.
  • We can't (like our 10 million dollar VC funded competition) remove all our adverts (They ofc will extract that money back when we're all gone - more monopolies) - It's just about enough to get by on, decreasing every day.
  • We've support other sites, even our competition with real links, real references.
  • You are killing us off, our content is solid and written by quite a few of the world's (most generous) experts. 
You are carving out a very different internet than the one you were given 15 years ago. 

When you joined, and we supported you (don't be evil) the internet was a place for independents, small businesses, and new comers. Not a brand rich mecca for the corporate and wealthy. You didn't create that, but you could at least give us the tools / intel to fight back. We can't even contact you, we've made you millions over the years and we don't even get an email address to ask you a question here and there.

Don't be evil?

This is a turning point for the internet, the last of the big independents are dying off. All our old competition is gone, we're almost the last one left. It's sad, because they're replaced by shiney sites "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Vacuous, multi million dollar facades - just waiting to monopolise the free internet with their 24/7 brands of greed.

Get back to me, please.
Frank.


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. bewilderedness 5/27/13 3:04 PM
Hitchhiker, you've got a pretty darn good looking and well-featured site. I don't believe you will have to worry much about long-term overall traffic with 71,366 likes on FB and being in such popular niche as learning English. But as far as Google traffic is concerned, I would think that one of the major issues happened in November 2012 when Google had decided to demote a lot of forums. Why they did THAT - this would be an interesting answer if we can get it from from John Mu or anyone familiar with Google strategies.

I don't see how you can get a constructive response to a question worded as an accusation (though I do feel your pain) but if the issues you are having can be split onto smaller, more manageable pieces, some people with knowledge may respond and may give you clues.

I would suggest splitting this into two questions:

#1 Can someone comment on a nature of the update that happened around Nov. 16 - Nov 17th 2012 when lots of forums (and other types of sites featuring large proportion on UGC) got demoted?

#2 what can a site that naturally has little diversity in anchor text do to avoid getting caught up in successive iterations of Penguin? Plenty of your links are either "Learn English" or "English Forums". I don't know about"Learn English" - this one could have been specifically targeted by you and therefore backfired. But "English Forums" is how I would naturally link to your site (if I cared to format an HTML link properly)

Perhaps you can think of some other, simpler questions, that Google's employees and fellow webmasters can actually respond to?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 5/27/13 3:11 PM
you are obviously capable of using nofollow tags (see internal pages being linked in the footer) yet you intentionally choose to NOT nofollow tag the forum link spam and paid ads.


speaking of paid ads, have you heard about issues with ads above the fold?  It seems pages that exist solely to show ads are of questionable quality, and if the ad is shown above the fold then the webmaster is saying in pretty simple terms that the ad is more important than the content below.


Speaking of quality, how in hades is this page relevant to a site trying to promote ESL ?

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 5/27/13 3:13 PM
bewilderness,

the proper and best anchor text for backlinks would be 



anything else that you suggested would be considered manipulative 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/27/13 4:21 PM
It looks like in your footer you have a ton of links to networked communities such as http://knink.com/ same design of the community.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/27/13 4:23 PM
Also you have a total of 9,819 Total Links with only 456 root domains... Hmmm
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/27/13 4:23 PM
http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/links?site=www.englishforums.com
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/27/13 4:27 PM
Looks like a Paid Link type issue... Panda Strikes again, Sorry

if you look off to the right hand side you will see Resources, that has a ton of other outbound links ..... Looks like you have some cleanup to do.

Sorry for the bad news.

I would start going through and looking through all of those links from SEOMOZ and download the spreadsheet and keep notes on what you do within that document so when you submit the disavow you will have something to show Google that you are working to get rid of the NOT Suggested Techniques for Ranking in Google.

Cheers
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/27/13 6:00 PM
Sorry the Penguin Strikes again... TYPO, but personally I think your site has been effected via both.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 5/27/13 7:23 PM
Over 800K links, according to MajesticSEO:  https://www.majesticseo.com/reports/site-explorer/summary/englishforums.com?IndexDataSource=F  . 



---------------------------

I get that you're upset but blaming Google and saying only big brands with money can compete, just doesn't ring true.  I'm a one-woman company that does fairly well with Google -- with ads on the site, I might add.  I can't believe I'm the only one out there.  There's just no way.  I ain't that special.  :-) 

Google's priority is the searcher.  If the searcher wants to see brands in the SERPs that's what Google's going to give them.  The way I see it? They have zero responsibility towards webmasters.  If my site doesn't rank well, it's up to me to figure out how to make the site popular outside of Google.  Relying on search engine traffic is not a good plan.

Edited to add:  my point being, the defeatist attitude won't help you and your site move forward.

Edit #2:  And I've seen my traffic drop, too, over the past few months.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/27/13 7:41 PM
Well Said, Suzanne... 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 5/27/13 8:05 PM
Modern search could be viewed as a language , you just gotta catch up ;)

Just like in this modern world if you spoketh ye olde English you would have trouble being heard , you need to speak in modern search terms.

As a side note - I can't help but chuckle with all these posters blaming Google for ruining the Internet when's its just one site

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 5/27/13 8:09 PM
love the " spoketh ye olde English " reference to a site about teach English as a Second Language.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 5/28/13 12:03 AM
Yep I'm calling it early - June will be humorous yet informative 'Analogy Month'
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 1:30 AM
yet you intentionally choose to NOT nofollow tag the forum link spam and paid ads.

We place no-follow on users that are not trusted, on other links posted by long time members we allow them to be regular links. Remember we're a website, not a vehicle for Google.

Speaking of quality, how in hades is this page relevant to a site trying to promote ESL ? http://www.englishforums.com/content/humour/european-terror-alerts.htm

It's not, we have about 5 or 6 of them, they were for fun - one got about 2 million views, people liked them. Should we delete them all now, because Google may dislike it??

 It seems pages that exist solely to show ads are of questionable quality

With UGC some pages are invariably thin, we have about 400k pages, some will be thin. When we move the ads down we make about 30% of what we do now. 
We didn't sell ourselves to the VC guys, so we need ads to pay for our servers, and our lives. We're right on the line now, we had to let one of our THREE PERSON team go last month.

It looks like in your footer you have a ton of links to networked communities such as http://knink.com/ same design of the community.

Yep, thanks - forgot completely about those, they've been around for ages - back in 2005 we were trying to start some new communities. I'll remove them.

 Looks like a Paid Link type issue... Panda Strikes again, Sorry

Thanks, we've obviously never paid for links, ever!! So i'll try and see what's going on there.

 I'm a one-woman company that does fairly well with Google

We're a one man, one woman company that does extremely well with Google - that's not what i'm talking about. And congratulations, I hope what's happening to us never happens to you.

They have zero responsibility towards webmasters. 

I used to think this too, but then i realised that statement is somewhat false, or at least a 'choice' - most companies that ignore the community they work in, invariably fail. They must at some level know that too. This is an attempt to appeal to that.

Modern search could be viewed as a language , you just gotta catch up 

True. I'd like to see an example of somebody who is bigger than us and has good 'SEO' on a small budget. (the language I assume you're referring to). Also, since 2002 we never 'spoke SEO'. We just tried to make a quality site.


 
 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 1:41 AM
Thanks William Rock I swore 7 years ago that I was done with the SEO world; it looks like that's not a viable reality anymore. Can you 'catch me up' - It *seems* that somebody has been linking to us heavily since April? - is that accurate. I assume that's the 'negative SEO' concept? I was told as site our size couldn't be affected - is that not true?

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. maeschi 5/28/13 2:02 AM
Since roughly 22nd February you have 300+ respectively up to 2,500 new backlinks a day.
They don't seem to be out of order, but just huge numbers. You need to ask for nofollow as most are still relevant, but sitewide:
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 5/28/13 2:24 AM
True. I'd like to see an example of somebody who is bigger than us and has good 'SEO' on a small budget. (the language I assume you're referring to). Also, since 2002 we never 'spoke SEO'. We just tried to make a quality site.

I wouldnt be so hard on your self , you have a really modern slick site , when you make the changes suggested above you will be back.

Your still getting 10,000 visits a day - thats heaps of visits , thats something to be proud of and something to fight for!
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 2:26 AM
Thanks maeschi,

Nothing on our side has changed, we're still not asking / paying for links.

We have a few other sites (the one you mentioned) Foro, mysmelly.com etc - we used to put links in the footer to the other sites, that has been our most 'spammy action' in the last 10 years. We've removed them now.

As for these new links appearing, what can we do? - I've noticed that a lot of these spammy sites spread links to us within their paid links, I suppose because we've been an authority for quite awhile. I'm not sure how we fare now, but we're still the largest (I think?) in our industry.

I really need someone from Google to help us out :( at least point us in the direction, we have thousands of volunteers who will help us out if we need to go around the site trimming content or something. It's just i'd rather they were helping answer new questions instead.

We just want to focus on developing stuff for our community!! (sorry, i know i'm ranting a lot here!)



Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 2:31 AM
_Luke_

Cheers mate, I really appreciate that. I'm not 'connected' to the industry at all, so that was the first positive 'input' i've had in 5+ years. It means a lot!

We actually have so much more planned, the new version of the site is 1000x better. We've been writing the software for 10 years, we believe it will be a first when released.

I'm scared to click the little analytics icon lately :)

We have around 100,000 visits a day now, down from about 170k last year. I will remain fighting for it, I just spoke to my colleague and she's totally positive - believes we should simply focus on creating great sites and simply power through this :) :)

Frank.






Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 5/28/13 2:43 AM
Stick at it man 

someone from Google to help us out    - You wont get that , but you will get the volunteers here helping you - and honestly appart from paying someone to do it for you , its the best deal going around.

Il be honest - it sounds like in the posts so far your still in the "comming to terms with loss of rank phase" ... and your getting glimpses of "I can make the changes to fix this" stage ... keep at it and before you know it you will be in the " Im going to make it" stage 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 3:02 AM
_Luke_

"comming to terms with loss of rank phase"

We've had that feeling for about 2 years now. :) I'd say:

'Coming to terms with truly ignoring analytics' 

We're still positive, we will stick with it. We know what can be done to 'fix' it, but it requires becoming something we aren't comfortable with. I know it sounds stupid, but this is a big part of our lives. We have volunteers who have posted >50k posts! Corporations have their important role in society, but that's just not us.

We're too big for a small company, we've been in a battle with giants for ages - this is just another depressing wakeup call.

We will plug any major holes and listen to experts who are kind enough to help us out here. 

None of us want to focus on SEO. We choose to believe in the original statements back in 2004?ish from GoogleGuy about essentially ignoring SEO and focusing on content.

...all this until we either a) survive b) die. Sod it :)
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 5/28/13 3:13 AM
None of us want to focus on SEO

In essence , either do the volunteers of this forum.

To have an awesome site you need to believe in it , be willing to pour your energy into it , have a clear message and obviously fill a need within the internet users of the world.

And you have that - and you know it

You do need to have an awareness of modern search requirements ( which could be called SEO before spammers ruined it) - to be able to clearly state your message to users and search engines alike

Make a list of all the stuff that has been offered , make the changes and keep us posted - you will have support/advice/contributions 24 hours a day 7 days a week from everyone here. And in a month or so , you will be in an even better place than you are now.

Just reading through the posts here is a great way to learn
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 3:24 AM
First off, thanks again _Luke_ for your time, I'm sorry if I seem like i'm rambling (I am 100% lost)
  1. Remove our other 'attempts' at sites from the footer - we've done that.
  2.  'contact thousands of sites' and remove other people's links to us? (Not sure how exactly that can be done, I'd need to call them all by phone I imagine.
  3. Move adverts down - can't do that.
Does this mean I need to pay for some SEO package?


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 3:24 AM
SEO package = thing to hunt down backlinks links..
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 5/28/13 4:08 AM
>>We're a one man, one woman company that does extremely well with Google - that's not what i'm talking about. And congratulations, I hope what's happening to us never happens to you.

I've dropped back to previous levels due to Panda.  The thing is, traffic increased due to Panda for about a year but then something switched within algorithm and I went back to previous levels.  So, keep in mind, even if you make changes, you  *might* not recover that lost traffic.  Just in the sense that if the algorithm was favoring certain elements and gave you a boost, and now you're no longer getting that boost, there might not be  away to get that boost back.

It's great to analyze and to make necessary changes, but what I think I'm trying to say is don't get too caught up in the whole SEO thing. 

>>I'm scared to click the little analytics icon lately :)

I can relate to that! :-)  Didn't even bother to check during Memorial Day weekend.  Knew it would be down even lower.

It's all relative, too. I'd love to have your current traffic -- and others would love to have mine.  I just keep telling  myself the site's still doing well and carry on with improvements -- and figure out ways to get non-search traffic.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 5/28/13 4:10 AM
>>It *seems* that somebody has been linking to us heavily since April? 

Keep in mind, with some of these link tools, they'll show when *they* discovered the links.  It's not necessarily when the links were created.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 5/28/13 4:13 AM
Il leave the links as you have another thread on that.

There are other ways to boost your authority 

You could unblock your domain registration

You mention you have staff , do you have an office? Would you be willing to list that? Showing a physical location is a positive sign of authority.

You have a slick site, I will assume you have a developer? Or indepth knoweledge?
You could look a the pages of your site - each and everyone of them counts.

There are basics you are missing 

Each page should have a title tag - 65 characters

A description - 160 characters 

Of the few pages I visited , you are going over the character count , and they are not optimised.

In my opinion - this is your biggest problem 

Look at this page 


Title - <title>Desert (Seletive cloze, FCE)?</title>

<meta name="description" content="Hmm, there are lots of things I will never understand about these kinds of tests... They want you to pick the most idiomatic one, but how can I do that when I don&#39;t even know what&#39;s idiomatic, LOL? For example, I got the first one wrong... I chose smoking hot"/>

Thats just junk - why is it like that - did you write it?

Having 1000's of pages like this will be a BIG reason why you havent been ranking.



You definitly do seem lost

Here is a break down

1) come to terms with the upcomming phase of change
2) learn what you need to do
3) Learn the difference between a good link and a bad link - change what ever you can
4) BIG one - learn what a quality page is - and set yours up to suit.

If today is the first day you have posted here , and having all these people help you , il bet you mind is fried! in a couple of days it will make more sense
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 5/28/13 4:52 AM
Something else to think about is how much duplicate/similar content you have on your site and how it might be affecting rankings.

I did a site: search on your site, adding in the keyword cialis -- just to see if you'd been hacked of if there was a lot of forum spam.  One thing I noticed were two similar pages:


They're not exactly the same, but they're pulling up a number of similar threads.  Were you affected by any of the Panda iterations?

You may want to look into noindex certain types of duplicate pages -- but, of course, be careful with this.  If these pages are ranking and bringing in traffic, well, don't deindex them. :-)

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 5:04 AM
Keep in mind, with some of these link tools, they'll show when *they* discovered the links.  It's not necessarily when the links were created.

Cheers

 You could unblock your domain registration

We can do that, will that really impact anything?

 You mention you have staff , do you have an office? Would you be willing to list that? Showing a physical location is a positive sign of authority.

Yikes, I wish! We are 2 people, we live in different countries :) No staff, just thousands of volunteers (again all over the place). We have a physical postal address which we put in all our emails, and in the footer (i think). The most exciting part of the 'internet revolution' of the 90s was that non-physical businesses could compete with the fancy corporate offices :)


Each page should have a title tag - 65 characters
A description - 160 characters 
 

We're out of date on that, I think the 'optimisation' for that was done in 2005 - Thank you, i'll update the code immediately. We're UGC, so we can only use what the user entered. IMHO - That shouldn't be an indicator for Google anymore, it should just be 'thread title' and not make any difference. I hate playing around, I just want to present what is really there.

Thats just junk - why is it like that - did you write it?
Having 1000's of pages like this will be a BIG reason why you havent been ranking.

The only way we could present any description is by scanning the page (ie, taking some short data from the top of each thread). Otherwise we duplicate the first post. It's yet another reason why forums and UGC sites CAN'T operate like a small business. We don't have any choice, we never ever want to spam, but it's clear that if we duplicate the first post a) it may be a single sentence (valid when people are asking a question) b) apparently duplication was a 'terrible' thing a few years back. We got warned on webmastertools for just leaving the first post.

There are 350k threads, we can't editorialise each one of course. And that defeats the point of being a website aimed squarely at helping the community. That would simply be SEO.

I'll adjust the code to lengthen the sentences, and try and scrape something from somewhere to assemble some form of SEO friendly (yuk) text. Thank you again.

4) BIG one - learn what a quality page is - and set yours up to suit.

Our idea of quality has nothing to do with meta data, text length, framing. It has to do with whether the poster asked a valid question that was answered to his/her satisfaction by one of our volunteer experts. 

I think that's the problem here, we're going to have to re-answer that question to suit Google. Which is something I firmly believe we shouldn't have to do, and in the long run, the world doesn't need.

 If today is the first day you have posted here , and having all these people help you , il bet you mind is fried! in a couple of days it will make more sense

I'm definitely excited to hear about how SEO has progressed. I'm a little disappointed that the principles we initially believed in may have slid a bit (Neg-SEO should have not been possible). Though I always felt that SEO should be *largely* ignored, we proved that to many people over the last 11 years, this may just be the inevitable result of the industry having grown to where it is now.

I'm also really excited to know there are good people willing to help me out!!! Thanks a lot guys and gals.. MUCH appreciated.





 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 6:09 AM
Suzanneh

Thanks for taking a look. We've debated whether to include 'tag' pages for a while. 3 years ago we removed anything with more than two 'tags' from the index. The cartesian product of combining tags is ofc massive. Google was spending all day simply spidering our tag pages (not what we wanted!) - about 1.5 - 2 million a day. So we removed them as mentioned to '2 tags' - we lost out for doing that. It was our first indication that playing 'nice' wasn't going to necessarily end well :D But we did survive it, so..

Regardless, it's a good idea, and I think we'll investigate removing perhaps them entirely. They are useful for our clients, so we'll basically just 'robots.txt' them.


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 6:11 AM
Yep, combined they only bring in 10k pageviews (per month) - so we can happily dump them. Thanks.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 5/28/13 6:28 AM
Putting them in robots.txt won't deindex them.  If you want to deindex a page put a noindex in the robots meta tag.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 5/28/13 6:31 AM
Is that 10k pageviews/month in total -- or as landing pages?  When I'm doing that kind of analyzing (whether to deindex a set of pages), I look at the landing page stats -- ie. the traffic those pages bring in from search.  That number might be even less if you were looking a total page views.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 5/28/13 6:36 AM
Yep, landing is 5k - either way they're gone :)

re: robots.txt - (i was being brief - we'll actually isolate those links at creation code, and have them completely removed from S.E visibility) All of them will begin to 404, we've found that's the fastest way to dump a page. We used to 301 them to the homepage, but that might cause problems these days.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. JohnMu 5/31/13 2:47 PM
Hi Hitchhiker

One of the things I noticed while checking out your site was that there's really a lot of content indexed there -- and some of that doesn't seem to be overly relevant. For example, from random clicks in a site:-query (looking at all of the URLs you have indexed), I ran across these:

When our algorithms look at the quality of a website, they look at it overall -- including pages like these that may be indexed. With this in mind, I think it can really make sense to consider what Suzanne (thanks for the help here!) mentioned: make sure that all of your indexed pages are of the highest quality possible and that they are fantastic representatives of your website, in a way that all new users will be drawn in and want to recommend your website to their friends. I realize this can be a bit tricky with UGC, but there may be ways that you can automate parts of that, ways that you can recognize high-quality content without having to manually review each and every URL. It's fine to keep all of this content on your website if you feel that it's important to users (to keep it out of the search results, you could use the noindex robots meta tag). 

You can get more insight into things that you could ask yourself (or better: someone who's not associated with your website) when determining the quality of content in our blog post at http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.de/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

Significantly improving the quality of a website will take time -- on your side, as well as on our side when our algorithms work to understand the changes that you've made. 

Hope it helps!
John
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 5/31/13 5:31 PM
THx John.. 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/1/13 12:58 PM
Thanks John, I'll deindex those right away and give thought to your advice! Very much appreciated.

----You can ignore below, as it's not a question - but I'd love your take on this ---

If you look at my history (which I assume you can) you'll see I've played nice since 2002. You'll see that my site really does help the general public achieve their goals. I don't believe I fit your definition of 'spam' or 'low quality' (other than UGC).

I'm ideologically opposed to de-index as a required* solution! I've removed 'spider-traps' (i'll do more now) caused by 'cartesian product' combinations (such as tags) because I felt this was something 'bots' would have problems with. 

Why should webmasters worry about what Google needs? You repeatedly told us not to do this many years ago! The only people who have time to cater to you are 'SEO' types and brands who hire 'SEO' types. The very people you probably don't want to saturate the results!

I want to update my site, move on, create new things. I should be judged on the quality of my content in relation to the world around me - this idea of trawling through links i've never seen before is madness!

Also as the poster above alluded to: Why are you so seemingly careless with us UGC folks; we're still a significant and 'kind' part of the internet. Show us some love please! :)

Cheers again for getting back to me!
Frank.

*Required = Basically has to be fixed or i'll slowly fade away!
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/1/13 6:26 PM
Hey Hitchhiker , 

Here is some info on Google Panda

They used human testers to gather data to then code an algorithm to best match what human testers find to be good quality or bad quality in search results.

One of the big things to be introduced with that is that low quality , thin pages that dont ad value to the results are not wanted by the majority of searches.
I am in personal agreement with this.

And so it is in life and business - put your best foot forward if you will.

Maybe look at it this way.
Consider your website to be a book that will be published - if there are pages you wouldn't send to the printers because they are thin, low quality or just a blank page you wouldnt publish them the same applies with the content you allow to be indexed - if its not print worthy , its not index worthy - and that is holding the human reader in the best light.

With the same analogy - would you send UGC off to the printer without even looking at it??
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/2/13 2:35 AM
Hi _Luke_, 

I've not presented my point clearly perhaps. I believe low quality 'stuff' should be invisible -> I believe high quality 'stuff' is what 'makes the world go round'. Google is year by year forcing me to stop creating stuff, and start worrying about SEO. An analogy: 

You have a hamster trainer conference each week, and you want the five best hamster trainers to speak at it. You have a hundred hamster trainers to choose from each week, you don't have time to do it by hand so it is automated

When trying to make an 'algorithm' to pick the best five, here are some 'problems'
  • You want to (try to) keep your selection process secret, otherwise it will be gamed. Unexpected side effect: Expensive (time/money) 'intel' about the selection process will emerge - more 'sponsored' hamster trainers seem to be selected. Not much you can do about this, but it's a problem you at least need to be aware of.
  • More and more complex processes eventually allows trainers a way to hurt each other during 'selection week'.  Unexpected side effect: You'll invariably end up with trainers who are ready to play dirty.
  • Weed out badly dressed trainers, or ones that haven't spent any time reading up on the 'dress code', basically look for 'possibly related' signals. Unexpected side effect:  These are trainers, if you analyse them otherwise (Best suit, best glasses, nicest hair, friendliest smile) you'll not have a hamster trainer conference anymore. People looking to go to a 'hamster trainer' conference will eventually lose interest.
  • Analyse large patterns. Unexpected side effect: This thread.
  • Ask for the cooperation of the trainers in the selection process. Unexpected side effect: Gaming / more trainers who are versed on how to 'tickle you' in the right way now make it to the final round. You have a conference by 'trainers who are nice to me'.
  • Include a letter box where trainers can suggest that the references from other trainers (now a factor in the selection process) shouldn't count. Unexpected side effect: Things have gone wrong somewhere :)
People are smart - if you give them the tools to game you, you'll be gamed. When automating, keep it simple. As a 37 year old programmer with 29 years of experience; year after year this has become more and more evident to me.

My choices would be:
  • A few simple signals, that focus on the 'core' values you're looking for. That don't stretch out too much beyond what an automated process is capable of, that accept a margin of error while 'not throwing out the baby with the bathwater' followed by the best indicator of success "other trainers reaction to the conference" (this weeds out crap nicely). This is a compromise, I'll end up with a good and reasonably innovative conference, with some degree of noise - but far better than competition who got lost in a sea of signals resulting in 'bland/sterilised' trainers.
  • A.I.
Don't point out that 'people aren't hamster trainers' - please replace trainer with 'lion tamer' if it helps.

Google best of luck, you probably realise I know how difficult your job is. Please pay attention to us 'little big guys' - we are good for you, and good for the world of data. We aren't perfect, we're happy to change, don't throw us out by accident.

Cheers,
Frank.



Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/2/13 3:12 AM
Also let me make this clear: 

On Monday I will go through my site and implement 99% of the changes you've suggested here. Thank you all very very much for your help. 

I'm obviously promoting an ideology here too :D, but your kindness in taking the time to analyse my situation is why I love the internet so damn much.

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. maeschi 6/2/13 2:19 PM
Nicely put, Frank!

and...

>>We aren't perfect, we're happy to change

Neither is Google,..and so does Google ;-)

Good luck with your changes.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/3/13 1:46 PM
This seems to be mainly due to (thanks WMW) Panda 21.5 (referring to the 17-18th nov '12 'quiet update' that primarily hurt us UGC/Forum folk who mostly benefitted from panda in general).
  • I've removed meta description. As Luke pointed out some of my descriptions made no sense (a by-product of trying to create useful summary content from UGC content). So, rather than attempt to create something I can't be proud of or confident in - I've removed them. 
  • I've disavowed most of my referring links that had low cardinality. Ie, one site linking to my homepage a thousand times etc.
  • Meta de-indexed (MDEd) all tag pages (Thanks Suzanneh)
  • MDEd all second pages of 'threads results' (list of threads, not actual content)
  • MDEd all search results (i had mostly done all that before, but tidied it up)
  • MDEd all image pages (even though some had 100k views)
  • MDEd all profile/user pages.
  • Other minor bits and pieces.
I would have liked a real reason as to why this was all necessary; nothing was created, nothing new was built. I think that's a valid question Google should answer.

Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/3/13 3:30 PM
There is an answer available

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769

Here are the quality guidelines. Perhaps a better way to look at it is that you owe Google a quality site , they don't owe you anything

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Rubincain 6/3/13 3:50 PM
Hi Frank.

I just wanted to say that my 8 year old site suffered from a massive fall in traffic on the same date (December 16th / 17th.)  We have went from 230,000 uniques in October 2012 to May 2013 being 65,000!  

Our AdSense Rep said our site was "perfect"
A reconsideration request revealed no manual spam action
We received no webmaster tools or AdSense warnings  

We have spent months (and about £7000)  improving all of the metrics of our site, upgrading servers, and a million other things with no improvement in Google traffic.

The single problem we found that we believe may have caused the issue was Google indexing all of the ?replytocom variables which are generated by default by Wordpress (for every comment on our site).  Like you I believe that it is absurd that Google would penalize a site for something that I believe is Google bot's problem.

Like Google recommend we 301 redirected the ?replytocom variables back to the route URL.  We did this in February and this has had absolutely no impact at all on the amount of variables indexed.  Only 1 week ago (End of May) we gave up on this method and went down the canonical approach.  I will get back to you and let you know if this has any affect.  Currently webmaster tools is showing 44k URLs indexed and the site has 8k pages.

Lastly I just wanted to say that I really feel your Pain, my Wife and I have built up our site for years and the experience of losing so much traffic without any indication of why has proven to be the most stressful experience of my life (Even beats getting a my Kidney transplant).  I used to love Google, we have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for them and even went for a photo op at Mountain view in our travels across America.  But slowly, month by month that love is being replaced by bitterness.  I genuinely hope you get to the bottom of the problem and your traffic improves!

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 1:27 AM
Hi Rubincain, Thanks for your comment, I'm sorry to hear about your situation (same, same and same).

Here's what I've realised we all have in common (from threads on other forums, and groups)
  1. We seem to be people who've been at this a long time (mostly around 8-12 years).
  2. We seem to all run sites that have been of high quality but primarily UGC - recently considered as 'authority'. 
  3. We seem to be very white-hat (all the folks have been genuinely shocked by being labeled 'spam').
  4. We seem to have been the crew who followed Google's advice in the mid 2000's to focus on quality and content.
There appears there's nothing much we can do. Others (like us) applied these changes in Dec last year (i've seen their sites: high quality, zero spam, dynamic and modern) and they've seen no recovery.

Luke: ...they don't owe you anything

I'm betting a lot of the people who were hit by 21.5 were early adopters who promoted Google in the first days. The types who installed them on 100,000s of computers and spread the word about 'the great new search engine'. They owe us at least 'some reasonable inspection'. Either way, not really important to this thread.

I'm convinced we are collateral damage. Spend 10 mins on my site, and tell me we are 'low quality'. We're might well be one of the best in our niche.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/4/13 1:39 AM
15 years of free traffic and your complaining about having to do a few updates seems unfair
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 2:03 AM
The traffic wasn't free; I worked 100 hours a week for most of that time. I provided millions of people with answers to their questions, help with their lives and gave the internet something useful.

This thread might be important to people who've built up a life around something they are proud of; I don't know why I deserved that dismissive rhetoric.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 6/4/13 4:02 AM
If I could chime in with a "it's not dismissive rhetoric" as someone who's worked 11 years on her site, having to take on a few self-employed jobs to pay the bills in the meanwhile?  The traffic was free. The work you did was for your site.  It wasn't for Google.  It was great to get the traffic, but there's no way I'd have been able to pay for any of the traffic I've received over the years.

Things change and we need to change along with it.  Things that Google wasn't paying attention to in the past, they now have to focus on because so many people tried to manipulate search rankings.  Duplicate or thin content might not have mattered much 10 years ago. But it matters now. That's why the older sites have to keep improving, changing and growing in other ways.

I guess we just have a different mindset, but I (almost) always knew I was getting a free ride (so to speak) and that traffic could dry up at any time.  But it was easy to get complacent when the traffic was rolling in.  What I'm discovering is that I can find new ways to improve the user experience. I'm focusing on my site -- and my goal is to bring the non-search engine traffic up.  And you know what? Non-search traffic could sky rocket and then...drop off because users find something else.  Our sites are always our own responsibility. Google and our users owe us nothing.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/4/13 4:17 AM
Not dissmissive in intent, just that looking back is no way to look forward (deep thought) 

BIWB - a new acronym!  But It Worked Before?

A good portion of people who fall out of the ranks suffer from BIWB 

(this will take off for sure!) 


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. JohnMu 6/4/13 4:46 AM
I think UGC is an extremely useful source of information on the Internet - it's fantastic to see so many sites providing ways for random web-users to communicate, and to spread information. Maybe this is even one of the reasons why the web has taken off in the way that it has.

One of the difficulties of running a great website that focuses on UGC is keeping the overall quality upright. Without some level of policing and evaluating the content, most sites are overrun by spam and low-quality content. This is less of a technical issue than a general quality one, and in my opinion, not something that's limited to Google's algorithms. If you want to create a fantastic experience for everyone who visits, if you focus on content created by users, then you generally need to provide some guidance towards what you consider to be important (and sometimes, strict control when it comes to those who abuse your house rules). When I look at the great forums & online communities that I frequent, one thing they have in common is that they (be it the owners or the regulars) have high expectations, and are willing to take action & be vocal when new users don't meet those expectations. 

To some extent, that expands from just the "words" that they contribute to the infrastructure of the site as well. If the site just takes the content and presents it to new users in ways that doesn't make the content shine, then new users may be discouraged from contributing fantastic content as well (or from recommending the site to their friends). 

When it comes to search, what you provide to be indexed is often what users first see when they see your site in the search results. Putting your best foot forward there is something that - imo - isn't just done for the "algorithm," but really primarily for your new users. Sometimes that involves technical measures, other times that involves finding ways to recognize and feature fantastic content created by your community. There's no "one size fits all" solution here, but just putting everything up for search, and hoping that new users consider that perhaps there's more to "a seemingly confusing site" (taking the general UGC site, definitely not specific to yours) and take the time to dig for the treasure, is probably not the best approach. 

So in the end, I think making sure that all of the initially visible pages of your site are of the highest quality possible isn't something that a site-owner would do just for Google, it's really something that they'd probably want to do for all users. There are lots of sites that don't do a great job of that (including some from Google), so it's easy to find other sites that are "just as bad" (or worse), but that also means that there's still time to make significant improvements. 

I like the general direction that you're headed with your site, and I'd encourage you to continue looking into possibilities. You know your site - your users & the content they've created - best, and are likely to be able to look beyond general technical tweaks to really make things shine, everywhere.

Cheers
John
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 7:56 AM
Hi John,

Unless i'm being a 'love-blind' we wouldn't have survived this long (as a community) without a heck of a lot of policing and housekeeping. People based, and tech based.
  • We (volunteers) moderate like crazy, always have.
  • We measure and rank (even sending spiders) all the links submitted in posts. (We decided to allow natural links, many don't)
  • We internally rank posts, and remove those that haven't met the minimum weight.
  • We do text analysis to remove short stuff (even going so far as to weigh them without things like stop words) from the main view.
  • We have strict guidelines, we've never tolerated 'flame wars' or 'spammy' folk.
  • We track users with a team of moderators behind the scenes, trying to isolate bad apples.
  • We track email subscriptions properly, and never send spam or over saturate people's inboxes.
  • We took page load times down to ridiculously low levels on a single server.
  • We have tried to do what we believe will benefit our community at every single turn, and very actively, for a very long time.
  • Our users appear to be mostly happy.
It's doubtful that so many other UGC sites do this to the level we do. It took 10 years of coding to get it done. We still have junk that could go, we remove it daily.

To some extent, that expands from just the "words" that they contribute to the infrastructure of the site as well. If the site just takes the content and presents it to new users in ways that doesn't make the content shine, then new users may be discouraged from contributing fantastic content as well (or from recommending the site to their friends). 

This hit a nail on the head -> We definitely need to update our design, it is cumbersome and hard to grasp. We're going to release a model soon based on user ranking, internal metrics for all display views and has a simpler overall design. It was initially rejected by our community. We're going to attempt to re-jig it and get it through this time. The 'stack overflow' model, should not be applied to everything; though I'm a big fan of that layout.

I will go out on a limb here and say in terms of UGC - we're probably one of the more vigilant sites re: housekeeping with one of the longer histories.

In short it is my uncertain belief that Panda 21.5 hit some sites it just, simply, shouldn't have hit. Do we have things to improve? -> YES! Ironically the victims are those who followed the 'quality over seo' philosophy. Perhaps we all just did it wrong, or perhaps my supposition is partially correct.

Will you guys consider our plee, and look into whatever change you made on 17th/18th november. Just to see if it generated the results you wanted in regards to UGC forum/community sites.

Thanks again for your time,
Frank.

Suzanne - I understand where you're coming from, I'm grateful for everything I have been 'given'. I'm also not really having a problem (even after this our traffic is phenomenal) - so even less reason for me to complain. I applaud Google in having enabled so many businesses to flourish. It is a two way street; Google depends on us as much as we on them.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 6/4/13 8:26 AM
Speaking of quality, how did this page find its way into your site?

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 8:41 AM
I already replied to that. I get that you don't like my arrogant suggestion that I've stuck to quality all these years.

There are FOUR off topic light-hearted articles on our site of 400k+ questions. Combined those articles have 3 million views, that one has 32k views. You dislike my tone? I apologise if I've upset you in anyway, I only came here for constructive debate and help.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Indicator Veritatis 6/4/13 11:23 AM
Your complaints about that page are completely without merit. Not only is it a good example of British humour (both good and bad), but it teaches by example a lot about the nuances of vocabularly in British English.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Rubincain 6/4/13 11:23 AM
I completely agree that sites like yours are collateral damage.   And as for people spouting this continual argument that Google doesn't owe webmasters anything.   It's far from the truth and even Google agrees.  At the end of the day if they didn't care they would not be giving out warnings in webmaster tools and hints in AdSense.  Large website that drive revenue to Google are clearly important to Google otherwise why would I have an AdSense rep calling me trying to improve things?  The relationship between webmasters and Google is a synergy.  Without sites likes ours Google has a lot less to index.

The simple fact is Google's algorithmic changes over the last few years have had catastrophic effects on some legitimate sites. The worst part of this is the not knowing, there is no point in dishing out punishment when there is no guidance.  If we have done something so wrong that justifies reducing our traffic by 200,000 uniques over night then it would be nice to know why. 

I am following the discussion on webmaster world by the way, just can't comment, shame because I have lots to share :)   

Our search queries have fallen from over 100,000 per day, down to 15,000.  What about you?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 1:44 PM
Oh man, I need all the help I can get.. It's like pushing a bowling ball through a hose pipe. It doesn't matter that i've stated my case 1000x times. I get the feeling I'm just bundled in with every tom, dick and harry who ponied up for some cheesy black hat back in the day.

Cheers,
Frank.

Wow, you two got downvoted!? *sigh*

Since it's buried now: GOOGLE:  Will you guys consider our plee, and look into the change made on 17th/18th november. Does it result in the index you want in relation to UGC/Forums/Community?

Our search queries have fallen from over 100,000 per day, down to 15,000.  What about you?

180k, to 120k per day since nov. I'm sort of flying the flag on this one now > for all my fallen homies :)

I even hate that my competition was beaten up, they've been replaced by corporations and shiney empty nonsense. I loved fighting the good fight.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 6/4/13 1:54 PM
>>And as for people spouting this continual argument that Google doesn't owe webmasters anything.   It's far from the truth and even Google agrees.  At the end of the day if they didn't care they would not be giving out warnings in webmaster tools and hints in AdSense.

I never said Google didn't care.  But we see lots of people in the forum who feel they're entitled to keep their top results and that Google "owes" them -- or that they're going bankrupt and it's all Google's fault.  Or Google only cares about big brands. Or...pick your reason.  In that sense, Google owes webmasters nothing.  Google's not there to keep other people in business by sending them free traffic.  

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 2:03 PM
Suzanneh - can you see that this is not what 'we're' complaining about here. 
Anybody on the internet for 20 years is going to understand nobody *really* owes us anything.

I appreciate that you must (as a regular volunteer here) see that 1000x times a day.
I also accept that I may have carelessly miscommunicated during this really complex back and forth.

Help us get an answer to this, I think this Panda 21.5 ghost update :) may have hurt people Google were largely unaware of. 
I'm trying to let them know as clearly as I can. There's a lot of 'flack' coming my way too.

Cheers, and thanks again for the tag suggestion - I really believe that was something I should have done a while back.

Frank.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/4/13 2:19 PM
Another thing Suzanneh (i'm burying my question again!!)

The people who are hit hardest by this (I'm repeating a bit) seem to be many of the same people who supported Google in the VERY early days. As webmasters, or technicians, or enthusiasts.

Most of them I've heard from are 8+ years of work, some like myself up to 12 years. I was (and in some ways still am) a true supporter of what Google was offering our little internet community back in the day. 

Nearly all of them seem to run fairly huge sites that continue to provide clean and relevant information. As for brands, well we do all seem to be 'independents', having fought the constant surges of corporations sweeping in with big bucks and zero care, exploding in our proximity each year. Think 'constantly under attack from multi-million dollar smart bombs with no real target'. You probably are well aware of what I'm talking about, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

I used google the same week it was officially launched, I installed it on thousands of work computers, I spread the word during those early days. I do appreciate their problems, I started programming when i was 6 years old - I'm not spouting 'poop' as far as I know. :) Really, long live Google.

Cheers,
Frank.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Rubincain 6/4/13 2:46 PM
As I said Google disagree as they are clearly trying to help webmasters.  They know that content creators are the internet.  

I am familiar with peoples theories that Google have gradually (whether deliberately or not) increased the SERPS of bigger brands, this may or may not be true but I don't think it is relevant to the issue...

My main point that there are lots of threads about the 16/17th December 2012 collapse in Traffic.  I have personally looked at dozens of sites that suffered a catasrophic traffic drop.  The only thing in common is that they were very large sites that had been around for many years.  I have not seen one person claiming to have solved the issue and there are no records of Google making any algorithmic changes at that time.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. bewilderedness 6/4/13 3:05 PM
John, thanks for your response! Would it be possible to confirm that there actually was an update (related to Panda or not) on Nov 16/17 of 2012 and whether it was specifically aimed at UGC. Google used to post about updates at the time but this one kinda fell through the cracks despite being a pretty important one, I think.

As far as UGC quality, as someone who manages and moderates communities for 10+ years I can say that there's a fine line between moderation and censorship, moderation and grammar police, moderation and infringing on people's ways of expressing themselves.

For example: we have 100+ threads titled exactly "Check this out!" (some without exclamation). If this was my own blog, I would never allow myself to be so careless with titles, regardless of how  Google sees it - just bad style. But those threads have been started by some 90 different people who view those not within the context of the site as a whole but as a standalone thread. My WMT shows this as a Duplicate title tags error in HTML Improvements but this isn't strictly an error, definitely not on a primarily UGC site. I cannot start wily-neely changing people's titles to something, well, more descriptive. This will be taken as censorship and people will leave. Besides, the title may be bad but the thread that follow may have some very good info in it, worth having in Google's search results.

So, I think Google and other SEs should have a set of different content quality rules for forums/UGC sites. And it very likely already does. So, is it possible that on 16/17 Nov 2012 some UGC sites might have become mis-characterized as something other than forums / UGC? Any tip on how to help Google better understand what type of a site this is?   
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 6/4/13 3:17 PM
There is more in common than them all just being large sites that have been around for awhile. One of the things that really stands out to me for those that were affected on the the Panda 21.5 Ghost Update is that in the majority of the cases I am coming across they are all UGC types of websites.

I also run a 10 year old UGC type of website that went through all the Panda and Penguin updates with no problems, except for the mysterious ghost update that Google never officially talked about where my traffic went from 30,000 people to 15,000 per day. So it affected some of us smaller guys too.

Personally while I would love this to be fixed, what I would really hope for is at least an answer to what happened on those dates and to make sure it was intentional with Google, and not an unintentional side effect from another change. The part that has always bothered me about this date was that lately Google has tried to be transparent in that they warn webmasters before a big change has taken place to at least give you an idea why you might be affected. This particular update seemed to just slip by under the radar, with nothing official from Google that I am aware...

Is it possible that we could at least get an answer if an update happened around November 17th? Was this an intentional update to demote many UGC websites? Or was this an effect from another update not knowing it would have these sort of drastic changes for UGC websites?


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 6/4/13 3:19 PM

>The people who are hit hardest by this (I'm repeating a bit) seem to be many of the same people who supported Google in the VERY early days. As webmasters, or technicians, or enthusiasts.


and you are basing that comment upon what, n=1, n=100 ?   Those are pretty darn small sample sizes to be making such a broad accusation.


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Dani of DaniWeb 6/4/13 8:37 PM
I was encouraged by Hitchhiker to post here and so I am :)

DaniWeb was hit really hard on November 20th and we haven't recovered since.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/5/13 2:15 AM
Thanks Rubincain, Big, Bewilder, Dani! 

@Dani: Could you be more specific, I'm sure you received a lot of great advice here: Clean up help, and de-index support, but did it eventually do any good? You were the poster child for the Panda hit, but it seems now it may have been a bit of both, or perhaps just 21.5.

The major problem with the 21.5 Ghost update is that it affected a 'relatively' small group of people, most (from my limited interactions) seem to have the same general 'good' site character.

The combined traffic of the people speaking just here on this thread would be that of a small country per day, yet this update almost went unnoticed. It seemed to affect a very specific group of people.

So GOOGLE:  Will you guys consider our plee, and look into the change made on 17th/18th november

Did you get the result set regarding UGC you wanted, or is there perhaps a little re-evaluation needed?

@ StevieD_Web - yeah, i misspoke, my apologies, it was just an observation from a small set of interactions.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. maeschi 6/5/13 7:16 AM
If not your site, then at least this post is trending :-)



Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. distantparts 6/5/13 8:25 AM
Hitchhiker, you have my deepest sympathies, as I've been in the same position for the past few years.

My car review site (UGC) was hit by the original Panda run, but after a huge amount of work and a prominent thread on this forum (http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!mydiscussions/webmasters/8VJyriB_23E), the site seemed to partially recover (traffic up 50% or so) in late November 2012 (which is weirdly the time other people got hit again). Unfortunately things have slid back over this year, culminating in a 25% overnight drop in early May, more than wiping out any gains I'd made.

I've pretty much given up now. I'm still running the site, and will do for many years to come, but it's no longer my full time job; instead I'm taking my chances on Apple's app store, with some fitness and weather apps, though that's not without its own issues.

Large UGC sites, even run with real care, seem to be vulnerable to something intrinsic to the Panda algorithm, and given the issues are so much harder to diagnose and fix than Penguin and Top Heavy, I feel for others struggling with this situation.

The best hope as far as I'm concerned, is that Google make some tweaks to address this. Matt Cutts said on a recent video that some new signals were being evaluated to help with borderline Panda sites (I'm paraphrasing here), so maybe something will come of that.

If I was you, I'd listen to all the advice out there, and do your best to improve things, but it's also sensible to start planning for an alternative future. The web has changed and become more corporate, and whilst I wish that wasn't the case, I doubt there is much you or I can do about it.

Best Wishes, Steven
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Dani of DaniWeb 6/5/13 8:31 AM
> @Dani: Could you be more specific, I'm sure you received a lot of great advice here: Clean up help, and de-index support, but did it eventually do any good? You were the poster child for the Panda hit, but it seems now it may have been a bit of both, or perhaps just 21.5.

Yes, if you check out my full history, we recovered from our original Panda hit with flying colors. I explained in full what I did to recover.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/5/13 8:49 AM
@distantparts - sorry to hear that, it's a terribly unsettling thing in general.

@Dani - Great news! Sorry I was told your site may well have had a combined problem with Panda, and Panda 21.5 Ghost (unknown at the time)
I didn't have any problems with any Panda update, just the Ghost 21.5 update.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Dani of DaniWeb 6/5/13 9:33 AM
Well that doesn't really help us now since we have just about as much traffic as we did when we were hit by Panda, only for a much longer period of time this time around.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/5/13 11:24 AM
Dear Goog,
  • Some suspect this update hit 'beyond' the regular concerns of badly managed sites. 
  • I accept 'normal SEO', best foot forward etc. I'm happy to be judged on my merits or lack thereof.
  • The more you press us to 'dress for you', the more prevalent 'SEO' will become. Focus on SEO will be rewarded.
Does the newly named 'Panda 21.5 Ghost' update meet your 'quality' expectations? Will you consider taking a look into it based on what you've read in this thread?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Paul Edmondson 6/5/13 3:27 PM
Frank and Dani - Thanks for posting your efforts.  It's helpful to see what other large UGC sites have done.  Best of luck and I'm happy to share our efforts as well if you want to reach out.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/5/13 4:48 PM
I'd like to believe we'll see an update that balances this again; I get the feeling we may have got some of our concerns to the right folk. 

I'd also love to keep in touch with you and any other medium / large site owners - we're not going to get a better intro than this :D

also TIL: There is a small user group using UGC to point out how UGC offers so little. Defending UGC, on a UGC platform, against UGC dislikers is strangely unsatisfying on so many levels.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/5/13 5:04 PM
Wanting others to change without being willing to change your self is the essence of every broken relationship.

If the quality guidelines advise against indexing thin pages . And that thin pages can even overpower unique pages then there's a problem right there.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 6/5/13 5:20 PM
Yet the sites we are talking about that took a hit, never took a hit on a Panda update (which is about thin pages)... That is the part that makes this a different scenario in my opinion. Are you saying this Ghost Update is actually another Panda Update that Google never told us about?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 6/5/13 6:25 PM
pick any one of 500+ algorithm changes Google makes per year to kick your site to the curb.  For all we know the color blue has been considered a quality factor and every site with blue used for text has been penalized.   


PS Google only informs us of a few updates & algorithm changes per year.   If there was no announcement, then it must be a pretty darn minor update affecting only a few well deserving websites.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 6/5/13 7:31 PM
Google had told us about the Updates, And what to expect with all the other updates.. Not sure why you think it is a Ghost Update... There has been plenty of information out the web about this just do a Search for Google Algo Updates or Google Penguin V2 this is only the first wave of updates scheduled for this summer... I believe from what I understand Matt Cutt's saying they are expecting 10 updates to start on May 22 and continue, just food for thought.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 6/5/13 7:41 PM
If there was no announcement, then it must be a pretty darn minor update affecting only a few well deserving websites.
 
Or they are unaware that one of their changes may have affected certain types of sites in a way they never intended. Due to the fact that the collateral damage was fairly small in who it affected, it went unnoticed.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 6/5/13 7:46 PM
William, the updates we are referring to occurred between Nov 16-20 of 2012. Officially Google rolled out Panda 22 out on Nov 21, 2012. The fact that this traffic drop occurred before that date indicates that some sort of other update happened that mainly affected UGC websites. This I believe rules out Panda or Penguin because they have been officially letting us know when one of those roll out.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 6/5/13 8:10 PM
Well that is great that you have the dates for that stuff, however you are still falling.... If it has not sunk the ship then it will soon, unless people listen to what Google is trying to get accomplished ...

Just as John M said, 

When our algorithms look at the quality of a website, they look at it overall


You have gotten more answers than most... I think you have some work to do before the next set of updates. 

Sorry to be so blunt.. 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 6/5/13 8:41 PM
Sorry I didn't mean to say YOU it was towards the persons website... I don't know what I was thinking. LOL
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/6/13 1:13 AM
Oh come on, you're kidding now.

Wanting others to change without being willing to change your self is the essence of every broken relationship.

a) All the changes here were applied over the next few days.
b) I then thanked you, and others for those changes.

Are you trolling me man, what was the point of saying that - why the hell would you say that?

You have gotten more answers than most... I think you have some work to do before the next set of updates. 

I think, if you read what we're writing, you'll see that you've been thanked for your useful suggestions, and they have been applied (in my case).

It looks like any finer, or more complicated points must be lost in this thread - seeing as direct, simple and previously answered points were so easily overlooked.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/6/13 2:10 AM
No trolling man, just sharing my thoughts in reference to your hope that a Google update is the solution.
I am quiet interested in the paradigm shift that goes with saving sites from falling south of modern search quality and how blaming Google is often the case.

I see you have noIndexed many pages , but there are still many pages with single word title tags , no meta descriptions and content that doesn't really describe the tags that are there.





Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/6/13 2:30 AM
So you've seen my site, and are saying i'm south of modern search quality. You might be right, but i'd like to believe I'm north of modern web quality.

As a UGC site, there will always be pages that are nowhere near the quality level of 'professional opinion / marketing / or paid submission' sites. UGC will never be able to compete with that. I would imagine 20% of my content could be ignored. Next year we'll be releasing an update that will drop that number even further, but it's just how it is. I don't really think we can change that without automatic censoring A.I. filters (sounds as bad as it would be)

I'm sorry I accused you of trolling, it just looks like you (and a couple of others) are not really getting what we're talking about and are simply derailing this. I've been in SEO for 15 years man (hard to say exactly, when i started there weren't really SEs, then infoseek, hotbot, yahoo or whatever). I've pushed my site to the top of the pack (even after 21.5 i'm still in a great position) - I KNOW I have to continually change. I work 100 hours a week. I haven't had a weekend off in years. I'm not some entitled douchebag, I'm a little indy guy with a hell of a lot of work behind me.

I'm just trying to get Google to check on whether they accidentally hit us a little too hard. I'm not worried that I'm hit; that's been a normal part of my day/week/year since the late 90s.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/6/13 2:37 AM
Also: Would you or any others put your website under this kind of spotlight - how do you think 99% of the sites out there would fare. We ALL have issues. If you think you don't - then you are probably over-SEOd. 

I got my d*** in the wind here - I'm doing it because I believe in what I'm saying.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. bewilderedness 6/6/13 8:23 AM

On Thursday, June 6, 2013 5:30:11 AM UTC-4, hitchhiker wrote:
As a UGC site, there will always be pages that are nowhere near the quality level of 'professional opinion / marketing / or paid submission' sites. UGC will never be able to compete with that. I would imagine 20% of my content could be ignored. Next year we'll be releasing an update that will drop that number even further, but it's just how it is. I don't really think we can change that without automatic censoring A.I. filters (sounds as bad as it would be)

Frank, ditto to all that and one more thing: I don't know if you're there already but if you make your site work well on mobile platforms (and Google is practically jamming it up our throats - try to attend one Google event where they don't push "go mobile"!)  and increase your mobile traffic, then quality of UGC will plummet further still. People don't care/don't have time and/or dexterity in their fingers to type their posts without typos or most of the time even simply put a second worth of thinking behind it. if Google does not like the quality of heavily moderated UGC now, what's going to happen when most of the traffic will go mobile (as they themselves predict).

I am gathering data / programming together for starting a specialized mobile version of my UGC site and I loathe the day I have to start moderating that UGC, I just know that it's going to be mostly junk.

And for the people that mostly post things like "Google doesn't owe you anything":  I have no interest in seeing my junk rank. I just want my junk not to tank the rest of the site (sorry I ran out of rhymes). For that I need to understand what Google considers junk in UGC and I have a feeling that the answer may not be that obvious. I already no-index short posts, posts that did not generate responses, posts with scandalous or political titles etc. What else don't they like? That's the question!

I have seen sites like eHow rank with pages like "how to remove a sock from a vacuum" (real world example) after Panda 21.5 just fine. So, clearly, the quality of content is debatable as far as Google is concerned.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Lysis 6/6/13 8:29 AM
There's like 30 conversations in here.

Less QQ more pew pew
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/6/13 11:15 AM
@bewilderedness Our problem (re: grammar) is compounded by the fact that we're a 'grammar forum'! 
We have some mobile css, but we're going full responsive in our next update.

We're in the same boat as you in most regards, this is what we're looking for here:

a) A reaction to 'whether or not' they were happy with the 21.5 update re: UGC
b) Direction on how to handle UGC content in general (as I/we/you pointed out our role is one of constant curation and moderation)

@Lysis just cleverly demonstrated that even methods to isolate 'top contributors' is no guarantee that a user will 
create valued content for your site.

Trolling has become more of a problem. We (UGC folks) need to keep our technology focused on encouraging constructive / useful debate to survive.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Lysis 6/6/13 11:34 AM
>> @Lysis just cleverly demonstrated that even methods to isolate 'top contributors' is no guarantee that a user will 
>> create valued content for your site.

LUDICRIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/6/13 2:14 PM
/facepalm
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Sam I Am 6/10/13 1:42 AM
Hey Frank, 

I'd just like to echo some of the other's thoughts of well wishing your way. We also run a large, mostly UGC/structured UGC, site, and although we weren't hit by anything in November, G's algos have clearly demoted us in some way. We also share a lot of your overall feelings regarding the internet as a whole, and what it's going to be without all the small 'large' sites, but what I mainly wanted to write about here is the 'noindexing' tactic that everyone seems to be recommending, and how that has (not) worked out for us. 

We have noindexed a TON of pages, and when I say TON, I mean TON :)

I am sure for smaller sites this is a great way to go, and G can figure out quickly what you've done, but in my opinion, there is a lot more behind JohnMu's comment here than meets the eye: "Significantly improving the quality of a website will take time -- on your side, as well as on our side when our algorithms work to understand the changes that you've made."

As with most Googler's comments, what is really being said needs to be read well. I think the "on our side" is a VERY important part of his overall comment, especially when talking about large sites. So far, in our experience, no-indexing has HURT us a lot more than it has helped us. Now, whether or not that is due to the no-indexing is of course a tricky question to answer, but it's our belief no-indexing has changed so much of the internal flow of our site that we've caused a bit of an issue for the G-bot. If you couple that with G implementing any kind of delayed full ranking benefit after implementing changes, it can have some very unexpected consequences. 

And of course the really frustrating part of all of this is that we all see that these 'low quality' rules do not apply to big brand sites. Take for example Tripadvisor, which for every, single, review creates a new page with just that review content surrounded by ads, and then try and explain how in the latest Panda update they actually saw an increase of at least 5% in their first page rankings, and you can simply not be left with any other conclusion than things work differently if your overall brand/domain carries enough weight. I'm not saying TA is a low quality site, because of course it's a great site that is super helpful. But there are a lot of other sites that are great, and could definitely not get away with turning over 100 million reviews each into their own page, translating them using an automatic tool (smart enough not to use G Translate of course) to basically multiply that number by 30, and then still be going up in the rankings... 

Good luck with all the changes you have implemented, and perhaps more importantly, don't let all of this get you down!! That's really the part I've struggled with the most at times. 

Cheers, 

Sam 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 6/10/13 2:14 AM
@Sam I Am

Thanks for this, that's nicely put.

'low quality' rules do not apply to big brand sites
 
Although I can see evidence of that emerging, it's apparently 'risque' to mention that here. By forcing us to spend so much 'content building' time focusing on recovery - they've accidentally given the upper hand to an enormous support and marketing network that big business has at hand.

as well as on our side when our algorithms work to understand the changes that you've made.
 
I would love to read more into their statement, perhaps you are correct.

I hope your pages recover from whatever ails them, and thanks for your info and support. It's nice to hear about at an informed optimistic, brighter side of this coin! :)

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Leeza R 6/13/13 11:56 AM

hello,


Like others in WMT forums, I have been pointed to the 23 point Content Quality Score, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.de/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html , written by Amit Singhal in 2011, as the answer to our Panda problems. Since learning of these variables , we have dissected and spent at least 7 solid months trying to to figure out which variables are negatively affecting our website. We have obviously failed to indentify which of these variables apply to us, because we are still been pandalized. It has been an exhausting and an incredible inefficient use of our time . 

If we knew which of those 23 points are miserably failing at our business website, we *would* focus and fix the existing content. We would then have MUCH more time to focus on developing new , engaging content. As it stands now, every day we are drowning in the mysterious puzzle of what is wrong with the existing 600+ pages of content.

If the goal of Panda is really to encourage great content, why can't Google tell businesses what is wrong with their content according to the 23 point algo?? We all WANT to fix it. This is like scolding a child and saying---"you are being bad", but not telling them what behavior they need to change. 

How about some general indicators to give us direction?

Why can't the Google engineers put these 23 easy to understand quality content points in WMT dashboard and give us some indication of what G thinks of our content? It could be a Yes/No kind of thing for each algo parameter, a heat map, or something esle. Let me be clear: I am not asking for 'the super secret score', but rather just WHAT THE HEC is wrong!?. 


 The QCD (quality content dashboard--yeah I just made that up) would be an indicator for SMB (small/medium business) site owners to know in plain english what we should focus on content wise . We can not afford to hire teams people like the big conglomerates who can translate all the data points from WMT and analytics into simple directives.

We need a Star Trek Computer to tell us in plain english what is wrong. 

The quality content dashboard (@AmitSinghal) would be the first step for small/medium business owners to have their very own Google Star Trek Computer! Anybody with me on this? 

thanks,

stressed out SMB owner, Googley parent

http://goo.gl/M1KHD

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Luke :) 6/13/13 12:36 PM
Hey Leeza best to start your own thread so the volunteers here can focus their attention to the specifics of your site
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Ashley 6/13/13 12:46 PM
Leeza- can you please start your own thread and add all relevant details there?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. dethfire 7/19/13 2:59 PM
I am an owner of a high quality science forum that is 12 years old.  We were hit very hard mid dec and I thought it was just normal bad xmas traffic, but we have not recovered.  I feel all your frustrations.  I have spent hundreds of hours tweaking my site to no avail.  Countless hours reading and no real answers.  It's a real shame.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 7/19/13 3:43 PM
dethfire,

how about starting your own thread and letting others eyeball your site?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Srisuda From Thailand 7/19/13 5:26 PM
Just to get back to hitchhiker's thread and problems for a while.

I noticed a few times that you lamented the fact that it was a quite large forum and to reach the level of editorial qulaity that some have suggested would be out of your economic reach.

Without being flippant, is it possible that you can find a more effective way to monetize your site so that you would be able to have top notch editing ability of the user generated content?

I don't know THAT much about adsense - and i certainly don't know anything about your financials - but what I have heard is that, in general, forums are extremely hard to monetize with adsense.

so I am just throwing that out there. Maybe there is a more effective way for your to monetize your site so you can add more resources toward quality control?

I hope this helps.
hitchhiker 7/25/13 5:06 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/25/13 5:07 AM
Hey Srisuda,

Thanks for that - yep, there are many many better ways to monetise! Forums don't really have a 'business model'

We're standing back from that project now, the community there is going to survive - but we'll no longer be putting any serious work into it. 
It was never meant to be a business, just a (hopefully great) community. 
Google has so far killed off 50% of the traffic, around 100k people a day.

Every SEO talks about sites like they're all 'shops' or 'businesses' - this really wasn't - it was just Q&A, free help,
some resources - and a lot of activity. 
The adsense had generated enough revenue to keep the servers running and pay for our time.
It never generated much, but always 'just enough'

My wife just gave birth to our first son, so it's time for me to join the 'business-orientated' people now. 

It looks like we'll make more in a day than we did in a month, all we needed to do was stop being a charity.

Cheers,
Frank.
Selene E. 7/25/13 5:40 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Selene E. 7/25/13 5:45 PM
Hello all,

I reply here because this discussion started on the WebmasterWorld forum and my case is exactly the same same dates, same type of site and same problem.

We were from 900.000 - 1.000.000 daily unique constantly from Nov 16th 2012, visits to 300.000 daily on these days

hitchhiker & Bigwebmaster i understand exactly what you feel, i was also one of the first trying to understand this Google algorithm change which started exactly on Nov 16th, see the Google Analytics data below.

We are also a large forum with more than 5 years online, and like all of the affected sites by this change we are in the user-generated content category, i understand perfectly that Google does a lot of changes every year to improve the SERPS, and since our site was affected by this i can not be totally imparcial, but i really feel that this change that gives less sitewide value to user-generated content put many sites in risk, while not improving anything.
Why i think this?, I have seen at least two "scraper" blogs that copies our content from our RSS feeds and they appear above us on the SERPS, not only that, sometimes our result are filtered because Google thinks that they are similar results and the one shown on the search page is the one that copied us. Of course i did a spam report, and seems that Google Webspam team did something because the site owner changed the domain from .net to .info to continue copying us.

This is one of the collateral damage done by the change on Nov 16th that we are talking here, that is why i inform and hope that at some time this can be used as feedback by a Google engineer to see if it was the intent of the change.

To all affected by this change i understand that this can be frustrating
but do not get discouraged we need to continue to put effort like always. We may not be getting the same quantity of valuable and new users like before but what really matter and for which we work is for providing the best possible experience for the ones that choose us daily
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 7/25/13 5:50 PM
Your site traffic graphic pretty much looks identical to mine. You got the huge initial drop in mid November, and then constant bleeding all the way up to the present. I think that is the worst part, not knowing when the bleeding will finally stop.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 7/25/13 6:10 PM
Selene E. have you identified what the drop was from yet? Backlinks or Onpage stuff? That is a very large drop
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. ASP_Net_Programmer 7/25/13 6:17 PM
hitchhiker never pay any money to anybody
especially top loosers around here

also i don't believe you will find any real help here

i never saw any true website owner get help from tcs here :)
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. ASP_Net_Programmer 7/25/13 6:20 PM
also hitchhiker

wasting countless hours to suggestions of TCs around here

did you have any improvements so far in terms of google rankings and google traffic ?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Selene E. 7/25/13 8:12 PM
Considering the fact that many user-generated content sites were affected i can be sure that this is not related to backlinks, it should be something on-page.

JohnMu suggested here about including NOINDEX tag on profile pages which we have already done a month ago, but i doubt that this is the reason of the drop.

M
y hypothesis about the Nov 16th change is that Google started to apply more sitewide considerations, for example when you have a large forum with years online it is not unknown to see a small porcentage of content that can be considered "thin" or similar questions on a Q&A forum answered again, but that does not mean that we are trying to alter search results. Before the change Google just give the position that should have to these types of threads, now this alleged "sitewide change" make our entire site not being valuable for Google like before even when the 90% of the content is relevant.

This of course could be an effective change if the intention was to stop spammy and improve results, but as a collateral damage a lot of user-generated content sites were affected by this doing opposite effect
on SERPS.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/26/13 12:01 AM
Hey, well after I posted here it took a month of real analysis - contacting other huge website owners, speaking to leading SEO companies to realise it was 'a heck of a lot of UGC' that was affected. We applied the changes mentioned in this thread (because some of them seemed reasonable) - there was no change (we didn't expect there to be).

I've now moved on as I suspect free / public communities are being 'handed their hat.' Little place left for them in a commerce saturated web.

My guess is it was either:

a) Something to do with the language filter. <- perhaps
b) A deliberate adjustment of UGC power, directly related to forums
c) A lack of attention to the concerns of people not running commerce sites - we were swept away with changes aimed at others.. <- most likely.

Selene - thanks for the graph, your site is HUGE! 7x bigger than mine - I can't imagine what that was like to manage! I've included mine here:

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Steven Lockey 7/26/13 3:01 AM
Well, no offence to me but it looks like you haven't analysed the problem particularly well.

Have you checked to see what keywords you aren't ranking as well on now that you were before?

Almost all the relevant keywords I search for, you are still on page #1 so it doesn't actually look like you've suffered a major rankings hit.

Have you checked to see if there is additional competition in the market?

Is it not at least possible that other people have launched similar sites and some of the people who used to use or would previously have used your site are now using their site?

The main bug-bear in the room here is that we don't know the surrounding details that analytics will have. 
Have you just stopped ranking on a few specific keywords? Is this what is causing the traffic drop?

Also, blocking crappy content from Google isn't censorship, its just broadcasting the best stuff to the world that people are most likely to want. 
You don't see companies advertising heavily their crappiest products, they advertise the good stuff and if people come and want the crap instead, they go find it. 

Any link that isn't an honest to god, no money, services e.t.c. exchanged recommendation on the site needs to be nofollowed including ALL links in UGC content, otherwise its just asking for a penalty but I'm 99% certain this isn't what is causing your issue. 

Finall what were your analytics before that date? There was a period around that times where a lot of sites got a 6 month-ish boost, if you go back in your analytics what was your traffic level 6 months to a year before the drop?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/26/13 5:47 AM
Well, no offence to me but it looks like you haven't analysed the problem particularly well.

Hey Steven, I'm going to resist being snarky because you seem like a decent bloke who's volunteering his time to help a colleague - i'll just say this: We've covered every angle, to the best of our knowledge. We've all been working on the web since 1993, I have extensive experience and knowledge in this industry. I'm totally ok financially - I'm only worried about the implication this 'possible' scenario has on the development of the internet as a whole. I posted here because I wanted to gauge Google's reaction.

I've put the project to rest - it was a great site that helped 45 million people a year for free. We never made much money from it - it was created for the heck of it (and for a lot of valuable experience).

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Steven Lockey 7/26/13 6:02 AM
I wasn't saying you hadn't, I was just saying that it looks like you haven't from what has been posted here.

Its all well and good and saying 'the traffic is down', but the traffic can go down even without your position in Google changing.

I can't see any evidence of you digging into the analytics and finding out which keywords are now sending you less visits and if your position for these keywords has changed at all. That should be pretty much the first step after a drop like this is finding out exactly what the drop occurred on.

Without finding out what actually happened, looking for the 'why' behind it is fairly pointless.


Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 7/26/13 11:53 AM
Hi Steven,

Not trying to be rude as I know you are trying your best to just be helpful, but I don't think you quite get the type of sites we are talking about here. Most UGC websites, including mine, get traffic from "long tail keywords". Look it up. This means we don't get our traffic from a handful of important keywords that other sites might monitor and actually do SEO to compete for. In fact my big keywords, which provides me like 0.0001% of my traffic, do seem fine. 99% of my traffic, and the traffic to any of these UGC websites in this thread are long tail for the most part. These are obscure queries that might have 3+ words in the query, and vary quite a bit. On any given day my traffic is comprised of thousands of these long tail keywords. So when I look in my logs I might see 1-2 from this query, or 1 from another query, multiplied by thousands of times for other very specific queries. With some of the bigger UGC sites here they probably get hundreds of thousands of very specific and random keyword searches in a day, nothing you can really track because these queries will completely be different the next day. Sure there is overlap and probably people typing in the same thing from time to time, but my point is there are so many obscure queries, that even if you did track a few, it likely would still only represent 0.00001% of your traffic.

So in our cases we really didn't lose a position on a keyword. You have to look at the bigger picture. We lost long tail traffic for thousand and thousands of queries, which varies every day, so there isn't much to track there. I could say that I used to get traffic for a query that looked like "some phrase that is long", and today I don't, because the chances of them entering that phrase again is rare anyway. So either Google doesn't show me for that phrase anymore, or the chances of someone actually entering it in is just rare.

Hope that makes sense for ya!
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. lcurr 7/26/13 2:15 PM


Not trying to be rude as I know you are trying your best to just be helpful, but I don't think you quite get the type of sites we are talking about here. Most UGC websites, including mine, get traffic from "long tail keywords". Look it up. This means we don't get our traffic from a handful of important keywords that other sites might monitor and actually do SEO to compete for. In fact my big keywords, which provides me like 0.0001% of my traffic, do seem fine. 99% of my traffic, and the traffic to any of these UGC websites in this thread are long tail for the most part. These are obscure queries that might have 3+ words in the query, and vary quite a bit. On any given day my traffic is comprised of thousands of these long tail keywords. So when I look in my logs I might see 1-2 from this query, or 1 from another query, multiplied by thousands of times for other very specific queries. With some of the bigger UGC sites here they probably get hundreds of thousands of very specific and random keyword searches in a day, nothing you can really track because these queries will completely be different the next day. Sure there is overlap and probably people typing in the same thing from time to time, but my point is there are so many obscure queries, that even if you did track a few, it likely would still only represent 0.00001% of your traffic.

So in our cases we really didn't lose a position on a keyword. You have to look at the bigger picture. We lost long tail traffic for thousand and thousands of queries, which varies every day, so there isn't much to track there. I could say that I used to get traffic for a query that looked like "some phrase that is long", and today I don't, because the chances of them entering that phrase again is rare anyway. So either Google doesn't show me for that phrase anymore, or the chances of someone actually entering it in is just rare.

Hope that makes sense for ya!



If this is the case, then isn't Google's update (especially on thin content) logical for the user/searcher?

As a searcher, I would want to land on actual content that answered my query. So e.g. if I searched on "how to discipline my dog", I would rather land on an article from say, an experienced dog owner or dog trainer about doggy discipline than to land on "UGC one or two sentence" comments which I do not know whether to trust or otherwise.
 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/26/13 3:38 PM
And we're back to 'forums are useless, I want articles' - written on a forum. Yep, sometimes articles are more appropriate, they really can be. That's a valid point.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 7/26/13 3:57 PM
>>And we're back to 'forums are useless, I want articles' - written on a forum.

:-)  Forums have their place, that's for sure.   There are many times when I want several people's opinions on things  -- and a forum thread is great for that.  It's one of those "it depends" situations. :-)

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 7/26/13 4:02 PM

If this is the case, then isn't Google's update (especially on thin content) logical for the user/searcher?

As a searcher, I would want to land on actual content that answered my query. So e.g. if I searched on "how to discipline my dog", I would rather land on an article from say, an experienced dog owner or dog trainer about doggy discipline than to land on "UGC one or two sentence" comments which I do not know whether to trust or otherwise.

What if my forum is about dogs, and thousands of people who talk about their dogs, how to train them, etc? If a member writes a long post that explains in much detail about how they discipline their dogs, where they learned that approach, what actually worked or didn't work for them, maybe provide a few references to sources explaining why that is a good method, what exactly is the difference here? I would still consider to be an "article". How can you know they are not a professional? If this same post/article was put on a website that didn't have users contributing, how would you know that author is a real professional?

Who says the post would be only one or two sentences? Just because its a forum doesn't mean it has to be a one sentence answer? We try hard to discourage that sort of behavior on our forums. Look at this forum, my post isn't a one sentence answer, and you seem engaged if you are responding to me? Right?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. lcurr 7/26/13 4:11 PM
@Bigwebmaster

Don't get defensive. I am aware that forums do provide a lot of input and as Suzanne said, they have their place on the web. To me, forums are great for two main things:

1) As a community of people with common interests
2) As a platform for reading and discussing contentious issues and for getting other people's opinions. This forum being on point.

However, as a user, I would actually look for forums if I wanted those, so my search would be "dog forum", "dog training forum" and so on, rather than long tail searches.

>> If a member writes a long post that explains in much detail about how they discipline their dogs, where they learned that approach, what actually worked or didn't work for them, maybe provide a few references to sources explaining why that is a good method, what exactly is the difference here? I would still consider to be an "article". How can you know they are not a professional? If this same post/article was put on a website that didn't have users contributing, how would you know that author is a real professional?

No, there is no way I would know who is a professional and who is NOT a professional. But then again, as a user and perhaps I trust actual "articles" more if they're in the form of a post or page rather than in a forum UNLESS I've already read all the articles out there and KNOW that the articles aren't great, THEN I would look for forums.

I'm really simply describing my search process here in relation to all the searches I've done over the years on the internet as a user. Am I the typical searcher that Google takes into account?? Perhaps...

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 7/26/13 4:20 PM
I personally have removed my forums as I kept getting attackers daily and it was hard to keep them out... Then we get a fun toy from Google called Google+ Communities and personally I have really enjoyed the interactivity my visitors have.. And it is so much easier to maintain..
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. ASP_Net_Programmer 7/26/13 4:20 PM
once again i am proven
no real help here

rather than answering questions attack the person who talks against google

what top loosers and most of the high levels do
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 7/26/13 4:21 PM

:-)  Forums have their place, that's for sure.   There are many times when I want several people's opinions on things  -- and a forum thread is great for that.  It's one of those "it depends" situations. :-)

I do agree with this. It really does depend on your situation. That is why I think when you search for something a good set of results returned to you would be diverse. Maybe one result the best content Google found on a forum, another result from some sort of professional who just writes about these topics, maybe another result something from an encyclopedia. When you offer the user a diverse set of results on page one, it is usually sufficient to allow the user to get what they are looking for.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. travler. 7/26/13 5:13 PM
ASP 

If you insist on calling us LOSERS,  can you please at least spell it correctly?

LOSERS not LOOSERS

Thanks a bunch!
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 7/26/13 6:11 PM
Not REALLY Sure what happen to you ASP but that is a sour response, those types of comments keep me away from just trying to help for FREE.... We all do our best in this community even we don't get to taste the special Google Koolaid but we have worked with so many site reviews as well clients working through many of the same things you guys are posting.. Google is making things hard, and if you are penalized even harder to re rank.. HOWEVER "YES" It is possible but very difficult to get rid of all the junk that you have in the closet...

Again I ask why are you so UPSET, my ASP buddy???
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 7/26/13 6:29 PM
My guess is that this free forum is taking food (clients) away from him and he is jealous.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. ASP_Net_Programmer 7/27/13 6:20 PM
William Rock i know why you are helping here free (you call it helping but i never saw any help other than some mechanical issues etc)


one of the very favorite top loser
confessed that she were auditing like 500 pages websites for 5k $ :D

here what you do is find 1 mistake and tell webmaster that this mistake took your whole site down
what a joke

and on another thing say google uses 200+ parameters or 500+ parameters etc

whether you accept or not, google results keep getting worse
because rather than ranking sites on how good they are, rank them based on how less penalty they have

also force small sites to use adwords

these are 2 new extremely failing strategies of google

and hey stevie i don't have any clients and i never had :)
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 7/27/13 6:50 PM
ASP, I gotta wonder .... no clients because nobody wants to work with you.... or... no clients because you don't perform work for others ?


PS:

You fell right into the no client joke.  Sorry in advance if you take offense.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 7/27/13 9:52 PM
Well ASP, thank you for answering my question... If that is what you think that is fine, it does not hurt my feelings as I have helped many people in this forum... And will continue doing so, if technical is not looked at then what else would you suggest for a quick site audit, we see many things and some of the technical stuff in this case was what I saw first so I posted it... Other times it could be just duplicate content or something else, who really knows what google is truly doing.

We can only go after what we have seen personally as well what Google releases as in information about an update.. Most of what we see are bad link profiles first more than just onpage issues but I normally start at the backlinks first when someone talks about traffic drops around certain dates provided by the person we are reviewing.. 

I don't claim to know all the answers but when you see similar patterns you have a good idea what happen and then it is time for a full site audit by a professional most of the time, people who post here normally take that information back to their team and put together a plan to improve the site..

I am sure sometimes we are wrong ... Sorry you don't seem to like TC's as I am not one but stick to this part of the community because I feel I have been providing good information... And Sometimes I can be wrong and at least I can learn from it and move on. 

Again, Thank You ASP for pointing out our flaws.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Steven Lockey 7/29/13 2:11 AM
>>Most UGC websites, including mine, get traffic from "long tail keywords". 

So are you now receiving hits from less long tail keywords..... or have a smaller number of more popular keywords dropped off. 
Yes I presented the generic scenario.

You can also use broad-match to gather up more generic information about the search results from adwords. 

So yes  I can't give full comprehensive advice because I don't have access to your analytics ;) Also I don't have the time to give full advice, I'm just saying it feels like the analysis so far as been a bit half-baked.

You can do a straight import of your keywords list from analytics to a rank checker tool to get an average ranking as well, which should give you some indication of what is going on. (No-one saw me suggest a rank checker! Honest!) :)

Now it may well turn out to be a Google update the favours forums less, or it may just be due to the simple nature of forums that the content tends to be less focused than on a good article and tends to contain more low-quality content even when the high-quality content is fantastic.

I'm just saying there is more information you could gather about this problem that might help you solve it or at least stop you from going off at a tangent wasting energy trying to fix something that isn't the issue.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/29/13 3:11 AM
First off, I'm always saddened when I see users like ASP rail against people in such a dismissive and insulting manner. This is a complex subject and it's hard enough to discern who's trying to help and who's just reacting on instinct - without trolling like that.

My initial post, if you read back - was a little 'heated'. I initially received a few 'reactionary' posts, and tried to keep my calm. I always expect people to understand who I am, what i've achieved and what i'm capable of - which is a silly (arrogant) mistake.

Whether you guys understand this or not, it's just MY OPINION: I'm convinced this was not a decision based on user-feedback or metrics. I have 100,000s of ACTIVE users that chose us because we spent years caring about them and the goal of helping students.

(My opinion) The world is currently going through a lot of big changes, and companies like Google will shoot themselves in the foot. If it hasn't affected you yet, it will most likely.

(My opinion) A large part of the intelligent world wants 'open source' stuff, decentralised stuff - and Google is not that. Time will tell, but you'll see the fall of many of these companies over the next 10 years. Nobody ever sees it coming, but it's decisions like this (taxing the peasants) that always causes it. 

We may not be silicon valley, but we're a lot more powerful - as we're a crowd. 

Good luck to all, whatever your opinion - i sincerely wish you all the best.

Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Ashley 7/29/13 7:39 AM
Hey ASP - If you're going to be an ass, at least get your facts straight.

one of the very favorite top loser confessed that she were auditing like 500 pages websites for 5k $ :D
He's referring to me, y'all. 

YES! I used to do audits. Depending on site size, they'd range anywhere from $1,200 to $6,000. 
WHY? I like to support my family. Also - that price range, for completely customized non-automated full-site audits is a pretty good deal. 

In addition to the paid audits I did for big clients, I always started with an offer of FREE help. I offer free help here, and have for years. I also ran a meetup in North Carolina where I helped hundreds of local small businesses on a monthly basis, for free. It's still running and still helping people - look it up if you're interested. 

I did this because I honestly believe in giving back and helping where you can and I have a passion for small business - coming from a family that has owned many. However, I also believe that the larger companies that so request paid help are open to me as well. Are you honestly claiming that I should never work for money? What kind of f**ked up logic is that?

In all, my free/donated help has outpaced paid help in this area by an exponential amount. Further, I haven't accepted a paid audit in two years. In fact, this year I was trading some consulting work for - brace yourself - donations to my favorite charities or trade for local business (like a pint at the bar). Can you believe me? I'm HORRIBLE!

GET OVER YOURSELF. 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Ashley 7/29/13 7:40 AM
Hitchhiker - awful sorry to hijack the thread a pinch. It's not fair - but ASP has been hijacking dozens of threads a day with no other purpose than to tell them that the people here, especially the TCs, are losers and no one should listen to them. It's a colossal waste of energy. 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Steven Lockey 7/29/13 7:57 AM
Hes just a butt-hurt troll Ashley, don't worry, we all love you still :)
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. northofthecity 7/29/13 8:18 AM
@ Ashley:

You're from North Carolina???

No wonder you are very kind and patient with people who deserve neither patience nor kindness.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Ashley 7/29/13 8:23 AM
Steven - you're a gentleman and a scholar. :)

North - I was living in NC for a while. Originally from Utah. Then Massachusetts, Florida, then NC, now Colorado. It's been an adventurous decade or so. 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. northofthecity 7/29/13 8:26 AM
"I was living in NC for a while. Originally from Utah. Then Massachusetts, Florida, then NC, now Colorado. It's been an adventurous decade or so. "

Ah... well, travel makes the mind grow wider, right??? (I think that is how the saying goes.)
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. northofthecity 7/29/13 8:31 AM
But back to hitchhiker (the original poster's) predicaments for a moment:

There are 6 pages of comments and replies here, so I might have missed this, but:

1) Do we know specifically what keywords are generating less traffic?

and:

2) Do we know specifically what keywords generate the most revenue for his site?

(I am not sure if his revenue model allows for different values for differing keywords.)

Because when I look at his site, I see a site that is VERY useful, well liked, and if anything is probably UNDER-optimized in terms of structure and text.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. northofthecity 7/29/13 8:50 AM
For example:

A very useful page seems to be this one:

"English pronunciation and accent reduction"

However, I don't know how beneficial that title is. :(

Are there a lot of people searching for "English" and "accent reduction" in the same query??? (Maybe there are, I don't know myself).

What is the click-through rate in the SERPs for a title like that?

Is google displaying your meta description in the SERPs under your link??? I hope NOT!!!:

"Welcome To Our Brand New English Pronunciation And Accent Reduction Section! We also have a large collection of pronunciation videos. Try pointing your"

That's NOT a typo; the meta description ends right at "try pointing your'" instead of ending at the end of a sentence.

I understand that having a compelling meta description is not going to help the original poster with their RANKINGS.

However, having a well-written, compelling meta description CAN help the original poster with their CLICK-THROUGH RATES, which, for the short term, will hopefully allow him to better maximize the value of whatever ranking positions he does hold.

~~~~~~

Also, one thing I am clueless about (and I apologize if I missed this); it says to Log-In for no ads, but I am NOT logged in and I don't see any ads. 

Did the owner recently remove their ads in order to diagnose possible problems with his site???

Again, I apologize if I missed this.

~~~~~~~

And one other thing, and I don't know how I feel about this:

Is it possible that the facebook comments are counterproductive???

Firstly, because they are facebook comments, they have to be short... and short is OFTEN not really all that useful.

A page as good as the one that I linked to above DESERVES better comments that:

"trying..........."
"its very important."

and, my favorite for an English language instruction site:

"Very nice To learn In English grammatically."

I am not trying to rub your nose in it. But I am asking a serious question: would it be better for your site if you had a different method of allowing comments - which would probably be primarily questions - which would allow you to respond with answers to their questions.

And one more thing about facebook questions:

Because those facebook comments - to the best of my knowledge - also appear on facebook itself, could that possibly be considered duplicate content??? 

Again, I am hoping my comments help and don't actually muddy the waters instead.


Re: The SE_Expert/MasterOfPuppets Thread: Diary of an Angry Fail SEO ASP_Net_Programmer 7/29/13 9:40 AM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. travler. 7/29/13 9:50 AM
*LOSERS
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. StevieD_Web 7/29/13 10:11 AM
fortunately your opinion is in the minority
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 7/29/13 10:41 AM
@northofthecity - With all due respect I am not going to explain this again. I just explained where these types of sites lost their traffic, see this:

https://productforums.google.com/d/msg/webmasters/T-4i0yB7CrQ/oU-Xa_u1VlMJ

What I will post however is a list of websites that all seem to have been hit, and have continued to slide. If you can find what is in common with all of these websites, then you might have a clue to what is going on here. The only thing I can find in common with all of these websites, is that they are all UGC websites, that is, users who create much of the content throughout the website. Some sites have great moderation teams in place to remove spam or bad content. While some may have an annoying popup, most don't. While some may have links to other sites, most don't. While some may have too many ads above the fold, most don't. While some may have a UI you hate, I am sure you will find a few that you like. While some may have problem XYZ, most don't. My point is, unless I am overlooking something, the ONLY thing these sites have in common is that they all have content that is produced by its users. Here is the list of sites from what I can tell are having the problem as described by hitchiker in this thread (some are big, some are small, relatively they all lost around the same):

englishforums.com
daniweb.com
webmasterworld.com
warriorforum.com
avforums.com
hotscripts.com
ozzu.com
digitalpoint.com
overclockers.com
dbforums.com
mac-forums.com
officialfan.proboards.com
forums.bit-tech.net
v7n.com
petri.co.il
forums.wordpress.com
freelancer.com
forums.phpfreaks.com
forums.devshed.com
linuxforums.org
linuxquestions.org
unix.com
phpbb.com
proboards.com
mybb.com
invisionpower.com
vbulletin.com
vbulletin.org

The list goes on and on. I really could keep posting more URLs, just look up your favorite forum / user community by a topic you are interested in and you will likely find sites who are being hurt very badly.

My point here, is I think its possible there is a deliberate attack against UGC sites by Google algo, OR, Google introduced something in their algorithm that may have inadvertently affected these types of websites without Google knowing. I think the main point of this thread was to see if Google could clarify either way, not to have the users of this forum diagnose that problem XYZ is what is causing all of your traffic loss, because I really don't think there is anything that can be done here except give up on these types of websites. It would make it easier for me to move on if I knew that Google thinks UGC websites are bad, and if they don't, why are so many of us being punished. We are all in the dark, its a guessing game, and in the meantime many of us are having to make a choice between giving up and starting different types of sites, or reworking the sites to see if that can have any affect.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/29/13 10:42 AM
Hey @northofthecity

First off, thanks for taking the time to have a look through the site!
..and thanks for your kind comments, we tried hard to make it a friendly community and a helpful place for our visitors.

/content/promo/english-pronunciation-and-accent-reduction.htm

We don't get any real traffic from pages like that - I think we have 15 of them in all, out of around 1 million pages. The most we ever got was around 2 million views on this page: http://www.englishforums.com/content/humour/paraprosdokians.htm - we don't run ads on those.

Is it possible that the facebook comments are counterproductive???

Yes. They are awful, I hate them - I would love to remove them, and probably will. (not working on the site anymore though)

"Very nice To learn In English grammatically."

hehe, yeah - in fact I think part of our problem lies here. We are an EFL (non-native speaker) centric venue - half our content starts like that. Learners often are simply trying their best to communicate, we're one of the few sites that let them do that without 'blocking' them. It's a tough compromise, our teachers correct 'the worst of it' - but generally it was decided long ago that we would allow them to feel free enough to post 'as best they could'. I'm sure we're penalised for that.

 meta description

If you look back earlier in this thread you'll see why our little volunteer site has to use 'automatic' meta descriptions. Basically a 'snippet' of the original post. We've now removed that, and don't use meta-desc at all. It was always a 'hack'. Either way, it's not optimizable in any meaningful way in our context. If we're also penalised for that, nothing much we can do. Can't ask our volunteers to go through 1/2 million posts just to keep a bot happy :)

In summary, those articles constitute a tiny percent of our site - they're just there for fun. Even if we were first for all those phrases, it would be meaningless to our site, and just be a drain on our resources. The site needs students trying to learn english, it's not really interested in anything else.

probably UNDER-optimized in terms of structure and text.

We've deliberately avoided any kind of serious optimisation, since 2002 we focused entirely on what our clients wanted and needed. We really did!! Which is why this all 'hurt' us so much -> we had felt we were the 'good guys' :)

re ads

We only show ads on one page (the top of the post page) - we don't like ads, and tried to restrict them as much as possible. Not enough though, we'd have loved to get rid of them.

Cheers,
Frank.



Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Lysis 7/29/13 12:48 PM
lol @ freelancer.com the place to buy crappy links next to fiverr.
lol @ warriorforums and digitalpoint.

Wasn't devshed the ones with annoying huge blocks of ads at the top? I see they've removed them?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Ben Griffiths 7/29/13 1:09 PM
I think its possible there is a deliberate attack against UGC sites by Google algo, OR, Google introduced something in their algorithm that may have inadvertently affected these types of websites without Google knowing.

From looking at that list I'd say,

"sites which became too powerful in the index thanks to the long history of massive volumes of linking that goes on within them, so had to be dialled back, which flowed through the algorithm both up and down"

Or something. Maybe Google just wants the internet to be a bit less geeky, so it can stuff it into your eyeballs more easily. 
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. northofthecity 7/30/13 2:07 PM
Hi again, Frank:

Thanks for the response.

Again, i really want to convey that I think you have a very helpful site. Since my wife is not a native English speaker (do you think anyone would actually marry me if they could understand what I was saying???), I am going to try and get her to work through some of the various pronunciation guides.

I have tried to follow along through the 6 pages of comments here. It is tough to keep track. Some people seem to be trying to help your cause, some seem more interested in pushing their own dogmas.

I don't know how helpful this is. I want you to keep a positive attitude, but it seems to me that google is definitely  favoring brands or "authority" over semantic matching in the search results. 

I wish I had a suggestion or two for you, but I am stuck, too:

the only thing that I could think of would be something that would probably be out of reach in terms of your resources.

What i think would be GREAT is if there was some way for you to somehow group together different forum threads that relate to a particular subject.

For instance, say if there was a way to group together all threads on subject-verb agreement. So maybe there was a "category" page of subject very agreement and it linked to active threads dealing with it.

I don't know if this line of thinking is going to help though. In the end, what you need are probably lots of natural links. It's unfortunate that your audience (who LOVES your site) are not the type of people who would BLOG about your site using dofollow links.

I hope for sites like yours, google will get better at understanding the demographics of the users, and will see that your site is going to get LOTS more social media interest than interest from, say, bloggers. Hence, you would hope that for sites like yours, google would pay MORE attention to your social signals.

I hope this helps. I'm rooting for you.

Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 7/30/13 3:22 PM
@northofthecity

Thank you so much for that post - it really (even in this extreme digital world) is great to hear considered feedback. Your suggestion (the category page) - is actually spot on, we were in the middle of that. It was part of a larger push to slowly organise the millions of posts into a 'compendium' of resources. Unfortunately it will likely never happen now - which is a shame. Originally it was just a Q&A site, we wanted to find a way to properly index (not SEO index) the millions of hours of resources.

Re: Quality etc - The first indication of all this 'happening' was watching my competition die away suddenly - they were mainly replaced by 'yahoo answers' - so yep, as much as I didn't want to believe it -> Google got it totally wrong in our little niche industry.

I'm now directing my resources and time at less 'charitable' stuff. It's a shame, if things ever change - or we find a better way of indexing knowledge - i'll try again.

Thanks again man; that was a nice break from the typical vibe! :D

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. John deg 9/18/13 6:22 AM
I realize this was posted 4 months ago, but I just wanted to chime in. 

I own a couple vbulletin forums that were hit in Nov 2012 with a panda update. Since since I have made several changes to my forum pages and surrounding pages. I've straight up eliminated an entire section of the site, cleaned up the code/css, pruned old threads based on replies, age, and views, carefully eliminated a lot of errors, and put member and tag pages in robots.txt. I also hired writers to supplement content.  Mind you that I've had vbseo installed since it first came out, so I never had a lot of duplicate content or erroneous pages to begin with.

Even after all of these changes I've seen nearly no rebound from Google. In fact, traffic continues to go down. 

I think I'm at the point where I have to accept that Google is never going to treat forums the way they used to. They are favoring news type blogs and putting heavy favor on authors with credibility in their niche. Google is even starting to turn off author markup for forums. (see this thread for more info on that: http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!mydiscussions/webmasters/ms5VaHN3clo)


John deg 9/18/13 3:04 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Spam collector thread John deg 9/18/13 3:06 PM <This message has been deleted.>
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 9/18/13 11:39 PM
_____I POSTED THIS ELSEWHERE, BUT IT'S PROBABLY RELEVANT HERE_____

Just jumped back in to say a couple of things:

1) Before 'the panda ghost update nov 2012'  our traffic was around unique 180k visitors a day.
2) By Aug 6th it had slowly dropped to 80k a day.
3) After that date it began a rapid recover, we're now at 140k

I am extremely technical (not being a douche, there's a reason I mention this). After having been a developer for 30+ years, and working on the internet since 1994 - there was nothing I could see 'wrong' enough with my site to justify the traffic change. I came here and asked questions, there were some useful suggestions that I implemented. Nothing changed, but I didn't expect it would.

I removed some pages from the index (that had little impact on the site), and disavowed some links in the Goog tool.

I did absolutely nothing else. I still have author tags, that point from posts to user profile pages. And a plethora of other things that make sense. I never spam either my users or the search engines.

I must make this clear - when things like this happen, just wait. If you can see the data doesn't add up, just wait. It is possible that Google simply 'missed' something in a quiet update they did around that time. They have since corrected it.

I hope everybody affected recovers, but most of all - never depend on Google for our livelihood - it just isn't wise. I've learnt that this time around, I'll never be dependent on a single source again.

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 9/19/13 3:56 AM
Thanks for the update, Frank!  So, if I'm reading correctly, you saw an increase around August 7th?  Dani said she saw an increase but that was around Sept. 4th.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Suzanneh 9/19/13 3:57 AM
>>never depend on Google for our livelihood - it just isn't wise. I've learnt that this time around, I'll never be dependent on a single source again.

^^ This.

Suzanne
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 9/20/13 1:22 PM
Hey Suzanne - thanks!

Yep, we saw a sudden reversal-of-fortune around the 6th-7th. To recap - we had never been hit by any panda/penguin (always benefitted) until nov 19th (ghost 21.5) update. 

No updates or schedules ever affected us, we never experienced spikes or drops at the same time as were recorded by the SEO community. During the Panda days we almost doubled in size, during penguin we continued a steady increase. 

We dropped steadily from nov -> aug 6th (also my birthday!) -> The change has been significant, we're at about 150k a day now, almost back to where we began.

Regardless, everything has changed - and we'll no longer be relying on Google for traffic or monetisation from here on. What we get we'll be grateful for, and never base any long term decisions around it. Seems kinda' obvious in retrospect :D

Cheers,
Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. William Rock 9/21/13 9:43 AM
Frank, I was wondering how things were going.. Thx for the update it sounds like things are starting to rebound for you. That is Great News!
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 9/21/13 11:44 AM
Cheers William! Fingers crossed the others recover soon too..

Frank.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. dethfire 9/21/13 11:47 AM
I recovered to about 70%.  However today is looking unpredictably bad.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Lysis 9/21/13 11:50 AM
It's the end of MCAT testing for the year https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/reserving/261800/deadlineandscorerelease.html

Doesn't it stop until January again? I would suspect that your site gets seasonal spikes and drops, no?
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. dethfire 9/21/13 11:57 AM
very much so.  all my homework and school content is doing well as predicted, but random stuff is still low.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 9/26/13 2:56 PM
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. Bigwebmaster 9/26/13 3:13 PM
I saw that as well today. Since the beginning of September my forum is up 70%, and I think it is related to this, and every week it continues to climb as of this writing. Still a ways off to being back where I was before last November, but its a good feeling to know the ship isn't taking on water anymore.
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 9/26/13 3:27 PM
I'm so glad to hear that - you've been a steady voice of common sense throughout all this! 

Congrats,
Frank.

btw: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101191348702759015734/posts - I think I have you in a circle, but not sure.
Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. ecollier2012 9/26/13 4:40 PM
Frank, were down 75% in sales also due to google never ending changes. Every month it seems to just get worse and worse even after doing hundreds of changes to our ecommerce sites.  The search results also are now worse than ever...I realize this is not their intent but it is the result..
Re: Google, I've been with you since the 90s. At least read this. hitchhiker 9/27/13 1:40 AM
Hi ecollier,

Sorry to hear that - this discussion mainly concerned large UGC sites with traffic >100k a day etc and the strange update around nov 19th 2012 that hit us all indiscriminately. Nothing much re: SEO was off, we were mainly 'pre-2010 guideliners' who had mostly avoided big SEO in favour of 'fair SERPS'.

Avoid SEO at all costs, make great content and simple, fast and clean sites - pray that Google doesn't screw up.
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