The July and August 2012 Crash of Elsmar

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#41
Re: Notice to All Visitors - Significant Drop in Google Search Rankings - August 2012

Jennifer - I appreciate the feedback.

Yes - It has been improving some since last week. Today it looks pretty good.

I do think part of this is the popularity of "social" sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ and Google is pushing it in search results. Those of you who have accounts on one or more of these social site will be helping if you (for example) +1 good threads and such.

I don't think Elsmar will ever regain it's January 2011 peak, but one never knows.

@gavinjordan - It might have played a part, but it coincided with the 25 JULY 2012 Panda/Penguin "refresh", and I would find it hard to believe a site like this would nose dive as it did in such a short time (practically over night). The other aspect is several people here, including me, were checking Google search results for things that ranked pretty high here in the past. We found that results from Elsmar had virtually disappeared from the rankings for many previously high ranking terms for a couple weeks. I will agree it was probably a combination of things which included the Olympics.

BTW - Labor Day is coming up in the US next Monday so I expect a significant drop starting Thursday/Friday just as happens at 4th of July and Thanksgiving/Christmas. September and October will be when we really know what "recovery" we will see here.
I can also vouch that I have been giving a reference to this site for those who want to find me, or other allies to talk with outside the immediate workplace. One of them said they already knew about us, which seems encouraging. :) Others industriously marked down the web site name upon hearing about the diverse set of attachments that could offer them solutions at best, and ideas at worst. It's a big deal; many people out there really do feel isolated in a building where few seem to understand what "makes them tick."
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#42
Re: Notice to All Visitors - Significant Drop in Google Search Rankings - August 2012

Technically both Panda and Penguin are both search algorithm changes, not a new search engine per se.

Thanks for the link. I appreciate it. I have been reading about both for the last 3 weeks. My "problem" is I haven't done SEO in several years or more. I had to "jump back into SEO", so to speak, and get up to speed with what is current.

This is a link Sidney put in a post in the moderator's thread about the "dive" here (I put it in a thread above but copied it from Sidney's original mod forum post). I think it pretty well sums it up.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3000283/seo-isnt-what-you-think-it

Do remember: There is a *big* difference between what Elsmar is vs. a company or person's web site with a very focused topic vs. a "Mom and Pop" web e-commerce operation. This is NOT to say getting involved in the "social" network scene isn't important - It is. I only mention this because there are many different types of web sites.

Here is one post of many in a thread on a webmaster forum I follow:
post in a thread elsewhere said:
It has been my theory since Penguin first landed that G just screws with the SERPS so we all have to dump a bunch of $$ into AdWords to keep our companies afloat. All of my sites have been hit, my most important sites have dropped from #1 to 4-7 for most of our main keywords. Practically putting my small Doctor's office out of business since business is down 60% now.

What is worse is that the sites ranking above ours have little information on them and have mostly blog and junk links pointing to them.

I have also noticed a huge difference in our AdWords campaign results for the last 3 months or so. I am getting a TON of clicks for very obscure key phrases and conversions are down. Campaign hasn't changed but the conversions are much lower then before.

If something doesn't change soon I will have to let the Doctor go and the employees and close up shop.
What this implies (and may be part of the reason it appears there was an algorithm "roll-back" (aka Correction Factor) last Monday) was the prior algorithm change significantly screwed up the search results people were getting.

But again - Who knows. Dealing with Google and "what Google wants" is a guessing game. For example, Matt Cuts says if you make a site with good content that people like it will be highly rated. The *reality* is unless they have an expert visit every site and rank it, how would they know what site has good content and which don't (which we all know is also subjective not to mention it would be impossible to review every site and every page that they put in their search results. They believe an algorithm will do it, but....

I also think Google has moved from it's original focus as a search engine to where it is more worried about it's phones, Chrome stuff, and in general becoming a big, diversified corporation. These days I typically use several different search engines, and very often other search engines are giving me more relevant results. Google Search isn't going to go away any time soon, but it isn't what it used to be.
 

kgott

Quite Involved in Discussions
#43
Re: Notice to All Visitors - Significant Drop in Google Search Rankings - August 2012

A serious decline in Elsmar showing in Google search results started on the 25th July 2012 and since then it appears that Google has rapidly faded Elsmar out of Google search.
.
Perhaps somebody decided that Elsmar is not in the best interests of the strategic direction someone wants to the country to go in.
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#44
It's a Conspiracy!

Perhaps somebody decided that Elsmar is not in the best interests of the strategic direction someone wants to the country to go in.
That's probably it. It's a conspiracy to get Marc --> :thedeal: (My "alter-ego"...) ;)
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#45
Re: It's a Conspiracy!

That's probably it. It's a conspiracy to get Marc --> :thedeal:
Well if it's true that clicking on the G+ button is rewarded by improved search results, it seems to me (as has already been suggested) that Google is trying to compete with Facebook. And that is disappointing. I was looking at this issue on Saturday morning and found a long list of other sites that also had the rug pulled out from under them. :mad:
 

Gert Sorensen

Forum Moderator
Moderator
#46
Re: Notice to All Visitors - Significant Drop in Google Search Rankings - August 2012

I just ran a few quick searches, and Elsmar was on page 1 of the Google results for things like:

ISO 9001 Newbie
ISO 9001 Help
ISO 13485 Question

So, it seems that whatever magic Marc is weaving, it is working :)
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#47
Re: It's a Conspiracy!

Jennifer - Yes - I considered that. There are thousands of links here in posts that could be considered "spam" in the sense that they do not particularly focus on the forum's main "topics". I *can* make all the links in posts rel="nofollow" and I have thought about doing that here. Wikipedia did some time back. I get a fair amount of Wikipedia traffic here. But if I look at a page on Wikipedia that links to here it has a rel="nofollow" tag. It *used* to be that links to "high quality, related links" was a good thing. It seems these days almost any out-bound link is spam. Technically, according to Google, I should even have rel="nofollow" tags on advertisers links here since they are (technically) "paid" links and are on every page in the header and in the sidebar.

As to Google competing with Facebook - It's plain as day. Go to a Google search results page and they now have the "option" of excluding "personal" search which you have to "opt out of". In addition, not long ago they stopped using the standard +<word> Boolean search character - The + now means "Get me search results from Google+ social site" rather than "this word *must* be present".

Google search is becoming less and less important to Google other than from the aspect of $ vs. "good results" (Google's early mission). My opinion, of course. At the same time, I understand it and Google has every right as a corporation to do business in a way they see fit. I do not think Google "owes" any web site owner a ranking, good or bad.

On my end, I will do what I can to keep Elsmar high in rankings for many search terms. There is nothing I can do to tell Google how hard we have tried, over the years, to make sure there is no spam here. And technically we have, I believe, succeeded spectacularly in large part because the mods and the community as a whole.

If will be a drastic step, but I may try making all links in posts and advertisements rel="nofollow" links.

Another aspect I am looking at is "key word stuffing". That's another story, and part of it has to do with "tags" here. I'm guessing, but I'm also looking at that.

On a lighter note, we're seeing good improvement relatively quickly:

Note: Google's "end of day" is about 3.30AM EDT.

At least I don't have to put on an adult diaper before I come in and check WMT and Analytics to see what's happening like I did for 2 weeks. :lmao:
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#48
Re: Notice to All Visitors - Significant Drop in Google Search Rankings - August 2012

<snip> So, it seems that whatever magic Marc is weaving, it is working :)
Or - They have revised their search algorithm *again*. That's the problem. You really don't know if what you're doing is "right" or not.

Also remember - There is a geographical aspect to this. Search results you see may not be what someone in Britain, or the US, or Carson City, Nevada sees for the same search term(s) or search phrase. You will also see different AdSense ads as well for the same reason.
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#50
Status as of 15 September 2012

This is a "sorta" update (meaning that there is so much going on I could not begin to list everything that is going on).

Since the "Crash" of the last week in July 2012, as most of you know, I have been spending a lot of time doing a lot of things. The short story is I don't know if it was a "manual" penalty or whether the Penguin algorithm was the real cause of the "car over the cliff" crash. I can say that I have been looking at data going back to 2004 and over the last year there has been a very gradual decline in visitors. Since I post visitor statistics once a month you can see this your self.

The reasons for the slow decline are, as far as I can tell, due to a number of factors. There is more competition on the internet, for one thing. Another thing is the forum has become more and more diverse, especially the addition of a lot of medical device related sub-forums. I myself a few years ago put in some sub-forums totally unrelated to the forum "focus", most of which I have recently removed. Those forums were an attempt to "keep" visitors here and to draw in some weekend visitors. As you can see in the site statistics, weekends here are very slow as would be expected in a "business' related forum.

The rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are also significant factors. Many folks who used to visit here more often are now finding the major "social" network sites more attractive as far as places to "hang out" in, especially on weekends. Elsmar is a "Mom & Pop" site and as what I call the "Walmartization" of the internet is beginning to kill off "Mom & Pop" sites like Elsmar. Reading in the different "webmaster" forums I am tracking this trend is very obvious.

Another factor is Google's "Auto Complete". Elsmar has long depended up "long tail" searches. Auto Complete has seriously affected many sites which depend upon "long tail" searches.

We have seen a recovery which is sufficient that it *appears* I can make fixed costs and a bit more. In short, my panic of the first 2 weeks has subsided for the most part.

On most week days (excluding Fridays) recently we have been seeing about 14,000 visitors, but it has been fluctuating quite a bit. Typically we used to see 17,000+ relatively consistently. Back in January 2011, when Elsmar "peaked", 20,000 visitors a day was relatively common.

The below is a visual which shows the "crash" and the recovery to today:


Whether this trend will continue is questionable. I have been to some degree neglecting the forum because <Excuses Ahead!> I have been focused on several "webmaster" forums trying to figure out what others are seeing and doing, and I have been spending one heck of a lot of time updating pages, working in both Google's and Bing's "Webmaster Tools", and all that goes with it.

I have also been learning a lot. I have been very lazy in keeping up with all that is new, and Elsmar is very old so let's just say I wasn't paying attention to everything that has been happening including html 5. In fact, I was using a program from 2002 (Macromedia Dreamweaver) for static html pages. Macromedia was bought out by Adobe in 2005. I recently bought the latest version of Dreamweaver which is literally forcing me to significantly update files not to mention to better understand (and begin to use) CSS. Many files, according to this version of Dreamweaver, would not render in newer versions of IE.

While the focus of the site these days is the forum, there are a lot of old html files I have had to update.

As far as the forum goes, it is OK for now. I am looking to the future, but at this point I have no plan to transition to other software.

As I said, I am doing a lot and can not begin to list everything. The best I can say at this point is the "crisis" appears to be over as to whether or not Elsmar will stay online past this coming DEC 2012. As long as I'm bringing in more than my fixed expenses, I'll keep at it on this end. But - the important part is what improvement we see between now and the end of November. The question is whether the numbers we are seeing now will continue thus defining a "new normal", or whether they will continue to increase (or dive again for that matter).

So that's the "scoop" as of today. As I said elsewhere, I'd say Elsmar is out of "ICU" but is still in "the critical care unit".
 

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