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Editor's Blog

Google's June 27th/July 27th update punishing good sites

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Monday, July 31, 2006]
On June 27th web publishers across the web woke up to discover their websites suddenly getting buried deep in Google's SERPs. Like so many others I was like come on, it?s the same old Google Dance vs. SEO (search engine optimization) arms race. SEO spammers try to game Google to get their lame MFA (made for AdSense) websites into top search pages for high advertising value search terms. Then Google does an update and those same sites tumble back down.

Year in and year out I have lectured the same line. If one wants to consistently do well in Google's search results, stop trying to game the system and focus on creating compelling and original content. The motto "original content is king" has served me well for over ten years. That is until July 27th....

One thing people can not accuse my site EnvironmentalChemistry.com of is lacking original or compelling content. For what will be eleven years come this October, I have labored away at creating mountains upon mountains of environmental chemistry related resources and original articles. Since the early days of Google my site has always done very well in Google's search results and new pages frequently climb rapidly to a respectable search position for related search terms. Like a locomotive building up a head of steam, I'd produce articles and resources, Google would index that content, and traffic would increase resulting in higher ad revenues. Higher ad revenues allowed me to pay more money for articles, which attracted better writers, which helped build status and credibility to my site.

Then came that fateful morning on July 27, 2006 when I awoke to discover the river of traffic to my site had turned into a trickle. To my horror my labor of love had fallen victim to a Google update and my pages relegated to very undesirable search positions. I don't know exactly what happened and my site has never fallen so far in search results. All I know is that suddenly a pure content site, that was started long before Google had come out of beta, had been lumped in with modern day MFA spam.

If there were ever a prime example of a Google update gone bad, EnvironmentalChemistry.com is that example.. There are no SEO tricks, no cloaking, no keyword stuffing, no link exchanges. There is just pure hard work and dedication to produce the highest quality content possible. It is the type of site that Google says it wants web publishers to produce Over years my site has attracted thousands if not tens of thousands of links and around 100,000 webpages beyond my control make reference of my site. It has even attracted countless links from .GOV, .MIL. and .EDU type sites.

I'm sure that in time my site will recover and regain its rightful position in Google's SERPs (search engine results pages), but in the mean time my primary source of income has been cut off and this will severely hurt my ability to pay writers to write new articles for my site. How I ask you, does burying a high quality site while junk MFA and content spam sites flourish in Google's search results serve the user?

Google is in a monopoly position and as such they have an obligation to tread lightly as they update their search algorithms. Countless small to medium web publishers like me make their living producing original content that users want to read and any massive fluctuation in Google's search results even if only for a few weeks can have a devastating impact. If independent voices like mine are to flourish, we must have a stable and predictable environment upon which we can rely on. Search results will fluctuate over time, I can accept this, but that fluctuation should never be so drastic that a site loses 80% of its traffic literally overnight.

Google has a social obligation to ensure that in their process of trying to weed out search engine spam they don't create so turbulent of search results that small players can not survive the unpredictability. They also have an obligation not to punish innocent publishers in their effort to get rid of the spammers.

After about 45 days of being in the "dog house" with Google our search positions and traffic levels recovered virtually overnight in mid September 2006.


NOTICE: Comments are user generated feedback and do not represent the views and/or opinions of EnvironmentalChemistry.com.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about that.

I remember seeing your chemistry site long ago and it was ranked number one google for 'environmental chemistry' but not anymore. Sucks.

Anonymous said...

As bad as I feel for what's happened, do you feel that it's their obligation to rank you on top?

It's not their obligation to put you or anyone on the first page.

If you lose the first spot or I lose my first spot, then so be it. it's not our right to be list #1.

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

I agree that no one has a "right" to be placed on the first page. When I'm referring to "rightful spot" I'm referring to how my pages would have appeared in the SERPs without screwy bans or "bad data pushes". We are talking about pages that have been on or near page one of Google's search index since before Google came out of beta back in 1999 that have now fallen to page 4, 5 or lower. Even a domain name change didn't affect their positions.

I can accept occasional fluctuations; however, isn't a "natural" attrition due to the gradual lose of relevance, what we are seeing here is the wholesale deranking of an entire site covering scores of common search phrases. To put it another way, some criteria Google uses to punish and bury spam sites caught my site and placed a site wide penalty on it.

My site isn't the only good content site this has happened to, it just happens to be the best example of this I know about. Something was broken by Google's last update and the impacts that is having on honest hard working web publishers is devastating.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. I had similar incidents with Google in the past update. I had a PR6 blog that went to PR0 while the pages inside remained at PR5!

Now I don't know how to explain that.

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