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Thursday, December 18th, 2003

Google Update :: Do they Know it's Christmas Time at All?

 

It has been exactly one month since Google introduced its infamous Florida Update. As the Florida Update has brought about the largest and most comprehensive shake-up of Google’s listings ever, it has generated a great deal of interest around the world and genuine panic for the literally millions of webmasters who’s sites have been adversely affected by the change.

Not much has changed in the past week. We have noticed that Google seemed to stabilize last week but this week, the returns pages seem to be bouncing all over the place again. A couple of developments have occurred that are worth noting though.

At last week’s Search Engine Strategy Conference in Chicago, WebProNews Webmaster Garrett French elicited a brief acknowledgement and apology from Google’s Senior Research Scientist, Craig Nevill-Manning. When pressed about the effect of Google’s algorithm switch on small businesses, Nevill-Manning said, “I apologize for the roller coaster. We’re aware that changes in the algorithm affect people’s livelihoods. We don’t make changes lightly.” As Garrett said, “that’s good to know”, but if you think your post-Christmas expense bill will be a shock, imagine what the small online retailers will face in January and February.

Many of the sites that disappeared in mid-November have reappeared but not in the prominent placements they had enjoyed before Florida was applied. StepForth’s site, for instance was oscillating between the #2 and #6 spot under the phrase “search engine placement”. The site dropped out of the Top1000 shortly in mid-November and has since resurfaced at positions #42, 48 & 52 over the past week.

There is still a great deal of SPAM and irrelevant listings appearing in the Top10 under most commercial keyword phrases. We continue to see Top10 listings that break several anti-spam rules posted by Google. A search of various data centers and ranking-servers shows that this trend is not expected to end in the coming two weeks.

Finally, we are starting to see search engine users moving away from Google. This is more than the wishful thinking that was floating about at the end of November; numbers from the website statistics company, Alexa show that both Yahoo and MSN are increasing in user popularity while Google is showing slight declines. We think this means that the users are perceiving problems in Google’s listings, both out of personal frustration and because the “experts” are noting the problems at Google with increasing frequency. Whatever the cause, Page and Brin and Co, must be aware of the symptoms and should be feeling some disease as searchers, businesses and webmasters are suffering.

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