If your website’s rankings in Google dropped around November 10, 2016, it may be the result of an error in Google’s algorithm. We’ve discovered an easy, temporary fix until they get this fixed.
On November 10, 2016, we noticed ranking decreases in Google’s search results for a few of our client’s websites, test sites, and our agency websites. These inexplicable drops were from roughly ten to forty spots. We couldn’t figure out if it was an algorithm update, a web host these sites are hosted on being down or a Google penalty.
Of the sites that dropped, they ranged dramatically in what had been done. Some were new clients and authority sites that only had on-site search engine optimization (SEO) done; some had been ranking at the top of the first page for years, and some were actively having links built. The authority site we manage dropped over 40 spots and a new website, with only on-site SEO completed, dropped ten positions. There was inconsistent evidence as to why the sites had ranking decreases when we based it upon SEO practices.
During the next few days, we were researching what the issue could be as it’s important to our clients and us. We looked at Google’s search result pages and saw a strange date appearing in the meta information for all of these sites. The screenshot below is one of our new clients that just had their website built two months ago. They dropped 11 spots for their keyword.
Look at the date above. Why would it say “Sep 10, 2013” when a new website was built two months ago for our client?
We analyzed that site, our other clients, and our test sites to figure out where the date was coming from and discovered it was the embedded YouTube video on each page. The video on this site was uploaded on September 10, 2013. The authority site had a video embedded that was uploaded in 2012. The upload dates matching the dates in Google’s search results made us assume that Google was pulling the meta date data from the embedded YouTube video and reading it as if the site hadn’t been updated since 2013 (or 2012 for the other site). In fact, all of the sites had meta dates older than two years old.
You may wonder “Why would that matter?” Google has website “freshness” as a small part of their algorithm, and immediately we assumed that Google might be thinking these sites have old information and mistakenly given them a “Google Slap” for lack of fresh content. Of course, we can only assume that at this point.
We removed the video embedded on some the sites and re-submitted each website to get crawled by Google using their search console tool. We didn’t remove the video on a few sites to use those as test comparisons.
Less than twenty-four hours later, we’ve seen a recovery for many search terms on the sites that we’ve removed the old videos from. There has been no recovery on the other sites which didn’t have videos removed. We even resubmitted these sites to Google’s search console with the old videos embedded to be crawled at the same time. We expect to see a recovery for all search terms within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
Have a look at the graphs below that will show you the drop and recovery. All three had the video removed and the page resubmitted to Google.
The ranking decreases and meta date information from YouTube videos has to be an error in Google’s algorithm, as it shouldn’t be penalizing sites with older videos on them when the content has been updated consistently. Now this didn’t happen to every site that had an old video. It’s almost like Google realized it after it had crawled and indexed some websites last week.
For the time being, we are removing videos from websites where these ranking decreases occurred on that date. Google may very well fix this when they crawl sites and update their indexes again in a very short period of time. But, for the time being, this is likely the best temporary fix.