Do You Care About Google Glitches?

Some people are saying that Google #6 issue was just a glitch and not a penalty or a filter. And sure, according to Google's current classification, that change was a glitch.

But lots of glitches have commonalities amongst the sites that were hit. Like many of the sites that got hit by that #6 profile were in some ways stale. And perhaps stale was just a symptom of dated SEO strategy.

You can learn from glitches, because many times glitches show you where and how Google is trying to shape the web. Glitches are side effects of algorithms with a targeted intent, but with too many unintended consequences and/or casualties.

Look back a couple years, and at one point in time SEO Book was not ranking for SEO Book while Paypal was not ranking for Paypal. Add on a bit more market feedback from other sites that were hit and it seemed sites were getting filtered out for having their anchor text too well aligned. That glitch was fixed in a few days to a month (depending on how far over the line your site was and how important your brand was) but the underlying idea of whacking sites for having anchor text that was too focused was indeed a direction the algorithms moved.

Look back a few years more to the Florida update. Some people called pieces of it a glitch or thought that the whole thing needed to be undone. Sometimes lowering the keyword proximity of a page title that was not in the search results brought it back to ranking. And yes the update was too aggressive and they had to back off of it. But filtering out unnatural copy was indeed a direction the algorithm moved.

Glitches reveal engineer intent. And they do it early enough that you have time to change your strategy before your site is permanently filtered or banned. When you get to Google's size, market share, and have that much data, glitches usually mean something.

Published: January 29, 2008 by Aaron Wall in internet


Chris Peters
January 29, 2008 - 6:34pm

Thanks for giving us a clear synopsis of the situation, Aaron. I'm glad that I wasn't really affected by the glitch, but I'm even more glad that we all can learn from it.

January 30, 2008 - 8:06am

My site had dropped off to #6... I did some changes and now my site is #7. :-(

I guess that the changes I did were negative. I surely thought this issue was a true penalty. But, ok, I understand this could be a test for the future.

January 30, 2008 - 2:39pm

So what is the take away message of this glitch? Something to do with unnatural backlinks?

January 30, 2008 - 3:25pm

I would say there is some obvious indications for phrase based filters, unnatural link profiles, stale sites, sites with on page too aligned across large sections of the site, and any other sites that may have been accidentally dinged.

January 30, 2008 - 2:56pm

"Glitches reveal engineer intent."

So if Crysis crashes my Vista, I should assume that Crytek intented to crash my system to "encourage" me to buy a new motherboard?

If you spend enough time coding, you'll realize bugs are usually just that - bugs - with no ill-intent whatsoever.

Aaron, you bring up a good point - glitches *can* reveal engineer intent. But in cases where intent reveals itself, are we really dealing with a glitch in the system or a knob adjusted too high?

January 30, 2008 - 3:27pm

Before algorithms go live on the WWW for a month at a time I have to believe Google had done some testing. Thus what we saw appears more like a knob than a glitch to me, IMHO.

January 30, 2008 - 4:03pm

Aaron, any comment on the latest 'glitch' which appears to be affecting newer sites that recently lost their keyword positions on but still look OK on the other DCs? WMW thread here:

Latest Google Glitch

January 30, 2008 - 4:08pm

Hi Odin
I have not looked at that enough to determine anything of value. I am still uncertain as to what is going on with that one.

January 30, 2008 - 5:05pm

I am sure you are busy but if you are interested in seeing an example I can send you my URL, I am definitely affected by this latest one. :( P...
January 31, 2008 - 3:40pm

All, yesterday I sphunn a post based upon a theory our lead programmer had on why/how the #6 may have been introduced. It's based upon an article he came across at Yahoo News titled, "Hackers Rig Google to Deliver Malware," written by Erik Larkin - PC World.

His theory, although purely anecdotal, is very interesting and really got me thinking.

January 31, 2008 - 8:07pm

Not sure if that would be it because I think they would test and/or label potential malware sites. My site that got hit did have JavaScript on it though.

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