That Google Update Was Just A Bug Says Google

Apr 19, 2012 • 9:46 am | comments (36) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

No parking domainOn Tuesday, we covered a huge spike in reports about webmasters noticing their sites being drastically downgraded in Google. We asked if this was the Over optimization penalty or something else.

Matt Cutts responded on Google+ that this was not the over optimization penalty, it was a bug with their parked domain classifier. Matt said:

The short explanation is that it turns out that our classifier for parked domains was reading from a couple files which mistakenly were empty. As a result, we classified some sites as parked when they weren't.

I apologize for this; it looks like the issue is fixed now, and we'll look into how to prevent this from happening again.

Some people do not believe it was just a bug with a classifier. Some people think Google was indeed testing the over optimization penalty. Although, they are not doubting that this bug happened around the same time.

It doesn't really matter. Many of the people who complained are not back in the search results. We are still waiting for the over optimization penalty to officially hit. When it does, I am sure many SEOs and webmasters will not be happy. But I am also sure many others will be happy with their new higher rankings.

The bigger issue is that this classifier bug is not new. It happened back in June 2010 and likely happened more times before and after. This time, it seemed to affect a higher percentage of sites, whereas before it affected a smaller number of sites. Matt did say, he will do what he can to make sure it doesn't happen again.

So those 24 hours of lost rankings, lost revenue and lost traffic - well, it was a bug. Google is sorry. At least they admitted it.

Forum discussion at Google+ and WebmasterWorld.

Image from Stephen Finn/Shutterstock.

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04/19/2012 01:54 pm

I think it swings in roundabouts. I now rank 4 pages higher on around 20 keywords but my main keyword has dropped 3 places - overall, traffic has increased slightly!

Simone Luciani

04/19/2012 02:00 pm

I can confirm... my client regain all the rankings! I can sleep well tonight... after the shock :-) 

Nick Stamoulis

04/19/2012 02:02 pm

At least they admitted it! But I doubt that is little consolation to the site owners waiting for rebound from the drop.

Simon berenyi

04/19/2012 02:03 pm

It made a lot of people sharpen their awareness of the consequences that no doubt await those that have bought and scanned their way to higher rankings and this can only be good news for quality sites. I'm pleased it has happened.

SEO Expert | SEO

04/19/2012 04:37 pm

i dont think so it was bug..and i am sure that once over optimization will come with complete set,many of the seos will hurt

Michael Martinez

04/19/2012 05:15 pm

Can we PLEASE stop saying things like "we are still waiting for the over optimization penalty to hit"? I AM NOT WAITING.  Google never announced any such penalty.  And Google has certainly done some things to "level the playing field" since Matt Cutts made his cryptic remark at SxSW. So until they say, "Yup! We're rolling out an over-optimization penalty" THERE IS NO OVER OPTIMIZATION PENALTY.

Barry Schwartz

04/19/2012 05:18 pm

I am waiting. :)

Mike Kalil

04/19/2012 08:04 pm

 This. The variance between what Matt Cutts actually said and what's being reported is crazy.

Ken Fobert

04/19/2012 08:51 pm

Can we stop calling it a "Penalty"

Barry Schwartz

04/19/2012 08:52 pm



04/19/2012 09:03 pm

I caught the bug but it seems like it only affected a couple pages that aren't big traffic drivers.  I'm still hoping to get my ranking back soon.   As far as the over-optimization penalty goes...Barry, I'll wait with you. =)


04/20/2012 01:25 am

The reality is that Matt's got an engineer working on something that seems to be more than a minor shift in the search algo. It was big enough that he mentioned it at SXSW. Google underplays most of their changes (even their Panda response was very muted compared to its overall impact). I think there is some cause for concern. The big sites are going to survive to matter what... they have all of the signals in their favor. Smaller, niche sites are the ones that are constantly concerned with these types of changes. Will they have the right signals? Who knows. I'm waiting to hear Matt one day say, "We're writing an algorithm trying to find sites with the best possible quality, even where certain signals from those sites are a little weak." Right now it seems like every change Google is pursing is some type of "penalty" rather than a way to find the best quality sites/pages and promote them. I wish we heard more about the latter.... Especially for niche sites that do offer very high quality but don't have an enormous following. In the niche where I play, there are a ton of very large "branded" sites whose content is sub par and hard to navigate. But because of their brand, social SEO efforts, etc, they rank higher than our site, even though our content is objectively and subjectively better.


04/20/2012 03:59 am

Google should get affected by a bug that affects their earnings, and then they might understand that all of their "experiments" are hurting innocent webmasters.


04/20/2012 04:38 am

They algo should also find the best pages per subject not only the best sites. People are (most of the times) after the 'knowledge' - NOT after user experience or engagement and all that stupid "socialization" signals.


04/20/2012 10:56 am

My site took a really big hit with this one. I hope it reverses. All first page keywords on second page now and I am not a webmaster who earns a fortune on several income. This is my only money making site that keeps me from getting a job. :(

Debarup Mukherjee

04/20/2012 11:08 am

What about personal blogs?

John Britsios

04/20/2012 11:25 am

I do not doubt that there was a bug, but I do not believe that the results were based alone on that issue. That was just one of several over-optimization classifiers or filters they were testing, which obviously some of those have not been reversed and stayed live. As I mentioned in another thread here, we are on the threshold of Armageddon. I wish all SEOs and Webmasters good luck. 

John Britsios

04/20/2012 11:28 am

Kapalbilty if I was you, I would not just hope for rankings to be reversed. You better check out your web site and figure out what you can improve, and that as soon as possible.


04/20/2012 11:32 am

orly? google provides free of charge as is services for you. YOU should create great products and real user base for your site and don't be 100% dependent on the search traffic

John Britsios

04/20/2012 11:32 am

Kirbykaren, Google is a business who still offer everyone free listings in their index, if people agree with their terms. That said, we cannot have demands for something we get for free. What everyone has to understand is, that businesses should never rely alone on search engines free listings.

Eliseo V

04/20/2012 11:45 am

Instead of waiting for the rebound, we can tidy up our ship (s) and improve different aspects for sure. Just hope that the rebound does happen because the drop in certain cases is huge and it's still there.

Mantu Singh

04/20/2012 01:04 pm

I also work for Seo services. I also faced a lot of problem as the rankings gone down. Google should roll back the rankings so that we should not face such a problem in future.


04/20/2012 01:50 pm

Its defiantly a bug 


04/20/2012 08:12 pm

Thanks GOD and Than thanks to Google.....and again thanks for this time Big G is late but not too much


04/20/2012 11:45 pm

Its bug or not but guys tuneup your site before it get dropped 


04/21/2012 08:03 am

hey just suggest me tha when i'll get ma keywords back again google kiked out ma keywords from one to 2nd page may i get it gaain or have to worked on again plzz tell me sir plzz :)

gregory smith

04/21/2012 02:44 pm

Hi, You guys totally amaze me. If you read or listeded to matt any what so ever, you would know by now that Google is not planning on doing the "over optimization" update. Come on guys, aren't you suppose to be real SEOs?? Damn, I mean google is too smart to be mesaging all the thousands of webmasters manually, informing them of their "over optimized problems", anbd if Google had any intention wha so ever of "your rumer" they would never of bothered with mesaging a damn soul. Matt proved his point alrady. Look how many blackhats have converted back to their origin, and look how many people have re-optimized their site already. No update needed........ Use your time more wisely boys!

Lelaki Kacak

04/23/2012 07:34 am

I hope its just a bug from Google. :)


04/23/2012 09:49 am

Im a content writer and have seen drastic drops in traffic, i have no idea why, i dont build links in any way i just write unique helpful content and have seen strange lose in traffic as high as 40% on my articles in the past month. Google seems to be giving different keyword searches everyday mostly very long tail and some unrelated traffic. This is driving me crazy and have no idea why. Has this anything to do with the parked domain messup ?


04/23/2012 10:32 am


Brian Wilson

04/25/2012 10:40 am

Question: Did anyone who experienced a dropout followed by reinstatement in Google last week, experience a similiar dropout yesterday? I'm wondering if last week was a trial of the Google Webspam update that was rolled out yesterday?

Usman Khan

04/25/2012 02:05 pm

Same happened with my website. It was on 2nd page 3rd-4rth result on 2nd page and now its no where on google. Checkout the url and search for ub-t880 and ub t880 using google.

04/26/2012 03:21 pm

*update* I would like to just come and post an update to my prevous comment, "whch I done prior to the Google update." I also posted two articles on my personal site, "completely going against the rumor that the SEO community had created about the "over optomization" update. It seems that Michael Martinez" and I was right all along. Googles update was to rid spam, "once again" Google will NEVER update heir algo per "over optimization" and real SEO would already know this. gregory smith


04/28/2012 09:39 am

Post or rather, their website is making no errors daotaoseoasia.comhope that

Ed Gil

05/06/2012 01:41 pm

My website completely vanished  from Google.... and a week later everything was back to normal. Agree with Gregory Smith's point "have re-optimized their site already. No update needed........" I actually made changes although a few days later decided to revert changes.


06/02/2012 09:45 am

It sounds really funny that the algorithm update (Penguin update) is a bug. I think the team changed the algorithm have not much idea about the consequences.

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