Google’s ranking bug deranks sites on weekends

Google's ranking bug deranks sites on weekends

Multiple discussions on the Google support forum draw attention to a possible bug in Google’s algorithm that causes certain generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to disappear entirely from search engine results pages (SERPs). Multiple publishers with the same type of gTLD are reporting the exact same Google weekend ranking error.

What they all have in common is the type of domain name and a complete disappearance from the Google SERPs over the weekend, some can’t even rank for their site names.

This issue came to light in a tweet by Olesia Korobka (@Giridja):

The question is whether all .media, club, clinic, etc. websites. experience the problem? Or could it be a mix of locality and tld or something else?

— 🐝 Olesia Korobka 💙💛🐝 (@Giridja) January 16, 2024

These issues are affecting a form of gTLD also known as a ICANN-era generic top-level domains. These are domains like .academy, .car, .care, etc.

The person who recently reported the issue shared a graph showing traffic on the site crashing roughly every weekend and coming back up on Monday. They reported that this pattern began in November.

Is this a quality issue?

In my opinion, this does not look like a quality issue. A quality issue affects rankings every day of the week, all month long.

Google’s weekend ranking error is limited to certain domain types and weekends only.

Is this a cyclical problem?

A reasonable assumption is that maybe traffic dries up over the weekend, that’s totally normal, right?

But it’s not just the traffic that drops on the weekends, but the actual rankings, including the website’s name. It seems like a complete de-indexing every weekend. Also, this seems to be happening with specific types of generic top-level domains.

So no, this is no ordinary weekend traffic phenomenon.

Google weekend ranking error

The person who posted the support question for Google listed 14 URLs from other gTLD-related support threads that had similar problems, of which nine of the 14, 64%, were from January 2024 and the first of the list was from 11/24/2023. .

We can’t presume to be a complete list of support threads on this topic, but it seems extraordinary that there are so many this year experiencing the same strange weekend deindexing pattern, and that it’s happening with these custom gTLDs.

A sample of classification anomaly reports

From 1/3/2024A publisher with a .consulting gTLD wrote:

“Our company website seems to be disappearing from Google search engine results every other day, resulting in a significant loss of traffic. None of our websites are showing up on Google during these periods and we are struggling to understand the root cause of this recurring problem.”

From end of Decemberanother publisher with a shared .club gTLD a screenshot from their Search Console showing a similar ranking and blocking cycle.

Screenshot of the deindexing pattern

From 15/12/2023:

“Traffic is down every weekend
As of 2 weeks ago, our traffic started dropping every weekend.
It’s not so much the drop – less weekend traffic is normal. It’s the context that’s really weird: We’ve noticed that pages on our site aren’t showing for keywords that they normally rank very well for. This includes our brand; site disappears from SERPs around Friday and returns Sunday/Monday.”

From January 5, 2024:

“My site loses its position on the Google results page several days a week!

After November 22, 2023, this site: (redacted for privacy) lost its SERP position for a few days and returned to normal on November 22. This happened on December 7th and was back to normal on December 11th again (!) and has happened 4 more times so far!

During this I checked all probabilities like: No problem with manual actions and security issue report. There are no critical issues reported on GSC.

Also in the URL Inspection Report (Google Index and Live Test), (redacted for privacy) is on Google and is also available to Google. This site was performing well for about 2 years before this problem and reached 60,000 clicks in 28 days!

Note that when this issue happened, the “read sitemap” list becomes empty, but I’m not sure if that’s the problem or not!”

From January 5, 2024 A publisher with a .care gTLD who has the same problem responded to a support thread about this issue:

“100% same problem, also other German and international cases.

As you said: the experts ignore the fact that the site periodically returns to its previous positions and that the sites of no better quality replace the site that left.”

There is another one of January 8, 2024 found in the .life gTLD:

“Random index/de-index our site daily + impact on business profile
Since the end of November we have experienced a strange result in our Performance report, it is not a seasonal drop.
We have no problem with manual actions and indexing security issues seems normal.”

This person posted a screenshot:

Screenshot of weekend ranking losses

Google's ranking bug deranks sites on weekends

Why do websites go down on weekends?

There is an old problem dating back to the early days of Google where a domain would get stuck in a ranking loop and get de-indexed for a month and then come back for a week and then disappear again, not even ranking for your domain name. . I first saw this around 2003 or 2004 and the cause was that the domain had a spam history and for some reason that status wouldn’t go away. Google never acknowledged the problem until twenty years later. It was called a legacy domain penalty.

Google’s John Mueller commented on the legacy domain penalty:

“The other thing that I’ve seen very, very rarely is that a site gets stuck in some kind of strange intermediate state in our systems in this…

… at some point our algorithms went through the website and found it to be absolutely terrible, and for whatever reason, those parts of the algorithms just took a long time to update again.

While there is a similarity between the ICANN-era gTLD classification and blocking pattern and the legacy domain penalty, I suspect they are probably not the same issue. These all fit a specifically ICANN-era pattern of domains experiencing weekend deindexing. The legacy domain penalty was a de-indexation that occurred throughout the month except for a few days once a month.

Whatever it is, it sounds like it could be a bug in Google’s systems due to something new being introduced into their algorithms that is now having an unintended effect.

Read the original support thread here:

Website intermittently disappearing from Google search results

Featured image by Shutterstock/Jaaak


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About the Author: Ted Simmons

I follow and report the current news trends on Google news.

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