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Rich Snippets Caused Traffic Drop?

 12:19 pm on Feb 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Towards the end of last year we marked up our website with RDFa, and submitted to Google, telling them we wanted to be part of their rich snippet program.

2 months later, Google started showing our rich snippets within their SERPs. Initially results were fantastic, as you might expect from the increased CTR that rich snippets should give, and we saw a considerable jump in terms of traffic to the website.

This increase lasted for a week, when we started to see a decrease in traffic. This decrease continued to grow for 2/3 weeks, until we're now at a traffic level lower than we were previously. We've applied WOW and YOY analysis to determine a forecast of where we should be, and we're down considerably. We've pretty much discounted all other technical issues as being the cause of this drop.

So, in my mind, it appears that while we saw a benefit from the implementation of rich snippets, we subsequently saw some kind of penalty or filter applied against us because we increased traffic too much - all through a technique that Google are encouraging people to use.

I was wondering whether anyone else has witnessed anything similar with the implementation of rich snippets? Is this a plausible explanation for what I'm seeing? I'd really hope that Google wouldn't penalise you for using a technology they're encouraging webmasters to use, but it seems to be the only answer right now.



 1:43 am on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've just got to think something else is going on with that traffic drop. I've seen several site that added RDFa mark-up and weren't hurt at all - in fact, they were helped, as was your initial experience.


 2:03 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

thanks Tedster. we've exhausted pretty much all lines of investigation with regards to this, and although i'd like to think that the two aren't related, the timing of it seems uncanny.

interesting to hear that other sites haven't experienced any kind of drop, but i imagine there's only a fairly shallow pool of people that have implemented this so far


 5:23 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've been running microformats and experienced the same as Tedster...
Non-issue to helpful. I would look somewhere else for the issue.


 5:46 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Same here, no noticeable changes to existing traffic trends.


 5:55 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

it might have something to do with it... if you're getting more click throughs from the search results now then you've basically given google a better opportunity to weight your site. if you've got a high bounce through rate, with people returning straight to google, then presumabely they are measuring that and counting it against you.

that wouldn't show up in the analysis you did, because your bounce through rate has always remained the same.

other sites like tedster's might not be affected in the same way, because they don't have such high bounce-through rates.


 6:02 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

if you've got a high bounce through rate, with people returning straight to google, then presumabely they are measuring that and counting it against you.

How would RDFa have to do with a higher bounce rate? Isn't that the quality or topicality of the site itself, not the RDFa markup causing the issue? IOW if you look at it from the other side, removing the RDFa markup would not solve the issue of bounce rate, so IMO it's not the cause of the issue... When you fix the cause you have a solution, and removing a tag people don't see IMO will not fix the issue of what people see (or don't) when they land causing them to click back, meaning IMO something else must be the issue...


 6:47 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

im not saying it has changed his bounce rate. that has always been what it is. im saying his new rich snippets has encouraged more people to click on his search result. so google is getting more data about his site... so if his bounce rate was lousy, it's as if he's brought it to google's attention -- dropping him down the serps.


 7:00 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Got it, so you're not saying it was the direct cause, but rather amplified an already existent issue... Of course fixing it now (if more data related to bounce rate is the reason for the drop) is a bit more difficult than removing the RDFa markup, because the data has already been collected, so something other than removing the RDFa markup would need to be done as a solution to the problem.


 9:12 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

@londrum thanks. That's a concern of mine - that Google are using bounce rates as a quality metric for rankings, which is what this seems to suggest.

The only doubt I have about that is that in the past Matt Cutts has said that bounce rates couldn't be used as a quality metric as they're too noisy.


 8:45 pm on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Bounce rates are a dumb idea anyway. Hire a small botnet of a few thousand IPs, hit google, select the target from the serps and Blam, there goes the competition.

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