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Google Traffic Throttling - revisited
tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 2:39 am on Sep 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

The topic of Google traffic throttling came up a good number of times over the past two years or more. Some doubt that it happens - others are convinced but have trouble breaking through the wall of other's doubt.

Last year I saw the analytics for one site that showed a drop to zero Google traffic every day at around the same time - it stayed at zero until the next day and then it cycled again. I also saw another major enterprise site that only had first page ranking for a specific 4-hour period every day. Both of the cases persisted for many weeks, but both eventually "returned to normal".

Just recently someone else contacted me with the graphs to show something very strange. Three months of nearly level Google traffic (unnaturally level in my experience) followed by a huge spike that lasted 4 hours - I'm talking up 1,000%.

So I think it's time to look at this topic again - seriously. It's not a fantasy. Something Google does every so often looks like traffic throttling or rationing. Here's a post from just today:

backdraft: I get these "windows" of sales only minutes apart, then hours of nothing. It's as if Google can turn us on and off while still showing our site in the SERPS. That is very strange and an experience shared by other sites over in the UK. I am in the US.

[webmasterworld.com...]

Here's a small sampling of past and recent discussion:

1. Google Traffic Throttling - where are we on this? [webmasterworld.com]
2. Time of day rankings changes [webmasterworld.com]
3. The Yo Yo Effect - is it now getting worse? [webmasterworld.com]
4. Huge drop in my blog traffic [webmasterworld.com]
5. Google Toggles our High Ranking On/Off Again and Again [webmasterworld.com]
6. One day spike in Google referrals [webmasterworld.com]
7. Is there a threshold for google traffic? [webmasterworld.com]

And there's more where that came from.

It seems like it's a lot harder to pin down now, and it was never easy. So what do you see? Is anyone wrestling with this on their own sites? Any ideas how it is being accomplished?

 

dvduval

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 8:27 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Again, I don't think it would be that hard to throttle. You just build an average referrals per page of a site, get a sum, and then decide how many of those pages you want to refer people to.

scottsonline



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 8:28 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Nor would throttling be a bad thing. Google does want to be fair and if they ever found a way to rotate through the results so everyoen got equal share wonderful.

mrguy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 9:02 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google does want to be fair


That has got to be the funniest thing I've read in a while.

Google fair? LOL.......

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 9:08 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google does want to be fair and if they ever found a way to rotate through the results so everyoen got equal share wonderful.


hmmm, sounds like just more Socialism to me... :^o lol

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 10:02 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

The only thing I'm pretty sure about is Google wants to be profitable. But in regards to "throttling", as I said earlier, I think that Google (and any other search engine) is faced with a plethora of websites that are more or less of equal value & rank for any given query. And of course, every one of those webmasters is pretty sure that their site is the best of the lot. So in that sense, throttling becomes a mechanism to deal with that reality, until something better comes along. The result of this throttling is the traffic gets spread around and many of us notice that we seem to have hit a ceiling. I don't particularly like the ceiling, but I like it better than the floor.

....................

Lorel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 11:20 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google does want to be fair


It's only "fair" to the little guy not getting any traffic.

Whitey

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 5:50 am on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

and why it isn't happening in a more widespread fashion

Have " authority " sites been reported in this throttle ?

I'm wondering if they are effected or if it's just certain types of sites.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 6:31 am on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, one of the two sites I examined was definitely an authority site - one with widespread brand recognition and a PR7 home page of long-standing, probably a very high PR7.

Shaddows

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 8:01 am on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Is anyone with lowish traffic (say <10000 uniques/day) throttled? Or is it just the bigger sites?

I'm defining "throttling" as consistant traffic levels every day over a period of at least a month, not "unfair loss of traffic after a specific day, even though rankings appear the same"

I'm inhouse, so only have 1 site, which is not throttled. But reading people's reports, it sounds a lot like Google is spreading the traffic around.

Like TMS pointed out a few months ago, being SERP#1 means you are better than 99.9999% of sites that are elegible for that phrase, and thats if theres only 1m results. Since I don't think you can meaningfully rank 1m sites and come up with a comprehensive top-10 that is indisputably better then the other 999990, it seams only fair that the also-rans get traffic.

In fact, you need to rotate SERPs to gauge relative USER satisfaction (automation only taking you so far), to determine your optimum top-10 to deliver your core mission (showing people what they want to see).

Having no real data to use, I can only speculate. However, I suspect the story goes like this.
1) Grow until you are big- but not uniquely big.
2) Be identified as part of an "oligopoly" of similar-value sites
3) Have traffic rather than ranking aportioned by relative value.
4) Have rest of traffic shared to newcomers

I further suggest you can break the stagnation by:
1) Losing value relative to the group
2) Gaining MASSIVE value relative to the group (I'm thinking an order of magnitude, or several multiples of the group)
3) Radically redefining your site, so it serves a different, or additional niche, or chnages function (ecom domain becoming purely informational, for e.g)

Once a nice is filled by at least 5 largish sites that dominate for a keyphrase set, it no longer makes sense to RANK them on merit, as ranking itself distorts the fair allocation of relative merit.

the_nerd

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 9:01 am on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

drall,

now that your daily meal has been limited to around 36.000 pages -
I was wondering if you did anything to optimise this traffic by making sure your money pages instead of some fluff pages will be found. If so, would you like to share some of your approaches to this?

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 9:21 am on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google does want to be fair


I don't see why traffic should be shared with sites that under normal circumstances would never sell anything! I have worked hard to get my site ranking well but also learned along the way that unless it looks trustworthy, with good navigation and good sales service that I won't sell from it. I see a lot of sites in my SERP that under normal circumstances would be overlooked but will probably gain false kudos from elevated ranking. Is this what google strove to achieve with quality results? It only serves to drag us all down the the lowest common denominator level IMO.

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 12:52 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good analysis Shaddows. I am well under the 10000 uniques you identify as "lowish", and yet definitely feel that some level of throttling is in place, as the ongoing slight variations seem too unlikely. I'm not however as closely confined as drall ~ those stats are indisputable as far as I'm concerned.

................

drall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 1:03 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hey guys,

Shaddows, that makes alot of sense to me and ties into what I see competition wise. When we started we had a couple competitors, now we have hundreds if not thousands.

I havent found any tie in with page count, same with my competitors which I have tracked for a decade. Page count triples in the primary results or falls by as much and nothing changes.

We really havent optimized our pages in years. We focus more on the content and have stuck with our basic vanilla SEO.

Our backlink profile is pretty diverse and I think we only have gotten 3 of the hundreds of thousands of ibl's ourself. Those being yahoo, botw and business.com. All of our content is handwritten. Links are all over the place. Links range in strength from colleges, govt, fortune 100-500 companies down to smb and personal websites. So many links infact I don't know the true number. Some with natural anchor, some with just the site name.

We started out as a hobby in 98. Over 50% of our visitors come direct. That number has continued to grow since 98 and that's the number I care about the most. No doubt about it though, Google was a big part of our success. I cant imagine what they have to deal with.

We have set ourselves apart from our competition in many ways which is why we have become a brand name now. That hasnt seemed to make a difference so we can rule that out.

Are we an authority? A true authority? Hard to say really, what is a true authority? We have been around for a long time, we have hundreds of thousands of natural links. We rock on social networking sites with legions of fans. We are quoted by wikipedia, referenced by govts and schools, featured in companies advertising and we have dozens of people bidding on words related to our name in adwords.

At the end of the day Google has to look after it's own interests and I can respect that. I am grateful for whatever they deem we should get and have resigned myself to traffic growth from other channels which has become a much more productive use of my time. The ceiling/throttling is real for some sites but I cant see any way around it.

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 1:26 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

The more I examine this "throttle" issue the less I buy into the idea. I'm no expert at examining traffic, but if I look at my AWSTATS graphs, I see the same or higher levels of traffic as the same time last year, and previous years.

My real problem is a substantial decline in sales...which is typically related to traffic volume.

What I do believe is that the quality of traffic seems to have declined dramatically. Either there are many more "bots" out there or many more savvy teens coming up the ranks that don't buy. The other problem appears that I am receiving much more foreign traffic , even though my geographic target is set to the United States.

I also believe that any traffic volume or quality issues in 2010 are due in large part to Google's own tinkering. This is clear every time Google makes a major algo change. It always takes a few weeks for it to "bubble sort".

I've said it before and I'll say it again - just hang in there and it will all return to "normal", but keep improving your site quality along the way and try to diversify your content in a logical, relevant manner.

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 1:31 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

We focus more on the content and have stuck with our basic vanilla SEO.

I can't think of any better advice. When I started out in '96, the mantra was "Content is King". With the introduction of Google and the subsequent power of search earlier in this decade, the importance of proper SEO became a daily effort for many of us. But now it seems that Google is saying "Just create meaningful content, and don't worry so much about optimization, because we know all the techniques and you can't depend on them anymore". So content is King again, and like you, that's my focus these days ~ beyond that, I let the chips fall where they may ... and hope for the best.

........................

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 1:48 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm no expert at examining traffic, but if I look at my AWSTATS graphs, I see the same or higher levels of traffic as the same time last year, and previous years.

It's possible that some sites are feeling this more prominently than others, for reasons that only G knows for sure, but perhaps the level of competition is a factor, or the number of "all things being equal" results, etc. And as far as the traffic volume graph goes, the seasonal variations do not necessarily discount the idea ~ more people likely sit at their computers in the winter, when it gets dark earlier and outdoor activities are not available. So March may get more traffic than July, but at this point (speaking strictly about myself) the "wave" of the curve seems to remain steady and predictable going back 2 or 3 years.

My real problem is a substantial decline in sales...which is typically related to traffic volume.

Me too, and I wonder how much of it is search and how much is the worst economy in decades, with a low level of consumer confidence. Most of us work in a vacuum so it's hard to guage whether it's just us, or is it a widespread trend. Whatever it is, it's troubling.

.....................

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 2:29 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

how much of it is search and how much is the worst economy in decades


My business has grown steadily throughout the recession so I don't think it's anything to do with that in my case.

Someone switched the lights to extra dim at the start of September as far as I can tell. As it was I was converting more and more enquiries to sales from the searches the longer I was in business for but suddenly at the start of the month my enquiries dropped by 3/4's - to 1/2 on a very good day. None at all on somedays! I can't remember as far back as that happening.

As far as I can tell my traffic is down 10 to 20 percent and quality of said traffic is down by 50 percent or more.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 2:51 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

How are you today Jez? Someone switched the lights out for us! Yesterday was OK until about 2pm the bam!

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 3:00 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

How are you today Jez


Awful. Yesterday was a little better but today is D E A D!

I checked my Alexa stats earlier and the bounce rate is through the roof. Loads of 1 page views. Average time spent on site is way down too.

I can't keep going like this for more than a month so I hope it does sort itself out.

I am going to try some alternatives. Perhaps see how a facebook ad works out perhaps.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 3:10 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have no doubt they have tweaked something(a little too far I hope!) again, it is DEAD here too. How I long for the stability of old........

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 5:51 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

OHNO - dead here too ...again! I had 3 more sales over nite though, from Australia, the UK and one from South Africa. You'd think that the US had been wiped off the map. My geo target is set to the US. I guess that's something else that doesn't work on Google's system.

It was a decent day yesterday, but just like you mention, it switched off later in the day, then back on to foreign traffic at exactly midnight. It's almost as if Google's servers aren't set to the right time zones.

I'm grabbing at straws here, but I double checked my server time configuration and it is set to "./posix/US/Central"

I also see there is a similar setting for "US/Central", "America/Chicago" and one for "./right/America/Chicago" ?

One last observation: I see the "Latest News" twitter scroller is now gone from my main keyword search page and I am now at the top of the page...doesn't seem to matter though, maybe it's still percolating.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 6:35 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Backdraft & Jez, how about we all share email addresses then we can drop each other an email when we notice drop offs etc? May make things easier to drill down?

rowtc2

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 8:35 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I understand throttling means strange variations of traffic in the same day between different hours (or looking at an entire month).

I think is related to Google traffic regulator,i don't know if is a topic for this yet.

If the internet and number of sites grow,business will grow for Google.If a new webmaster don't taste the pie,it will continue? I think no.Google seems to give a taste of pie for beginners too.

Also,i think is adjusting traffic to make webmasters to have a stable business, if i have 10k visits today and 5k tomorrow etc, will be a mess.

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 9:09 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm considering cutting back my hosting services...it's a desert out there today...again!

mrguy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 9:58 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not convinced it's traffic throttling to even out traffic to sites or otherwise simply because doing something like that could turn out to be a legal mine field for Google.

What I see are different data sets cause different traffic patterns and depending on the day, I can see several data sets rolling through.

I think it's just them testing different filters, etc. and the consequences are erratic traffic. Iíve been seeing this since the beginning of summer.

Google does not care one bit about any individual sites traffic nor whether or not these data set rolls actually decimate a business.

Thatís Google and you better learn to deal it with because things are not going to get any better.

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 10:17 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

5:00 pm CST my site traffic is at midnight level. Typically this is the busiest part of the day. I am seeing a different data set than earlier today.

Google has got to know they are putting many small guys out of business. A real shot in the bag for the already ailing global economy.

Lorel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 10:49 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Couldn't this be due to:

1. the massive # of new websites on the Internet (10,000 daily I heard)

2. Sorting these by country (Geo Location)

3. Further sorting by location within a country (personalization)

4. further sorting by top authority sites in that local area (Instant search favoring brand names)

dstiles

WebmasterWorld Senior Member dstiles us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 10:56 pm on Sep 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I may have missed the obvious in skimming through this thread but:

Has anyone checked what the SERPS displays for a REASONABLE search a) during the "good" period and b) during the "bad" period?

It seems to me that in order to throttle traffic the site must be absented from the SERPS. If it's in there it's not being throttled.

So, am I missing something from the above or being naive? :)

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 12:25 am on Sep 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

It seems to me that in order to throttle traffic the site must be absented from the SERPS

Not necessarily absent ~ just being dropped a lot lower would do the trick ~ you may recall the discussion here about the percentage drop from #1 to #2, then to #3, etc ... if you go off the first page, you are in the hinderlands. So suppose all that Google did was add a +11 to your domain during your "throttle times"? You're still there, but you're essentially invisible. Not saying that's the case, but it's one scenario. The test is to methodically check position for a small handful of keyword phrases at regular intervals throughout the day, and do that for several days running ~ if nothing changes, then it shoots down my thought; if however the results are quite inconsistent, it may explain a lot.

...................

outland88

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 5:23 am on Sep 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

That's exactly how I feel they throttle!

The test is to methodically check position for a small handful of keyword phrases at regular intervals


Basically, yes. I've found it best to check the deviations in sales and the positioning over months. Plus you have to rule out it isnít related to monthly pay periods, holidays, stock market shifts, etc, etc with your particular business.

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4204038 posted 5:58 am on Sep 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've just been reading some good articles on Google's personalization and it looks like the old methods of SEO and site rankings is pretty much out the window. They claim this will bring us better targeted traffic...so far I'm not seeing that effect.

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