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January 26 2011 Change - Back to "Zombie Traffic"

 2:05 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

As of January 1st traffic has been back to normal level and above. No hint of throttling whatsoever, great sales conversions almost surpassing pre May Day levels. Our usual 8,500 monthly keyphrase report has jumped to 11,500 keywords & phrases. In a nutshell, the first 26 days of January were GREAT!
This is, until yesterday at exactly 3:30pm CST. It's as if the switch was turned off again. Haven't touched the site design other than updating some copyright dates for 2011.
Now we are back to zombie foreign traffic & foreign sales, all South Africa and Canada so far today.
Haven't seen a foreign sale since last year. NOW WHAT is GOOGLE UP TO?

I see the new spammy / content farm algo topic. Looks like they may be throw switches willy nilly again.
Anyone else noticing this sudden upset in traffic?



 11:42 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

@maximus - it's stirring alright and it smells awful. The red light has been ON all day. Checking my traffic stats I still see about 2600+ uniques per day, that should be producing two dozen sales per day. It's after 5pm and only 3 sales all day, one at 1am from Australia, then one from Virginia 10 hours later, and one from New Jersey 3 hours later and now nothing for the past 5 hours. On a normal day, probably get 2 to 4 per hour during the day. I had another member check my positions over in the UK and they are pretty much the same as in the US, #1 and #2 across the board. In some cases my site is listed for the first THREE positions, yet nothing. I am seeing bouncing in the +/- 1 range all day long. One extreme scraper / MFA site is there one minute then gone the next.

Did everyone switch to browsing with iphones? This makes absolutely no sense.
My forehead is bloody from banging it against the wall.

If I had been ejected from the SERP, at least this drop in sales would make sense.

As far as Matt Cutts, well I think he's just a PR android and would never tell you anything is wrong.

This almost looks like some kind of new magical "transparent" penalty.

That or everyone in the US suddenly dropped over.



 1:38 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

When the light is RED, do you notice any significant position changes in your B & C sites? I don't. This is were the is a complex paradox. SERP's "normal", traffic junk.

This might be completely off the mark, but as many here said they see unusual fluctuation (drop) in sales but steady traffic and rankings check up... we know that Google has classified queries broadly into navigational, informational and transactional. Lets discount navigational queries for the moment. What if Google, according to the immediate previous searches of the visitor, and even more, according to the immediate previous behaviour of the visitor on other sites (where it can tell what pages they are visiting), tries to decide in what "mood" the searcher is.

So if I am in "information gathering" stage and I get to your site, I will not buy. If I am in "buying" stage and get to your site, I might buy. But if Google serves your normal "rankings" to visitors in "information gathering" stage, or to visitors in "unknown" stage (cannot tell if I am in information gathering or buying stage), but your site does not appear in SERPs (or appear less) when Google is more certain the visitor is in "buying mode" stage, then the result might be that you get the same traffic, you see your normal ranking when checking yourself or asking someone to check, but you do get less sales.

This could be widely off the mark but this is one way I could perhaps explain this "paradox" being described in a quote above. The question is - can Google crunch data that quickly and so well to make this distinction and serve different SERPs based on immediate previous visitor behaviour - and also - if it can, why would it do it? Why would it filter your site for "buying mode" visitors when your site is a transactional site too...?


 2:28 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

@aakk - Didn't Google get DARPA funding in their early start up days? Anything is possible!

I was thinking, perhaps my blog is poisoning my main site.
I guess I completely overlooked that and the thousands of outdated shareasale links from their useless datafeed. That would constituent dup content so following the logic of this algo update, it's probably ranking all that stuff to the top. That's where my zombies are going...those are all dead end pages! Just got done whacking my blog down from 3800 pages to 196. Time for some fresh meat.
Resubmitted a new blog sitemap...

We'll see what happens now. zzzz


 3:52 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

@backdraft, I was under the impression that the same pages of yours are ranking as before 26th since you said you checked the ranking even in UK. Yes, if different pages rank with no easy funnel to buying, this could be a possible explanation.


 12:31 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

The Google Green Light turned back ON today and traffic and sales are flowing freely again. No more Zombie Traffic! These bigger algo changes seem to knock us out for a few days, then bring us right back, perhaps even better than before. Hope it lasts!


 3:23 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7, i see identical behavior to you, traffic is still low today, but at least i see conversions.... Yesterday was brutal...

@aakk9999, that an interesting idea, do you have any more info on this that we can read up?


 3:29 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

@aakk9999, that an interesting idea, do you have any more info on this that we can read up?

I am afraid not, as it says above, this is just my speculation on what could perhaps be possible with the data they have (or could have).


 4:41 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

There is a Google patent about Automatic taxonomy generation in search results using phrases [patft.uspto.gov] that goes into some depth on the way Google engineers classify things. As with any patent, particular parts of it may or may not be in play - but it gives a window into the way they think.

We also have a discussion about this possibility - Google & Traffic Shaping [webmasterworld.com].

My own feeling is that Google creates and maintains taxomonies dynamically - for types of search queries, for types of users, and for types of pages (the newly discussed document classifier system.) They are always dynamically working that system to match query terms to the pages that match the taxonomy best - as measured partly by click-stream data. If a site receives a dynamically shifting taxonomy, that is, if Google's system is having a challenge to find the right taxonomy for it, that's when traffic quality tends to oscillate.

However, that theory doesn't fully explain why the traffic would differ in quality when rankings appear to be the same. My best guess is that it's the "user type" taxonomy that is changed - and that axonomy might be geographic, or degree of technical savvy, or native language - or lots of other possibilities.

So unless you can do the search as a completely different kind of user, you would have trouble seeing the ranking changes.

It's a lot of guesswork, based on studying patents. I haven't seen any other discussion online - just the ones we're having here with members like Shaddows and backdraft7.


 5:43 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I understand this is a lot of guesswork, but...

Isn't one implication here that ecommerce sites SHOULDN'T have lots of other content on them? Wouldn't it imply that you should have a clear focus on selling products?

For instance, on one of my sites newer sites (just over one year old), we get slightly more traffic - but much less sales - than my ten-year-old site.

The ten-year-old site and the new site have more or less the same products. But the old site has a lot less informational pages. So the ecommerce pages get the majority of the traffic on that site.

The new site, as mentioned above, has more or less the same products, but, lots of articles pages, and that is where the majority of traffic goes.

Maybe the articles and other info are hurting the rankings? Or causing google to send the "wrong" traffic to the site?


 6:13 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

However, that theory doesn't fully explain why the traffic would differ in quality when rankings appear to be the same. My best guess is that it's the "user type" taxonomy that is changed - and that axonomy might be geographic, or degree of technical savvy, or native language - or lots of other possibilities.

My thoughts exactly Tedster. I had this random insight last night in the midst of falling asleep.

If google are able to profile users, then this would explain a lot.

Zombie traffic would be google expanding the subset of searches out to what it thinks 'might' be a good profile match. With a Algo change, this matching technology could be reset somewhat, so G tries sending different results out to different profiles, eventually matching up the most successful searches with the most responsive profiles.

Zombie traffic is G in the 'search & match' early stages of finding the best profile match.

We would never see this in action, however, with rank checking, etc, or being logged out, as G has no reference to any profile or search history. When we are logged in, out profile would match up well as we usually visit the sites we work on= and give good signals that we like that particular 'site'

It's a very fitting theory...


 11:35 am on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

@all - Whatever the reason for this period of Zombie Traffic, it seems to follow major algo updates. It's my hallucination that when an algo is unleashed, the system starts to churn (reminiscent of a bubble sort) and some sites start to suffer. Big corporate sites and content farms don't feel the pain simply because of their massive size and reach. Medium and especially small niche sites seem to be the ones being most affected. That is clearly evident by those who have shared their site info with me.
It would be nice if these larger updates could be released incrementally, so they wouldn't clobber small sites so badly. It's all just theory, but each time it happens and we drop & recover, it backs that theory up even more.

In the mean time, I'll enjoy the NON-Zombie traffic we are now getting.
GO PACK GO! (I had to throw that in there...LOL)


 6:06 pm on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Slight return of zombie traffic again today. Key pages not getting "normal" traffic and any traffic that does hit key pages is not flowing normally to sub pages. Apache volume way down and in very odd ON/OFF patterns.
I suspect another medium algo in being digested. SERPS did just update with fresh cache dates, so I hope the keyword changes based on advice have not ruined my age old site reliability.


 9:38 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Noon on Wednesday 2/9/2011 - big drop in traffic. Bad serps. Going fishing.


 8:04 pm on Feb 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7, I know you've worked hard to confirm that your rankings are maintained, when your conversions fall off.

If traffic levels are the same, that sort of rules out DNS hijacking. But since traffic just fell off too (I hope you're talking only about Google referred traffic here), then DNS hijacking and cache poisoning does come to mind. See [webmasterworld.com...]

I'm also beginning to wonder if there might be intermittent technical problems on your site. When search traffic stays the same but conversions drop off to nothing, are you sure that your pages are still loading completely? all the buy buttons are showing up and working correctly, etc?


 9:22 pm on Feb 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

@tedster - yes, I've investigated DNS hijacking & cache poisoning with my dedicated server provider. They assure me it is not happening. As far as pages not loading, that is doubtful. I run a dedicated server, not a shared account. It's on a very reliable top level hosting provider.

I've been investigating other problems and found one today that might be causing some problems. A while back I switched over to using Firefox exclusively. I rarely use IE. Well today I found that on my secure sign up form I had a tracking pixel that was "http". FF does not warn of secure / non-secure elements, but IE does.
So, when customers arrived at my signup form, they (the IE 7+ users, which account for the majority of my users)were seeing the secure / non secure item pop-up. That's a big no no and can stop a sale in it's tracks. If that is all this was, I'm gonna be kickin' my butt around the block for a few months. I don;t think it was the only reason, but it definitely impedes the sales funnel. I just adds the missing "s" and now no more warning.

Coincidentally or not, a few hours later and my sales suddenly opened up like gangbusters.

I guess this is just a reminder to check out these issues on a regular basis. Google's still not off the hook because this doesn't completely account for the yo-yo sales, but we'll see what happens.

Thanks for the info tedster. I'm hoping this simple fix resolves some of my ongoing issues.

BTW - as you know I have audio klaxxons on my key pages that I am very attuned to. In the past 30 minutes my site has suddenly come alive with what I'd consider "normal" to high levelsof activity. I still think these major algo update knock traffic down on certain sites for up several days.

Here to hoping for the best!


 9:25 pm on Feb 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Backdraft - FF can report on mixed SSL/Non-SSL content - it does so here regularly.

It may be a function of NoScript, which anyone with FF should install anyway. :)

Otherwise, an interesting possibility.


 12:02 am on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

That SSL problem is resolved, but still seeing very sporadic traffic patterns. ON / OFF / ON / OFF all day long. Watching my Apache access and volume graphs it's very clear to see. In the past years, the 4pm to 10pm time frame was absolutely crazy, every day without fail. It's dead silent right now. (6pm CST)


 12:35 am on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's been another strange day on this end also. Same thing On/Off all day....similar to when this all started...


 11:00 am on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

A resounding OFF for me yesterday and today


 12:19 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well, all I gotta say is that if it keeps up like this for much longer, I'll soon be out of business, or have to really tighten up my finances. Coincidentally, that means the 10 year old Adwords account that receives $500/month from my site will also close down. Eventually Google will see the effects of this trickle down economics in their own bottom line. I've already put 2011 into the books as a "survival spending only" year.


 12:51 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hang on in there backdraft7. It might get lifted. Whatever it is


 1:22 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thinking of the internet as a spider web, it took years to establish the delicate connections that were feeding traffic our way. These algo updates are like a little kid with a butterfly net wiping out the entire web structure. That might explain why we are still listed highly, yet nobody is coming to the site anymore through those connections. We are, literally hanging by a thread.

The question now is how to repair the damage. I used to think people found our site spontaneously, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Fixing these broken threads may be the only way back to success and it may take time.

BTW - can't someone slip a black widow down that little kid's shorts?


 1:33 pm on Feb 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a feeling that you are right - it's all about what binds the web togeter - how it is linked.

The question remains though, if there is a problem with the site or the way it is linked to why bother to maintain ranking? I think this points to unnatural linking practices but why be so elaborate about the punishment?

I have removed links from a site that I own that is basically an affiliate feed generated site as we know that google is targetting thin content sites - so I assume that they will have also targetted links from such sites. Long shot but it can't hurt (any more).


 4:19 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hey backdraft, I had a feeling I would find your posts, guess why I am here?! Yep, started the year brilliantly, then BAM, this week has been DEAD, I'm talking worse than any of the horrors of last year. & yet according to logs traffic is normal or UP! Then i dig further & see foreign junk traffic. Why is it every time G tweaks something & we get hit HARD do I ALWAYS, & I mean 100%, see foreign traffic?!


 4:20 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Forgot to add, our .com site got hit hard end of Jan, the .co.uk got hit hard end of last week.


 4:25 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Oh No! Where there is backdraft, there is ohno.. :)

@ohno, What exactly do you mean by foreign traffic? Traffic from other countries where you don't do business? Have you geo tragetted your sites in GWT? (This may not be necessary for .co.uk site)

Where are you hosted?


 4:36 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

yes, my traffic gone so bad it lower then 2 years ago, when i usually see 20% traffic growth every year...


 4:39 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sites are geo targeted, traffic is from countries you didn't know even existed! Certainly would not be interested in our products that work in the UK ONLY! Sites are hosted in the UK and have been with these hosts since October.


 5:30 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

OHNO - Welcome back! We were getting worried about you!
You're still pretty much in lockstep with what we are seeing. An excellent start to January followed by a sizable drop late in the month. Now it's been yo-yo traffic and sales since. For whatever reason, I'm seeing less in the way of sales spikes. It's all nice and smooth with almost identical sales every day. Patterns are still emerging...just gotta keep watching.

I'm working on more site tweaks. I have another topic over in the Google Tools Labs area. (couldn't find a specific area for WMT's) > here's the post > [webmasterworld.com...] Not sure if that's an issue, but I'm sifting through all possibilities. Any advice is welcomed.

In a way these upsets are a good incentive to do your site housekeeping and review best practices. I understand the need for changes and in the end it's better to just roll with them than to gripe. (or blame them on Zombies) ;^)

One more observation...when things are running "normally" I usually get some late night sales from the UK or "down under". Last two night had both UK and Aussie sales, which might indicate a return to better quality and a more normal pattern. I still stand by the notion that when an major algo is unleashed, it's better to sit back and let it digest or propagate before making a final determination on whether it works or not.
I'll still report the effects, but we'll never really know the cause of the dips.

[edited by: tedster at 5:42 pm (utc) on Feb 17, 2011]
[edit reason] changed the link [/edit]


 5:41 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm yawning big time here. Orders are 2 thirds down on 2 weeks ago (when they were briefly "normal" for 2 weeks). :( :( :(


 8:33 am on Feb 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Oh joy. This morning sees people from Canada, India & Philippines (at least countries I've heard of so a slight improvment, sarcastic mode off!) adding stuff to a cart on a UK site that sells products for UK use ONLY and only ships to the UK. I may as well take the day off as I know 100% when I see what I have just seen we will be DEAD. One other point, just prior to this all kicking off the email notifications from our product feeds stopped coming through, then when sales took a hit they started coming through slowly, almost like G had too much data to process, emails that should have come through on the 1st came through 5 days later....

Final point, also just as this happened our cart showed items added by G bot! This has NEVER happened before.

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