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This 109 message thread spans 4 pages: 109 ( [1] 2 3 4 > >     
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?



 3:27 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Something really BIG changed yesterday about midday. We are still in triage mode here covering our basics. We saw a huge 10-20 drop in almost all positions for our biggest and oldest site.

It doesnt matter if it is all 100% unique with tons of backlinks and really well laid out or simply an image. Everything got whacked.

Our out of date non unique ad filled sites are humming along FINE.

So whats the message here Google? Write an indepth article that takes 3 days to complete and is linked to by hundreds of companies and gov agencies and loose all positions sitewide while our out of date halfbaked and useless content does fine?

I give up man, we passed stupid a long time ago. Honestly Google, what are you thinking?


 3:46 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

@drall - thanks for the confirmation. Google's next project should be discovering a way to release algo updates without upsetting the entire apple cart. It's been obvious that their sorting process whacks everyone.


 5:51 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

We have lost 40-60% traffic in several sites, all same time yesterday. Very frustrating and to see server idle now.


 7:10 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ok here is just one example of what we are seeing.

We follow video games, pretty bigname in our industry. So in this example we have a page which we wrote a review of one of the most popular games out today. This document is 6 years old. We all have played this game thousands of hours so we know what we are talking about. Anyhow this review also had a couple tutorials we wrote to help newbies to the game with specific things.

Those tutorials have been updated over the years with each expansion of the game. They are real step by step tutorials with screens and videos. Anyhow overtime these guides built links all by themselves due to usefulness, infact the actual game company which is PR 7 alexa 2000ish links to these guides and constantly points them out to the fanbase of millions in the forums.

So for a handful of these guides we ranked 1-3 over the years for various terms. Good traffic, less then 10% bounce rate, just really good stuff. Well we are now result 25ish for all terms related to this game. Very basic SEO, basically what Google advocates. What has replaced us you may ask? Well that's the fun part.

Result 1 Wikipedia with a general about for the game.
Result 2 A Ehow article from 4 years ago with absolutely no relevant content to the query.
Result 3 A hubpages article again that is totally out of date and useless to the querytype.
Result 4-24 I dont want to even bother typing as it is just about borderline spam.

So I guess our page that was written by people playing the actual game for 5-6 years, updating the article constantly to keep it useful to the games changes and linked to by thousands of game sites and forums and social platforms and the game creator itself has now been deemed useless!

I know you are reading this Google, what in the world are you doing? How does the above example show an improvement in your results? Do you define our article as low quality despite those natural signals and find wiki, ehow and hubpages better despite them being completely unrelated to the query type and 99% less related natural signal strengths?

This is one of thousands of examples I can post. What in the world did you push yesterday? Added note, we still are 1-3 in BingHoo.


 7:12 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

lol @ drall.

Google: when you're poking something with a stick, keep the pointy end pointing AWAY from you.


 7:26 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Our issue also with games site, playing games online and forums. Traffic was stable for years.


 7:41 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

really BIG changed yesterday about midday

I got whacked at about same time under similar conditions.

Our usual 8,500 monthly keyphrase report has jumped to 11,500 keywords & phrases.

Thatís actually one of the ways they do it IMO. Itís the difference between the two numbers where the traffic is coming from. In other words Iíve watched 50 keyword phrases appear in logs and orders go up and then those phrases vanish overnight. Thing is it was stable for all those phrases 9-24 months ago. In fact you might be getting more sales from Bing than you think.

Robert Charlton

 8:21 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

drall - Thinking out loud here.... are the changes you're seeing for something like very general queries that Google might be trying to disambiguate? I'm asking because disambiguation of some sort could be behind the "splintered serps", for want of a better description, that Google seems to be serving.

For those experiencing the changes, how would you describe the queries affected? Are they short and general, long and specific, possibly geo-related or possibly not, or for terms with ambiguous meanings? Anything going on that might indicate that Google is trying to determine searcher intent or to calibrate an interface?

Also, have you noticed any changes in auto-complete suggestions that might accompany these shifts? I'm wanting to get at some cause and effect here... at the least to get clearer descriptions of the kinds of queries affected and of any concurrent changes you're seeing.


 8:49 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I was talking with a friend earlier this week about Google Suggestions. He monitors Suggestions very closely for a lot of words, and he has seen a significant shift this month. The big change: Google Suggestions now appear to be quite "hyper-local", varying even over small geographic differences. This variation is not only for obviously local query terms like [pizza] or [hardware store].

Such a shift could very well be a factor that affects traffic, most especially the geographic source of traffic. It's also an indicator that Google continues to generate ever finer granularity in their search results. And if they get something wrong in their understanding of geography - whether in Suggestions or the actual SERP, well, "zombie traffic" could be one result, I suppose.


 10:41 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I didn't notice any changes in local long tail traffic based on 1M URLs.

Robert Charlton

 10:50 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Localization is clearly one of the prime disambiguators for Google. If you switch Instant off, you'll see twice as many suggestions, and thus more geo suggestions become apparent.

But almost every new Google search feature I've been seeing seems to be built for disambiguation, including (but not limited to) the returning of general terms in localized serps. Instant and Instant previews, eg, are in a way an extension of Suggest... and a different angle on the choices.

You can also see variations in Suggest that aren't geographic, but which are cyclic. Eg, I regularly search some financial data and notice that Google Suggestions periodically include 'google finance' as additional terms in the third or fourth spot.

I can go a month or so without seeing Google Finance suggested, and then suddenly it will be suggested for a month or two before it disappears again. This is independent, as far as I can tell, of cookies, browser, logged in or out, location, or of what I click. I almost always keep search history switched off. This pattern has been repeating consistently over a long stretch of time now, for well over a year.

I should perhaps graph it or keep better notes, but I haven't, in part because I don't have click-through data to compare, and in part because I can't assume I'm seeing what everybody else sees. The observed dates of change don't appear to correlate with serp and traffic changes I see reported in the forum.

Robert Charlton

 10:54 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

PS to the above... we were posting at the same time.

I didn't notice any changes in local long tail traffic based on 1M URLs.

I'm making a bunch of assumptions when I say this, but it's likely that long tail traffic is the least ambiguous, and thus the least likely to be affected by most types of disambiguation.

Many search "features" that I'm seeing on Google switch off if a query becomes very precise.


 10:58 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

What has replaced us you may ask? Well that's the fun part.

Result 1 Wikipedia with a general about for the game.
Result 2 A Ehow article from 4 years ago with absolutely no relevant content to the query.
Result 3 A hubpages article again that is totally out of date and useless to the querytype.
Result 4-24 I dont want to even bother typing as it is just about borderline spam.

Well join the crowd becasue that's been happening in a lot of areas for a while. Even minor updating of the page can sometimes trigger the downward spiral. Its like if you're not mimicking the top results you're engaged in SEO. Bad boy.


 1:26 am on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

To: backdraft7

Same think happened to my site!

Traffic picked up in begging of January and on January 26, mid day it just
dropped to to almost noting...

I think google tried something in January didn't like the way it worked out
and rolled back changes... unfortunately for me and others who saw the gain in traffic...

What is curies why those changes impacted negatively people who didn't get the benefits in the first place...

Any thoughts?!



 1:49 am on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)


I think the problem may be temporary, but it shows that Google is still not satisfied, nor may never be satisfied with their algo. The strange thing for us through all these ups and downs is that our position has changed only +/- 1 in the serps. It almost appears as if the entire Google system breaks for brief periods of time. My old bubble sort theory still makes the most sense to me. They make an algo change and your site goes through the whole sorting process again. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes days, but they just can't keep their hands off the switches down at Google.

As a side note, a few weeks ago (when things were running smoothly) I was writing a blog post and I'm not kidding, it was listed in the serps withing 3 to 5 minutes! I tried that again this week and nothing seems to be getting ingested. Perhaps the system is busy re-sorting after a quality tweak.
Like I said, they can make it lightening fast with big bumpy disruptions, but I'd rather see slower & smoother. After all, I can't type faster than a speeding bullet.

The roller coaster ride continues into 2011.


 2:57 am on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi Robert, some are general queries but most are "how do I" type of queries and pretty dead on but could also be general depending on how you look at it so maybe you are on to something. I would say in general they are short and general Robert.

We never really tried to rank for them and just built the content with no real keywords in mind but overtime real organic backlinks started growing with certain terms in or around them.

So now maybe Google is looking at the phrase differently and getting the answer wrong?

Robert Charlton

 7:38 am on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

"how do I" type of queries and pretty dead on but could also be general depending on how you look at it...

drall - Not what I was originally thinking about, as backdraft7's "zombie traffic" phrase suggested traffic throttling all over again... and I've been feeling that might relate to calibration of broad query serps and interface refinements. That's likely just one aspect of what Google is constantly testing.

Your mention of "how do I" type queries does bring to mind the content farm discussion. I'm seeing that some of the Q&A type sites are among the spammiest around, and it's possible that Google is trying to evaluate this particular kind of query for user satisfaction or to filter it for spam....

Google's Matt Cutts Talks of New Focus On Low Quality Content
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4256294.htm [webmasterworld.com]

backdraft7 - Is the current pattern similar to what you reported in the June 2010 Update thread [webmasterworld.com...] where you reported rankings apparently normal (for 2-3 word phrases) but traffic not going to main pages, or are you seeing something different?

I should note that we have a report of a page being replaced by a scraper on January 26th. Because of the date, I think, this is very possibly related to whatever the current algo changes (or combination of changes) are....

HIJACKED! Exact Content and
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4259278.htm [webmasterworld.com]


 7:59 am on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yesterday one site drops with 28% from 4.400 uniques. Same report in Analytics and another service, so isn't Analytics bug.Site is 1 year old.

Some position in search results for different keywords 26 Jan vs 27 Jan:
from 1 to 4
3 to 5
2 to 5
8 to 10
5 to 7


 1:55 pm on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I usually don't post or get too concerned with the many Google updates but this time the results are certainly perplexing. Sites that I have nothing to do with but that I follow that are 6, 8, 10 years old and have unique content and lots of user interaction dropped off the Google map on the 26th--mid afternoon.

I understand the need to tweak the algorithm---and get rid of useless sites. But to fix something and make the results they are delivering much much worse--seems quite backwards. Google got this one very wrong it seems.


 3:12 pm on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

@RC - Yes, exactly that. I checked my top two dozen key phrases both locally, with personalization off and through several colleagues around the world. All reported pretty much the same positions. So, if I am still listed well, then yes, it would indicated one of two things: 1. Traffic throttling. 2. Google is temporarily broken. Theory #2 does not hold too much water because when we click those links they land correctly.

I've also mentioned my competitor site who is listed right next to me on some queries. When things are running smoothly, he gets about one tenth the sales I get. When zombie traffic starts, that gaps closes dramatically, as if they are "load balancing" between us.
In the past several years, I have also noticed that the variation of my sales conversions has smoothed out and on a week basis, my sales will nearly be the exact same as the prior week. This again indicates some sort of throttling.

Why January started out fine is anybodies guess, but it seems those on & off cycles are back.

Sales have recovered some yesterday, but it seems like slow traffic again this morning.


 5:03 pm on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

This sounds like it might be the cause of the traffic issues:



 5:20 pm on Jan 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

According to Matt Cutts, Google rolled out the first step in their campaign to "rank scraper sites or sites with less original content lower". This has just got to be the change that people are noticing - Matt said it was launched "earlier this week."

There's a home page discussion about that algo change here: Matt Cutts: Google Algorithm Change Launched [webmasterworld.com]

So let's use this thread to track the actual effects that people are seeing on their rankings and traffic.


 3:20 am on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

Dropped around 25% here, starting January 16. It's a big site that has enjoyed primo rankings for 3 years. All of the most prized, best-converting keywords were affected, dropping around 10 spots. Quite the eye-opener.

Thank god for the long tail...


 2:40 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am seeing a downward move for "bad" sites in my niche. I'm hoping Google got this one right for a change! Sales up this morning, at least one every 30 min. Last few days it was one every 6 hours, maybe, all with same traffic levels as today. Beware ZOMBIES!


 3:36 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

WE just noticed another change on one of our major keywords. Was in the 2nd spot for 2 years, got bumped down to 5th on Dec 28th. Just got bumped to the second page this morning. Still can't figure out why though. We do have dupe content issues (within our own site), but we are currently sorting them with 301 redirects.


 10:43 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have always had this fear that some genuine sites will be hurt while G tries to fight spammers and scrapers. So if I write an article today and G takes a week to index it but a scraper scrapes the content before and it gets indexed by G, will G now think that the scraper is the original creator of the content? This is very troubling and I hope that G has thought about this.


 11:37 pm on Jan 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a site that was two years old, very popular, high rankings for popular keywords. I had to move the site due to domain name trademark issues. So, i 301'ed the domain, properly with wildcard, etc. The perfect way to redirect.

1 Month later, most of my high rankings were gone. Slowly, i've rebuilt the site up and it's now at about 20% of the previous traffic levels... nothing like what it was.

However, a few scraper sites started posting the content on my site via the RSS Feed. It never was a problem... until i moved the site.

Now, any exact match search on any article published on my site returns the scraper @ #1. My site is hidden... down the page or in supplemental results.

The RSS feed (& the scraper) publish my posts which clearly say 'this post is brought to you by... (my site name & url link)'

Whatever changed they have made, they are NOT working. This scraper site has NO ORIGINAL CONTENT and still ranks #1 and over ranks my site, the original source of content...


 3:41 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Another "off" period Monday morning...obvious "un-natural" dip in traffic.
SEPS unchanged...as far as I can tell.


 5:08 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wow - something really crazy is going on this morning..anyone else seeing low traffic?

This 109 message thread spans 4 pages: 109 ( [1] 2 3 4 > >
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