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Zombie Traffic from Google and Traffic Shaping/Throttling - Analysis
tedster




msg:4437837
 4:24 am on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

We need a dedicated thread to look at this odd phenomenon being reported by a subset of our members. It really isn't about any particular "update" because the apparent signs have been reported since 2008.

I have personally seen just a few examples of traffic shaping and nothing I could really call zombie traffic, but I think it's time for all of us to take the reports seriously and at least give advice on how to analyze what these webmasters are seeing.

To truly make sense of this, we'll need to pull in many areas of Google that we rarely talk about. This ain't your daddy's SEO! Here's a pretty good overview, from 2010: [webmasterworld.com...]

 

ohno




msg:4508772
 6:12 am on Oct 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google has far more information available about these searchers than we do and I suspect it is capable of making a pretty fair evaluation (based on previous actions, etc.) about how "hot" these leads are. It could meter them out to various merchants, sending the hot ones one direction for a while, etc. But why? And why alternate over a multi-day period?


The only reason I can think of is to spread the $$$ around in the hope that more people may spend on Adwords? That would be a double edged sword, on one hand a webmaster can see good Google referals for a period, why not use Adwords to bump that even higher? Sales have slacked off but Google was good to us in the past, why not try an Adwords campaign to get sales back? I find it hard to believe that they do not have the data to serve correct pages to people given how long this seems to have been going for.....

bluntforce




msg:4508789
 7:45 am on Oct 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

What I find difficult to believe is that people do not grasp it is an algorithm. There aren't people sitting in a factory pulling little levers either approving or disapproving a given result.

You can spend on Adwords or not, the algorithm doesn't care except that it can measure you have traffic originating outside of organic results.

This is like the advent of consumer video. When it began, little shops opened everywhere renting VHS tapes. Then, the brands entered the space and killed the little shops. Then, DVD changed the brand marketing and started killing the brands with mail delivery. Then, technology made it possible for "on demand" and streaming so everything changed once again.

If it hasn't happened to you yet, it will.
Change is a positive thing if you consider it positive.

ohno




msg:4508793
 8:07 am on Oct 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

What I find difficult to believe is that people do not grasp it is an algorithm. There aren't people sitting in a factory pulling little levers either approving or disapproving a given result.

It's an algorithm programmed to do what Google wants, whatever that may be.

diberry




msg:4508954
 4:49 pm on Oct 17, 2012 (gmt 0)


Google has automated taxonomy assignments for query types and for URLs. If the taxonomy assignment algorithm can't figure out where your page "fits", they might keep trying different categories for it in an automated, machine learning fashion.


But why is it taking the machine so long to figure this out? Based on what gadget26 is seeing during zombie periods, Google should be able to detect the higher bounce rates and shorter time on site, even if they can't detect how many pages people are vising before leaving. And during the on-time, the machine should notice improved bounce rates and longer times on site.

This is really basic stuff. I can't believe the machine learning doesn't have enough info by now to see this pattern which clearly indicates that people like gadget26's site far more when they're sent there on a buy query than on an info query. Am I wrong? It just seems if the machine was this easily confused, we'd be seeing even more wacky bad SERPs than we've observed in recent months.

gadget26




msg:4508985
 5:30 pm on Oct 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ohno; I've tried with and without adwords. (I used to spend big with adwords so I have known effective campaigns that I can turn on and off at will.) As far as I can tell, my adwords spend doesn't affect the organic traffic, at least in the < 1 month time frame.

@diberry; Point of information: I have a large knowledge base on my site, siloed...but on the same domain. I've been moving that to a subdomain with 301s but only recently finished. Google hasn't fully noticed this yet. Could it be that Google refuses to realize that a domain has both informational and commerce pages?

Cheers.

US, ecom, Panda 1.0 penalized.

Martin Ice Web




msg:4509289
 11:51 am on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Our "on" period lasted 3 days. Now it is thursday 12 a clock. Switch turned off.

ohno




msg:4509292
 12:00 pm on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Today has seen a return to the dead Thursday for us too. Traffic well down & zero conversions thus far.

Martin Ice Web




msg:4509297
 12:14 pm on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ohno, did you see no traffic today or did it stopped just a few hours ago?

ohno




msg:4509299
 12:17 pm on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Today has been poor since the start, our traffic & conversions started to tail off around the 16th...
(& the foreign traffic made a big return this morning too)

diberry




msg:4509448
 4:11 pm on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Could it be that Google refuses to realize that a domain has both informational and commerce pages?


Sounds like a possibility to me, sure.

What bugs me about all this is that Google wants us to stop doing SEO, but it seems indisputable to me that there are still ways in which we need to do SEO or else the algo won't interpret our sites properly. Like, you're moving your info pages to a subdomain not for users (although it won't hurt user experience, either), but in hopes that will help this algo sort out info from purchasing pages.

I thought Google was telling us we don't NEED SEO anymore, we just need good sites - but clearly that is not true. And now they're punishing people for doing SEO. Rock, meet hard place.

Or better yet: website, meet lots of other traffic sources.

tedster




msg:4509494
 6:28 pm on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

I thought Google was telling us we don't NEED SEO anymore, we just need good sites

I think they're sharing their hopes and dreams with us, not the actual reality of this moment.

backdraft7




msg:4509586
 9:24 pm on Oct 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

New twist here too - now instead of Zombie traffic, I'm getting ZERO traffic.
On a normal day, I'm seeing 15 to 20 people on the site at any pone time...
yesterday and now today, I'm lucky to see half of that...mostly one or two people hanging out on a dedicated server. You're killin' us Google! again!

gadget26




msg:4509609
 12:11 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

For a change, I'm having pretty good conversions from g organic today. Sorry Backdraft. My turn.

backdraft7




msg:4509669
 4:02 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry Backdraft. My turn.

and so it goes, this is the new Google, round and round she goes, where she'll stop nobody knows.

tedster




msg:4509684
 5:30 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

There are so few people reported this kind of traffic that I wonder how wides"pread it really is. It may be an artifact of something Google is doing. But if it's not more widespread, then it's not very accurate to say "this is the new Google."

ohno




msg:4509704
 6:36 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yesterday (18th) was awful for us too. Just looked at the logs & I now see spurts of foreign visitors. eg, at 21:27 & 21:29 visits from Spain, then at 23:17, 23:55, 23:58 & 00:01 visits from Singapore, then at 6AM it's India's turn. The interesting thing is all the visits from Singapore were iphone users.

petehall




msg:4509711
 7:33 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

When I see US sites or AU sites creep into SERPs before / diring Panda updates, it's always the same sites.

My guess is your sites, for whatever reason, feature on Google in the countries you mention. I highly doubt UK traffic is much use to an AU site, so it's the same scenario in reverse.

ohno




msg:4509714
 7:39 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

That is the conclusion I came to as well Pete. The question is why does this seem to happen during updates & why us?!

ohno




msg:4509769
 10:52 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

My traffic has gone the same way as Google stock :( Not even Zombies now.

petehall




msg:4509787
 11:35 am on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Something big is going down... I suspect a big black and white creature.

backdraft7




msg:4509876
 3:23 pm on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

There are so few people reported this kind of traffic that I wonder how wides"pread it really is.


Really tedster? I see nearly EVERYONE reporting odd on/off patterns, they are just reporting it in other topic areas and trying to hang it on other reasons.

Remember, "Zombie traffic" does not mean literal "Zombies". It's just non converting, poorly targeted traffic. I also find it difficult for those who run strictly adsense sites to call a site exit via an ad a conversion. Most who see this are selling an actual product or service.

Also, many stopped reporting it out of shear futility / frustration.

The new Google is clearly different from that prior to 5/2010.
The new Google results are in a constant state of flux...there is no stability these days. Even you have to admit that.

tedster




msg:4509878
 3:36 pm on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry. On-and-off traffic is not the same as batches of traffic that don't convert - which is what I was talking about by the name "zombie."

On-and-off traffic is definitely part of today's picture - not just from Google but also from Bing. But I wouldn't call that "zombie traffic". However, on-and-off traffic is also not the same as traffic throttling, which would be designed to enforce a maximum limit on a site. Those reports are pretty rare to.

How can we keep a focus on our analysis here? Do we need a separate thread for "on and off" traffic? It's so much more common that such a discussion would swamp zombies and throttling.

ohno




msg:4509931
 5:55 pm on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

This is a good point. In my head Zombies, throttling & on/off periods have morphed in to one......

backdraft7




msg:4509939
 5:59 pm on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

But IMHO "on / off" traffic patterns and Zombie Traffic are one in the same. It may not have anything to do with algos. But I'm not ruling them out.

I believe that much of the problem lies with the general dilution of the entire landscape in any niche. Years ago, one or two sites could stand out against a basically blank background landscape of sites. Now with more and more scrapers, wannabes and photo spam sites, it's harder to stand out. In our case, this lowers the number of potential customers who need our products because if they only needed a small portion of info, they are finding it on the scraper sites who offer it for free today. They offer it for free so visitors will come to their sites and hopefully leave via one of their many adsense ads.

The problem with this theory is that many tangible product sites (like ohno and many others) are seeing the same patterns we see. Tangible product sites should not be affected by scrapers. After all, they can't scrape the physical products that the customer needs, so we're back to suspecting the algo and database structure and refresh methods.

This also does not explain the sudden ON / OFF conversion periods, unless the scrapers (or poor quality diversionary sites) suddenly had disappeared. However, this could be explained by the new, improved, faster everflux of Google's serp data.
The how and why's escape me though.

ugh!

gadget26




msg:4509959
 7:14 pm on Oct 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

FWIW: Conversions from google organic visitors stopped dead around 3pm PST Thursday for me after a pretty good run for about 16 hours. No significant variance in total daily g-organic traffic. Week over week my total g-organic traffic has been very consistent, but slowly declining, ever since being hit by Panda 1.0.

Adwords and other source conversions are up since 3pm Thurs. This is common and I assume users are using other sources to find me since g is not "optimum".

Your turn backdraft. :-)

backdraft7




msg:4510198
 4:53 pm on Oct 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

@gadget - I'm also seeing a slow decline in traffic, according to the GA trend graph. However, when I select the account in GA to examine, the trend percentage shows a green 56%. A week ago that number was more like + 5%. Graph going down, yet GA claiming an incredible rise. Go figure. It's all broken.

Yesterday was dead all day, then at 11am, 3 conversions within 10 minutes. This is what I'd consider an unnatural pattern. Why should I expect regularly spaced conversions? Simply because that's how it was for almost a decade. That's why I say "Welcome to the new Google".

One other issue, and I'm considering a separate thread for: How many claims by Google can we throw under the bus? Web spam, keyword loading, multiple domains, domain crowding, hacked sites, trust, branding, original authorship, quality and more. All the old blackhat seems to still thrive and evade capture by Google's "quality" algo. I don't expect perfection, but they are far, FAR from that.

gadget26




msg:4510238
 8:06 pm on Oct 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hmmmm. Maybe we need to put together tedster's idea that this is an artifact of machine learning with the general consensus that google now acts mostly to make a buck. The algorithm would dish out the "likely to convert" traffic to a domain while watching the adwords spend or adsense earnings that result from that domain.

I've gotten the feeling for quite a while now that google was trying to tell me, by the on/off traffic it sends, that "there is more good traffic out there to be had...if you'll just play with (pay) us".

I mentioned before that my adwords spend doesn't seem to affect my organic traffic, but my spend is comparatively small. Maybe it's not big enough to affect the organics. (Yeah I know they say the two aren't connected. But much of the advice they've given me for the last two years has been demonstrably wrong.)

The algo is jerking the serps around wildly for SOME reason. Why else but to maximize revenue? All we need to do is try to convince G that they HAVE maximized the revenue from us so they'll stop jerking US around.

Cheers.

backdraft7




msg:4511042
 10:36 pm on Oct 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just for the record, another SUPER Zombie day...zero sales. Pages per day suddenly dropped on 10/19 from a steady 250k per day to 64k or less per day. Something is up (or should I say DOWN)...again. Wake me up when this nightmare roller coaster is over.

backdraft7




msg:4511096
 3:28 am on Oct 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ok, strange development, and if you don't care about my conversions, move to the next comment....

My last conversion was at in the wee early morning hours at 12:39am
My last comment (above at 4:39pm) was commenting on the lack of daytime sales conversions, which is very peculiar. So, tonight at 7:58 pm, about 19 hours after the last sale, the spigot re-opened. Then, conversions again at:
8:47pm
8:49pm
9:16pm
9:45pm
9:53pm
10:05pm
The night's not over yet, but I find it very odd that the entire daylight hours can't produce, but then a very obvious window suddenly opens up. This on/off pattern is what we've been observing and sharing with others who are seeing the same anomalous patterns. Did anyone else notice an opening of the spigot at approximately 8pm CST? I'll dig through my data tomorrow morning, but I doubt it will indicate anything obvious. If the algo is reading this, thanks for the "on" period.

BTW, in the "good old days" this regular pattern would begin at about 5am and continue unabated until 11pm.
It followed that pattern for many years.

theseanstewart




msg:4512883
 2:31 am on Oct 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

For the past week one of my client's has been experiencing this zombie traffic phenomenon. The site usually averages a 1.5-2% conversion rate but this week it's been averaging below 1%. It doesn't make any sense.

ohno




msg:4512909
 7:56 am on Oct 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

This week has been poor, spurts of non converting traffic all week long. Last Sunday was our first ZERO day for a while, this week will end 50% down on normal. All this in a week where there was good news about the UK economy! The UK government better watch Google.......

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