To add to this discussion webmaster tools says I am pos 5 for a very lucrative keyword in my niche.. says I have jumped 300 positions up in the last 2 days yet I dont see it in the SERPS. Wondering if this is part of the same phenomenon.
As for the original question I have a site that ranks just under image strip for a particular keyword, recently I have noticed that I am above the image strip sometimes and other times I am not. When ever this has happened before I have seen an 3x increase in traffic this time however traffic has not changed at all.
For every 1000 visitors I receive from search to any given page they come in on 900+ different keyword variations. For that reason alone I can tell you it's not possible to claim you hold the same keyword rankings, there are too many to check.
If your page was downgraded for whatever reason, by Panda or Penguin for example, perhaps it no longer casts a long shadow capable of catching such a diverse group of keywords thus limiting you to only the best keywords (which you're still watching). It will appear as if nothing changed but its very possible, and even likely, that it has.
This is where solid tracking data comes into play. Analytics or log readers are invaluable in spotting changes over time and there are hundreds of good articles on how to break down those reports to look for various signs and signals. Get digging in the data and let us know what it tells you.
I know that the long tail contributes a lot of traffic to a site and that the loss of long tail traffic can hurt.
But I know how my sites perform and the figures in Google Analytics consistently tell me which pages attract the bulk of traffic and I know which search terms trigger those pages.
The difference now is that the same search terms are showing the same SERP's and my pages are at the same positions, or very close to their normal positions...... but the traffic numbers are way, way down.
That is what the OP is all about.
I don't know why this is happening, but I can offer a few ideas for the sake of discussion.
1. Not everyone is seeing the same results that you are. Have you tried checking rankings through a proxy or third party tool? Or asked a friend in a different part of the country to check?
2. Is there any seasonality around your niche that could be bringing you down right now?
3. Were you hit by Penguin or Panda? I've seen very clear evidence of traffic throttling impacting affected sites.
4. Has the layout of the SERP changed? IE: more ads, local results, videos, images, shopping results, etc?
Here's what I've seen and maybe someone can agree or call me crazy:
Search suggestions. You know the suggestions that drop out live while you're typing at Google and Bing? They change from time to time and MANY users take the suggestion, effectivly, the searchbox is redirecting traffic.
We have a page, lets say "trouble-with-dirty-footwear.html" using the terms for all kinds of footwear and how to clean them; one week it's flooded with traffic for "trouble with dirty shoes" (poor ad clicks) the next week it's getting the same traffic for the term "touble with dirty sneakers" (high click throughs) but no traffic for the previous term. We rank equally high if you check SERPs for both at the same time but people aren't being directed to that search because the searchbox completed it for them.
To test this we manually check the suggestions by typing "trouble with dirty" and the term that's popular at the time will complete the search phrase and that's how I confirm why we get "sneaker" traffic rather than "shoe" traffic. It's hard to guess the actual percentage the effect has but on the few that we can it's about a 75% shift from one to the other, enough to make you think you lost rank.
|I've seen very clear evidence of traffic throttling impacting affected sites. |
There have been references to traffic throttling for a long time but to the best of my knowledge, I've never seen anything that confirms it actually exists.
What do you consider to be "clear evidence"?