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Site in long slow decline, no obvious sign of a problem
JS_Harris




msg:4597553
 12:58 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I launched an informational site in 2007 about an activity that is still increasing in popularity today. Unfortunately since Feb the site has been receiving fewer and fewer visitors from Google, it's been a long steady decline that has now reached 65% less traffic. The loss is only from google, both Bing and Yahoo are sending more traffic and direct traffic has also increased steadily.

The drop in traffic did not happen suddenly, there is no telltale cliff in analytics, but even webmaster tools shows the same loss of traffic for web queries(images excluded).

There is also no smoking gun as to why it's slowly bleeding traffic. No one competitor is outranking the site, in fact some of the rankings for keywords has improved although the number of longtail searches has diminished considerably on those same pages.

I performed a full link audit, both internal and external, and in doing so feel that I might be onto the problem. In short I'm not sure that the number of external links can be supported by the number/quality of incoming links. Also, I've written several articles about gear that can be useful in this activity. I have not accepted paid requests to write articles, I usually link to a couple of sources that I would personally choose when I mention a product... but it's these pages that have been hit hardest.

I will therefore assume I do not have the Google trust required to float these links to other sites even if the links are years old in some cases.

Last week I selected a few pages and removed the links. Yesterday those pages have received 22% more daily traffic overall than they have since Feb, which is still 40% less than at their peek, and the trend continues today.

I'm not seeing any change on other pages.

I'm going to continue optimizing other pages with links that might appear like they could be a paid endorsement. I don't like the feeling of removing what I know to be valid links but if nobody sees them they do nothing anyway. I am reducing the number of these types of links from 2-3 per page to 1.

My question is: How useful a tool do you feel pagerank might be if outgoing links are sinking my boat? I have some outgoing links that land on PR0 pages all the way up to PR8 pages with most in the 3-5 range. If I remove the outgoing links to the less trusted pages first... is that better than going by gut feeling?

If doing this does not improve traffic then I intend to return all the links as they were but so far it is improving traffic. I considered using the nofollow tag instead but, to me, that suggests I don't trust the pages and I do so I didn't go that route.

Have you dealt with what feels like an outgoing link problem before, as in too many outgoing links against incoming links that seem to be devalued quite a bit recently?

 

JD_Toims




msg:4597556
 1:25 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I haven't dealt with this specifically myself, but have seen and heard about "slow declines" in Google traffic.

One thing that pops into my head WRT outbound links is if you've thought to put them all on a page of "additional resources" and "fragment link" to the section of the "resources" page with the links relating to a specific article?

This should lower your PR bleed by having the link within the articles to a page on your site rather than outbound, and also would give you the opportunity to run those links through a disallowed redirect script or nofollow them to see if it makes a difference in rankings.

JS_Harris




msg:4597590
 7:06 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Actually I have considered that option and though it might help individual pages I feel that the resource page then becomes a liability. It will inevitably gather value and may compete with my other pages or it may look unnatural to link that way. Remember, Google is all about how sites are interlinked with each other so to aggregate all outgoing links to one page might look spammy. Imagine if all sites did it, Google's algo would become much less effective and so I doubt it looks favorably on the idea of a single 'resources' page.

I like the idea - I doubt Google does. I can hear Matt telling us that it is less convenient to make a visitor hunt for a link on a page of links when you can send them directly.

bubba1986




msg:4597604
 7:54 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Several of my sites are in the same scenario since 2011. Unfortunately nothing is working and I don't think we can do anything about it, short of becoming NBC popular.

The writing is in the wall and I have seen it, Google wants all the money they can get and I think this is linked to having virtually all ads on page one and wanting us to advertise. This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room and we cannot and should not ignore it. 23% more clicks from 2012 came out of somewhere, and that's by us getting less traffic from Google. Like I said, you can ignore the obvious and say "But Matt Cutts said and that"

denisl




msg:4597609
 8:19 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I notice that you say your direct traffic has increased.
On one of my sites I have seen direct traffic increase steadily but now believe that this is mostly Google traffic, presumeably with the referer missing.
If you add Google and direct traffic together, how does the picture look then?

ColourOfSpring




msg:4597611
 8:26 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Several of my sites are in the same scenario since 2011. Unfortunately nothing is working and I don't think we can do anything about it, short of becoming NBC popular.

The writing is in the wall and I have seen it, Google wants all the money they can get and I think this is linked to having virtually all ads on page one and wanting us to advertise. This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room and we cannot and should not ignore it. 23% more clicks from 2012 came out of somewhere, and that's by us getting less traffic from Google. Like I said, you can ignore the obvious and say "But Matt Cutts said and that"


Exactly right. Unless you can create the same multi-million dollar signals the big brands can create, you're going to continue sliding down. My selling niche is dominated by high street brands - they dominate the top 15-20 positions alongside eBay and Amazon. These brands spend millions of pounds in marketing each year. They have hundreds of bricks and mortar stores. I can't compete with that.

JD_Toims




msg:4597632
 10:32 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I like the idea - I doubt Google does. I can hear Matt telling us that it is less convenient to make a visitor hunt for a link on a page of links when you can send them directly.

Actually, MC suggested it in the video about interlinking sites under the same ownership, so I doubt it's frowned upon in any way.

[youtube.com...] [listen about 0:59]

nomis5




msg:4597633
 11:23 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm not convinced at all that a large number of outbound links, spread evenly through a site, have any bad effect.

One review site I have, which has almost zero inbound links, has on average three to four outbound links per page. Everything about the site has improved considerably over the last year.

The outbound links are mainly to sites with very low PR although their PR has remained at a low steady.

Admittedly, to date anyway, G hasn't found a way to compete with my site and maybe that is one reason for its success. But there are loads of sites out there with high numbers of outbound links which are flourishing. I would look for other reasons.

netmeg




msg:4597635
 12:30 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

On one of my sites I have seen direct traffic increase steadily but now believe that this is mostly Google traffic, presumeably with the referer missing.


What does your mobile traffic look like over time? Because this is exactly right - my biggest and second oldest looks like it's lost 25% search engine traffic in the past year, while the direct traffic is up over 100%. Adding things together, and cross checking devices, this can be pretty much entirely explained by iOS traffic showing as 'direct' in Analytics. If I didn't know that going in, I'd have probably had a heart attack, since all the rankings are fine as far as I can tell. But the mobile visitors are 50-70% of the total traffic now, depending on the time of year.

aristotle




msg:4597663
 1:57 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

On one of my sites I have seen direct traffic increase steadily but now believe that this is mostly Google traffic, presumeably with the referer missing.


Can you provide some more information about this? What does this "direct traffic" look like in your logs that would cause you to think it's actually coming from Google? Can you give an example.

I'm not saying that I doubt you -- I just think that this is a possibility worth exploring in more detail.

denisl




msg:4597683
 3:03 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

aristotle - this is using Google analytics. The reason I think it is mostly G traffic is that I had a server problem (or I should say a hosting problem) a few weeks ago which resulted in Googlebot being blocked. Google traffic plumetted for a couple of days as did the "direct" traffic. Traffic from other SE's wasnt affected.

netmeg




msg:4597684
 3:09 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

...details of what has changed in the last 5 months, an accurate way to estimate impact, and an explanation of how a recent change in Google has made it even harder for us to estimate the percent of missing iOS 6 search data.


[searchenginewatch.com...]

Apple's iOS 6 update means 86% of Google referral traffic is encrypted


[econsultancy.com...]

EditorialGuy




msg:4597703
 4:20 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

...there are loads of sites out there with high numbers of outbound links which are flourishing. I would look for other reasons.


Makes sense to me. Why would Google want to discourage legitimate outbound links, when links are a core component of Google's algorithm?

aristotle




msg:4597710
 4:47 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

@denisl
thanks for the explanation. I was thinking that there might be some clue in the log entry to indicate that the visitor came from Google.

@netmeg
Thanks for the links to the articles. If I understand correctly, they're talking about mobile traffic. One article also says that encrypted search for logged-in users shows up as "not provided", but still is known to come from Google. I don't know enough to fully follow all of it, but the trend seems to be that less and less information is being provided, unfortunately.

As for outbound links, I agree with those who say that they probably aren't the problem. In fact, there's an old SEO theory that outbound links to related articles on authority sites actually help rankings.

dethfire




msg:4597746
 5:40 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have also experienced a slow death since Dec. Trying everything I can to adhere to google guidelines. No stopping it yet though.

AskForeman




msg:4597812
 8:55 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

How many pages does the site have in total? In the WebMaster Tools section what does the index pages say vs what it did a few months back?

Planet13




msg:4597828
 9:58 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ dethfire

"I have also experienced a slow death since Dec. Trying everything I can to adhere to google guidelines. No stopping it yet though."

If I remember correctly, I think you have a forum?

From what I have heard, it seems like forums in general are having a tough go of it now.

~~~~~

I sure hope that the original poster's theory is wrong and that we are not expected to remove outbound links.

JD_Toims




msg:4597867
 11:59 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Makes sense to me. Why would Google want to discourage legitimate outbound links, when links are a core component of Google's algorithm?

I doubt they would, but keeping in mind it's an algo (basically a pattern matching system) and the particular site in the OP sounds like it could "fit the pattern" of paid outbound linking so I think it could be causing an issue.

I don't think it's "any site with a large number of links" by any stretch, but I think sites that "fit a pattern of paid link schemes", or could be close, may need to make adjustments to the way they do things whether they're actually being paid for the articles/links or not.

* When I say "fit the pattern" I'm meaning when the algo combines: writing style, linking style, type of sites linked, possibly even the HTML generated by the software used to create the site if it's "mass used and abused", etc. and then compares the "pattern" those create to a ruleset to make a determination of "what is this site?" and "where should it be scored?".

lucy24




msg:4597878
 1:10 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

One article also says that encrypted search for logged-in users shows up as "not provided", but still is known to come from Google. I don't know enough to fully follow all of it, but the trend seems to be that less and less information is being provided, unfortunately.

Two tiers of obfuscation:

#1 referer says https:/ /www.google.something-here ... and that's all. Any analytics program worth its salt will recognize these as search-engine hits even if the other information is missing. (That is: It may not have recognized them the first time they appeared, but the form has existed for a long time now.)

#2 referer says http:/ /www.google.something, and query string says cd=some-number, but search terms aren't given. Can't remember if anyone ever figured out what these represent. "My page came in at #3 for ... well, something."

robster124




msg:4597880
 1:18 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

have those experiencing a slow decline in traffic tried adding new content recently? i had a site in a similar situation until recently and then started adding new and decent content and saw traffic pick back up. i can only assume this triggered some freshness signal?

my view was that i was spending far too much time trying to tweak SEO on my current pages without adding any deceng new content (in fact ive kind of made this a rule for me this year!)

Planet13




msg:4597883
 1:25 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ Lucy24:

Huh... I am supposed to average around 2.2 for [not provided] but every time I do a google search for "not provided" I never see my site there...

;)


~~~~

I doubt they would, but keeping in mind it's an algo (basically a pattern matching system) and the particular site in the OP sounds like it could "fit the pattern" of paid outbound linking so I think it could be causing an issue.


My mind is fading here, but I think that in a recent matt cutts video called something like "What's in store for seo" he said something to the effect of making it more difficult for upstream sites in relation to link spam.

maybe this is somehow related?

JD_Toims




msg:4597894
 2:07 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

maybe this is somehow related?

I think it definitely could be since the algo/rankings are really all about "patterns" and what "pattern" a given site fits best, so I think it's entirely possible the OP's specific site "fits the pattern" of one of those "upstream sites" and if that's the case, then adjustments in the way things are being done with regard to linking probably need to be made, but at the same time that wouldn't necessarily apply to everyone with a large number of links out on pages either, because others (most?) may have enough "non-fitting patterns" associated with their site(s) that they would "get a pass".

If that's the case it would definitely lead to discrepancies like we're seeing posted in this thread.

EditorialGuy




msg:4597908
 3:03 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

have those experiencing a slow decline in traffic tried adding new content recently?


Yes. Quite a bit, in fact: all professionally written, illustrated with photos, and useful to readers.

dethfire




msg:4597909
 3:11 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

Mine is a forum and I get 1000+ new posts a day. All moderated.

carminejg3




msg:4598032
 2:28 pm on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

you will want to look at your articles that target money terms meaning they would drive a higher PPC rate, then do a search with that article title in quotes. I'm cleaning up a mess of sites that have taken our articles over the years, and we have slowly lost traffic, googles nice way of getting you out of the index. What has happen with me is it looks like Google couldn't tell that an article published 5 years ago was the original and has given credit to scrapper sites.

So check to make sure no one has copied your content.

"You title text here" in most cases you will have to click the link at the bottom to see if you are listed.

Hope this helps.

I have people that even linked back to my original article with a clean link over us.

carminejg3




msg:4598270
 12:35 am on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I was just at another forum and someone with a 15 year old site has the same issue. What I found by copying about 200 words from an article, and searched for exact match was a Facebook page ranked over him with a posting time of 8 hours.

Looking into this I have found that the facebook page copied his article word for word and ranked over him. His article was published in march 2013. his site has been sliding for 2 years.

I'm going to do a test and post my articles to my fb page and see if they rank over my site, at least ill start getting credit for them.

Planet13




msg:4598286
 1:56 am on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

One thing to check is whether the facebook pages are ONLY ranking above him when a complete sentence (or other large block of text) is searched for, or whether it ranks above them when a smaller keyword phrases is searched for.

I would add that for ecommerce sites, I have seen companies that also sell their products through amazon be surpassed in the SERPs by amazon when using a complete sentence. In this particular case, the website was providing amazon with the exact same description that they were using on their own site. (I didn't check if that was the case when searching for keywords though - just for a complete sentence.)

It would seem that with the way the algorithm is set up now, you could do a lot of damage to your site's search results either though social media or product feeds on shopping engines.

carminejg3




msg:4598297
 2:53 am on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Planet13 Good points.... It was a quoted sentence so exact phrase.

Planet13




msg:4598328
 6:27 am on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

It was a quoted sentence so exact phrase.


That is still a concern and depending on how the original site ranks compared to their facebook page when searching for keywords / long tail, it might tell us a bit more about where google's head is at currently.

On the other hand, it might just indicate that the original site is suffering some kind of a penalty?

carminejg3




msg:4598389
 12:47 pm on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

My site is in a similar slide: I published RSS feeds, (With same title and starting sentences) We also Use syndicated content sometimes when we feel its quality and helpful to our readers. (Seat belt articles, baby seats) So now I think it looks like my site is spammy or worse yet a copy cat. What is also weird i found a site with three articles that have links back to the same page the article is on, yet they rank higher. Yet we are fine in bing and yahoo..

I once had a criminal justice professor and she said she would rather have 9 criminals free then 1 Innocent person in jail. Guess google doesn't have same theory lol.

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