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Seeing some big traffic dips with no ranking changes
BlueDanube



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 8:12 pm on Nov 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing a dramatic dip in traffic levels/page views across my sites and rank tracking packages are no longer showing ranking changes.

At first site I wondered about a Google slap of some sort but overall traffic is in fact increasing.

I'm wondering whether the method some packages use to track Google rankings is no longer effective.

Anyone else seeing a similar pattern?

 

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 9:57 pm on Nov 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

BlueDanube - I note on another thread, from about five months ago, you had reported rises in traffic levels at specific times of the day, and I'm thinking there might be some relationship.

Here's your earlier thread...

One Hour Traffic Spikes
Jul 1, 2013
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4589510.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I've noticed over the past few weeks that several of my (I believe) Panda/Penguin affected sites seem to receive a massive rush of traffic during a given hour in the early morning (GMT).

This doesn't occur daily by any means but it's in marked contrast to the traffic patterns either side of that hour. Typically during that one hour period the traffic volume will be 6-8 times that of any other hour that day.

It's interesting to me that in response to the above, Sand mentioned that the traffic spikes he'd seen that big often had been an "influx of foreign traffic". I'm currently seeing reports around the forum about traffic coming in from foreign locations... reminding me of reports from several years back of what we called "zombie traffic", which was often associated with waves of foreign traffic that didn't convert.

My guess was that these were/are Google tests... I've come to believe testing using seed sets for calibrating Panda-like heuristics, perhaps related to personalization, and that the groups of sites tested are fairly small in terms of the web as a whole, but representative of whatever Google is testing for at the time.

Here are two threads, among many, that discuss the phenomena, and they're probably as good a beginning as I can come up with in the short time I have right now....

Google & Traffic Shaping - a hidden method to the quality madness?
Oct, 2010
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4222996.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Zombie Traffic and Traffic Shaping - Analysis
Apr 5, 2012
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4437835.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Search webmasterworld.com also for discussions on "traffic throttling".

BlueDanube



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 10:34 pm on Nov 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks Robert...I'm scratching my head a little on this but as pageviews and revenue aren't affected at the moment it's really about detective work.

I'll check out those threads in more detail and see if I can relate to my own exprience.

Thanks again...

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 10:45 pm on Nov 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi BlueDanube,

Do you have Google Webmaster Tools account for your sites? If you do, have you had a look at what is happening with impressions and clicks? You can also filter these by country, which may give you some additional information.

You said your rankings have not changed. I am not clear whether you are saying that your traffic dipped and page views are constant, but if so, it could be that you are in fact getting more targeted traffic, e.g. that less visitors produce more page views.

As you said, it is really about detective work with the help of your analytics package and WMT.

For example, you may have additional traffic arriving (or being lost) from the long tail queries your ranking package is not tracking (or from some other new query you are not currently tracking via ranking package).

BlueDanube



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 7:56 pm on Nov 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi aaKK,

Thanks for passing on your suggestions.

it's a fairly confusing picture with a group of around 5 sites in the same niche all displaying the same set of (contradictory?) characteristics

1. All ranking messages from rank tracking plugins stopped on 25th November. Plugins still function on other sites.
2. <ranking tool> shows rank has not changed
3. one package shows large drop in pageviews
4. G WMT shows minor flux in impressions and clicks
5. Other analytics show visitor numbers static or increasing

Not quite sure of what to deduce from this or what the next best step is but investigating.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 9:01 pm (utc) on Nov 28, 2013]
[edit reason] Exemplified ranking tool [/edit]

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 1:26 pm on Nov 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing some big traffic(and impression) dips despite a rankings GAIN according to GWT. My charts "with changes" shows a 15-25% decrease in impressions and clicks across the board despite each of those pages having a rankings improvement.

Makes no sense, unless keywords were further fragmented by Google.

Erku

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 5:00 pm on Nov 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

Same here, big traffic dips from google over the past several days.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 5:19 pm on Nov 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

big traffic dips from google over the past several days.

What's the time frame for various dips? I see two patterns going on.

In the past couple of days, there's been a confluence of two holidays in the US... Thanksgiving and Hanukkah both on Thursday, and many businesses closed on Friday... which for many here creates a four-day holiday weekend, if not an entire vacation week.

And, depending on the demographic, some business closures create the Black Friday shopping spurt for retailers.

On the other hand, there are also current reports of traffic anomalies... increases of non-converting foreign traffic, and also of surges in old 404 reports. Both often happen around times of updates.

The 404s occur when Google is likely to be refreshing its index. The foreign traffic has frequently been called zombie traffic, and I've associated it with testing of various kinds that is usually limited in scope.

np2003

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 7:25 pm on Nov 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

everyone has switched over to Bing... finally!

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 11:00 pm on Nov 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

What's the time frame for various dips? I see two patterns going on.


The first signs that something was changing started around the 15th of Nov, 2013. I didn't have anything solid to point at but had a general feeling that I was seeing the beginning of "something".

The next sign that something was changing was on Nov 21st, Google visited 33% more pages according to my logs and downloaded 100x(!) more data than average according to GWT.

The next sign that something was changing was on Nov 24th, 2013 when again my logs show 33% more pages than average visited by Google and this time GWT reports 200x more data downloaded.

I expected the increase in downloaded kilobytes, I made a somewhat minor template change that seems to have caused a complete re-index.

404 errors: Google reported 3,000 new 404 urls on the 22nd and another 11,000 on the 25th, all of which have either never existed or have been gone for years(no links on my site point to these pages, they properly resolve with a 404 header etc).

Note: I don't trust the download data size being reported in GWT, the figures above only include actual pages but Google requested many, many non-existent pages so if they assign a generic number per page then the total makes sense but my server logs tell me that they did not download that much data, in fact the 404 error page is very small.

Conclusion: An update was in the works perhaps as early as the 15th and actual data evaluation began on the 21st. Articles with a product focus took the biggest hit, informational articles that are not directly product related actually got a little boost and the movement is continuing over time.

Erku

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 12:05 am on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Could be the Thanksgiving Holiday and a refresh of indexing.

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 3:44 am on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

is GWT reporting any "soft 404s"?

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 1:25 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Actually yes, in my case it is, a single soft 404 to the error document url. GWT claims to have found the error on Nov 21st.

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 4:18 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

does your ErrorDocument directive specify a path only or does it also specify the protocol and hostname?

not2easy

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 4:49 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

The next sign that something was changing was on Nov 21st, Google visited 33% more pages according to my logs and downloaded 100x(!) more data than average according to GWT.

They have become positively abusive in their crawling. I got a notification to bump up my bandwith settings for one domain around the 18th of Nov. and checking logs for the month I see that google downloaded 748,931Mb from one old languishing domain. No images, just html pages that average about 14kb each. GWT showed me a spike but no real numbers. In the same domain they had a note about delays in some files. duh. Is this Google's version of DDOS? Um, what do I get out of this equation?

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 9:06 am on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Does anybody know something about this update? Does anybody see traffic gains again?

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 9:16 am on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google reported 3,000 new 404 urls on the 22nd and another 11,000 on the 25th, all of which have either never existed or have been gone for years (no links on my site point to these pages, they properly resolve with a 404 header etc).

Note that a pattern very similar to this, of old 404s resurfacing, was discussed in this thread....

17 May 2013 - GWT Sudden Surge in Crawl Errors for Pages Removed 2 Years Ago?
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4575982.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I make a bunch of comments in the thread with regard to recrawling old 404s. These particular observations might be the most helpful right now...

I've observed that in addition to periodically rechecking the lists of 404s it keeps, Google also often recrawls these lists when there's a refresh of the index, as might occur at a large update of the type we just had.

This observation from a 2006 interview with the Google Sitemaps Team is helpful... [smart-it-consulting.com...]

My emphasis added...
When Googlebot receives either (a 404 or 410) response when trying to crawl a page, that page doesn't get included in the refresh of the index. So, over time, as the Googlebot recrawls your site, pages that no longer exist should fall out of our index naturally.

My sense of the above is that by recrawling the old lists at updates or refreshes, Google is able to generate "clean" reference points of sorts, with currently 404ed urls removed from the visible index. The above interview was in 2006, though, and the index has gotten much more complex, so it's hard to say whether the 404ed pages are removed from the index in one pass, or after many.

There is a separate crawl list, and your observation suggests that the old urls are recrawled. I note from your report that the number of 404s peaked at just about the time of the update, and that the number is trending down gradually.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 9:24 am on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Does anybody know something about this update? Does anybody see traffic gains again?

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that it may have a lot to do with Hummingbird.

I'm thinking that because of the non-converting foreign traffic, which I'm seeing widely reported.

Such traffic usually accompanies changes or tests in the way Google is looking at user intent... and the big new thing right now, which is to say Hummingbird, is all about new ways of looking at user intent.

During such tests, ranking changes are generally not very obvious.

ubound



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 1:35 pm on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

My traffic was quite low since Wednesday, but on Sunday it was back to normal and even slightly higher than past two weeks. On Sunday I had a couple of strangely busy hours as if it was meant to compensate me for past few days of low traffic. Then it evened out to normal /slightly higher numbers. It's hard to say anything because it dances all the time. I don't track any particular keyword, so can't comment on that.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 4:16 pm on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

On Sunday I had a couple of strangely busy hours as if it was meant to compensate me for past few days of low traffic

Seen that before, thought it was me being paranoid so glad someone else has seen this! I've been seeing spurts of foreign traffic for some time now which worries me. If this is an update it's taking days, if this is testing then Google are showing contempt for small businesses yet again. This is a busy period, is now the time for turning the knobs & testing?!

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 6:57 pm on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've been seeing spurts of foreign traffic for some time now which worries me.

As recently discussed briefly on our December SERPs changes thread [webmasterworld.com...] ...only certain types of sites are seeing these traffic dips and spurts, which I'm assuming are testing. I'm coming to assume it's traffic shaping of some kind, and I'm trying to pin down what kinds of sites/pages are seeing this.

Eg, are these sites which are recovering from penalities, perhaps recently disavowed a lot of backlinks? Or, are they sites which have recently made multiple changes... perhaps added or removed a lot of content?

Sgt_Kickaxe has made the only clear report about the types of pages he sees affected...
Articles with a product focus took the biggest hit, informational articles that are not directly product related actually got a little boost and the movement is continuing over time.

BlueDanube has reported a group of 5 sites in the same niche. Do these interlink or have common backlink sources? Does content overlap? What about shared hosting?

Without getting into specifics... what about the types of sites, linking patterns, inbound link quality, etc?

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 7:28 pm on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ROBERT, i added a section "related to widget" with links to the related widgets. As this is what the whole site is affecting and many internal links ( all are "nofollow" ) are created, maybe a treshold has been reached.

My guess is, that they added some new categories in different niches. As my niche shows more brands than before this update. That would explain why only some site see drops. Its not that the brands would help poeple.
For example, if you buy a car, you will not go to the manufacturer but to the reseller?

My niche shows for 90% of all queries:
1 big reseller, every time the same
2 ebay like ebay.xx/phb/widget
3 amazon
4-10 may vary:
4price compare engine
4 brands
5 blog
6 mom pop site
7 brand
8 ecom shop
9 brand
10 brand

ecom germany

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 9:14 pm on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

ANOTHER POSSIBILITY

I mentioned above that my findings didn't make sense unless keyword values had changed, well they have in a sense, Google calls it "your money or your life".

Some subjects, according to the latest leaked "unofficial" Google rater handbook, require an increased amount of authority because they have the potential to impact someone's life. In the past this included health, legal and financial sites however it has now been extended to sites which might make a major financial impact on someone, such as a site about vehicles.

My site is automobile related, Google wants to see more authority.

My take: forget Google+, consider Google traffic a bonus but not a goal moving forward and ponder at the fact that this makes Google adwords even more profitable since to get the same traffic I previously deserved I would now have to pay for it. No thanks.

Why do I feel that way? Because I don't sell cars on my site or influence people to buy anything. I report on what's out there after trying it out myself. Google and I can now agree to disagree, I have no intention on spending countless hours integrating G+ to provide Google with what they should already know. My visitors aren't on Google+ anyway, they much prefer Facebook and Instagram.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 10:36 pm on Dec 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Martin - Though slightly off topic, please clarify what you mean here...

i added a section "related to widget" with links to the related widgets. As this is what the whole site is affecting and many internal links ( all are "nofollow" ) are created, maybe a treshold has been reached.

In particular, please explain why you're using "nofollow" on internal links. That IMO is a very bad practice, and can result in essentially throwing away a lot of link juice that might otherwise recirculate in your site.

What were you trying to accomplish, and why? I'm thinking that there may be better ways of doing it.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 7:06 am on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm trying to pin down what kinds of sites/pages are seeing this.


We are ecom, domain is 13 years old. Used to rank number 1 on page 1 for many terms, this has now been replaced by the big two. Used to rank well in Google one box results & later in Google Shopping. When they had reviews on checkout we had 5 star rating.

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 10:28 am on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Robert,

i added links from one widget to helpfull other widgets. For example a plug needs crrimp contacts. So the plug has links to the crimp contacts and a crimping tool.
As we have more than one widget that needs the crimping tool many links now link to it.
I set all my internal non-navigational links to nofollow, cause i have the feeling that google does not like to many links on a page, even if they are internal linking, so nofollow "may" let them discounted.

My guess is, that i have triggered a signal where link count coefficient > informational coefficient.



Wilburforce

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 2:12 pm on Dec 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Robert

In particular, please explain why you're using "nofollow" on internal links. That IMO is a very bad practice


Off-topic, but I generally nofollow all internal links to sections of the same (i.e. linking) page. Are you saying this is bad practice too?

Jez123

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 3:27 pm on Dec 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that it may have a lot to do with Hummingbird.

I'm thinking that because of the non-converting foreign traffic, which I'm seeing widely reported.

Such traffic usually accompanies changes or tests in the way Google is looking at user intent... and the big new thing right now, which is to say Hummingbird, is all about new ways of looking at user intent.

During such tests, ranking changes are generally not very obvious.


I'm seeing traffic rising but sales dropping. This week, with Cyber Monday etc, sales should have been sky high but it's been pretty flat. Last week and the week before, however, were massive weeks with much smaller traffic.

I don't get it. I have seen quite a bit of foreign traffic but generally more of everything except the sales.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4626454 posted 3:38 pm on Dec 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

We had a good start to the week but last night it switched off. Week starting the 25th was dire, week starting the 18th was great! It's all over the place. As per the SERP thread I'm seeing the yellow ad badges on a desktop accross all browsers today too.

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