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Big surge in Google.com referrals
EditorialGuy




msg:4632785
 4:11 am on Dec 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

We had a spike in Google.com referrals (as opposed to Google organic search traffic) on Saturday. Google.com referrals were up 30,000 percent, UVs were up 77 percent, and pageviews were up 222 percent.

Most of the extra traffic was on our home page, but it wasn't strictly drive-by traffic: Pages/visit were up 86 percent and bounce rate was down more than 40 percent.

Can anybody guess what might be going on? (Google organic traffic was actually down a tiny bit, which is to be expected for our information site on the weekend before Christmas.)

FWIW, the biggest jumps in traffic were outside of our main U.S./Canada/UK/Australia stomping grounds. Germany, France, the Netherlands, India, and several other countries in Europe, Asia, and South America were up by several hundred percent, even though our site is available only in English.

The burst of referrals and traffic went on about eight hours and appears to be fading. Too bad: It was nice while it lasted.

 

aakk9999




msg:4632859
 12:45 pm on Dec 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

It could be that your site has appeared on one of Google properties. Checking your logs to see where these referrals come from could shed some light. I would check the logs for referral being some-subdomain.google.com.

Understanding google[referral]
https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1011811?hl=en [support.google.com]
Not all referrals from Google.com domains come through organic search or AdWords ad listings. Referrals may come from a variety of sources, including Google Groups posts, base.google.com listings or static pages on related Google sites. Such visits are tagged as [referral] instead of [organic] or [cpc].

EditorialGuy




msg:4633685
 6:21 pm on Dec 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

Update after six days:

We continue to receive large numbers of referrals from Google.com and other Google domains in Germany (especially Germany), the UK, France, Italy, Brazil, India, Thailand, and various other countries. Each visit averages 7 to 8 seconds and 12 to 14 page views.

Most of the visits start on our home page (index.html). Other pages of interest to the "Google referral bot," as I'll call it, include:

- The index.html pages of our major sections.

- Our main articles index.

- A couple of random TOC pages below the main articles index (on topics that might be deemed "commercial" for some searches, even though the index pages and the articles they list are informational in nature).

At the same time this has been happening, Googlebot has been quite active, scoring the highest "Pages crawled per day" on December 23 (the most recent date shown in Webmaster Tools).

Server logs don't provide any great illumination (maybe because our pages are cached by Cloudflare?), although it's interesting to note that the two largest networks in the last couple of days have been Deutsche Telekomm (stands to reason, with Google.de sending us so many referrals) and Google.com.

I wonder what's going on? Clearly, the Google.com, Google.de, Google,co.in, etc. visits are from bots (albeit bots that Google Analytics sees as "unique visitors"). Could this have something to do with Google's current initiatives and experiments (Authorship, for example), or could it simply be the result of a change in Google Analytics?

aristotle




msg:4633690
 7:19 pm on Dec 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

Check for these characteristics:
1. These bots repeatedly download the same files, but never images, and they don't run scripts.

2. They never heard of 304 responses, it's always 200, even if they come 100's of times a day and the page hasn't changed in 5 years.

3. They ignore robots.txt and if you do a reverse IP lookup, you don't find any real clue to their origin.

4. The combined activity isn't big enough to be a DNS attack, or at least not an effective one. unless you have a small site bumping up against a bandwidth limit.

There's lots of these types of bots around. I have a strange (probably wrong) theory that they're lost rogues left over from previous DNS attacks on various other sites that accidentally ended up on the wrong site. what I particularly don't understand In your case is the connection with Google. Have you confirmed this?

netmeg




msg:4633691
 7:30 pm on Dec 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

Do you show up in a KG spot for any search terms? I dunno if links from the Knowledge Graph would represent like that, but I guess I wouldn't be surprised.

EditorialGuy




msg:4633703
 9:28 pm on Dec 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

what I particularly don't understand In your case is the connection with Google. Have you confirmed this?


Yes, with Google Analytics and server logs.

Do you show up in a KG spot for any search terms? I dunno if links from the Knowledge Graph would represent like that, but I guess I wouldn't be surprised.


I hadn't thought of that, but I doubt if it's relevant in this case because the visits are so obviously from bots (7 to 8 seconds and 12 to 14 PVs per visit).

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