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Why do improbable keywords generate significant organic traffic?



7:40 am on Jun 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Dear all,

For a few weeks now, I'm observing strange keywords in a client's organic traffic GA stats. There are a handful of clearly long tail keywords that get significant traffic every day although it seems impossible that they are searched so regularly. For example:
* "humanitarian environment economy" (88 visites since May 9th with peaks of 9 visits on a single day)
* "cooperation in development and humanitarin action" (mind the spelling mistake, 11 visits in 2 days)
* "find an internship in development and humanitarian aid" (41 visits in 9 days)
(Please mind that I use English translations of the original keywords which are in French)

This traffic has 3 things in common
- the number of pages/visit is almost always = 1
- for a given keyword the data of Visitor > Town is always identical. For example : all visits for "humanitarian environment economy" come from Neuchatel
- the source is google

I can add that my client is on the first page of the SERPs for these searches, but that they are the #1 result only in 1 of these 3 cases.

How can these stats be explained?

I considered that it's always the same user who uses the same search to access the site, but the close to 100% bounce rate doesn't seem to be coherent with this guess.
I considered click fraud, but given that this is organic traffic and not paid Adwords, this doesn't make sens.
Some people I talked to suggest that it might be the work of competitors who try to devalue the site by simulating unhappy users, but firstly the industry sector is humanitarian aid where black hat techniques are very rare (at least in France), and secondly the supposedly manipulated keywords are (very) long tail and not "money" keywords. If I was a competitor, I'd go for the really important keywords.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance for your help!


10:15 am on Jun 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

It could be a bot. Someone may be monitoring the keywords and it's an automatic checkup at regular intervals. That sometimes explains the bounce rate.
It might be worth investigating the IP.


3:52 pm on Jun 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

I considered that it's always the same user who uses the same search to access the site, but the close to 100% bounce rate doesn't seem to be coherent with this guess.

Never mind bounce rate. Do you have any other reason for thinking it's all the same person? Identical IP and/or UA? Things you can more easily get from raw logs if tracking cookies are disabled.

There is one situation where you'll get repeated pseudo-visits with a 100% bounce from the same human-- but it wouldn't happen nine times in a single day. You get it when someone opens a page in a tab and forgets about it, and their browser is set to reopen all previous pages on restart. Most noticeable if it's an obscure page and you start wondering why someone needs to read your article on green bakelite widgets eighteen times in a row. I've seen it often enough to recognize the pattern. (One time mercifully was a WebmasterWorld member, who was able to diagnose it.)


4:49 pm on Jun 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Perhaps some professor in some classroom somewhere gave this topic as a vacation essay assignment to a class of students? Searching for an internship is something students are more likely to do.


11:49 am on Jun 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks a lot for your contributions, which trigger a few questions on my side.

@engine: If it's a bot, wouldn't that traffic be "direct" traffic? I can see that a bot scrapes search results, but why would that bot do clicks on the search results? Also, I would expect that somebody would set a bot on money keywords and not long-tail keywords, especially ones that include spelling errors.

@lucy24: I don't have access to the server logs, so I don't have IP addresses, but in GA all the searches come from the same town and it's 100% returning traffic, and they are rather small towns, which increases the likelyhood that it's one single computer.
What you say could make sense, but even if a browser reopens automatically with an open tab that the user has forgotten about, wouldn't GA interpret this as bookmarked access and therefore direct traffic?
Also one would need to assume that the tab remains open for a loooong time.
"humanitarian environment economy" gets traffic of that kind since May 8th
"cooperation in development and humanitarin action" gets traffic since May 26th
Finally, this would mean that the users close and reopen their browsers several times a day.

@vik_c: I think the classroom idea is rather improbable as the bounce rate is 100% (or almost) and students would sometimes explore the website I guess. Also, the terms don't seem to be natural terms for such assignments, expect maybe the ones including internship.

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