About a month ago
[webmasterworld.com] I was asking for your opinions in regard to a drastic traffic loss one of my websites had suffered. Here's a reminder of what happened: 3 word phrase had been sending me around 5,000 unique visitors a day for over a year. I remember I was surprised to receive quite a few visits on this phrase starting about 2 years ago. At the time I was ranked 5th. The keyword tools I was using didn't suggest the phrase in question to be so popular or competitive. But we all know that these tools are not always accurate so I didn't pay much attention to the "little" detail. Instead I made a few onpage changes in an attempt to get the first place for the phrase, especially that my website offers exactly the information people were searching for. A few months later my goal was achieved and the bonus: 5 k uniques/day. Traffic was so steady for over a year with so little competition - I'd already started to take it for granted. Until July when suddenly it dropped to 200 visitors a day. No apparent reason - my website was and still is ranked first. I couldn't find an explanation and I was sure someone was somehow steeling my traffic. Today I used the Insights tool to search for my phrase. Guess what - dramatic drop in searches starting exactly the day I noticed it.
My conclusion after doing some more research: the apparently popular 3 word phrase was made popular by the Search suggestions feature. It seems that people were typing in the first 2 words (or even just one word and a half) and the first suggestion was my phrase. Combined with the fact that the first 2 words make a very popular phrase with several million searches reported per month - the result was some nice traffic spilled in my direction. Needless to say - the 3 word phrase is no longer a favorite suggestion.