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January 26 2011 Change - Back to "Zombie Traffic"

2:05 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

As of January 1st traffic has been back to normal level and above. No hint of throttling whatsoever, great sales conversions almost surpassing pre May Day levels. Our usual 8,500 monthly keyphrase report has jumped to 11,500 keywords & phrases. In a nutshell, the first 26 days of January were GREAT!
This is, until yesterday at exactly 3:30pm CST. It's as if the switch was turned off again. Haven't touched the site design other than updating some copyright dates for 2011.
Now we are back to zombie foreign traffic & foreign sales, all South Africa and Canada so far today.
Haven't seen a foreign sale since last year. NOW WHAT is GOOGLE UP TO?

I see the new spammy / content farm algo topic. Looks like they may be throw switches willy nilly again.
Anyone else noticing this sudden upset in traffic?
6:20 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Very low traffic today. Sites I manage dropped in orders/income last week anywhere from 25-35%. Saturday/Sunday it was like the switch was put back and orders/sales were back up to normal levels. Today, it is back down to a drop looks like at least 25% probably more. Monday's are usually one of the strongest days of the week for the past 8 years. Not any longer I guess. All unique content sites, long established, good user interaction on these sites as well.
6:31 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yesterday we saw our first rise in traffic all month. We were up about 15% and some of our serps for our Top level category pages on 2 word keywords came back.. most still gone/burried on 10th page. still no where near where we should be/where we were a few months ago. Since Friday, our serps are all over the place. we've been monitoring about 10-15 keywords daily and there seems to be no rhyme or reason, some have gaining, some are losing. so we are watching and waiting. working on gaining traffic through social media/bing in the meantime.

if only the world would turn to bing....
6:46 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@jessica & melissa - same issue here, 11 year old site, all original content, great user interactivity, and I use to be able to set my clock by sales. Now? no way. Sunday / Monday are the best days of the week, but since Jan 26th, we're back to the yo-yo traffic. Just had some colleagues verify my top 6 keywords and I'm showing as #1 for all, yet traffic is zombie. Checked my dedicated hosting provider and they say no network issues.
Answer this: how can you be listed as #1 yet get no traffic, while your competitor is below the fold an smoking your sales? I'm sure this is temporary, it always is, but why these outages? Looks like throttling, but how can they do that when you are still #1? My brain is about to pull a "Scanner"! [youtube.com...]
7:12 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7 after the second of januari I got out of the yoyo effect. It's to soon to tell if i'm in a new yo yo effect but it seems some sort of throttling is still applied.
7:50 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Today it's not just throttling, they emptied the gas tank and took the keys too. Key pages are not being hit. SERPS still rank high...it's all FM I guess. Very atypical, not just a mild fluctuation.
8:07 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Just wrote a new blog entry - it was indexed within minutes! So Google apparently isn't blackballing my site.
10:46 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Ok, late the afternoon, the switch came back on for a few minutes, low traffic & no sales all day, then BANG 3 sales in 4 minutes. That's not not a natural pattern, that's THROTTLING! Google sure likes to play their games.

(BTW, before I get flamed for blaming Google, we get about 80% of our overall traffic and 90% of our CONVERTING traffic from G).
10:52 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

backdraft7, how is your overall traffic today comparing to before Jan 26?
10:54 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Glad you're getting indexed. Indexing is no problem on my end either. Posts getting picked up within minutes and I'm not seeing any problems today with our search results. It does look like a faucet was turned "off"...sigh...

I hope this will pass and Google gets this fixed..sooner rather than later. Makes you wonder though what they are doing that can drop established sites off like this at a switch of a button.
11:21 pm on Jan 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@Borik - overall server traffic was low, key pages were not being hit, but Google was right there to grab up a blog post, ingesting it almost in seconds!

@Jessica - glad to see you're seeing the same thing (not really ;^)...if only to prove that I'm not going totally nuts! Hope your situation improves, I know it will, but these shut offs are infuriating.
2:32 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Thanks...know what you mean. I was initially thinking there must have been network problems,server problems or something last week. But things checked out fine on our end and then I found that I wasn't the only one...

Good to have someone else to confirm there's a bigger picture. Appreciate your sharing ---and glad that we can all compare notes! Let's hope that tomorrow Big G will do a better job. It is truly exasperating to have this much of a fluctuation. Here's hoping your situation is much better tomorrow. We may have had a brief upturn for a short bit this afternoon, but it looks like that was very short lived. Things are just dragging tonight....
4:44 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

One of my seasonal niche sites is going strong. Christmas is over and the traffic keeps coming. The site has always had low conversion so I don't know if the increase helps. Bounce is up about 5%. But it is shocking to see this much traffic for Jan. 80 visitors yesterday. That may be an all time high.
6:14 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks @All I'm very helpful with your comments Regarding "Google's New Content Farm Algorithm In Action"
6:22 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Welcome to the forums, aniseo.

I don't see why people are calling this a Content Farm algo. From what Matt Cutts said, it's supposed to help the original publisher to rank more often rather than scrapers and syndicators. But content farms are not duplicating other site's good content - they're pumping out junky content of their own.
6:47 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

@tedster: Thanks for your reply.
As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, Google launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. People are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect and combined with users skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, Google can and should do better.
I had Read In Google’s Blog posts on 1/21/2011: [googleblog.blogspot.com...]
7:17 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Right - we have another thread about that: Google's Matt Cutts Talks of New Focus On Low Quality Content [webmasterworld.com]

And I'm saying that this current algo change is NOT what the blog post was describing. Instead, Matt described it this way:

Earlier this week Google launched an algorithmic change that will tend to rank scraper sites or sites with less original content lower. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content.


It's not just you - it seems like the whole SEO industry has conflated two very different things. It's like the power of suggestion or misdirection at work.

It seems to me that the situation backdraft7 is describing in this thread's opening post might be his traffic getting tossed around by a scraper detection algo, but it's not because of some content farm thing.
9:57 am on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I am seeing a huge difference between last Monday and yesterday. Last week all guns were firing again and conversions were happening. The lights went off again and it was just like before Christmas.

Note that traffic did not increas last Monday though. Traffic is still lower than usual but constant - just seems that one day it all converts and the next day I don't even get the chance to convert it. It just comes to the site and goes without showing any interest.
3:20 pm on Feb 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

This seems to be the crux of backdraft's situation - the QUALITY of the traffic changes, not it's volume or (apparently) the rankings. If I've got that right, then any connection to the announced update seems hazy.
5:56 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Since none of us know the true dynamics of the web, the algo's or the way G's data centers really work, we are only spinning our wheels and reacting to what happening on the ground. 90% of my comments since May 18th 2010 are based upon an approximately 10 year benchmark of traffic and sales. I believe sales conversions are an excellent indicator of traffic quality, after all, robots and zombies don't have credit cards.

"Zombie" by my definition is simply non-targeted traffic, be it children, foreign users who can't read English, robots or other automated scripts. 2010 will definitely go down in my books as the year of the Zombie.

2011 started out great, but on January 26 everything fell apart. I am still seeing almost daily juggling in the +/- 1 position range, which should not be causing these quality upsets. As of today, (Feb 2) I am not seeing any significant change in the SERPS, but traffic is extremely low as compared to the benchmark. The result? Low sales.

It's very clear that others are seeing the same. Unfortunately some webmasters, like OHNO, no longer post here, and I hope it's not because they gave up and went out of business already.
So much for economic recovery - we struggle, while Google juggles.

The current web has become so unreliable for some small business operators that I find myself wishing for a 100% overhaul of the entire search engine system. It seems like the layer of bandaids has gotten so thick and heavy that it's pulling ALL the bandaids off.
6:39 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

@Backdraft7. Traffic is pretty low. However, it was as low last week when I had three times the amount of enquiries. Decent, converting enquiries. I am just getting the idiots again this week.

I had hoped that it was on the mend with conversions getting steadily better throughout January but no. February, the beginning of the month when people have been paid, Christmas behind them, gloomy January behind them, should be spending!

I hope that this is not here to stay (whatever IT is) - however, I reckon it is.
7:03 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@Jez - I hear ya - I'm just about the point of throwing my hands up and saying "to hell with it". I'm still hesitant to make any changes to the site except to keep looking for obvious problems. My site is rather dated, being 10+ years old an all, but when it converts, it converts well!
Chasing traffic with constant site changes never helps. Right now we're at the mercy of Google and their non-stop "quality" algo whims. Bottom line, IMHO - It's not the site, it's the extreme fluctuation in the quality of traffic. AKA Zombie Traffic.
8:00 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Have you been able to pin down anything more about the quality fluctuations? Are the mostly geographic areas where your traffic is coming from?
9:09 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@tedster - can't really pin anything down except that the site seems to turn on and off at random times.
I was comparing sales to last year...and each day there would be sales at regular intervals, say 3am, 5am, 6am, 6:30am, 7:15am, 8:05am, 8:50am, 9:20am, 10:45am, 11:50am all the way through midnight.
Now, when we experience these "outages" key pages stop getting traffic (although some server traffic remains) and we see more like 7:30am and the next sale is 7:15pm then the regular sales might resume, or not. There is DEFINITELY a s switch being turned on and off.

Here are the possible reasons:
1. It's all in my imagination - Not bloody likely.
2. Our SERPS have complete vanished. - Not happening.
3. The entire internet broken temporarily. - NOT likely.
4. Every human on the planet was transported to planet X for the day. - NOT likely.
5. Our site suddenly stop converting for NFR. Not likely.
6. There is a mouse gnawing on the CAT-5 cable in our secure dedicated hosting data center - Not Likely.
7. Our market is saturated. - Not likely.
8. There is an all day Gomer Pyle marathon on TV and everyone is preoccupied - Not Likely.
9. The economy has tanked an nobody is buying - possible...and if so, very worrisome.
10. Google is messing with something, again. - VERY likely.

I see only two plausible answers. #10 is the most likely. Trying to discover the "why" is like trying to track down D.B Cooper. The old data center check tools used to work nicely in watching changes come down the line, but apparently those have been hobbled. I'd love to dig deeper in to GA and add more tracking, but to tell you the truth, I feel the tracking I am using already may be enough for them to throttle me. I just don't trust them. I guess I'll do what I always do, sit and wait for the smoke to clear again. It always does, but these outages really hurt.

I run a utility on my server called MUNIN. Today the apache volume is very low and in spurts. Very atypical for this time of year. Yeah, I know there is a big snowstorm out there today, but those usually have the opposite effect on sales as everyone is at home goofing off.
10:19 pm on Feb 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Alright backdraft. I am not going to let you ride solo on this one. I follow you and your theory 100%. I have been watching this thread and did not want to say anything because it seems everything is already being said. I want to provide my 2 cents anyway!

I manage 3 sites that get decent traffic and 2 of these sites I have been working on for years. I have literally seen sales come in at a steady basis for 8 years. I had it down to a science, knew how may orders I was going to see in my inbox before I even got to my desk. Now it seems that this "Zombie Traffic" theory is making sense. Some days I will have 4 orders with in 2 hours and other 0 sales. There is no steady flow and just as everyone is confirming, it's like Google is flicking the switch on and off.

Now, back to the sites I manage. One of my sites I manage (site A) does not depend on google for traffic! I get about 10% of traffic from google and 90% from referring sites. Sales and inquiries on this site is very steady and I have it down to a science as well. Know how many inquires and sales I am going to get almost every morning for the past 2 years!

Now the other 2 sites (SITE B and SITE C) I work on depend 90% on google traffic and both of them seem to be getting sales and inquiries around the same time, but they are in 2 totaly different markets.

For example:

Sunday the 30th:
SITE A = 10 sales
SITE B = 0 sales
SITE C = 0 sales

Monday the 31st:
SITE A = 12 sales
SITE B = 1 sales
SITE C = 0 sales

Tuesday the 1st:
SITE A = 11 sales
SITE B = 4 sales
SITE C = 5 sales

The funny part about this is the traffic from SITE A is still converting and flowing like a champ! hence it does not depend on google. The others seem to convert and drive sales whenver the light says GREEN!
12:17 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@maximus - from your valued input and that of other experiencing the EXACT same symptoms, I guess we can pretty reliably say that our reliance on Google traffic is our downfall. The trick now woul dbe to fid out the "why". As far as I can tell, these yo-yo periods occur around announced major algo changes. If Google was doing minor changes in early to late January (they say the do them nearly every day) then those had no effect on us.

One other question for you max: When the light is RED, do you notice any significant position changes in your B & C sites? I don't. This is were the is a complex paradox. SERP's "normal", traffic junk.

BTW tedster, the vast majority of my site traffic in the past few days is coming from the US, which is normal. I do see a pretty dramatic dip in visitors in GA.
1:27 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@backdraft and @maximus---I'm experiencing the same thing on the sites that I am monitoring now. Last week when the lights went out--3 sites in particular all had more sales and income by 12pm on dip day then what occurs generally by 4pm on a regular weekday. Then after when the lights went "out"---for the remainder of the day-almost no movement at all in terms of sales or income for the rest of the day. Impossible during the week on these well established sites. It just does not happen unless something is throttled or there's some massive Internet outage or server issue.

Then, just slow abnormally low sales/income until the weekend, where it picked up again and Saturday/Sunday were back to regular levels. Yesterday was awful again..the switch turned off almost the entire day.

While today is better. Not perfect but better. Most of the traffic on these sites is US based also. What I do notice is when the traffic is junk CTR and EPCM go down in parallel with the drop in quality traffic...like clockwork on the pages that do have some Adsense on them. Orders also have the same pattern...if the pages that have Adsense on them aren't performing during this latest "update" no orders are flowing in or orders flow in during the morning...then it goes dark and no more orders for the remainder of the day. Never has happened this way before.

When this first rolled out I was noticing poor search results being returned for some sites I don't manage, so I assumed that this was the issue for us as well, but after checking further or maybe things had shifted by the time I could check everything I was seeing similar results to what @backdraft is explaining, fairly solid rankings--but the quality of traffic most definitely has seen a shift over the past week and when this happens it has a direct correlation to the numbers.
3:18 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@Jessica - what you describe is EXACTLY the same pattern we experienced. What amazes me is that we use Adwords to compliment our organic listings, but even with that, very, very low sales. These on / off patterns are disturbing and seem to be an internal throttling at Google. That assumption is also disturbing since according to GA, we get 57% of our traffic solely from GOOG. So what about the other 43%?
Does that mean Yahoo and Bing are pretty much useless? Kinda makes me think it's my hosting, but they are a higher end company and I'm on a dedicated server that runs about $300/month, who knows?
Maybe my mouse chewing on the CAT5 cable theory is correct! ;^D!
9:21 am on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

At the moment I see one day where I have either normal or slightly better than normal sales and conversions (it has not happened this week yet but last week it was Monday) and the rest of the week it comes in small flurries or just trickles in at a much slower rate than any time in the last 3 or so years.

The good days I am not sure if it's google shining the light on you or if it's them simply removing the dark. I know that it's dark more than it is light at the moment!
2:14 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am not sure why or if Google has filtered a page I have used for 12+ years for product information. I started the page and at one time it was even indexed in ODP to help explain terms for like type products often called the same key word.

It was/is used my many of my competitors in the past to change product descriptions. It ranked first or second in the key word phrases for all that time and now is now where to be found. Google seemed to have filtered it out as "spam"?

Many of the other key words for other products we sell seem to be holding up or improving in standings. But this page was a huge part of my traffic and it is gone. Still shows well in Bing and else where but Google k-lined it.

Has any one else seen this type of filtering starting around last Friday the 29th and gone by the 31st? Has Google started to filter site pages they think are spam?

Our site has been on the web site 1995 and has always been highly relevant with information about our line products and services. It had become the bench mark of what most of the industry was using for terms. I have always had good faith in Google but this last change has me wondering.

Anyone else insight would be helpful.
10:34 pm on Feb 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@backdraft7 Sorry for the late reply.... When the red light is on then NO, no ranking changes at all. My rankings stay the same! On the same page with you man.

I wish Matt Cutts or someone could give us some insight on this! It is pretty evident that something is stirring...
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