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Zombie Traffic from Google and Traffic Shaping/Throttling - Analysis



4:24 am on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

We need a dedicated thread to look at this odd phenomenon being reported by a subset of our members. It really isn't about any particular "update" because the apparent signs have been reported since 2008.

I have personally seen just a few examples of traffic shaping and nothing I could really call zombie traffic, but I think it's time for all of us to take the reports seriously and at least give advice on how to analyze what these webmasters are seeing.

To truly make sense of this, we'll need to pull in many areas of Google that we rarely talk about. This ain't your daddy's SEO! Here's a pretty good overview, from 2010: [webmasterworld.com...]


7:56 am on Oct 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

This week has been poor, spurts of non converting traffic all week long. Last Sunday was our first ZERO day for a while, this week will end 50% down on normal. All this in a week where there was good news about the UK economy! The UK government better watch Google.......


12:56 pm on Oct 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

And now we have Precision Throttling....
Two Saturdays in a row of exactly 861 visitors each. What are the chances?


12:07 pm on Oct 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Great start to the week. Foreign traffic and now deader than dead. Two sites virtually traffic free on a MONDAY! I give up, I really do. Time to find a new career as this shit just isn't worth it anymore.


1:03 pm on Oct 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Noticing same here Ohno...it seems they may have finally whittled our traffic down to virtually nothing.
I am seeing no seasonal "upswing" that usually occurs this time of year. In fact, it's on the down slide.


3:44 pm on Oct 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

FWIW, I too an not seeing the seasonal upswing I usually see between back to school and Halloween - my rankings are same as always, but the search volume just seems to be down. I think it's the elections that are distracting people.


3:49 pm on Oct 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

UK here, granted it's half term holidays but it is NEVER this bad! Me thinks a tough final quarter ahead before we call it a day.

Robert Charlton

4:21 pm on Oct 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

Just to play devil's advocate, let me toss in time of day, as well as other events peculiar to this current October as possible factors...

- World Series finished last night, a particularly exciting series. Giants won in four games. :)

- We have Presidential elections coming up in a week. Rule of thumb I've experienced in several businesses is that business is always down in an election year.

- We are in a worldwide Depression, with armed conflict in many areas.

- Search results are changing... and the search landscape is changing.


6:51 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

The first two days of November are dead. Same traffic volumes, zip conversions. Oh, and if someone suggests the election and eastern storm, I say hogwash. I checked my conversions the first part of November 2008 and they didn't miss a beat. I'm not saying it should be exactly the same, just odd that human activity is again, suddenly so low on same level traffic.

Anyone else noticing this slump? or is it just me?

Robert Charlton

10:08 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

I'm going to note here a new discussion that seems to be more on topic than most of this one, and also to quote from it two posts that Shaddows made which relate to this topic as a whole....

Overnight change in keywords that bring G traffic - but same amount of it
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4514405.htm [webmasterworld.com]

From 1script's opening Oct 31, 2012 post...
...I loaded my stats for today and I can see NONE of those top keywords bring any traffic. Judging by the unchanged amount of Google traffic, they have all been replaced by larger amount of different long tails....

And two Nov 2 posts by Shaddows...

We also enjoy long periods of stable referral patterns. We find that a significant referral shift is followed a week or so later by a general re-ranking for our site, which is not part of a main algo update.

The reason for this seems to be a re-profiling of the site- at the whole site level. In the past, we have seen completely different customer behaviours either side of a shift. Having been through the process on many occassions (and always one in late Sept to early October), we have contingencies to cater for most valid user-intents, but it usually turns out for the better, eventually.

No, we get a temporary shift, then normal traffic (plus zombies- note this is extra traffic, not replacement traffic) then a completely new referral pattern. Previously unloved (but no less worthy) pages get traffic and increased sales, while solid sellers suddenly stop selling completely.

On one scary occasion, a number of our top selling lines dropped 10-15%, but close analysis showed revenue was mostly made up elsewhere. Over time, sales on the top lines returned, but we also kept the new revenue as well. As I said, it can be disruptive but has usually worked out well in the end.


3:49 am on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Just bumping this thread to report another anomaly yesterday and today. Large drop in conversions with a sudden drop of only 10% overall traffic. One other oddity is that within one week I'm consistently getting two days with exactly the same number of visits. This week Sunday and last week Sunday had identical visits (1084). Never saw this in past years, but it's become common in 2012. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Of the two sales today, both were from outside the US. UK & Canada. Poof! just like that the US traffic has gone zombie again.


12:01 pm on Nov 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

We've not had any identifiable zombies since 24th September. Revenue is up 40-50% above trend since that date. On the Google side, that's made up of a happy combination of more traffic, better conversions and substantially increased order value. Over half the rev increase is due to the order value increase (25-30%), so the next referral shift will probably wipe that out.

We've had a couple of wobbly days since then, but no zombies at all.

We did have a big (and I mean HUGE) jump in non-Google zombies, but have since identified that tricksy Inktomi Spider as the culprit.

**Edit to add
Yes, I think zombies are indicative of thottling by an unidentified mechanism.
Yes, I think our traffic was being throttled.
Yes, I think the recent flurry is the throttle being set to a higher level (+10% net referrals)
Yes, I still think we are still throttled.

And yes, I realise that this is a somewhat contraversial view


9:39 am on Nov 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ shaddows

we have the same situation !

i explained it here: [webmasterworld.com...]


7:18 am on Nov 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


I don't see it as controversial, I think there's no clear definition between throttling and zombies. I see them as two distinct issues.

I look at Bing/Yahoo user referrals in relation to Google referrals. If Google was time or user limit throttling, there should be a point in a day where Google referrals drop in relation to Bing/Yahoo. I haven't seen that, I see fluctuations, but Bing/Yahoo referrals remain consistent on a percentage basis with Google referrals.
Perceived throttling as a byproduct of reduced exposure(links) is something I'm looking at.

I sometimes wonder how many zombies are HTTP/1.0 vs HTTP/1.1


11:06 am on Nov 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

today (morning till now (CET) it seems the FLUX is gone and all is back to normal...


2:47 pm on Nov 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

4. Any clue HOW Google is accomplishing this effect?

Google already admitted that a small percentage of their results are served in order to test various things(from changes in layout to user reaction).

To take the idea further Google probably serves up zombie traffic on individual sites in order to get a baseline reading of various factors on each site. All sites/pages are graded individually and to measure them against others you need a baseline reading of some sort over time.

This is ironically a good way to zero out SEO changes to a site(which visitors don't see).


5:21 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

On period started late on 11/23, lasted 11/24, 11/25, 11/26 and 11/27. Slightly higher than normal levels of traffic, but nice hourly conversions. Off period started late on 11/27, persists all day on 11/28 same traffic level (very slightly lower) but absolutely ZERO sales conversions. The clamping is so incredibly obvious!


6:46 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I don't want to necessarily divert this off, but if you're looking for conversions, your backlinks need to reflect the focus of your money producing pages.

If you can document that Google is "clamping" meaning that other engines provide consistent results, but GG shuts off on some given hourly/daily timeframe, then there is something to talk about.

Not getting signups/conversions is one thing.
Not getting traffic is another thing.
Zombies might be different, but often have correlation.

The general "I deserve more Google traffic" thread might be more appropriate for your post.


8:51 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ bluntforce

glad you found time to post here, but you should also find time to read the hole threat, then you would have noticed that there are ON/OFF periods.

All you mention is related to the thread you suggest "I deserve more Google traffic" but THIS thread is about getting sales, getting traffic,getting zombies in ON/OFF periods

We are not whining here to get MORE traffic, MORE sales so on... we monitor ON/OFF periods highly non converting traffic with extreme high bounce rates in different periods...


9:10 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I haven't read the entire thread by any stretch, but has anyone really dug into dates/visitors/sales on a monthly and annual basis for multiple sites and businesses within a niche to see if there's a month-over-month or year-over-year pattern, including comparing Website Sales to Brick & Mortar Sales cycles?

The reason I ask is I know of a niche where I happened to have access to the stats from 5 different sites, all run by different people and also the year over year sales data for the 5 businesses that owned the sites and it always surprised people when I could tell them when their sales would be before I looked at anything to do with their business, because I could say, 'Will you grab the numbers from [some random month from a random year] and tell me if your sales were highest between [this day] and [that day] ... Then there was a drop off ... Then from [this day] to [that day] picked up again.' and it was always the same pattern. (Got quite a few 'Huh? HowTF!?' looks actually lol.)

Looked at in isolation as a single site or business (I started digging because I thought there was an issue on a site) it could easily have appeared (did appear) to be 'zombie traffic' and/or 'throttling', but when the 'brick and mortar' version of the sales showed the same increase / decline (for years) and all the sites had almost exactly the same traffic pattern, I thought a little bit I realized it wasn't anything wrong with the site or search terms or visitors, the problem was the visitor's bank account ... It turned out what appeared to be a search engine issue on a site was really cyclical sales that revolved around pay dates ... People turned into 'zombies' for periods of the month, then bought when they had the money.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 9:37 am (utc) on Nov 29, 2012]

Martin Ice Web

9:37 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month


we do have 70% business customers and we also see the on/off peridos. I doubt that all business run out of money at the end of the month? All of them? Same time?


9:43 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Is it every month, for years? IDK your business or how the sales cycle compares to other businesses selling the same product as you, and I'm not saying what I saw is the answer for everyone, but I am saying it might be worth looking deeper than 'a search engine issue' for some people...


9:44 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ TheMadScientist

Iím monitoring this kind of patterns the last 7 month on 1 site, but I am sure backdraft does have long term pattern as his site is many years old.

In my case the ON/OFF patterns are seen on daily bases. We have a global site (so no day/nigh time does matter) and pay days doesnít matter as well...

He did post comparisons pattern in this threat btw...

I think reading trough the hole threat answers most of the questions....


9:52 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I don't have an issue with it, so I'm not going to read through the entire thread ... I skimmed the last page, thought of something I saw a few years ago right around or a bit before the reports started popping up and thought I would throw it out there as an alternative that might give [some] people a different direction or an idea to look at, because I've seen what appears to be search engines not be search engines in my time here.

If you want to throw your hands up and say 'search engines' or have to throw your hands up and say 'search engines', well, okay ... I guess there's nothing you can do about it, except hope to win a class-action lawsuit or something, because if they do it, it's likely for a reason and I doubt they'll stop without a better one.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 10:12 am (utc) on Nov 29, 2012]

Martin Ice Web

9:54 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I have to agree with Sechecker, this on/off periods lasts till 7 month, right after peguin was released.
We saw on/periods prior to panda/peguin but only when an updated was going on and it lasted a day. But this on/off periods are definitive made by googles quality money making updates.


9:54 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

And one thing to mention: the so called zombies or non converting visitors with extremely highly bounce rate having aprox the same time on site and the on site behaviour is very similar... so this kind of visitors coming in ON/OFF periods... hundreds of them like 1 hour, then they are gone and this happens more often a day... but some days all seems normal steady traffic, steady conversations and sales... then again.. and this pattern are monitored the last 7 months..


10:02 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

and :-) they all G referals in our case... so this doesnt happen by yahoo, bing or any other refferal


10:15 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

You win, they throttle your traffic or send you zombies...
Now that you know how are you going to overcome the sales/income you lose because of it?

I didn't hop in here to find some help...
I'm doing fine myself but thought I might give someone else an idea or two while I had a few minutes.


11:07 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ TheMadScientist

1. Why you make a competition out of the observation?

2. Overcome sales/loss of zombies or what? Sales/loss of zombies does not exits, as they are zombies or you think you can convert them?

3. "THEY throttle your traffic or send you zombies"
You referring with THEY to G or do you? Well, I duno if this phenomenon is controlled by G, G employees, algorithm, animals or has nothing to do at all with G, thatís what I try to figure out here Ö


12:57 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

The general "I deserve more Google traffic" thread might be more appropriate for your post.

Thanks for the laugh! That's one of the most ill informed, snide comments I've read so far.

Consider a pattern like this: 14, 16, 15, 12, 12, 0, 0, - that's a 7 day sample.
Traffic for those days :951, 1116, 1270, 1128, 976, 985, 1012 - so clearly it's not about TRAFFIC! It's ZOMBIE periods! I already get plenty of traffic thank you.

I realize that my observations are unique. I really shouldn't bother sharing data, that way those of you who "come to this thread making inane comments without a clue" can remain in the dark. Look, my site is a dozen years old. We never experienced these distinct ON/OFF periods prior to 5/2010. Since then it's gotten progressively worse.

We've come up with many theories, but like all other problems observed on WebmasterWorld, they are just that, theories. Understand this: GOOGLE DOESN"T WANT YOU/ME TO FIGURE THEM OUT!
If we did, all they'd do is change it up again. Go ahead and try to figure it out, you'll just be chasing your tail.

It's ridiculous that sites go from gangbusters one day to absolutely zip the next, but many times it coincides with a med to large update. Apparently my site is on a fine line that gets hit regularly.

My observations may be useless to you, and if that's the case, read the title of the thread and if it says "ZOMBIES", skip reading it and you'll avoid the chafe.


3:17 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@backdraft7, I've had mine for the same period of time, stepping up in 10/2010 (when I opened the original thread)

Our numbers might go

500 / 498 / 502 / 505 / 499 / 485 / 601 / 598
100 / 101 / 99 / 103 / 94 / 108 / 101 / 101

i.e a big jump in traffic, but no additional sales, and no interaction with non-sales elements of our site (watching a video, for example).

And, yes, peaks are with big algo updates.

But none for 2 months now, so maybe I can join the rest of the world and become Zombie-sceptical :p
This 428 message thread spans 15 pages: 428

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