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Massive drop in traffic, August 2012



10:14 pm on Aug 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Our site is Q&A, in a specialised field. We use our own custom software, it's similar to stack. Our bounce rate is 55%, which is good for our industry.

Over the last 3 weeks we've lost about 30,000 people a day.

What has changed in the last 3 weeks, what are the new signals? We grew throughout all the panda/penguin stuff.

We don't have VCs or any other backing, this is a real project done by real people. We only run adsense to support it (down 50%).

We've never used any blackhat techniques or tricks. We've followed all suggestions by Cutts and crew since the googleguy days.

We don't track /analyse / focus on SEO / focus on links / we simply focus on content and inovation- it's paid off until this month.

Any idea what algo we might have tripped? Looks like it's time to get back into SEO :(


11:14 pm on Aug 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

hi There

may I ask what your daily visit total is approx and what kinda hosting you use to run your site ?

The Speed thing does seem to be taken very serious nowadays, the top sites in a sector I am interested in moved from an average of 7 seconds to sub 3 secs one after the other within a very short time

Naturally they gained nothing relative to each other :)

But i am fascinated by the investment they must have made, not saying its the same for you tho


11:57 pm on Aug 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Cause a bunch of people bothered to allow low quality pages to be indexed in their search engine? Just guessing.

Google can easily not show them considering they even show the fact it only has one post. They are the search engine and they can choose whether to include that page in the results.

As a searcher you should be able to spot the 1 Author results and just ignore them as well.

I just don't see the big deal. But all that said, to err on the side of caution we have noindexed all of these as well as any threads with less than 3 posts in them that are more than a year old. Knocked another 13,000 pages out. Doubt it's going to have an effect one way or another.


6:08 am on Aug 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

the top sites in a sector I am interested in moved from an average of 7 seconds to sub 3 secs one after the other within a very short time

I'm guessing they all did what i'm about to do - move the javascript 'after' onload and off the main thread via a short timeout fired in onload. Onload will fire, and the JS will continue init a few ms later on it's own time.


4:54 am on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

We've never used any blackhat techniques or tricks. We've followed all suggestions by Cutts and crew since the googleguy days.

We don't track /analyse / focus on SEO / focus on links / we simply focus on content and inovation- it's paid off until this month.

Any idea what algo we might have tripped? Looks like it's time to get back into SEO :(

Welcome to the club. This is almost verbatim what I was saying when Penguin got one of my sites (but none of the others which I run just the same way).

I do think moving the javascript down is a great idea (and I wish I had the skills to do that myself), but I'll be surprised if it solves your problem. You'll get back the traffic by taking care of users - that's what I'm doing, and it's been working. But recently, on a day where there was no algo update that we know of, Google slaughtered my traffic even further.

So pleasing visitors does not equal pleasing Google. It may be Google can't always detect that visitors are liking your changes, or it may be they've just got a different way of looking at things.

In either case, you were absolutely right not to focus too much on this. Focus on users, and whether or not you recover Google traffic, you will get more traffic and at the end of the day that's what matters.


10:25 am on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)


Please check your google Webmaster tool did you receive any message from google. Whenever there is drop in a traffic you received mail from google, What they have found on your website, So I can suggest you better solution for the same.


3:56 pm on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

Rockzer, that's not accurate. Loads of people have extreme traffic drops with no notification from Google.

I asked for reinclusion after they cut my traffic by 80%, and got a "no manual action" email. Then a couple of months later, they cut it by another 90%. It's pretty much nothing now.


4:46 pm on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

@diberry: I had no idea an 80% single drop (much less the overall 98% drop over the course of two-three months) was even possible without a manual action. Short of an outright ban, I've not even heard of a manual action that can result in such drastic traffic drops. There's usually a trail of some obscure long tail keywords that can keep you at 5%-10% of the original traffic even when the worst manual action penalty hits (other than de-indexing outright, obviously).

Are you sure your issues are not a combined result of some technical problem, which, perhaps, led to the first 80% drop? Some unintended robots.txt de-indexing or some meta robots tags or maybe messed up URL query parameters in the WMT settings? Also, I've had something similar after a really bad hosting server blowup which brought the site down for 72 hours. Google traffic did fall off a cliff but eventually restored after 4 or 5 months (this was before the animal updates - I'm not sure is still behaves this way)

Anyway, I may be off the mark here with all the latest developments which can arguably reinforce one another (Panda+Penguin+DMCA demotion+transitional ranking+... - a perfect storm kind of situation) but when something as drastic happens, I would first look for a technical issue.


6:12 pm on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


are you saying it took 4/5 months to recover fro a 3 day server down time ? My sites have been up and down during development and hosting changes, some times for more than 3 days,

they've been almost stable for 3 months now,, they're quite dead for Google an bing traffic.

If they're been that severe with tech issues, I guess I have a wait on my hands


6:51 pm on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

1script, I did look for all those issues. My host is extremely good, and I monitor them for uptime, and check my sites daily. But if you'd like to examine my site for yourself, I'm open to that so long as you agree to keep the domain name to yourself. Someone else did that and couldn't figure it out at all. I'd actually be thrilled if someone could figure it out, even if it makes me feel stupid to know what happened, LOL.


10:45 pm on Aug 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@1script I had a company blog that was hit by Panda and was knocked down almost 90% traffic. I never received any kind of message from Google. I submitted a reconsideration request (figured why not) and they responded that there was no manual penalty on my site. About a month and a half later the site returned back to full traffic (after another Panda refresh). I didn't do anything to the site, left it on the back burner and a few months later I was back to normal.

Robert Charlton

7:15 am on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

hitchhiker - regarding potential technical problems, this particular comment caught my attention....

We auto-301 anything that has expired back to a near match.

In the current climate, I can imagine how it might raise flags if the redirection gets too far off a near match, or if the volume of redirects gets too large. Might be worth double-checking what it's doing.


11:29 am on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

From what I have seen I have to agree with 1script.

Earlier on this year I had server problems which knocked my site out for a few days and a week after this Google demoted my site down the index causing a loss of around 70% of my traffic. I could see the huge spike in wmt when it came to page load which knocked up the average. It took 4 months to regain the traffic which suddenly came back over night, but coincided with wmt showing the page load average to what it should be with the spike having worked through the system. But it does seem to me that if you have had server issues you are put on a watch list because a recent down time of an hour caused me to lose Google traffic again for 4 days.

Maybe something else is causing this but it does seem that server down time can cause a huge problem when it comes to how much Google trust your site.


3:53 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

I've been thinking more about 1script's remarks, and realized, duh, I did make one tech change around the 23rd.

Basically, I had changed my domain name months ago for branding purposes from OldName.com to NewName.com and 301'd everything from OldName. Around the 23rd, I switched OldName to a reseller hosting package, since all it's doing now is redirecting inbound links to OldName that I can't get people to update. There was no downtime for either site, because I left OldName's old hosting up for four days to cover the propagation period and then some. I've changed hosts on my main sites many times in the past and NEVER had a Google traffic drop like this, so it's hard to believe changing hosts on the redirected site would have such an impact.

If that's what's going on, then it may recover on its own. Or not - whatever G's priorities are, I know they're not my site health! :)

Fortunately, I have other traffic sources, so I'll get through this eventually. I would still like to understand what on earth caused Penguin to hurt the site so badly in the first place, but I have a feeling I never will.
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