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Traffic increase to index page matched by drop on category pages

     
12:27 am on Dec 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

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A very standard medium sized blog I've written in for six years had some interesting traffic shifts beginning Nov 17th. Although this is a blog it has evergreen type content and most traffic visits pages directly, there is no social component and no rss feed. It's more of a CMS setup than a blog.

- Index page traffic jumped by a low double digit percentage
- Category page traffic dropped by an equal cumulative amount

Has anyone else seen something similar recently, especially on the 17th of Nov? It should be quite apparent in analytics if you look at just the index page and then look at all pages containing "/category/" on standard wordpress blogs.
11:55 am on Dec 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I haven't seen anything like this related to the 17th of November. I have seen similar traffic changes over the years. I would start with checking out the anchor text ratios and other link aspects.
3:06 am on Dec 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have seen this phenomenon quite a few times over recent years. When I dig into the data, what I find is that the keywords that are ranking are not changing, but only which landing page is showing for that particular search.

If total traffic remains the same no matter which keywords are ranking at the same time, then that might point to a kind of traffic throttling. However, I have never actually seen that kind of thing, and what mechanism (or even purpose) Google would have for it is also not clear to me at all. The only time I've ever seen something like traffic throttling, it was accomplish by timed shutdowns of any search traffic.

But what I have seen (the same keywords still rank but with a different landing page) is something that Google seems to experiment with and fine tune at a very micro level, rather than a timed update for everyone.
7:01 am on Dec 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'm at a loss to explain it, there were no changes made to the overall site and it's not because I have some hot new content on the index page, my rankings for various keywords increased across the board but on the homepage only.
3:29 pm on Dec 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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there were no changes made to the overall site and it's not because I have some hot new content on the index page

Right - I see the same thing. It definitely relates to a change that Google makes, and not one that the site owner makes. Knowing whether to send traffic to a page that is higher up the pyramid or down in the more detailed area seems to be something that changes according to metrics that they are watching, and the changes can happen in an automated fashion without requiring an "update".

I have found that eventually these changes settle down. Only if it settles down on what I feel is the poorer choice of landing page do I start changing things - and the first place I look is keywords in internal anchor text - especially for content area links, not navigtional links.