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"ZOMBIE TRAFFIC" Separating fact from fiction & emotion

     
4:20 pm on Nov 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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This recent discussion about "ZOMBIE TRAFFIC" is just utter nonsense. What are people saying, anything worth while or just a communal <snip> because sales are down on the norm? The talk is firmly in the tin foil hat area.

Are you talking about SERPs, if so why, if your positions are dropping then that's that. If positions not dropping are you seriously saying Google is sending you people they know will not buy from you !? REALLY?!

Are you talking about PAY PER CLICK? if so then your talking possible click fraud then, arenít you?

Giving any constant period on the internet, people buy or they don't buy and there's many many factors why they will one day and might not the next day.

[edited by: goodroi at 5:55 pm (utc) on Nov 10, 2015]
[edit reason] Let's be careful to keep the discussion on a professional level [/edit]

11:12 am on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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^ that might also explain how I can still have many page 1 results yet get virtually no traffic from Google anymore. Combine that with the fact that the "Shop for Search Term" ads top of the page are designed to skim any remaining buyers away from the page.
11:46 am on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google probably knows, in most cases, which users almost never buy anything. Google can still make money from these people, especially those who don't notice the difference between a blended-in ad and a top organic result. Google makes money, but the advertisers get shafted.

Most likely Google shows these non-buyers a special set of ads and organic results. This would determine which advertisers get hurt and which sites get a lot of non-buying traffic.
2:01 pm on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google probably knows, in most cases, which users almost never buy anything.

Very true and Google does acknowledge this. In Adwords you can used enhanced bidding that will automatically raise your bid for users Google has determined have a greater intent to buy.

Google can still make money from these people, especially those who don't notice the difference between a blended-in ad and a top organic result. Google makes money, but the advertisers get shafted.

Since less people use Google to begin their product search, Google has less buyers to spread out over all their advertisers. It's possible that Google is trying to extend the gravy train by dividing out what few buyers they have to their advertisers to keep everyone spending on Adwords. At least to some degree Google would have to ignore quality score and CPC for this to happen, which they've done on many occasions anyway. The same proportioned buyer traffic may see a different set of organic results as you noted. That would explain the short but productive bursts of organic buyer traffic we see every few days and also why these buyers tend to crowd specific items on each burst (size small one day, three days of zombies then size medium, etc.).

As more shoppers bypass Google, and Google tries to spread out an even thinner pool of buyer traffic, more advertisers will abandon Adwords once they realize their CPA is going through the roof. Eventually the CPC should drop and better represent the overall poor quality of traffic that Google is sending. We may see this reflected in Google's quarterly results in the not so distant future.
3:08 pm on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Another explanation for what Samwest is seeing is:

Samwest searches for his own site without any relevant history using the search term "Shop for Widget", Google returns his site in #1 position in the serp. However, when a different user searches (call him user "X") for the site with a history of research of widgets and searches using the search term "Shop for Widget", user X gets the competitors site in #1 position.

Essentially what is happening both websites rank #1 for the same keyword but only for a portion of the searches, differentiated by intent.

Samwest falls into a subset of searches with ambiguous intent, they probably want to buy but they may still be at the top of the funnel.
User "X" falls into to the subset of clear intent to buy.

Samwest would get a large number of users to his site but with much greater variability in conversions, whereas his competitor would get fewer visitor but with lower variability in conversions.

Bing, Yahoo etc don't use intent so whoever ranks #1, always ranks #1, and it is business as usual.

This my theory...
3:43 pm on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Nick, localization and personalization are definitely in play and would explain some of the erratic conversions. But paid ads should bypass much of this when one is the top bidder for buyer keywords. My recent test over five days (see previous post) proved that the same erratic conversions exists in paid and also strange buying habits exist when sales from Google did occur. Though there are many theories out there as to why this is happening, the end result is Google has become irrelevant for many ecommerce owners because they can't consistently produce sales. Good sales one or two days a week, and zombies the other days, does not cut it.
5:11 pm on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Glakes,
...paid ads should bypass much of this when one is the top bidder for buyer keywords.

True, but there is enhanced bidding, which would suggest that a similar dynamic occurs with Adwords. In fact it may be even more pronounced, given that you are paying specifically for users that are deemed to have the intent to buy. Were your experiments using enhanced bidding or plain vanilla Adwords?
10:59 am on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I used standard bidding. I made sure my bids were high enough on the main buyer keywords, with the most traffic, so they would appear in the best position and have the greatest opportunity to convert.
12:32 pm on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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In incognito mode, I am at #1 for a long time term. In "normal" mode, using Firefox, results can vary and I slip to #3.
I was just going thru my page one results and there are still quite few of them. Oddly traffic is just about gone now. This would prove aristotle's statement that buyers no longer go to google to start their product search...and would explain the Zombie effect. If that is indeed the case, buying adwords is like buying a can of fresh Wyoming air. It's been proven in years of testing. Google is essentially dead for many small businesses...not all, but most and it's getting worse. Go where all the buyers went, Amazon.

BTW - I'm running a free signup offer and can't even get these this remaining Zombie traffic to take the bait. That tells me a lot about this traffic. This is likely why GOOG stock has been going sideways and down since Dec 4 2015.

I no longer consider Google a viable source of buying traffic and I only report and watch out of morbid curiosity. It might still be working for you, but unless they innovate, eventually they'll fall to the current trends. Anyone else find it funny that after a decade and a half, their page and SERPS are laid out basically as it was in 1997? So much tweaking on the inside, little to nothing on the outside.
3:00 pm on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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aristotle's statement that buyers no longer go to google to start their product search

I don't remember saying that, but some other members have said it, and I do agree with it. For years I've been ordering nutritional supplements from a couple of sites and always go directly to them when I want to buy something.
3:57 pm on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I don't remember saying that, but some other members have said it, and I do agree with it. For years I've been ordering nutritional supplements from a couple of sites and always go directly to them when I want to buy something.

Sure, but you aren't doing a product search. You're a repeat customer, buying products that you know from businesses that you know.

For product search, Google has only a handful of real competitors (Amazon being the most obvious one).
3:59 pm on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Still seeing incredible On and Off days here and there. Usually low conversions also go hand in hand with low Facebook likes. Mobile and Desktop are constant so its not that.

Beyond that I don't seem to see any pattern. Not page speed, not week days or weekends... nothing.

Scary to think Google gets to decide where the money goes though. Very scary.
7:07 pm on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I don't remember saying that, but some other members have said it, and I do agree with it.


You're right aristotle, it was actually glakes, sorry...I think we are all in agreement that Google is fast becoming a total wasteland for our type sites. With ads on and pages of top 3 results, traffic is zero, so that would mean nobody is even doing searches on my terms....on Google at least. I am getting charged for fresh air though...so that's a bonus. ;)
4:01 am on July 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think we are all in agreement that Google is fast becoming a total wasteland for our type sites.

Not a total wasteland. I still see sales a couple days a week from Google. As long as I am getting that, I won't block Google even though most days a week the traffic they send behaves likes bots. Definitely not worth paying for that crap.

As an example of how pathetic Google paid has become:

We added a new piece of equipment and need some tooling for it. Doing a search in Google returned six paid ads at the top. Five of the six ads were for the identical product just sold by different sellers. Absolutely no diversity and once again another pile of crap returned doing a Google search. Amazon, on the other hand, had many different options on the first page. It's no wonder shoppers are abandoning Google. Advertisers are on the heels of the buyers leaving too.
11:30 am on July 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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As a SMB ECom store owner, why would I want to bid on traffic from the page that simply promotes big box stores all over the place for free? We got the zombie traffic part, most of us at least, but then?
10:03 am on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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anyone has any experience with launching a new website? still be hit by zombies?
12:52 pm on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Not a total wasteland. I still see sales a couple days a week from Google.


Yes, not total, but close. One site that did 100k/year is now pizza money...and proceeding to become chewing gum money.
My recent test of adwords was pathetic. Over three days, they made more than I sold. The ads used to perform great, now the same ads are dead. Very few visitors must be using Google for product search. In my vertical, I think the non working Gen X'ers are looking for free information. My paid users are all over 35. Those non working visitors are a good source of zombie traffic.

What I can't explain is how nobody is biting on a free signup offer I am running as a test. If I offered gold bars for free, this traffic wouldn't bite.
11:31 am on July 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Having struggled with on and off conversions and reading your comments about zombie traffic I have decided to run a test.

Basically looked to find a friend of a friend who never heard of my website nor has visited my site before and to allow me search for my ads from his IP, so I have taken one keyword from my adwards account and doubled the suggested top page bid. Searched for the keyword and to me after the doubling of the bid was showing at the very top.

So I went and searched from the friend of friend computer for same keyword and surprise my ad was not showing at all. Also I have done on same IP some search for keywords my site was ranking with so the site again was not showing. Some long tail keywords were showing but a lot lower about 20 positions lower.

Came back home and searched again for the same keyword and site was showing as left at the top of the page. Complained to google about it but they said there was nothing wrong just been out bidden, but it makes no sense because should have been out bidden by the time I have searched back home from my computer.

Since then I managed to get same result on a different device from another IP and still have no honest answer from google .

I urge you to run similar tests if you have some people who happened not to know your website or visited your website before cause i think google never shows our website to people who have not visited the site before regardless how much you bid. Also do not take a mobile phone with you to avoid any location being tracked where you search for your site from.

Looking forward to your test results
11:46 am on July 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@liamparr Just to confirm... You're saying that you're running Google text ads. You searched for a keyword on your machine and it appeared as the #1 ad, but when the same search was run from a different IP, the ad didn't appear at all? Could you also advise if you're ever hitting your daily budget and the type of product you're talking about?
12:21 pm on July 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi Simon,

Correct text ads, I have tried to find a quality IP that 100% has not been on my site before.

Never hitting daily budget limit always a lot higher than Google would be able to spend but then again ad was showing on my home computer when I have returned in the same day.

Hopes this helps
1:09 pm on July 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@liamparr You're providing minimal information and not answering all the questions I asked, so not entirely sure what is happening. But I don't see how this can be due to competitor bids, as that would just cause your position to drop, not your ad to disappear. Could be due to Google enforcing minimum ad rank or some geo exclusions. But not sure how it relates to zombie traffic, as your ads not appearing would result in a reduction in traffic and conversions, not just a drop in conversions. Perhaps post this on the adwords forum on WebmasterWorld?
12:54 pm on July 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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After Google ditched the sidebar ads, in an effort to inflate the CPC, there are few ads showing. Because of this dynamic bidding can easily knock your ad off the first page. Dynamic bidding can include mobile/desktop bid adjustments, enhanced bidding, etc. If I were you I would not waste too much time with Adwords because you will constantly be chasing a carrot on a stick until your bank account has been bled dry.
10:49 am on July 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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zombie traffic is a side effect of war against small businesses? maybe
its an old article but i see some correlations
[zdnet.com...]
11:51 am on July 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That article was quite informative...thank you
7:41 pm on July 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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To me this sounds like a software problem. Some specific kind of (presumably popular) browser does not display your conversion-link properly, hence the link does not get clicked.

One scenario could be a "sign up" link in the right margin of the page, but the page CSS makes it too broad to fit on a cell phone screen, so the margin (and hence, link) isn't displayed, and hence no user signs up.

Has anyone examined the UA-strings of these zombies to see if there are similarities?
12:36 am on July 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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To me this sounds like a software problem. Some specific kind of (presumably popular) browser does not display your conversion-link properly, hence the link does not get clicked.

That theory can't be correct. It's inconsistent with some of the basic characteristics of zombie traffic as described earlier in this thread.
2:02 pm on Aug 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Wow, we can't let this thread die off...
An update for the month of August: Two good days all month, the 1st and the 29th, both Mondays.The rest was mainly Zombie traffic with maybe one or two $20 sales per day if lucky. Most days were zero. Knocked right down to poverty level. So, how do I know the traffic in between was Zombie? Because I use a Live Chat client on my site. It was going crazy with requests from human visits on the 1st and 29th ONLY. In between not one "person" requested a chat. Not a one. How could it? It's a machine!
3:30 pm on Aug 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Two good days all month, the 1st and the 29th,

Maybe a big Adwords player skimmed off most of the ready-to-buy searchers on the days in between. But was late getting the campaign started on Aug 1, and reached the campaign budget limit on the 29th, temporarily stopping the ads until the budget could be increased.
3:42 pm on Aug 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have experienced things at about exactly the same times as Samwest, so an adwords competitor is unlikely. It is manipulated traffic plain and simple.
1:41 pm on Aug 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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masterjoe -- I was just speculating about that possibility. But here is a summary of what I think is probably really happening:

Google can divide searchers into three general categories:

1. People who almost never buy anything from the web.

2. People who might occasionally buy something, but don't appear ready to buy anything now, or whose current intentions are unclear.

3. People who appear to be ready or likely to buy something now. (Identified by a history of buying, recent browsing activity, and current search term)

Categories 1 and 2 include the large majority of searchers at any moment. These categories supply the "zombies". Google can make some money from them because people who never buy anything can still click ads.

Category 3 is very small, probably less than 1% of all searchers at any point in time. Most likely Google gives these people special treatment -- a special set of ads and a special set of search results that channels them to favored sites and adwords customers.

So that's my theory in a nutshell.
2:20 pm on Aug 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Is there a way to test this theory? I have come up with a few different ideas on how, but its still flimsy and the logistics are a bit hard to figure out. Basically what I am thinking is this:

1: Have 2-4 computers in roughly the same geolocation, same country perhaps.
2. Create 2 list of keywords to check at every stage of the buying process... one full of informational searches, and another with purely commercial intent.
3: create a fake history on one of them on an agreed topic of choice, and do informational searches only.
4. on the other computer, complete a small transaction for something related, but not directly to the keywords.
5. search the same keywords on both computers to see where they show up...

I live in Australia, so using a proxy, having gmail accounts, my pc mac address, chrome etc is all going to be an easy identifier... however, if someone can suggest a method to do this, we can see how Google will react to people in completely different buying stages.

It would also be ideal to rerun it during NON-zombie periods... things are still abysmal in terms of traffic right now. Had a sale this morning, but I had 20 yesterday. It's unbelievable how much Google is manipulating the results.
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