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Possible reasons you have zombie traffic

     
12:16 pm on Nov 13, 2015 (gmt 0)

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This is only talking about possible causes for zombie traffic related in organic search. If you want to talk about PPC zombie traffic please go to the Adwords section. Here are some ideas to think about. I am not saying these things are all happening or relevant to your situation. Feel free to add your own ideas.

A) You have mobile users using non-mobile friendly pages. Those people are not going to perform as well as desktop users.

B) Adwords advertisers using hourly bidding strategies which siphon away the better converting traffic during certain parts of the day.

C) Google is applying certain filters/penalties to specific parts of the day. Maybe Google is trying to boost certain types of websites from 9am to 5pm for office workers, and boost other websites for consumers at home from 9pm to midnight.

D) You don't have zombie traffic, you just don't understand how to analyze & interpret your analytics

E) Social media, mobile apps, etc are diffusing your target audience and influencing the buying process in your industry. Maybe 10 years ago your users only used search engines but now some of your users use search just for browsing, and mobile apps for buying.

F) <fill in the blank>
4:05 pm on Nov 13, 2015 (gmt 0)

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F) The Google Shopping Widget is siphoning off most late stage shoppers because shopping widget appears with more specific, long tail, and valuable search terms.
G) If you experience a downturn and you have a presence in the shopping widget, then a competitor is offering a better price, possibly only during peak traffic times.

I also would like to point out that Google displays ads that it thinks will make the most money at any given time. Everyone should ponder what this means for their traffic. There are a lot of different scenarios where paid advertising would siphon valuable traffic from the natural SERPS for periods of time. The more competitive the advertising landscape gets, the more often this will happen.

[edited by: isellstuff at 4:31 pm (utc) on Nov 13, 2015]

4:28 pm on Nov 13, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@isellstuff, (G) is PPC

1) Personalisation- You sometimes rank well for one personalisation cohort, sometimes for another.

An early explanation for this was that your site was straddling different classifier buckets- like ecom Vs Info. But this fell out of favour as an actionable suggestion as "added value" moved from nice-to-have to necessity for ecoms.

2) Traffic classification - Late-stage buying mismatch: "Quality sensitive" vs "price sensitive". "Funnel me" Vs "Browse and select"

Google may occasionally check which type of buyer responds best to you (or indeed, if another destination serves them better)
4:41 pm on Nov 13, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@shaddows, G has not always been completely PPC. Product Listing Ads were commission based for certain merchants who where were part of the Google Affiliate Network. It WAS invite only. Read about it here: [seobook.com...]

Also, PPC can be tied to conversions via the Adwords conversion tracker. Read about it here: [support.google.com...]

The dynamics at play in the SERPS are very complex now-a-days. There are feedback loops that can cause really weird behavior for webmasters.
2:26 am on Nov 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If you want to talk about PPC zombie traffic please go to the Adwords section.


Re-quoted for emphasis.
3:49 am on Nov 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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f) Those of us operating ecommerce websites all donned tin foil hats at the same time and determined that:

a) Many of us have mobile friendly sites and our desktop to mobile visitors does not change much when zombies arrive.
b) The same Adwords advertisers did not start hourly bidding strategies for all of our websites at the same time.
c) Google may be boosting certain websites at certain times, but those of us with zombie traffic are not in the same niches except most of us are ecommerce.
d) We are not all as dumb as some want to portray us as and are quite capable of evaluating our traffic logs.
e) Social media's impact on sales in my niche is limited. In fact, I think I'm the only one in my niche that is trying to monetize social media.

It's easy to point out specific sites and toss out some reasons why they may be seeing zombie traffic, especially after shutting down a thread that had more information then the hate thread that followed. The thing is that those of us with the problem communicated among each other, then the haters took over. Whether Webmaster World wants to believe it or not, zombie traffic is the biggest news in Google SEO for ecommerce operators trying to plan for the upcoming holidays. Sweeping it under the rug, tossing out tin foil hat names or implying we are all too stupid to analyze logs does not change that fact.
12:06 pm on Nov 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@glakes If you think that zombie traffic is the biggest news in Google SEO please share the reasons you think zombie traffic is happening :)

I think discussing zombie traffic is important which is why I started a thread to explore the possible reasons behind this issue. Many people have reported it and I doubt everyone is experiencing the same exact thing. For example some people were talking about a PPC situation and others were talking about a SEO situation in the same thread which caused confusion. I invite you to participate in this thread or start your own new thread about a specific aspect about organic zombie traffic. If you want to discuss PPC zombie traffic I invite you to post in our Adwords forum so we can keep each thread on topic and as productive as possible.
2:15 am on Nov 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm curious why anyone would think I am talking about PPC? I know this may not be what some people want to hear, but I think we have reached the point where, under certain competitive situations, only window shoppers make it past the ads. If you are a searcher and you are ready to buy, and you are presented with a comprehensive price comparison widget with product attributes, then you are done. Click and buy, end of story.
12:32 pm on Nov 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I might be one of the zombies i have seen described in different posts. When shopping online, i routinely go to the various sites that i might buy from and go through the buying process, minus the credit/personal info, to find out what the real cost/bottom line will be. Somtimes, i do this in multiple tabs and some of the tabs get left open.
1:49 pm on Nov 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@toido Problem solved, now stop doing that ;)

@isellstuff You mentioned Google Shopping aka Google Product Search which became pay to play about 2012. I would view it more like PPC and less like SEO. I think that might be why some people think you are referring to PPC. You do raise a good point that there can be alot of pay to play (Adwords & Google shopping) appearing on top of the organic that people need to drill down to even see the organic which can impact the quality of visitor.
3:50 pm on Nov 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have considered two possibilities (and am open to others).

First is that zombies may be bots.
I do see a fair number of bots that are 'laundered' by coming through Google in the hope that such traffic is considered clean. However, I have never seen enough to replace/overwhelm natural traffic and replicate the on/off nature that identifies zombie traffic. Also their purpose/behaviour is too varied.

Second is that zombies may be artifacts aka edge cases.
While I mentioned it in a prior thread few seem to be checking (or if checking commenting on) their zombie traffic IPs. In my case I have seen abrupt shifts in Google referral origin from market areas, i.e. US, Canada, UK, to non-market areas, i.e. Asia, Africa. Such shifts are, thankfully, of short duration and shift back just as abruptly.

Also for much of prior two months (logged out, cookies clear, location as a town in Canada, language as en-ca) at least half of my personal search query returns were EU cctlds usually in their native language. That strange behaviour stopped at the beginning of this month.

Which suggests that zombie traffic may be a matter of data centres fumbling one or more of language, localisation, intent, etc. If that is the case there must be something on those pages/sites drawing zombie traffic and/or the browser settings and query of searchers that confuses G at least some of the time.

If the patents are correct as to reality then if a data centre is mislabelling local/regional and global data the IP shifts I see make some sense. Why they fluctuate at all and fluctuate fairly regularly for some I'm still uncertain. It does suggest that such labelling is done on the fly depending on searcher.

With the addition of comments in another thread from WebmasterWorld members that eBay and Etsy sellers are discussing a similar traffic anomaly it is quite possible that what was a small (in percentage terms) edge artifact for several years is growing; perhaps sufficient for Google to investigate and mitigate.
7:07 pm on Nov 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I donīt think that zombie traffic is generated by bots, that would be silly for gaining any data because how long would u need to go through a big site with 100.000 pages by only fetch 3-4 a day?

I think that this zombie traffic ( and i see it on all sites i manage ) are a product of their new "braindead" machine learning engine that tries to pull down 1.000 different searches to a limited number of 10 searchs/serps. I see myself generating zombietraffic on other sites when i use google as the last option.
Serps have been shrinked down to a current set of sites/pages whatever i shuffle or refine my search. Allway the same sites apear, i click them and immediatly leave. Zombie-traffic, simply!
9:18 pm on Nov 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I am coming to believe some of this zombie traffic is an indication that g is updating data centers... and that the sheer volume of that update rolled out on a daily basis is getting in the way of some searches, as this never lasts for any length of time but is cyclic to an extent.

Many of my sites do not show this kind of traffic... but a few do, now that I've taken a look which this discussion (and recent others) suggested I might do.
8:07 am on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone involved in the most recent Zombie thread noticed transferred file sizes being much smaller than the page size?

I have a site with a lot of pages, but 5 pages and a script are the higher traffic portions. I've been getting what appear to be visitors to a sixth page, but the visitors don't do much more than request the page. Page visitors are about 2/3 US and 1/3 from various countries around the world.

That sixth page is static html at about 14k. Most of the visitors are transferring a little under 4k which is pretty close to what a text browser returns. This is kind of beyond my level of knowledge so if someone has a theory on why visitors to one identified page would be requesting/receiving a little less than a third of the static page, I'd love to hear it.
11:26 am on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I am coming to believe some of this zombie traffic is an indication that g is updating data centers...

Zombies for two months now. If this is the result of Google updating data centers, it's the longest and most destructive update I've seen yet. The fact that the zombies simultaneously hit paid and organic at the same time has me thinking it is not anything related to data centers being updated.
12:49 pm on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hello everyone, I'm new here and just wanted to add something to this discussion.
I'm following a zombie thread (actually threads) from early september when everything started. One day sales is great then few days (even 1-2 weeks in some cases) nothing or almost nothing. Position for most important keywords didn't changed, in some cases even improved a little. Traffic, bounce rate, pages views and everything else looks as same as on August or earlier. I noticed first strange drop in sales on the begining of April (not much - maybe 10-20%), later we always noticed a slow down becasue of summer holidays. However from September we got the worse sales ever where we should to see a big jump after holiday. Domain age - almost 10 years, never hit by any g algo (positions for our most important keywords actually never dropped lower than 3 and last months even improved), domain is EMD but it wasn't possible to call it different due a brand specific.
Nov 2nd - Nov 7th was great so, we were sure everything back to normal. However on Sat Nov 7th sh*t traffic got hit us again. I don't belive these are bots becasue we have seen bots from years (most of "bad" bots blocked by security solutions we use - the rest is some spam). IMO all we can see in WMT and GA are simple people which simply got wrong address. By mistake someone told these people "Here is what you are looking for". Recently we checked a number of "longtail keywords" (like somone called it) and also in this case we got good results -- I mean, in each case always 1st page, positions 1st up to 5th or 6th.

Someone mentioned about updating data centers - well, maybe, hope so but I think its some G f*** up (sorry for bad words).
We are not a huge company working very hard from almost 10 years, compete is actually very little but looking at what is happening from over two months now I'm affraid we will need to make some difficult decissions.
2:25 pm on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Searchers who know what they want and are ready to buy are identified, sucked out of the stream, and sent to favored sites. The rest of the traffic to your site essentially stays the same, but you call it zombie traffic because the buyers have been removed.

So it's the buyers who are turned on and off, not the rest of the (zombie) traffic.
2:31 pm on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone involved in the most recent Zombie thread noticed transferred file sizes being much smaller than the page size?

I have not seen this. It sounds to me like you may be dealing with bots.

If this is the result of Google updating data centers, it's the longest and most destructive update I've seen yet.

Zombies have nothing to do with datacenter updates.

I'm following a zombie thread (actually threads) from early september when everything started. One day sales is great then few days (even 1-2 weeks in some cases) nothing or almost nothing. Position for most important keywords didn't changed, in some cases even improved a little.

Nothing has changed for me since that thread was closed. I operate a clean site meaning it is full ssl, mobile friendly, no dodgy links for penguin, no spam laden pages for panda and direct traffic from government, big corps and quality people. If an algorithm were to analyze quality signals, there's enough of them IMO that it would be impossible for an algorithm to think the site is anything less than good. And my ranks are good, but ranking well (organic and PPC) does not equal sales. Traffic quality took a steep dive IMO, and for this to happen it means mismatched traffic is viewing Google's SERPS organic and PPC. With PPC taking up the majority of above the fold space, I am reasonably confident that the mismatched traffic is intentionally controlled by Google. One or two days a week of good converting traffic may be enough to keep some people in the PPC game and those that depart are mere casualties and their position immediately replaced by the next bidder.

Look at the trends with other search engines and see where they are all going. More ad blockers, less people getting connected to the internet each day. increased competition from social and stock holders wanting ever increasing profits. Yahoo's Gemini comes to mind. Their paid advertising platform that includes native ad placement has a worse CTR then being linked to in pop-ups back in the day and offers an even worse ROI with my tests. Search engines overall are acting as if they are starving, and for them to feed they must take food off our tables.

As a side note, Gary Illyes would like to see Google Now replace traditional ecommerce transactions: [seroundtable.com...] Yet another avenue to monetize another aspect of ecommerce transactions.

[edited by: mrengine at 2:36 pm (utc) on Nov 17, 2015]

2:31 pm on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So it's the buyers who are turned on and off


or, it's the buyers who are acquired by someone else...
3:11 pm on Nov 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@aristotle and @Shepherd - probably you are right and buyers disappeared but strange thing is even our compete looks like dead. I mentioned we have very little compete maybe 2-3 other companies producing the same thing and what we noticed few weeks ago is all their ads has been turned off. Probably only one other company (excluding us) still trying to keep in this business and still appears in results (using g ads of course).
It would be irrational -- one big company from US (I mean Google) can destroy whole brand and no one can do nothing.

@mrengine - I could say exactly the same. Our website provides extensive descriptions for our product, we have a lot of informations in our faq and knowledge base plus there is few additional pages about product possibilities, options and features - all this has been written to allow our customers to know everything possible about product we create and sell. No spam texts, no some strange magic tricks. We are also not using google ads because it's nosense in our case. Just simple google organic (like you said) search results.
7:30 am on Nov 18, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have not seen this. It sounds to me like you may be dealing with bots.


I believe they are bots, but that wasn't the question I asked.

If you'd like theories, I tend to believe that many sites having zombie issues are marginalized due to becoming part of the fringes of the web. Their traffic is no longer focused because the sites aren't strongly linked from the core parts of the web.

The animal filters, penalties and changes in how users interact with the internet are all part of it.
Darwinism at a very high rate.
11:33 am on Nov 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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There are several theories about zombie traffic - and I have my own.

In contrast to many other explanations this theory could be easily verified. Therefore, instead of presenting a reason and discus about it, I suggest that people can test it. If it solves the problem I would make it public. If it fails the on-road test then it was just another failure theory and we forget it.

If there are some members who
- are affected by zombie traffic
- can easily make modifications in their server header configuration
- are willing to make a test
they can send me a message.
 

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