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May Be I Just Figured Out The Actual Reason of Zombie Traffic

     
3:04 am on Apr 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hello,
This is my first post here but I'm following threads over couple of years. But Now I think I need to share something with all the webmasters. Don’t take me wrong, May be I just figured out the actual reason of Zombie Traffic from Google Search.
My Name is Shimul and I’m from Bangladesh, working as an SEO for personal & small brands.
Moments ago, while I was looking for Some <widgets> and was unhappy with the regular e-commerce store I used to shop with. So I went to Google, searched for “Buy <widgets>” and you know what, I was shocked by the results.

I was browsing with google.com, than tried my country’s google domain which is google.com.bd. But same results came up.
I found all results on the SERP was for Indian sites. Like some major brands I already know (I saw t 20 world cup on an Indian TV channel and was tired with TV ads about websites, The Indians doing some great offline marketing with TV ads, even Google also has an ad in Indian TV channels) are from India and they only deliver/sell products inside India.
So my point is, think I’m a regular user with some basic knowledge about The internet, I will search for anything in google, Like I searched for <widgets> and will click on anyone from the first SERP. Then I can browser around that site, and finally discovered that “it is a wrong website for my search” or I can leave that site just after visiting only one page.

I think Google has some serious issue going on while detecting the actual location of so many users like me. Like I’m from Bangladesh but they showing me search results for Indian websites, what if an Indian searcher visiting my site?
This will create problems like
1. High bounce rate.
2. Peoples add products to cart but no sells.
3. I’m already in a wrong place, now you want me to click on your ads?

I’m not starting a fight, My own services are non-commercial and still doing good. But I think and I believe “this not might be the actual reason, but this might be a strong reason for the Zombie traffic so many websites facing now days. Let me know what you think.

[edited by: goodroi at 5:52 pm (utc) on Apr 4, 2016]
[edit reason] Please no specific keywords, widgetized [/edit]

6:32 pm on Apr 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Well some members here, including myself, already believe that zombie traffic is nothing more than ordinary mis-matched traffic. The mis-matching can happen in various ways, such as geographic mis-matches as you describe, or just poor irrelevant search results in general. I suspect that most websites get a large amount of mis-matched traffic everyday, but it could be worse (and more noticeable) on some days due to algorithmic testing, or perhaps the switching in and out of different versions of the algorithm. Some have mentioned that it also happens with adwords, but that could also be mis-matched traffic.

I haven't studied the matter as carefully as some others here, but your observation seems to fit in with my own impressions.
6:53 pm on Apr 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'd bet AdWords & Google Shopping matching “Buy <widgets>” was 100% on target.
11:41 pm on Apr 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sorry to let you know blend27, Those were also wrong.

"miss-matched traffic" The Perfect definition of whats we're facing , thank you aristotle.
12:30 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've come to the conclusion that the term "zombie traffic is simply a term that someone coined fairly recently to explain a phenomenon that's been around for a long time e.g. mismatched traffic, and to try and compartmentalize falling conversion/click revenues in some way that makes sense to the coiner and her followers. Sorry, but most of this discussion seems to be coming from overseas (e.g. outside the U.S.) and it makes me wonder if this isn't more of a geographic issue than anything else (if its even an issue warranting the type of speculation it's getting).
12:50 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That's incorrect. I, a guy from the USA & another from Germany noticed this years ago & that is when the term "Zombie" was first coined. The fact that many others are now experiencing it in a way makes my day. We were laughed at back then, not so many are laughing now. I fully expect by the end of 2016 none of you will be laughing or mocking. In any case mismatched traffic and "Zombies" (not my term btw) are intrinsically linked. I see you joined 2013, it was noticed way before then.
1:18 pm on Apr 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, but most of this discussion seems to be coming from overseas (e.g. outside the U.S.) and it makes me wonder if this isn't more of a geographic issue than anything else (if its even an issue warranting the type of speculation it's getting).

Zombies are a problem for me, in both organic and paid, and I am located in the USA. My website is located in the USA as well and paid ads are set to run in the USA. The zombie problem most definitely is not isolated to a region. If anything, from my observations, the zombie problem is more prevalent for e-commerce websites regardless of their geographic location. A possible reason why zombies are more prevalent for e-commerce websites is because we can see the rapid swings in conversions whereas information types of sites don't feel the full extent of the zombie problem.
4:26 am on Apr 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I see you joined 2013, it was noticed way before then


Yes, it simply went by other monikers. I've been around here for years so that's not really much of a point. How to convert consistently (or at least consistently enough) has always been the real game.

the zombie problem is more prevalent for e-commerce websites


Information sites that rely on ad revenue get plenty of mismatched traffic as well. The difference may be that they're not competing directly with the likes of Amazon by trying to sell something so the (financial) impact might not be as noticeable. In a lot of cases,there can be a quite a bit of textual information on an info site to draw people in (mismatched or otherwise). For someone who's getting paid for ad views and clicks rather than trying to sell something, all human traffic (except traffic with ad blocking installed) can be good for info sites.

This is why I've harped in the past about separating discussions related to info sites and eCommerce. I think the discussions around here these days are mostly eCommerce related. Yes, there may or may not be geographic components to this but one would have to think there are some subtle differences between traffic in Myanmar and. the United States or Europe.
12:47 pm on Apr 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Information websites that rely on ad revenue get plenty of mismatched traffic as well.

I would bet that most sites of all types get a lot of mis-matched traffic. Not all of it is google's fault, because searchers often enter a vague or hard-to-interpret search term and then click an inappropriate result.

But I don't see how mis-matched traffic (or zombie traffic) can do any harm, unless you're one of the very few who worries about exceeding bandwidth limits. So my recommendation is to just ignore it, which is what most webmasters already do.
7:58 am on Apr 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, I'm not against the "mis-matched traffic" theory, whether by Query intent, geographic filters, buying stage. It's just that it doesn't SOLVE anything, and begs further questions like
- Where did all my buyers go?
- Why did my traffic levels not change?

Basically, "mis-matching" is a non-answer, merely a restatement of the question. It strips out the assumption that Google is doing it deliberately (an assumption that many, including myself, so not agree with anyway). So let's move the question on- why does Google simultaneously "mis-match" my usual traffic and send it elsewhere, while "mis-matching" someone else's traffic that was presumably happy with it's normal destination and patently unhappy with landing on my page?

Disclaimer: Although I have written in the first person, and although I contribute to the conversation over many, many years, I no longer have skin in this particular game, being zombie-free for quite a while. Indeed, my zombies left at the same time other people caught them. So, er, thanks :/
Sorry, but most of this discussion seems to be coming from overseas (e.g. outside the U.S.)

Those of us in that little, unimportant country called Foreign apologise for taking up time on this US-only board.
2:35 pm on Apr 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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* I no longer have skin in this particular game, being zombie-free for quite a while. Indeed, my zombies left at the same time other people caught them *

Excellent information. This is the first time I have heard of someone infected with the zombie phenomenon being cured. Shaddows was part of the original infections that were reported back in 2012 / earlier...
2:36 pm on Apr 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Simon...does not look like John Mueller answered your question in the last Google hangout?
4:06 pm on Apr 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I would bet that most sites of all types get a lot of mis-matched traffic.

Mismatched traffic may be a contributing factor in the zombie pattern, but does not explain why some days the percent of quality to poor traffic changes so dramatically. In that it spans both free and paid search results also complicates matters, but is reflected in our advertising costs. For some campaigns, which have been profitable for years, we are seeing CPA increases that exceed 50% of the retail price for the product. 10-15% was the norm for years and no new entrants are in the industry or any observed bid changes made by competitors that would justify the leap in CPA costs. At least in Adwords, where we can analyze more data points, zombies appear to gather around campaigns with extremely high buyer intent. Broader based campaigns appear less affected by zombies. This leads me to believe that whatever Google is doing is heavily focused on transactional queries. But it does not explain what has motivated Google to change transactional traffic quality, other then the obvious (Google makes more money) while we suffer.
2:29 am on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just checked out SER - Simon asked the question to John Mueller about zombies.
3:07 am on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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You guys have it all wrong. Chronicled in the Ivan Tors/Ed Woods epic flick from 1954 called "Gain Stealers from Mars" starring Jack Webbmaster and Ima InaLoss. One of those doomsday flicks where no one comes out alive.
4:19 am on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Shaddows

Some of us who happen to reside in a fairly overbearing country actually appreciate and enjoy input from the wider world.

From time to time I visit the expired domain world and it has been fairly interesting to me how that environment has changed over the years. Years ago, it was mostly English based EMD or close to EMD type things. There is a lot more presence of Asian language domains at this time, with name/number combinations being a lot more prevalent.

My current thinking is that the overall web environment has shifted towards inclusion of "all countries" rather than the US focus that was prevalent in the earlier Zombie discussions. Two effects, one being more competition for existing SERP spots, but also more users/potential site visitors that might not be as linguistically focused.

Nice to see you post again.
8:32 pm on Apr 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys. I've only just seen this thread! I asked John Mueller about zombies at the recent Webmaster Hangout here if you're interested: [youtube.com ]

He's asked for more information so I've emailed him and will let you know what he comes back with. He's on leave at the moment. It's probably best to wait for JM to reply properly before commenting.
2:15 am on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Great news
3:01 am on Apr 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm not sure if it helps the OP, but I was recently in Sri Lanka and found that many Indian websites were coming up in a search when a local result was expected. So if you are seeing a lot of Indian websites and not BD ones, it suggests there aren't many BD sites that are optimised enough.
1:16 pm on Apr 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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anallawalla, A few months ago Those all were optimised enough, and now gone From SERP ! I've contacted some of them and showed this thread in 21th and one of them replied with " What this anallawalla guy think ? A website with global rank - 6000 isn't optimised enough for G ? "

I'm not from any major country, and don't know much about local results out there, but G has some serious issue with asian SERP. is it that so called Rank brain ?
6:04 am on Apr 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@sqimul

Global Rank is to the best of my knowledge a factor used by Alexa. It isn't really something most people use on a daily basis to establish their website reach because it started getting gamed around 2003/2004 or earlier. If your site is showing an Alexa global rank of 6,000 and everyone reading this site doesn't know your site name, then you have a problem.

Years ago, there were people that would boost your Alexa ranking by having bots(with Alexa toolbar) click through to your site. I'm sure that still exists, but why would you ever consider it a valuable metric?
12:30 pm on Apr 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If a site is right on the boundary line of being classified as informational (according to google's algorithm), then minor day-to-day changes in the data could cause the site to shift back and forth between two different classifications, and this could cause back and forth changes in the type of traffic that google sends.
1:35 pm on Apr 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Are there any people here selling not only on their website, but in multiple marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, Etsy, etc.)?

What I see are spikes in sales one day per week at eBay, one or two days a week at my website (I have stats and good Google traffic is responsible for those sales) and the rest of the week Amazon rocks. Amazon and eBay don't give good stats to determine where the source of traffic is coming from, but I have a hunch that Google is rotating buyer traffic. That's why my site sees zombies from Google most days per week. Is anyone else able to confirm this pattern?

Amazon and eBay have their core buyer base and daily sales are the norm. But there are spikes in sales for me on these marketplaces, but no two locations (Amazon, eBay or my website) ever see these spikes in sales on the same day.
2:03 pm on Apr 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@glakes Does the pattern repeat weekly, e.g. is the eBay sales spike always on a Monday? Or do the spikes change days?
2:30 pm on Apr 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hello: I sell on both Ebay, Etsy and my own Shopify website. I sell the same inventory at all places--used to have the same inventory also at Bonanza and Wanelo app, but recently removed these last two for fear of Google penalty for repetition, which seemed to have helped me. My items are one-of-a-kind antiques and collectibles, so having exact same listings in all places may have hindered me. Getting rid of the last two (which didn't provide any sales anyway) seemed to maybe help me, but I cannot back up with stats, but my sales, which were somewhat stagnant on eBay and Etsy seemed to have improved a little bit--my website doesn't provide any sales to speak of, but I keep it just for back-up in case the other marketplaces fail me in some way.

As far as noticing a pattern, I can only say that I feel somehow restricted on visibility and sales throttling or rotation or something, but I would think that this would come from the marketplaces themselves. When I look at my Google Analytics, it does seem that the days that eBay traffic is up, that Etsy traffic is down, but I'm "small-time," so I don't know if my two cents matters anyway, but thought I'd throw this out there anyway as food for thought.
6:47 pm on Apr 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have a hunch that Google is rotating buyer traffic.

Wouldn't it make more sense to send each site an equivalent steady stream that adds up to the same overall amount over time. In other words, the total for a whole month would be essentially the same, but would be spaced out evenly instead of erratically.
7:22 pm on Apr 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@aristotle I'd agree with that. It's the same reason why I don't think this is anything intentionally malicious by Google. If Google really wanted to defraud advertisers, it would be silly to do so in this on/off pattern that was easily observable. They'd do far better to just push up the average CPC and keep it relatively constant.
3:15 am on Apr 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Wouldn't it make more sense to send each site an equivalent steady stream that adds up to the same overall amount over time. In other words, the total for a whole month would be essentially the same, but would be spaced out evenly instead of erratically.

Yes, the steady stream concept makes sense and that is precisely what Google is doing. Google is sending a steady stream of traffic - zombies about five days a week and converting traffic the other days. Total traffic from six months ago is actually a little better, though conversions are far less. Zombies compensate for the loss in legitimate traffic. Legitimate traffic being people who have some sort of buyer intent to justify Google sending users to an ecommerce website.

They'd do far better to just push up the average CPC and keep it relatively constant.

Google has done both - raised CPC by removing the ads in the right column and sending low quality traffic via Adwords. What is happening in organic may be a byproduct of how Google is trying to extract maximum revenue out of Adwords. Are the zombie Adwords clicks from real users, are they from Google displaying the ads to a broader spectrum of people, etc.? I don't think we will ever find out. This zombie thing has been happening so long that it is clear Google intends on sending traffic this way - not because of some mistake or glitch in their algo.

Simon, the days in which sales spike at any given marketplace are random. The trend being only one marketplace will do really well on any given day per week, suggesting that Google has a flavor of the day they send buyer traffic to.
2:12 pm on Apr 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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glakes -- But you said that it's the "buyer traffic" that's being rotated. I agree that google gives special attention to identified likely buyers and treats them differently. But you didn't explain why google would rotate them from site to site. What would google gain by doing it that way, when it would be simpler to just distribute each site's allocation evenly over time.

As for the rest of the traffic (zombie or mis-matched traffic), I believe it remains more or less constant, and in any case isn't the main issue. It's the "buyer traffic" we should be talking about, not the zombie traffic.
3:27 am on Apr 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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People with zombie traffic are typically earning less from Google and have seen the quality of clicks hit the toilet. Meanwhile, Google's profits soar. It's not that hard to connect the dots - it's all about the money. And really at this point, I see no need to explain why because the manipulation is plain as day and Google's quarterly profits paint a rosy picture for shareholders. The question is how do some businesses survive in such a manipulated market. I dumped Google and moved on to Amazon and other marketplaces. Dumping Adwords was a great move as my net income is much better and growing without Google. It does not mean I don't have an interest in what Google does. If nothing else, the entertainment value of some members defending Google's abuses makes it worthwhile to stay engaged. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see Google go legit, but I don't see any outside pressure for them to do so. At least not in the USA where Google has a very close relationship with politicians.
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