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Google Updates and SERP Changes - August 2016

     
8:05 am on Aug 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 11 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4811319.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 9:11 am on Aug 2, 2016 (PDT -8)


It seems to me that whatever happened over the weekend / last week has now rolled back. My positions were quite mixed up with some gains and some losses but traffic up overall. And sales were great. I am now seeing the results I have had for months again. It's too soon to tell is sales / conversions are on or off yet. Is anyone else seeing that?
10:34 pm on Aug 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Using your site as an example, it is content monetized with ads. Most of the others here complaining about zombies, that don't have such great success as you, actually manufacture and/or sell goods.

So are you saying that information sites as a category are doing okay, but manufacturers' sites and e-commerce sites aren't?

Or is possible that some information sites are doing okay (and some aren't), and that some manufacturers' sites and e-commerce sites are doing okay (and some aren't)?
11:42 pm on Aug 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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some manufacturers' sites and e-commerce sites are doing okay (and some aren't)?

YES
4:14 am on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Or maybe content MFAds sites do experience zombies and a large percentage of bots and zombie nonclicks. It is just much harder to tell since our income is made of thousands of 0.10's - especially when it comes to CPC programs like adsense.

Content sites do seem to experience some form of zombies or "non" buyers, at least much more apparent through affiliate links point of view. Supposedly I have on average 300 clicks out to a specific affiliate advertiser on a daily basis. I don't keep track the quality of my traffic, but content is all the same, no change. My target links do not change neither.

There are days that affiliate sales are zero. Maybe 5~6 days out of a month. With an average conversion rate of 5~10% zero sales seem unlikely. If ecommerce site that receives clicks through several content providers like myself, it would mean thousands of clicks with zero sales for the given day, which can be worrisome. That's a way for me to relate to the dilemma of ecommerce players and their trouble.

However, in some ways content sites function similar to ecommerce.

Loyal customers. I want return readers more than 1 time visits that never come back.
And nonzombie buyers.

I do agree in a big way content is different than ecommerce, we need less worry about the final conversion. It's a whole different ball game. Content publishers can rely on 1 single conversion and gain income. But the phenomenon of zombie and nonbuying periods even for content sites is observed if looked in the right places and deep. But again it is much harder to get a feel of it given hundreds of clicks that even out over time.

I did sit through an entire day a few times refreshing adsense stats. Just to get an idea how ads and earning trickle down. ( I don't do it anymore though very unproductive). The pattern matches with what many describe here with their eccommerce sites.

I want to make a conjecture however, the more specialized or niche an ecommerce site is, the more likely that it is to experience zombie patterns due to the more highly likeness of mismatched traffic. Given the logic, the more specialized or niche an information site has, the more likely it is to experience zombie periods on those properties - And that is my experience with my newly built niche content sites.
1:35 pm on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Or is possible that some information sites are doing okay (and some aren't), and that some manufacturers' sites and e-commerce sites are doing okay (and some aren't)?

Yes. The overwhelming majority of people experiencing Google zombie traffic patterns operate ecommerce websites. Doing okay is a very broad term and the zombie traffic pattern is not something that can be generalized in such terms. With great ranks, one would expect to see sales that mimic great visibility in Google yet they don't most days of the week. In fact, cumulative weekly Google conversions are quite poor and underperform the fractional traffic I see from other search engines. Therefore, ranking good has no bearing on the health of our ecommerce sites in Google and optimizing for zombie avoidance needs to be undertaken, if it is even possible. Because the zombie traffic pattern appears highly controlled in both free and paid search and what many of us saw (release from this pattern) on August 1-2 is evidence of that.
2:28 pm on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi everyone :)

long time reader here, but decided to join the forum only today, right after reading about the high amount of people who actually saw an increase of zombie traffic patterns this year. My website is an ecommerce of digital goods / operating worldwide / since 2010.

Traffic and ranking have been 1) quite stable for this year 2) number of visitors is very similar to the number I had in 2014 and 2015 in this same period. The only difference is an horrible conversion rate, which is very frustrating.

I can confirm the same thing happened to other webmasters recently: lots of conversions on the first days of August, then a 100% drop of sales again.
3:19 pm on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@ widgetized

Welcome to the forum. If you don't mind me asking, when did you start noticing the Google zombie traffic and the horrible conversion rates that accompany them?
3:38 pm on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@EditorialGuy fantastic news. I wonder if any technical changes have been made to your site since zombies are gone?

That brings us to a couple of obvious questions:

- Why are some site owners awash in zombies and low-quality traffic while others aren't?

- What are the characteristics that distinguish victims from non-victims?

We could not find any technical issues with our ecom site just that somebody seems to turn the tap on and off.
7:19 pm on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am going to be doing a very intensive study into whats happening with all my long tail keywords. I think that's the only way we can know for sure. If some people would like to join me, that would be great. Even if its something completely different, atleast you'll probably have a more refined list of keywords to target. This zombie traffic has been on almost all week, at this point options are running out pretty quickly. I also just had a minimum budget ad on adwords disapproved because the URL apparently doesn't resolve... except it does... unbelievable.
8:29 pm on Aug 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@masterjoe

I was fortunate enough to have an Adwords test running prior to August 1st and it's still on so I can see any changes that are going on. Not much in terms of the data really stands out to me, but I did not dig that deeply. What I can say is that Adwords is logging some very loosely relevant clicks that I paid top dollar for. Why I am charged top dollar for keyphrases that are similar in nature to how to build *keywords* is beyond me. I would think anyone looking for information on how to build something is so much of a squeaker that they don't want to pay for a component that is already professionally manufactured and the click should have cost me pennies.

Let me share just how horrible Google traffic was yesterday in comparison to Bing and Yahoo.

Google PPC: Bounce Rate: 75% Session Time: :19
Google Organic: Bounce Rate: 70.59% Session Time: 1:39
Bing Organic: Bounce Rate: 0% Session Time: 9:22
Yahoo Organic: Bounce Rate: 0% Session Time: 11:38

These stats are very similar every day of the week. Google so badly underperforms the other search engines in traffic quality that it is hysterical. But, for whatever reason, August 1st was proof that Google still can drive sales and that shoppers still visit Google. Many of us saw this and the proof made me toss the theory that shoppers have abandoned Google out the window. So the question is why is it that Google chooses not to send us traffic that converts or traffic that is even remotely competitive in quality to the other search engines? Even paid traffic (I'm bidding suggested category bid which is for top placement) from Google sucks ass. Doesn't anyone in Google, or their Rank Brain Bot, have enough sense to compare how they are performing in relationship to the other search engines? Google has the data in Analytics, so there's no excuse to not do a little self analysis to see firsthand how horribly they are doing.
4:18 am on Aug 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@glakes - you're seeing what I'm seeing. Something is seriously wrong with Google traffic. Another day that started out fine, for the first two hours, then poof, traffic turned off again. This time it's not about conversions, it's about a complete lack of traffic. Yesterday was a summer time low. Last Monday I thought I had totally recovered with hourly sales all day.
12:35 pm on Aug 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have an info website with free signup for a service, and Adsense.

Before this week, I assumed that Google might have it all wrong.

But after the last fluctuations in traffic, I'm sure. When sending low quality traffic, Google *know* what they're doing.

So I think we're beyond questioning if Google is competent enough, and trying to work out why Google is doing this, and if they will ever send high quality traffic constantly.

For me, what really stands out is, the higher the bounce rate of a website, the better for Google search.

So my question is, would this reason alone be enough for Google to send low quality traffic to websites?
12:53 pm on Aug 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I agree. I don't know what the problem is with Google, but here's some anecdotal evidence. I've lately been looking into getting an offshore host for various reasons, and it's been unbelievably difficult to find any good information or services that seem reliable. At first, I ended up on very sketchy looking websites, whereas quality pages discussing this topic in depth were hidden way in the 5-10 pages range.

I think Google was trying to figure out whether I was after informational or commercial search results, because after I did this and started switching around my terms I started getting informational results, although many of them couldn't answer basic questions that I had. Also, shoving 4 ads at the top and making them look like organic results is an incredible waste of time when you're searching for various things. It's easy to see through this, I have clicked on various ads but they weren't exactly what I was looking for. I've also been looking into other things such as cloudflare, and have had almost no luck with specific questions... not because they don't exist, but because Google just isn't producing relevant results. I have basically given up on doing that and have simply used internal forum searches and engineered my own solution basically.

This weekend has also been a massive hit in the wallet, almost no conversions at all. My graphs show a sharp decline since the beginning of August. Extremely low clicks for the traffic, almost no interaction. They need to turn off rankbrain or whatever is causing this issue and take it back to the lab.
1:12 pm on Aug 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@masterjoe: I switched over to cloudflare a few months ago and things seem to be marginally better. I do however block (actually CAPTCHA) many foreign countries using Clouflares firewall. This includes Russia, Sweden (a huge source of attacks for me), China, India, Indonesia, etc. It hasn't made any great improvement otherwise tho. Right now I'm consistently getting decent conversions from 6am to 8am then nothing the rest of the day. Definite ON/ OFF pattern continues. This is happening on several totally different sites that I manage, so it does not seem site specific. Even email volume changes during ON/OFF cycles. I've said it a million times, it's likely something beyond and much more powerful than Google, if you can imagine that.
4:14 pm on Aug 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone compared August 1st traffic to the rest of the week to come up with any theory of what Google may have changed? I've been through the data and the only theory I can come up with is that for a brief period of time Google was displaying our sites to a different type of user (buyers) on August 1st as compare to the rest of the week. My ranks have not changed from that of August 1st, traffic quantity has not changed and the search queries that are generating paid clicks are similar. The spike in converting traffic on August 1st, which exceeded that of a good day in the zombie traffic pattern cycle, were all from organic and not my Adwords ads. Post August 1st I would deem Google's free and paid traffic quality as even worse then that I've seen during the zombie pattern that started in September of 2015.

Though my site is packed with information to support the products we manufacture and sell, I don't see how Google could possibly overlook the ecommerce capabilities/intent of the site. Product pricing, add to cart, my account, full SSL, etc., and I block nothing from Google. Couple that with Adwords campaigns, including shopping campaigns, Google's algorithm would have to be so flawed to not connect the dots.

So now what do we do? I'm seeing the worst traffic quality from Google ever in both free and paid. I will log a complaint with Adwords about the traffic quality and pause all campaigns, which won't amount to anything. Simon appeared to have John Mueller's ear, but I have not seen him post and am curious if he saw anything change on August 1st and if the positive change lasted for him or anyone.
5:57 pm on Aug 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I really don't see any point in complaining...after all, who is going to listen or do anything? Shifting to a new traffic stream and focus is probably the best bet now.
2:03 am on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I really don't see any point in complaining...after all, who is going to listen or do anything?

True, but I did speak with an Adwords rep that gave me *advice* before I had re-activated the campaigns. The least I could do is place a follow-up call and let them know how miserable their advice and traffic are. Doing so I will at least get something for the money spent on Adwords. :)

Shifting to a new traffic stream and focus is probably the best bet now.

Totally agree, but I hate leaving money on the table and that's what I feel I am doing with Google. I'm trying to think positive about Google's August 1st glitch. Maybe it was a test, rolled back and is being refined for release soon. This would benefit all of us zombie victims. Thankfully Amazon orders have been rolling in consistently and with new products I'll be rolling out a solid marketing campaign on Facebook.
9:03 am on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@glakes,
Though my site is packed with information to support the products we manufacture and sell


I like to confirm this and thast sites with a lot of information are not converting good or better to say are not able to beat the low content pages in serps.
From what i can see in my vertical is, that alnding pages with nearly no navigation pane and very low content, small descriptions, much Javascript are ruling.
It doesnīt matter if the the site itself seems to be good or trustworthy.
I think that google looks for leading companys and have a look at their site, Other sites matching layout, html style, content style and content weight will have a boost.
10:12 am on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Organic Google traffic for me this morning is beyond low. Could be attributed to seasonality and school/summer holidays, which will take its toll, but it looks beyond stale.I will not pay for adwords at this point. I'll focus all my paid efforts through social media.

Also, I know I've said this earlier, but the bounce rate fluctuation is beyond clear cut. Post our significant rank drops our bounce was less than 25%... post 23rd June 2016 its not 35 - 45% ...
10:22 am on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@BushieTop, confirmed. But it has nothing to do with holidays. There was a new update or roll-rollback on saturday.
10:50 am on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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But, for whatever reason, August 1st was proof that Google still can drive sales and that shoppers still visit Google. Many of us saw this and the proof made me toss the theory that shoppers have abandoned Google out the window. 


Shoppers/viewers are still going to g but not enough to make the rounds to all of the available sites, so g spreads them around and fills the empty spots with zombies. Some webmasters see the zombies as viable traffic and think things are going great.This allotting of buyers keeps the advertisers and publishers from abandoning hope, and there is a lot of desperate hope in this thread.

Whatever happened 2 weeks ago that tripled my conversions only lasted a week and i am back to the new normal for now.


us local service
11:04 am on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I forgot to mention that not only have my conversions gone back to normal but my contact forms are getting clicked a couple dozen times a day.

Is it possible these click bots/zombies might be coming from adsense sites who are attempting to boosting their revenue with fake clicks and are turning their bots loose on everyone in an attempt to cover their tracks?
12:59 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Site traffic is going along at 0 to 1 active user this morning, then suddenly BANG, up to 58 active users to the same sub page (not the home page). 5 minutes later it's all over and not one of those "users" interacted with any other page. All bounced. GA is either recording some specialized bot as users or it's broken or both.
1:35 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I had one of the highest traffic days I've ever had on Sunday, and I converted 1 visitor. Normally, sales would be through the roof when I get halfway decent quality traffic. Could probably make more money rattling cups around town at the moment. It's just beyond my understanding why they would deliberately screw with traffic like this, and especially on their main game Adwords.
1:53 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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MJ - refer to the WebmasterWorld post on Alphabet profits being up 24%. Now you understand?
2:13 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@toidi

bots/zombies would be extra traffic even if coming from AdSense sites, problem we have we get only bots/zombies for hours and no real humans from adwards or search.
2:30 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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* It's just beyond my understanding why they would deliberately screw with traffic like this, and especially on their main game Adwords *


masterjoe. My theory is because most merchants do not turn off ads and do not track carefully enough. A smart merchant will turn off adwords when cost/conversion is high but the majority of merchants do not turn off their advertisements. So their cost per/conversion over 30 days goes up say 35%. So instead of say $3.00/conversion over 30 days their cost per conversion goes up to $4.05/conversion over 30 days. I wonder how many merchants check their conversions daily or if they did check daily how many have the courage to tell their bosses that conversions are much higher for a day or two. Over time the conversion cost goes up but it looks less threatening if you search 30, 60 or 90 days. If only 25% of merchants turn off adwords when needed then the 75% not turning off adwords as needed make a tidy profit.

Of course, we all know that organic and adwords are both affected at the same time. A perfect cover-up (if this is what is happening...only a theory...most likely just an algorithm glitch...hard to prove when the car hood is welded shut).
2:40 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It is the same game like on amazon. Meanwhilke many resellers use automated tools to set their selling price to lowest best price. They donīt even check taht they sell for less than they pay fo the widget.
Many merchants use auomatic bidding tools for google. They donīt even check that the profit they make with one item is waay beyond what they throwing down googles drain.

Remember last year when ebay said that PLAs are to expensive? They put all their money in SEO and it worked for them until google punished them for not taking part in PLA programm. 2 weeks after ebay took part in PLA programm, all their serps have been restored.
3:04 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I get asked this question all the time by clients and its something i don't want to believe, but i'm becoming more sceptical.
3:08 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I get asked this question all the time by clients and its something i don't want to believe, but i'm becoming more sceptical.


I know what you mean - but then I remember when they snooped wifi data with Streetview!

[bbc.co.uk ]
3:44 pm on Aug 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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In terms of google quality traffic today is the worst day since panda algo in 2013.
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