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Are search results being throttled ?

     
9:44 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A weird trend i've noticed recently... (from someone that analyzes his stats several times days )

It almost seems like our positions lately are being throttled. (our as in everybody's)

No more are the days where you were #1 or #2 forever on google... it's like once google realizes you've had a certain amount of hits per day, your results get throttled back some...and others gain forward.

thoughts ?
7:29 pm on Dec 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Some food for thought about throttling - and traffic and order patterns.

First, customers act randomly. They may not all use the same term you use to search for something. Some people call carbonated beverages soda, some call them pop. So if you sold carbonated beverages online (say wholesale), and rank for the term pop, you might only get traffic and conversions for the time of day that Midwesterners who use the term pop are searching.

The same applies to many, many products. So you may get different traffic for different terms. And you could get non-converting traffic if Google figures someone (say a 65-year old male) looking for dungarees wants jeans and sends them to a page with trendy jeans that millennials buy.

People don't all buy or search online at the same time of the day, either. If you sell to businesses, the person that does the searching may not be the one that does the buying. They may have to report to a manager who decides which site to buy from, and that manager may then place an order on a different computer or device hours after the original search, or sends the employee back to order later in the day, or some other day.

If you are US-based, and sell throughout the US, time zones come into play, too. We have often seen clusters of orders around around 2 or 3 pm East coast time due to people on the East coast purchasing after lunch and West coast customer before they leave for lunch.

Worth noting: that cluster pattern often applies to sales that don't come in through the web, too. Our repeat order customers generally call us to order, and there are some days when those calls tend to cluster around a specific time too.
7:43 pm on Dec 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Barry (aka rustybrick) at Search Engine Roundtable yesterday cited our thread in asking this question...

The Google Throttle: Does Google Limit Traffic To Your Web Site?
Dec 26, 2016
by Barry Schwartz

[seroundtable.com...]


Today he posted a follow-up...with an earlier video response from Google's John Mueller, that this "is not how search works - Google doesn't have quota for web sites."...

Google: We Have No Web Site Page Quota & Do Not Throttle Traffic
Dec 27, 2016
by Barry Schwartz

[seroundtable.com...]

From the JohnMu hangout cited, and I'm taking the liberty of quoting more than I normally would from Barry's transcript, because John is an offical Google spokesperson...

...Sometimes people search more, sometimes people search less. Sometimes your site is more relevant, sometimes it's the less relevant.

There's no quota.

There's nothing where we would say oh we will send five hundred visitors today and when we reach 500 will stop sending traffic. That's not how search works.
Thanks to Barry and Glenn Gabe for following up on this and finding an official comment.

Also to note that LuckyLiz, in her Dec 26th post above, provides multiple illustrations of the sometimes search more/ sometimes search less description of buying patterns, including some occurring off-net. In earlier discussions of this topic, I've also reported online examples related, eg, to searches before or after lunch hours and across time zones.
7:43 pm on Dec 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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From the December SERP thread, reseller posted:
Here is an interesting relevant article from Search Engine Roundtable Dec 27, 2016:
Google: We Have No Web Site Page Quota & Do Not Throttle Traffic [seroundtable.com...]


I really would not expect to hear Google admit that they throttle or shape traffic to improve their hand. That would be like Wild Bill Hickok admitting to Jack McCall that he was indeed cheating. While I don't subscribe to the tin foil hat theory that they do this intentionally to specific sites because they have an axe to grind against certain webmasters, I do believe it is an after effect of algo behavior that does the same.

Google in their ongoing effort to make things better for all (including themselves), sometimes ends up making things worse for many. The question is then do they care about these negative effects? I think a quote from a movie says it well: "It would be like us going out of our way to destroy a few microbes on an ant hill in Africa, but how guilty would we feel after obliterating some microbes on an anthill in Africa?".
8:05 pm on Dec 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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samwest... as the timing of our two posts above suggests, great minds might not always think alike, but given enough opportunity, they sometimes react simultaneously.... which perhaps relates to the patterns observed in much feedback we get in the Updates thread.

I don't believe that John Mueller made any comments about shaping traffic, which Shaddows in the past has been careful to distinguish from throttling traffic. Since "shaping" effectively is personalization, that question is still open. I would agree with you that Google's not likely to discuss that too openly.

I won't get into motives, except to say that Google is optimizing its own site for best user experience, just as I would assume you are doing for yours. That's not the same as throttling.

9:05 pm on Dec 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Quarterly reports indicate that they are also optimizing for maximum revenue. I for one have a MUCH different idea of what Google should be in 2017. Go back twenty years and look at their home page and compare it to today. [postimg.org...]

Other than the ubiquitous and omnipresent ad space, the SERP's are really no different than 1997. User experience is fine, but certainly not outstanding and appearance is not even a consideration. With more competing sites, I would have expected to see a better, more grid-like use of page real estate consisting of company logos or avatars and a combination of text / image listings. Maybe in another 20 years.

Any outwardly perceived throttling thru positional effects would be due more to limited SERP space for organics than anything else. That is something that could be improved by better use of SERP space. Looking Inward though, with traffic issues of being ON/OFF or non interactive in nature is another whole topic in itself that we have discussed ad nauseam.
11:35 pm on Dec 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Robert and I see blue as green. If you have any belief this is true well the earth is still flat.
11:37 pm on Dec 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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throttling starts and after websites get zombies, one will assume that throttling means that traffic stops or gets reduced but it is not case AI has traffic for everybody
2:23 pm on Dec 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Only posting this because it is ridiculously repeatable....Every morning at about 7:30 am (varies between 7am and 9am) I get one sales conversion on a trickle of traffic. The other day had another (of many, spread about a week apart) double headers (two within the same minute). Later in the day, as volume increases, absolutely nothing and it's been weeks / months of nothing after 12pm. Explain that one. Must be that AI portioning for everybody thing...which I'd call throttling.
3:34 pm on Dec 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The analogy to pig farming is very close to reality:

We get only food remains from the big pigs and we will not survive.

But wait something has to compensate for all the traffic to look real and plenty of and here they come "the z guys"
4:02 pm on Dec 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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We get only food remains from the big pigs and we will not survive.


Maybe it's time to find another food source.
Offline, social and start moving away from Google reliance.
3:57 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Guys, stop already.

Does Google personalize results? Yes.

What's the mechanism of personalization? Google displays different web pages to different users based on "personal" factors.

This is exactly the same as "throttling".

What they are denying is that they "throttle" to only send certain number to certain website. That's all. The rest they don't. It is BS word games, nothing more.

samwest, you confuse zombies and throttling. Zombies is also a form of "personalization" - it's the traffic with visitors that has any likely converting traffic removed. They are "personalizing" and "testing" it, while at the same time showing to their personalized, proven converting visitors NOT YOUR website , but the ones that are more likely to convert. And the ones that pay up via Adwords. That may create an effect of throttling.
4:16 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@smilie

zombies are not personalization simple because ads in adwards are not subject to personalization, organic maybe

adwards is full of zombies, you bid high to get your ad first served not personalized to some IP that never buys anything
4:58 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu, let's separate what you said in several ways.

adwords are not subject to personalization? how's so? what is it that when I bid high on a particular keyword and my ad goes above everyone? what about numerous other conditions, when I run out of $ for a campaign for the day. When a visitor is part of a Google's or advertiser's remarketing and other audiences?

And what is Broad match, if not an attempt by Google adwords to sell you as advertiser keywords you are not bidding on , but their magic box thinks visitor is interested in, and that should cost less because of not exact match, at your higher bid?

From visitor's standpoint this creates extreme personalization. As they can see two different SERPs even looking for the same KWs, let alone different people from two locations.

I agree about adwords full of zombies and click bots. Once you get over $1/click you start seeing heavy clickbot, "zombie" (visitors that don't convert because all converted visitors were removed from that traffic) and fraud activity and would have to pay extreme attention to it or you'll run out of budget very quickly.
5:17 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mosxu, read the Methbot botnet thread. And especially the details, here's a pdf from WhiteOps site that explain how it works. It is the definition of a mix of botnets and zombies clicking adwords.

And as I mentioned in previous threads, the reason there are so many is simple. Just from Methbot, if Google+Facebook share is 50% they are making half a billion $ per year. You could not possibly MAKE a for profit corporation to start fighting these.

Methbot botnet
[webmasterworld.com...]

Methbot operation pdf
[go.whiteops.com...]
5:17 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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>> @samwest: Maybe it's time to find another food source.

Yes, we need to finance our own , open source, possibly distributed, Search Engine. The time is now, it's what web 3.0 should be.
5:36 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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For many time I think about this.

I have a website that is an authority in a specific keyword and long tails, imagine xxx and all xxx A, xxx B etc etc

Last year I decided to target a few more long tail keywords from that particular niche, so I did. Found a few long tail with good numbers ( queries ) and created some great articles and published.

A few weeks later I have checked that those new articles were in top 3 from those long tail keywords and getting lots of traffic, but HEY my visitors were 2k per day the same... The old articles lost rank positions and the new one gain rank. I also have some great analytics graphics ( one series goes up ( new article ) and the other goes down ( old article ) ).

After that, I have made a few experiments and the conclusion is: If my domain authority ( DA ) does not increase I do not create new articles on new keywords that I could easily outrank. I simply post a few news per month just to keep the freshness and voilá 2k visitors per day.

So my question is, Ok google do not throttle the traffic but what about the SERP positions?
7:27 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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What's the mechanism of personalization? Google displays different web pages to different users based on "personal" factors.

This is exactly the same as "throttling"

Actually, it isn't. Reduced traffic to a given site (or the appearance of throttling) may be a consequence of personalized search results, but that doesn't mean personalization, geotargeting, etc. = throttling, or that effect = cause.
8:15 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@smilie

personalization is tided to an IP address and the cookies that google sets to track down a person behaviour and nothing to do with adwords settings. We bid 10 times higher than a 1$ per click and we do not limited budgets, our aim is to show in the first 3 top positions or else.

Suggesting that a Russian botnet is causing zombies is making no sense at all as I said we do not set budgets that run out so botnets should all be extra traffic.

By now we have kind of figured out who is the mother of all botnets
8:42 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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All of this makes me relate to the old fable about the blind men and the elephant.

[en.wikipedia.org...]

We are all blind in more areas that we'd like. Even Google itself do not know the full picture of the elephant due to the amount of control that it has given to the AI.

I do enjoy reading about the argument of the different camps. This is my conclusion about the whole phenomenon.

From my observation: The biggest and top dogs in the industry as well as Google do not really see it because they deal in millions and billions of traffic. Adding content or not does not really affect that value. A 10k visitor difference to a million daily is only a 1% drop in the bucket. So they do not see it nor observe it, since it's just...a tiny unimportant dot in their daily lives.

The smallest publishers do not see it because the traffic is usually in the uptrend during initial stages of publishing. Any new content can potentially get 10%~15% increase in traffic. If I start anew now in this bucket, I probably will overlook and think that throttling is bunk. I start new sites frequently and throttling is non-existent during the startup stage, only dynamic ranking fluctuates the traffic.

The mid-size sites experience it the most when the traffic volume is in the 2k~10k range with roughly a less than 100 to a few hundred pages of content. Where like a few others mentioned, adding a content or so can affect the density and relevancy. This is where I am currently operating in and I observe throttling first hand on a day to day basis.

As far as ceiling goes, I think it depends on the relevancy and other factors of the site. But my observation is that it typically sits around 2x~10x of average daily traffic. In most cases, it is hard for any site to reach that ceiling organically especially for a bigger site with millions of daily visitors, but for a small-mid site with 2k visitors, it is easy to reach the ceiling with a few content that gets tons of traffic within short period of time.
8:47 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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samwest, you confuse zombies and throttling.


@smilie: At what point did I contend that "zombies" are throttling? That is not at all what I have EVER asserted. In case you don't already know, Zombie traffic is defined as NON CONVERTING, not interacting traffic. ALLEGED "Throttling" as something altogether different and likely a periodic positional issues or tied to many combined dynamic issues. It's something observed, but not proven. In fact both are not proven. Never will be.

Nobody "knows" what is causing any of these effects. It's ALL just speculation. Start presenting your equations and empirical evidence and we'll start believing this non stop drivel.
9:15 pm on Dec 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@helder
The old articles lost rank positions and the new one gain rank.

The most likely explanation for this is cannibalization. You haven't reached any new users, you have simply provided new content to users that were already destined to reach your site. The scenario you describe makes perfect sense in that Google is more likely to show the new fresh content to your users higher in the rankings, so they will chose the new content and forgo the older content.

A long tailed keyword has nothing to do with its length adding A to xxx does not make it a long tailed keyword. A long tailed keyword is keyword that appears with very little frequency in the search results. It is located in the tail of the frequency distribution. Targeting long tailed keywords is losing strategy because the low search volume will never be enough to justify the content. "Unless" you can target a a wide array of related long tailed keywords, in which case the sum of many infrequent searches can grow large enough to compensate.

So When you say:
those long tail keywords and getting lots of traffic,


This suggests that those keywords are not long tail keywords. Instead they are keywords with added specifiers. A keyword such as "Widgets" is vague, what is the users intent? does he/she want to buy widgets, or does the user want information about widgets? "Buy Widgets in San Fransisco" is a term that is much clearer. Naturally, if you have site that sells widgets in San Fransisco and you "target" the keyword "Widget" you could very easily get a some or all of the traffic coming for people in SF searching to buy widgets. If then you target "Buy Widgets in San Fransisco" with a different page, then again it should be expected that Google direct these same people to "Buy Widgets in San Fransisco" pages as opposed to a general page about widgets. Moreover, this is good, a great outcome, because had your competitor found out that this search term was unexploited by you they would have stolen all your traffic and most likely left you with a bunch of zombies. Coming to the site looking for some info about widgets, or wanting to by widgets in Iceland when you only sell in SF. But this is not an example of throttling.
8:28 pm on Dec 31, 2016 (gmt 0)

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More evidence of so called "throttling" as this months total conversions comes in EXACTLY that same as last month and +1 from the month before. They appear to be able to match each weeks totals and now each monthly total...how the hell is that even possible? Very creepy. If this is by design, they are getting better each iteration. That or I should start playing the lottery.
4:29 pm on Jan 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I won't get into motives, except to say that Google is optimizing its own site for best user experience, just as I would assume you are doing for yours.

Profits are the end game of any business and my site is no different then Google's search engine - our websites help to drive profits. The "user experience" is a component of our business strategies to keep customers happy, coming back and to streamline the action cycle (buy or click ads), but is not the highlight of anyone's quarterly reports. It's profits that Google and any business evaluating performance focuses on. Too often "user experience" is used as a cop-out for what ultimately motivates businesses (profits), which is no different in Google's case either.

On the surface, Google Search has changed little in years past to impact the user experience. In fact, much of what Google says hurts the user experience (ie. ads above the fold) is something they subscribe to. What are returned as search results has changed dramatically over the years, with far fewer small businesses being seen. A narrowing of ads has also occurred with sidebar ads removed. Limiting choice may appease some users, but Google operates as a gateway and has both a consumer and commercial base to please.

The topic of Google's user experience leaves much open to debate, and from my perspective there is enough evidence to show that changes Google has made have little to do with user experience and more to do with profits. Regardless, I'd really like to see evidence of Google improving their user experience to evaluate if such evidence does exist.
5:14 pm on Jan 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@samwest I understand how you may believe that having a similar conversion rate figures for three month in a row may suggest some sort of throttling or manipulation on Google's part. I'm not sure that conversion rate relates directly to throttling, I think it might have more to do with Zombies. Check out "Representativeness Heuristic" [en.wikipedia.org...] It is a phenomena that describes the biases caused by situations as the one you have described.

@glakes is your logic, because Google must generate profits, then they must be engaging manipulative practices such as throttling, therefore Throttling must exist?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:38 am (utc) on Jan 2, 2017]
[edit reason] fixed link (removed comma at end of URL) [/edit]

5:07 am on Jan 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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is your logic, because Google must generate profits, then they must be engaging manipulative practices such as throttling, therefore Throttling must exist?

I'm just saying any company will do what is in the best interest of its bottom line. Granted, there are exceptions to this rule be in a corporate environment with a board of directors and investors it is the bottom line that matters. Whether throttling exists, and if so whether it is intentional, is impossible to prove definitively without cracking open Google's inner workings or someone from the inside stepping forward. My point in my previous post is that the user experience on most websites is adjusted to produce a result. In my case that would be more sales and in Google's case it would be more clicks. In terms of throttling, it makes sense that Google would do this. The loss of sidebar ads was undoubtedly Google's response to slow the falling CPC. Throttling organic results means that if one wants more traffic, they have to buy it. And when these businesses want to buy traffic from Google, they must bid high or they won't be seen, which bolsters the CPC.

If Google is throttling organic traffic, would that even be illegal? Unethical maybe, but not violating any laws IMO. Paid traffic on the other hand is a different story because those paying for traffic have an expectation to receive a certain quality and result.
10:05 am on Jan 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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NickMNS, I like your thought about the Representativeness heuristic and how it may be adding a bias which perhaps is leading to a false diagnosis of traffic throttling... so much so that I'm going emphasize your suggestion and quote a section from the Wikipedia page...

Representativeness heuristic
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representativeness_heuristic [en.wikipedia.org]

The representativeness heuristic is simply described as assessing similarity of objects and organizing them based around the category prototype (e.g., like goes with like, and causes and effects should resemble each other). This heuristic is used because it is an easy computation. The problem is that people overestimate its ability to accurately predict the likelihood of an event. Thus, it can result in neglect of relevant base rates and other cognitive biases....
Comments about sample size, etc, in the article also worth pondering.

12:01 pm on Jan 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@glakes

throttling is not legal regardless of the country you are doing business in even if you are referring to organic only

Don't forget adwards/organic present same symptoms,

What we need to establish is what is this garbage traffic called zombies
12:09 pm on Jan 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sometimes I notice some keywords on adwords jump for no reason at all in the number of searches per month for no reason at all (for example some keyword for generic products I have seen jump from 400+ searches a month to 4000+). Dunno why people take googles word for it that there searches actually get the amount of visitors that they say they do, wheres the proof?
12:50 pm on Jan 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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user experience on most websites is adjusted to produce a result. In my case that would be more sales and in Google's case it would be more clicks.


And once you have the user engaged you can adjust their experience to the point where an outside observer would say goes too far. After a viewer has visited a number of pages on my site i force them to register. 99% of the site owners in my niche claim this strategy chases viewers away but my experience is it only chases tire kickers away. With googles authority they can get away with all kinds of manipulation that on the surface looks like poor user experience but in reality works for googles bottom line simply because the viewers don't know where else to go.
1:27 pm on Jan 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@toidi

Sounds like insertials and grabbing visitor emails?

Are you all using some form of list building?

From my experience zombies fill forms as well but never pick up the phone ( we ask for phone number as well)
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