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Following our launch of a new social media product about 'brand communities', search traffic immediately began to skyrocket for 2 months. User-generated content on very random 'brand' topics increased at a similar rate and Google was indexing and ranking us high very quickly. Each random tail term was only bringing us 1-2 visits/week but there were so many of them that we've been getting tens of thousands of search visits in total. Life was GOOD.
Then traffic started to slow, plateau and ultimately decline. Google continues to index us, though it appears we've dropped in the rankings.
A few weeks ago, we added cannonical link code because as our user-generated content grew, we started including links like "1,2,3,next,last", etc to display all the brand communities/content. The thought was Google would think it's a duplicate page (hundreds of them) and this was the solution. Now I'm wondering if we've just prevented bots from getting to our content.
I'm skeptical that this is the problem, because traffic didn't just drop, it's a steady decline and our ranks (where I can check them) are down.
The last thing I'll say is 25% of our traffic has been coming to a dynamically driven page that gets created for every brand community users create. 75% of our traffic comes to another dynamically created pages containing a piece of content related to that brand community. I'm the first to admit that these pages are not good from a user experience. Searchers must feel they are dropped on the moon as evidenced by our 84% bounce rate. (Ugh, I know, being dealt with).
So, beyond the cannonical link code issue, the other thought is that Google is responding to our poor UR/bounce rate and it's taken until now for them to act upon it in how they rank us.
Sorry to be long winded--our site/product is a bit unique and difficult to describe.
As always, any ideas, suggestions, advice would be appreciated.