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Troubleshooting "big Traffic Change For Top Url"


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#1 squidjam

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 01:38 PM

This is the message I'm receiving in Google Webmaster Tools for the page on my site that gets the most traffic (I have one page on my site that gets something ridiculous like 80% or more of the traffic...)

 

I have seen this message before, which was last December, 2012. The site is monetized with Adsense, and I've seen a decrease in earnings on the site in the past few weeks. I never did figure out what the cause of this "big traffic change" was in December. I just rode it out because I hadn't done anything to the site that I thought would cause it and I don't do weird things that might get me caught up in Penguins and Pandas.

 

As much as I feel I know from learning from Jill, I still feel clueless and I'm not exactly sure when I look at my Analytics how to play detective :)

 

I think I may have caused the issue myself because I got this big whoop-de-do idea that I needed to change the look/theme of my (WordPress) site. I started fiddling with things in May.

 

I changed my theme on 1 May 2013. Everything for May was pretty much normal. But around mid June, I started seeing some fall of in traffic and Adsense impressions. In Webmaster tools, impressions go from averaging around 10,000 to 12,000 to now around 6,000 to 8,000.

 

On the 26th of June I changed the theme again, and then on the 27th of June I changed it to yet another one (crazy...).

 

Revenue was still of and I've noticed in Analytics that uniques are off. In January, 2013, my uniques were around 85,000. In April, uniques were down to 64,000; in May, 67,000, and in June, 59,800. For the month of July so far, I'm at 23,500.

 

I received the message in Webmaster tools about the change in traffic on the 4th of July. On the 6th of July, I changed the site back to the theme it had originally. I figured all my changes have messed things up and it may take a bit to fix it all.

 

I don't think I have been affeted by Penguin or Panda. I've used this site (http://www.barracuda...analytics/chart) to see if I can see that there are any significant drops at the time one of those updates hits and I'm not really seeing that. In analytics, it still seems like my overall rankings it reports for particular search queries are about where they have been.

 

I did change the navigation items and now I've changed those back to what they were previously (as in, as of January of this year and before). I did change the layout of the home page so that it doesn't have as many links to the interior posts on the site. Previously, it was more of a magazine style with about six sections highlighting different categories with numerous links to posts in each category. Now I have only 6 posts on the home page. I think I need to change this back as well.  :)

 

It's only been a week since I put things back to the original theme.  From mid June to mid July (right now) my daily uniques average about 1900. That's close to what they were in April, May, and June.

 

I did make some improvements to the site, like adding Google+ authorship and posting a few new articles. I guess it's just ironic to me that this is a site that I pretty much ignored for years, not adding much in the way of new posts, and it just hummed along. Now I make a few improvements and it seems to throw a wrench in things.  ;)  I also have learned that just because you think you're making your site better or prettier doesn't necessarily translate into better. I kept thinking I needed to have a more "modern" and "open" site with more white space, etc., but that screws up conversions. I have another ad network that I use on the site and my account manager there said that conversions were much better with my original theme and he also encouraged me to set things back the way they were. 

 

*sigh* I should have heeded the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" maxim.

 

So, I guess I screwed up my site. Should I just be patient for things to get back to normal? Could you point me to a list of things I could check or something like that?

 

Sorry for the long post...and the cluelessness.  ;)  LOL

 


Edited by squidjam, 13 July 2013 - 01:39 PM.

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#2 qwerty

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 01:57 PM

Waiting to see if things come back is probably wise, but there are a few things you could check:

 

  • See if you've been hacked, either by checking the text-only version of Google's cache of some pages or searching for the presence of spammy words that shouldn't be there, e.g. [site:domain.com viagra]
  • You're back on your original WordPress theme, so this probably won't relate to your situation, but it's worth mentioning for other people reading this thread: sometimes, WP themes include rather spammy run-of-site links, and sometimes they're set not to display on the page, so it's a good idea to look for links, particularly in the footer.
  • You mention that your rankings haven't changed much. How about checking impressions and clickthroughs in Webmaster Tools? Is it possible you're getting the same number of impressions but your CTR has dropped? That could mean that your snippet for that particular query (or queries) has changed for some reason to something less enticing, maybe due to a WP extension changing, disappearing, or whatever.


#3 Jill

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 02:13 PM

I get it every now and then on my site for one of my articles that generally is the page that gets the most traffic of any on my site.

 

Nothing I can do about it as I assume it's just some others have written some new articles on the same topic and they're just happening to show a bit higher than mine at time. Generally my traffic comes back. 



#4 squidjam

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 06:06 PM

It looks like from Webmaster Tools that impressions are down (they tend to fluctuate over about 5 days in general) but the clicks number is staying about the same.

 

Good to mention, qwerty, about the spammy links in some WordPress themes. I wanted to say for others here that you should never trust a free theme that you don't get from the official wordpress.org theme repository.

 

I don't think the site has been hacked. Checking, but I doubt it.

 

Jill, thank you for your encouraging words. I just looked at Webmaster Tools again and realized that I had also gotten one of these messages in March as well.

 

I do think that changing the theme may have affected things as well. Don't know  :)


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#5 squidjam

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 06:11 PM

Forgot to ask about recommended browser plugin for viewing Google text cache. Thanks!



#6 qwerty

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 02:45 PM

You don't need a plugin. You can either use a spider simulator, like http://seo-browser.com/ or http://www.browseo.net/, or you can search Google for the cached copy of the page using the cache operator, e.g. [cache:highrankings.com/forum/] and then click the link anchored by "text-only version" in the upper-right corner.


Edited by qwerty, 14 July 2013 - 02:46 PM.


#7 squidjam

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 04:32 PM

Thank you qwerty. 



#8 Alan Perkins

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 03:52 AM

Seen this on a few sites recently. It was just because of July 4 ...


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#9 squidjam

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 12:38 PM

Well, I'm seeing this issue yet again.

 

I received this message again on the 15th of July and now again on 17 August 2013.

 

I'm not sure how to troubleshoot. It's affecting my Adsense income significantly. Don't know where to start to remedy this. I've done nothing different. I don't do black hat types of things, just run the site, publish articles, etc.

 

I just wanted to add that I checked my traffic in analytics and my main site in question, which used to have 2500 to 4000 visits a day has dropped so that in the last few weeks, it went to around 1200 - 1500. On the 17th of August, it had a major drop and the visits were only 530. Then they dropped to 300 after that. Yesterdays visits were at 184. Unreal.

 

My Adsense income was off about a month or so ago. Then last week it was doing fantastically.

 

Jill, I attended your SEO training in January in Naples. As part of that training, you spend lots of time analyzing everyone's sites and you did say that you didn't see any issues with anyone's sites that would be affected by Penguin or Panda.

 

One page on my site gets the bulk of the traffic, although I do publish articles on a pretty regular basis (I don't write a ton...). The only thing I can think of is that I did a 301 redirect on that one page to a new, updated URL for it. It had been under a category that I eliminated from the site. But since I did the redirect and I have checked that it's working, I just don't think that's it.

 

I'm just not sure what to do at this point.

 

Any recommendations?


Edited by squidjam, 22 August 2013 - 01:36 PM.


#10 squidjam

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 02:07 PM

Just some additional info.

 

I've checked out my site on this service: http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk. It doesn't look like it's directly down on the Panda release but maybe a few days later.

 

On 11 Aug, I had 1597 visits.

12 Aug - 1868

13 Aug - 2748

14 Aug - 1998

15 Aug - 1785

16 Aug - 1552

17 Aug - 531

18 Aug - 303

19 Aug - 340

20 Aug - 353

21 Aug - 316

 

Major traffic decrease.

 

I'm suspicious as well of a WordPress plugin called Google Analyticator. I switched to it  a few months ago. But I noticed on another of my sites that in Google Analytics it showed no visits on that site for over a month! That's absolutely not correct. I deleted that plugin and reverted back to Google Analytics for WordPress for Yoast which I've used before without any issues.  So don't know if there's something there. But the traffic being reported for my main site is either off or the plugin was creating some issues or both. The Adsense revenue is off for the past few days, that I know for sure.

 

Thanks!  :)


Edited by squidjam, 22 August 2013 - 02:13 PM.


#11 squidjam

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 12:33 PM

I realize I may be talking to myself here but it still may be useful  ;)

 

I think I found an issue with my site but not sure what's causing it.

 

I did a site:mysite.com search on Google and many of the URLs that come up are screwy. The URLs don't match the excerpt for the post that's displaying.

 

For example:

 

The title is 12 - My Site.com

Which goes to the URL http://mysite.com/page/12/

The excerpt underneath sometimes matches the excerpt for a page or post on my site, but sometimes it's the text of an ad that appears on the home page of the site.

 

When you click the link, it takes you to the home page of my site. The URL http://mysite.com/page/12/  doesn't exist so it can't take me there, but not sure why the redirect to the home page.

 

When I get to page 4 of the results, I'm not seeing any more of these weird URLs, but those weird URLs still indicate to me that something is wrong.

 

Another Item: For the results on some, they look like this:

 

5 Widgets for Making Life Great - MySite.com

mysite.com>parent category

date - accurate excerpt of post that URL links to.

 

The part in green (it displays in green when you do a site search in Google) isn't the URL to the post that's in the title, it links instead to the parent category for that post. That's not right as far as I know.

 

I'm suspecting a plugin at this point but haven't had time to do some searches to see. I'm running All in One SEO and that may be the culprit.

 

If anyone has any insights, feel free to toss them out  ;)  I'll post my findings.



#12 squidjam

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 11:24 AM

In doing a little more troubleshooting, I'm not sure these URLs are a big problem and may just be part of how WordPress organizes things, combined with my theme. There aren't dozens of them.

 

I'd be more interested in knowing how, precisely, to

1. Determine if my site has truly been affected by a Panda or Penguin update (obviously suspicious because of the significant drop in traffic)

and

2. How, exactly, one goes about fixing things.

 

There's so much noise online about this and I don't know who to trust or what to trust.

 

I don't know where to begin. I've never done any "backlinking" strategy nonsense or any black hat or screwy things with this site.

 

The only thing I can possibly think of is that the page on the site that gets the most traffic is one from an article directory which I used on the site but it's been there for years. It's the only one I have on the site. The rest of the content is mine. But maybe Google is cracking down on this as well. If so, do I replace the article with one I write myself?

 

If I could just get some straight answers, I would be so grateful. I've looked at links here but not getting anywhere. I just would love some steps for how you determine if you have issues and if so, how you go about solving them.

 

Or is everyone else clueless to some degree and flying by the seat of their pants??



#13 Jill

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 09:13 AM

For the most part, looking at Google Organic traffic over a span of at least a year and comparing it with the prior year, plus comparing it with Panda/Penguin and other updates is the way to see if it's been hit by any of them.

 

But it's important to note that Google analytics isn't totally accurate in what it reports these days. Some organic traffic will be now reported as Direct, and there's other weird things that go on as well. Many sites will appear to have a good 10-20% drop in organic traffic that may or may not be real.

 

Look at which landing pages have lost traffic (because you can't look at keywords anymore). That can be very helpful in figuring out where a problem might be. If specific landing pages have lost a lot, do some quick keyword searches for phrases where you believe you've lost visitors and see what other pages are showing up before yours in the search results. (Use an incognito Chrome Window.) Very often, you'll find that Google is simply just taking up more space on the page with paid placements, therefore your site is getting fewer clicks. Not much you can do about that other than join the club and start paying (which of course is what they want you to do).

 

It can certainly be frustrating to lose visitors and conversions, but it's not always something you've done wrong. It's often just more competition and less overall organic screen space in the SERPs. This is why it's very important to also use other forms of online and offline marketing for your business. You can start making better use of social media and other forms of networking in order to make connections with your target audience (or at least with those who are in a position to connect you).  



#14 squidjam

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 12:03 PM

Thank you for the detailed and thoughful reply Jill. I was beginning to get a little discouraged...

 

Quick question: What is the best source, the source you recommend, for keeping up with when Penguin & Panda updates are rolled out?

 

I've used the tool at http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk./, as I mentioned before, but when I then looked closely at the numbers they were pulling from my analytics account for traffic, I'm not sure they were accurate.

 

I feel like if I just had the tools, I'd at least have something to work with. ;)

 

Also, your comment that it may not be something I've done is comforting. I've been sitting here for the last week and a half in semi-despair, trying to figure things out and not finding anything.

 

I'm going to look at some of those search results, as you suggest, and see what comes up. I did a little of that last week and the sites that were showing up for one keyword phrase, where analytics says I used to tend to rank #1, were yucko. I couldn't figure out why those sites would suddenly appear above me. Just left me shaking my head.

 

I hear you on using other forms of online marketing. I know that it is important. I've been good at using Facebook but need to do more there, along with my Twitter, and growing my newsletter list.



#15 squidjam

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 12:46 PM

Jill, I did a search on one keyword that I was ranking #1 for in a Chrome incognito window.

 

I'm not understanding the results, however.

 

As an example, I search for "chocolate intolerance" (not the actual keyword, but similar) and my site is in position #7, but four of the other six sites above mine have "chocolate sensitivity" in their title and/or the excerpt text, not the word intolerance.

 

Is Google now substituting synonyms in search results? I don't get it.

 

But maybe some good news...When I first posted here about seeing the downturn in traffic and the "big traffic change" message again, which was 22 August, Analytics was reporting that for this keyword phrase that I was once ranking on average at #1, that my average ranking was #8.

 

A few days ago, I noticed the ranking was up to #7. Now, Analytics is reporting it at #5.

 

I will continue to tweak and improve the site, but maybe, just maybe, I'm seeing some improvement here that will continue.  :)


Edited by squidjam, 05 September 2013 - 12:55 PM.





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