Last month rumours started to circulate that Google were testing their algorithmic changes on selected sites. WebmasterWorld users took to the forum to highlight traffic being directed to their websites, sitting there for a period of time and then leaving the page without converting or even making an impact. But is this a calculated move by Google or just a conspiracy theory? We take a look at the implications for businesses and agencies going forward.
Google began rolling out updates to their Panda algorithm in June, resulting in slight fluctuations of traffic for small and medium sites with good content and backlink profile. Although earlier in the year saw very small increases in traffic, the unusual trends noticed by webmasters around the 20th-21st October suggest that they are continuing to drip-feed these updates rather than implement any major updates.
One of the difficulties faced by SEOs over the course of the last few months is the lack of evidence of these updates going live, resulting in a bit of a guessing game when it comes to looking at trends from Webmaster Tools and Analytics. Google have admitted to performing over 500 updates to their algorithms a year but are not willing to announce each individual change blurring the lines between the events in October being another Panda update, or a separate event such as the ‘Zombie traffic’.
So what are the key elements of your SEO strategy that could be impacted by this type of traffic?
Conversions & Search Rankings
There has been a global concern that the events in October have had a negative impact on website conversions as a result of the type of traffic being directed to these websites from organic search keyword results. As you will see by the tweet by Google’s Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, they are giving very little away in terms of what they are doing with their updates.
SEO Alex Graves offers the theory that Google are looking at the use of synonyms within their indexing along with testing what their SERPs would look like if they were to stop linking words with the same meaning. However, at this point, there is too little data to suggest that Google are using this period to test sites before rolling out further updates.
This could cause issues for paid advertisers running AdWords campaigns, as this traffic could very easily drain their budgets yet leave them with the same or even less conversions. A few advertisers have even gone so far as to pause their current AdWords campaigns to reduce the risk of them being jeopardised by the ‘Zombie traffic’.
Content should be one of the primary concerns of SEOs going forward when it comes to updates or unexpected events such as Zombie. It is more than likely that sites that are trying to get a higher ranking by posting unoriginal content are likely to be punished by future Panda updates as this was the purpose of the update in the first place.
Make sure that when writing copy for landing pages and blogs that you are keeping the reader in mind and offer something different from other sites that have previously written about the same topic. This will help your website stay ahead of the competition when it comes to ranking higher on SERPs.