HUGE drop in traffic in December - Does anyone have information about this?

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I run a number of affiliate websites that have been growing at a very stable and predictable pace for the last 2-3 years with SEO. They have never before been effected by any Google updates. If anything, their traffic may have increased slightly at previous updates.

However, at the end of November the rankings of my websites started dropping quickly and have been on a clear downward spiral since then. The drops have come in several steps and I have lost about 75% of all my traffic, and it may continue to drop even further. I have no algorithm penalties and do not know why my sites are effected.

I see that there are many other websites that have been affected in similar ways, and I am certain it is due to Google algorithm changes. Does anyone have any information about these changes and what is causing the ranking decreases/increases? Does anyone have any information on how to best try to recover the traffic?
#december #drop #huge #information #traffic
  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
    Based on what you are saying.. SEO is solid.. been stable, and now a sudden drop. No penalties and all that good stuff. I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest you may have been caught by Rank Brain.

    You can have a decent idea by looking at the pages that have been effected.. are they LSI heavy or are they more keyword focused? If they are keyword focused, then stop reading LOL.

    I have seen a few instances of Rank Brain at work. I have a client that deals with "Fishing Boats". His text was rather heavy on the LSI terms IE john Boat, skiff, trolling boat, sneak boat, dinghy etc. He had many pages in September lose a good amount of positioning. Going into those pages and pulling many of the LSI terms brought many of the listings back in pretty short order.There were others that were complete losses and new pages were created to focus more directly on a specific topic

    One aspect of Rank Brain is to make sense of what an end user is requesting ( the most publicized function ) the opposite of that ( making it the 3rd most important ranking factor behind links and content ) is determining the topic of a page. If you have diluted the primary focus of the page with LSI terms ( that prior to Rank Brain ) would have worked, Rank Brain is now going to see the tactic for what it is.

    Previous to rank brain... we had LSI terms.. basically synonyms of words. These terms were manually injected into the algorithm. Using the example above, boat.. we would see terms as listed, as well as "Ship" and "Yacht". Neither by the way are "technically" boats. I would say to some degree the whole list counted. I would go further and say that the list being a list, and injected into an algorithm, would have had value added or lost depending on the position in the list. ( first word most value, last word least value )

    NOW, is a whole new ball game. Exact match is obviously preferred, And second to that would be a good understanding of the term being targeted and which synonyms would actually have relevance to the key term. I will come right out and say it.. if English is a second language.. there is big trouble in little china.

    Hope that helps!


    Originally Posted by marcus23 View Post

    I run a number of affiliate websites that have been growing at a very stable and predictable pace for the last 2-3 years with SEO. They have never before been effected by any Google updates. If anything, their traffic may have increased slightly at previous updates.

    However, at the end of November the rankings of my websites started dropping quickly and have been on a clear downward spiral since then. The drops have come in several steps and I have lost about 75% of all my traffic, and it may continue to drop even further. I have no algorithm penalties and do not know why my sites are effected.

    I see that there are many other websites that have been affected in similar ways, and I am certain it is due to Google algorithm changes. Does anyone have any information about these changes and what is causing the ranking decreases/increases? Does anyone have any information on how to best try to recover the traffic?
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    There's a much simpler reason. December is a crazy month because you have Christmas and the New Year. Work places shut for a period of time. Stores are all so flat out that some large stores make half their yearly profit just in December.

    So people are more focused on the usual things such as getting gifts and arranging parties and where and when to have family meals.
    People are too broke from maxing out credit cards for gifts, etc, that they're not interested in the online world from a buying point of view.
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  • Profile picture of the author soniyasharma96
    If your blog/website is getting maximum traffic from US, then surely Chrismas and New Year are the main reasons to down in traffic. You must check your webmaster for any errors or site penalty.
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  • This is know as the holidays for a reason mate.. Basically everybody is broke or on holiday or spending time with family and too busy to be on the internet.

    Do not be disheartened though as I have seen the same on a few of my sites too
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  • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
    How do you know that you have no algorithmic penalties? You would never see that listed in search console.
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  • Profile picture of the author Shaun Marrs
    I have seen a number of people reporting this and everyone just spits out the default "its the holidays" response but there was an unannounced roll out to the Google algo on the 15th December that registered as major change on Algoroo.com.
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  • Profile picture of the author Nail Yener
    I am also observing a decrease in traffic (mostly search engine traffic) on my content site since the beginning of December, or last week of November I should say. Up to that time, the traffic was increasing at a steady level. Based on the current figures, it will be around 30-40% traffic loss in December compared to November.

    The site is rather new, so I don't have last December's stats to make a comparison but during my search about this issue, I came across some blog posts with Google Analytics screenshots showing a similar pattern (decrease in December) in traffic for multiple sites, some of which were content focused sites (e.g. not shopping, social or entertainment focused sites). The traffic then rised to the normal levels in January in all those sites. Their explanation was the holidays which made sense to me.

    My Google Search Console stats show about 30% decrease in impressions, which means either other pages are displayed instead of my pages, or less people are searching for things in December.

    I am hoping to get back on track in January and hopefully this was not caused by an algorithm change. For the record, I am not involved in any type of SEO activities (i.e. building artificial backlinks), except the regular on-page practices.
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  • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
    I guess the most obvious question here, Nail, is are you tracking your keyword rankings and did you see a rankings drop? In the OP's case, he said his rankings dropped, so "December" is an unlikely reason. In his case, it has to be an algorithmic penalty if there are no messages in Search Console.
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      If overall searching decreased for the keywords, it still could be "December."

      Best thing the OP could do is to look at their own history... Having been around for 3 or 4 years means they've got 3 or 4 'december' patterns to look into.

      Me, I've seen a slight increase in my positions, I use related keywords but cautiously... only when they really belong and not that many... I don't do mortgage and home loans on the same page... I do mortgages, mortgages, mortgage loans and loan and FHA loans and conventional loans or home loans loan, FHA loan, reverse mortgage (because nobody says reverse loans, though I'd like to get me one of those... I think I'd love an interest rate of -10% (compound interest) that never matures.

      Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

      I guess the most obvious question here, Nail, is are you tracking your keyword rankings and did you see a rankings drop? In the OP's case, he said his rankings dropped, so "December" is an unlikely reason. In his case, it has to be an algorithmic penalty if there are no messages in Search Console.
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    • Profile picture of the author Nail Yener
      Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

      I guess the most obvious question here, Nail, is are you tracking your keyword rankings and did you see a rankings drop? In the OP's case, he said his rankings dropped, so "December" is an unlikely reason. In his case, it has to be an algorithmic penalty if there are no messages in Search Console.
      Side note: My site is not a site I focus on keywords, in other words, I am writing content naturally about topics I choose, I am not writing in a scientific way for the purpose of ranking for specific keywords. That's why I am not keeping a close eye on my rankings.

      Having said that, yes I noticed drops in positions for most of the keywords, now that I checked in more detail. Though, my site Avg. Position (average of all pages for all keywords) increased from 11.8 to 11.6. Seems, I lost rankings for some keywords, but gained for some others.

      My site might have been affected by an algorithm, only Google knows. It is also possible that there's no algorithm effect but simply Google is favoring some other pages instead of my pages, just like it did for my pages for some time. But, something that makes me think it might also be because of holidays is that when I compare impressions for the keywords that I was ranking on the 1st page and still rank on the 1st page, I see considerable decrease in impressions. I can't say for sure but that tells me that the amount of searches people did for those keywords in December are less than they did in November.

      Whether it is related to holidays or an algorithm change or something else, the following months will tell.
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  • Profile picture of the author jfambrini
    I always see a dip in hits in December which lasts till second week of January. Too many people taking holidays.
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  • Profile picture of the author SERPTurbo
    Possibly some new link building strategy you implemented in November some time and now the results are kicking in?

    There are tons of factors that could affect your rankings, but like others mentioned, it could very well be just the season period....Check your stats for last year this time or the year before and compare to see if you had the same issue in the past.
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    • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
      Originally Posted by SERPTurbo View Post

      Possibly some new link building strategy you implemented in November some time and now the results are kicking in?

      There are tons of factors that could affect your rankings, but like others mentioned, it could very well be just the season period....Check your stats for last year this time or the year before and compare to see if you had the same issue in the past.
      The time of year would not affect rankings. It'll affect traffic but sites don't go down in the rankings because it is December and then go back up in the rankings because it is a new month in January. In the OP's case, t's definitely algorithmic and, as SERPTurbo suggested, likely has something to do with either changes to your content or, more likely, links that were built sometime prior to the rankings drop.

      Nail's site is more likely to be a "December" thing but without SERP comparison data, it's pretty had to tell and even then, if his pieces are more "newsy", they may fall because more recent news replaces it. More data is needed there.
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  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
    In regards to the OP's situation alone... One could only imagine that if there was indeed a "penalty" it would be Penguin in nature. The problem with this, is the fact that the content has been in good standing for a number of years and has in fact usually seen a bit of benefit with a Penguin Roll out.

    Granted things have changed in those last few years. Penguin is no longer a roll out but an integrated aspect of Googles Algorithm. BUT we can identify when there was some Penguin shake ups.. IE Late September early October. So is it likely changes would be seen in December - the answer would be no.

    So specifically looking at the OP's timeline of the beginning of December... Generally speaking Penalized instances have a Google update that can be correlated to. The fact is there simply is not one present within this time frame. And if you read around the web... the OP's site is not the only one effected. I can actually say there are some pages on my many sites that have taken hits - and they all have similar qualities.. LSI heavy.

    So here is an interesting aspect of getting hit with a penalty... there is an underlying pattern that is present in most every instance of being hit. That pattern is actually getting a surge in traffic. My guess is there is a preliminary identification of probable problem sites / pages. Google then lifts those sites to get a better indication of the issues or lack there of from these pages. and from there penalties are placed. Like most penalty based roll outs there is then a reversal roll out. and it is this phase that I suspect is reversing the penalty that faired well in the pre update traffic boost.

    Since the OP is not communication on the subject we simply do not know for sure. But I personally am still standing on Rank Brain as being a possible answer to the issue. There are just to many counter intuitive points to suggest a Algo hit - not that Rank Brain isn't a Algo hit, but you know what I mean LOL
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  • Profile picture of the author zebek
    I guess the traffic declines in any site during this site which are not related to Christmas/gifts or any festivities. Relax its a festive season and people prefer to spend time with families.
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  • Profile picture of the author hynds
    Originally Posted by marcus23 View Post

    I run a number of affiliate websites that have been growing at a very stable and predictable pace for the last 2-3 years with SEO. They have never before been effected by any Google updates. If anything, their traffic may have increased slightly at previous updates.

    However, at the end of November the rankings of my websites started dropping quickly and have been on a clear downward spiral since then. The drops have come in several steps and I have lost about 75% of all my traffic, and it may continue to drop even further. I have no algorithm penalties and do not know why my sites are effected.

    I see that there are many other websites that have been affected in similar ways, and I am certain it is due to Google algorithm changes. Does anyone have any information about these changes and what is causing the ranking decreases/increases? Does anyone have any information on how to best try to recover the traffic?
    I'm also facing with the same your problem, my site was being stable for a long time but then suddenly drop a lot of traffic by the mid December 2016. I also don't know why and I'm finding the problem. Because I'm using 100% white hat SEO and SEM then I hope this not a big issue and Google will not ban or give penalty my site.
    Good luck to you,
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  • Profile picture of the author FoxMetricsATL
    Are you running a lot of ads for those pages? Google did make changes recently that would sites using ad campaigns. You may want to read into it, I am not sure if this would have anything to do with your sites.
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