Drop in Organic Google Traffic

  • 6
  • 16
  • Problem
  • Updated 3 days ago
  • Solved
Our community has existed for 5+ years. In the past several weeks, we've noted a marked decrease in our organic traffic (Google) which had steadily grown over time.

Has anyone else noticed a similar issue in their communities? If so, how are you responding?
Photo of Daniel Luebke

Daniel Luebke

  • 236 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
  • left out

Posted 7 months ago

  • 6
  • 16
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Same here.  I even considered that the Google Analytics implementation was broken.
https://getsatisfaction.com/getsatisfaction/topics/google-analytics-implementation-appears-to-be-bro...

Sessions and Pageviews have been on a pretty steady decline over the past few weeks, yet our activity levels and user counts seem to be steady and even increasing.
Photo of Glenn Dobson

Glenn Dobson

  • 1,844 Points 1k badge 2x thumb
I've noticed this also, going to check my actual Google Analytics numbers to see if they are higher or not.
Photo of Mike Connors

Mike Connors, Official Rep

  • 4,252 Points 4k badge 2x thumb
Glenn and others, are the trends you're finding in CHA consistent with what you see in GA directly?
Photo of Glenn Dobson

Glenn Dobson

  • 1,844 Points 1k badge 2x thumb
I haven't had time to go into CHA and run a report from the start of the year until now, but it was in the analytics that first noticed. We were typically getting 50-60K views from search last year, it's about half that now. When I looked in GA it was a steady drop from the beginning of the year until now.  Our analytics person is going to dig into it a little more and see if she can spot anything,
(Edited)
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
This is pretty telling...
Photo of Tashina

Tashina, Community & Education Manager

  • 21,116 Points 20k badge 2x thumb
These reports are definitely interesting. If you guys don't mind, would it be possible for you to share screen caps of what you're seeing in both CHA and GA? Those could be separate private topics if you're more comfortable with that.

I am also curious if any of you have tried methods to increase page views that are not part of your normal routine? I am curious if doing something abnormal for you could potentially be reflected by GA. I recently listened to an episode of Smart Passive Income where they talked about content audits. Specifically about how removing and updating older content can lead to an increase in page views. I am wondering if anyone has tried any experiments of that kind to see if a change is reflected?
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
We had a huge drop after the first week of March this year.  Traffic slowly climbed back up in April and since the 2nd week of May, we've seen another steady decline.  February brought us all-time highs in sessions and pageviews.


Topic and activity-wise, March and April were some of our busiest months on record, despite showing low traffic numbers in GA.

Here's another look at activity... we're right on track, if not busier than before, yet fewer pageviews and sessions.


Something funky happened.
Photo of Justin Veenema

Justin Veenema

  • 740 Points 500 badge 2x thumb
Hi all, 
Seeing the same in our Community as well. Some topics have a minor decrease, some have a major decrease (almost a complete drop-off). 

Here are two completely different posts from our Community, notice the steep drop-offs at various different timelines. Any thoughts on what's happening here? We're seeing a massive drop-off which has basically cut our organic traffic into a quarter of what it should be. 


Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Hey Cody - thanks for the input and for verifying that at least all the basic SEO attributes look correct.

The only related change we made was to switch from the deprecated urchin tracker to Google's analytics.js tracker sometime in March. It does seem to be making successful requests for all three of the three tracking codes on the page (two of ours and one of yours), at least for me. But I wonder if it's possible that for some users with certain either browser / OS / network configurations, that may not be working properly? It's a shot in the dark, but have you noticed any change in browser / OS distribution in your audience?

And also, I'm still not clear on whether we're actually doing worse in appearing in organic search, or if it's just the reporting side of it that's off? 
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
FWIW, March is when I started having problems.
Photo of Cody Campbell

Cody Campbell

  • 140 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
Hey Stephen, 

Thanks for the follow up. We have not had any noticeable change in browser/os for our audience during the period of this traffic drop.

Your point that this could possibly be a reporting issue is certainly valid. I do however have some evidence to suggest it is an organic visibility problem.

The reason I'm saying that is because I've seen a decrease in the # of organic landing pages driving traffic to our Community:


# of organic landing pages driving traffic to community.unbounce.com

March: 1055
April: 1074
May: 895

As you can see, there's a clear drop from April to May which suggests a large number of pages lost visibility in the search engines.
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Hmm okay thanks Cody - we're going to spend some time next week taking a broader look at all of our SEO-oriented features and will report back what we find and any next steps. Have a great weekend!
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Any new information here?
Photo of Roy

Roy

  • 15,080 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Hi Cody

Do you happen to have the stats you quote going further back, maybe Dec Jan Feb?

As Drew C saw his problems start then, and that is when the urchin tracker was dropped.

But the drop-off in the graphs shown here seems much more severe than even the 10% you report above.
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Hey everyone, so we went through a detailed report from an SEO scanner tool and similar to what Cody said before there was nothing major that popped up that could explain this behavior, as far as what we serve on our side goes. There were some minor things for Facebook and Twitter, and something about the pixel width of our "title" attributes, but nothing egregious for search engines. 

I'm wondering if it may just be a reporting issue - perhaps some % of the page views aren't being reported at all due to our asynchronous analytics.js load. We'll do more investigation on that in our next sprint. 
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
We are seeing a significant drop in direct Google traffic! Any updates?
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Hi Karen, can you estimate when you first started seeing the decline?
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
March. Big drop in May...60%, for a total drop of 40%
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Cody mentioned above that he's got some topics that have completely dropped out of the Google index... I'm finding that to be true for us too.

This topic has consistently been a top viewed topic for us (~3500/mo).  So far this month, just 99.  It doesn't appear in any Google search results either.  There are several links to it, even in related conversations - all of them appear in the results summaries, but the actual topic itself doesn't show up.


There's another thread that looks very similar that I can share if someone is interested.
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Ooh thanks for that Drew, that's helpful. We'll look into it and hopefully can find some new info. 
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb

Hey everyone, we’re still investigating why certain pages are no longer in Google’s index, but additionally I wanted to check whether everyone has upgraded to Universal Analytics?

Photo of Daniel Luebke

Daniel Luebke

  • 236 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
We use Universal Analytics.
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Looks like Google did that for everyone some time back.
100% of Google Analytics properties have been transferred to Universal Analytics, and all new properties will be Universal Analytics properties.
Photo of Glenn Dobson

Glenn Dobson

  • 1,844 Points 1k badge 2x thumb
Crazy couple of week here so I've only just now had a chance to grab some numbers. These are for our biggest community Organic Search July 2015 - June 2016 
  • 59,725 
  • 60,593 
  • 63,280 
  • 64,374 
  • 58,099 
  • 65,623 
  • 70,721 
  • 40,000 Feb
  • 35,946 Mar
  • 42,460 Apr
  • 31,137 May
  • 11,365 June
I'm checking to see if our Google Analytics is upgraded or not.
(Edited)
Photo of Cody Campbell

Cody Campbell

  • 140 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
To help everyone get a better look at the traffic drop I've experienced, see the graphs below which illustrate the change in our community traffic as a whole (January 2016 - June 2016).







From here it's pretty clear to see that the "All Traffic" drop started in March and was initially caused by a decrease in direct traffic. Later on, organic traffic started to slip in mid April causing the rest of the crash.

One thing that catches my eye here is the downward shift in direct and the upward shift in organic traffic in March. One thing that might have happened is that the direct traffic started to become better categorized in GA (as we know lots of direct traffic is actually "dark" and not truly direct). Regardless if that's the case, this traffic shift explains why 'All Traffic' was relatively level throughout April until organic started to decrease towards the end of the month.
(Edited)
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Hey guys, I have a quick update for you. We did some more digging and while we haven't found anything definitive, we think one part of the problem is some changes we rolled out mid-May to add schema.org markup, and so we're doing a test with rolling that back to see what happens.

Additionally, we are planning to release a new feature to let you manage your community web domain using Google Webmaster Tools.  Hopefully this will give you added visibility and control over the SEO of your community and, as a side benefit, help us collectively troubleshoot these issues.  We expect to have this feature ready in the next few days.

Photo of Glenn Dobson

Glenn Dobson

  • 1,844 Points 1k badge 2x thumb
Thanks Stephen
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Hi everyone, we released a change to allow you to verify your domain with Google! We'll write a separate post on that tomorrow, but for now you can find it in the Configure > Community Details > Google Analytics Settings section. It's not the prettiest UI but it'll get the job done. Find further instructions there, and happy hunting! 
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Thanks!  I've been eager to play around with community data in Search Console.
Now to wait for the data to flow...
Photo of Glenn Dobson

Glenn Dobson

  • 1,844 Points 1k badge 2x thumb
Wondering if anyone has learnt anything new about this?
Photo of Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee, Engineering Manager

  • 19,054 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
I was wondering the same...
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
I'm not seeing any improvements.  Traffic continues to plummet.


I used the search console to resubmit the page I mentioned above, but it still doesn't show up in search results.  No idea why :-(

I'm beginning to wonder if we can trust the session/pageview numbers from GA due to other issues we've discussed.  Overall usage seems to be on par with times past, which is why something feels off.
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
Seeing the same results. When can we expect an answer? I have to present the metrics each month and as you can imagine the data does not look good!!
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
Any news? I have to present this information next week and I would like to be able to offer an explanation.
Thanks.
Photo of Ryan Engley

Ryan Engley

  • 146 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
Our unique visits are now down to 29% of what they were in April. Traffic is still steadily declining as this week, we dropped an additional 25% over last week.
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
Very frustrating!!
Photo of Daniel Foster

Daniel Foster

  • 4,478 Points 4k badge 2x thumb
Still in free fall here, too.
Photo of Tashina

Tashina, Community & Education Manager

  • 21,116 Points 20k badge 2x thumb
Hi everyone,

As a fellow community manager, I can definitely understand your frustrations with this. Like many of you, I am seeing a drop in traffic but not in activity and it just doesn't really add up. We have been working on some things behind the scenes (I'll let someone in Engineering speak to that). We are reaching out to Google to try and work directly with them on this to see if there's something we may have missed or something we can do to get more accurate reporting. Once we know more, I hope that we will share that here.
Photo of Ryan Mathews

Ryan Mathews

  • 556 Points 500 badge 2x thumb
Hey Tashina,

Can we get a timeline for the next update from the GetSat team on this problem?

Credibility of our Community site and our historical web analytics are at stake here.  Our usage data is in a free fall (going back to March 2016) and as you said, simply doesn't add up.  Drew Claybrook and I are about to suspend reporting a few key performance metrics for our Community site given how drastic the fall off in volume has been.

How can we get move to a more predictable cadence on updates for this long-standing problem?  Understand your investigating, but we need more predictable updates than we're getting to date.  

Thanks for the consideration.
Photo of Ryan Mathews

Ryan Mathews

  • 556 Points 500 badge 2x thumb
Any updates you can share Tashina?

Google SEO used to be a huge differentiator for the GetSat platform, but over the last 4 months that's entirely gone away.  And it keeps getting worse.    

Our users prefer kicking off their self-service experience with a Google Search and when they did, it was great knowing our Community would meet them on the first page of Google.  It's a shame that dynamic has gone away quickly.  We really need a fix here.

Hopefully we can get an update soon on what's being done to restore the GetSat to the harmonious Google-friendly platform we all were accustomed to at the start of 2016.
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
Agree!!! Please provide some answers.
Photo of Daniel Foster

Daniel Foster

  • 4,478 Points 4k badge 2x thumb
Are all the others on this thread also using a DNS redirect and custom header on their community? Could customization of the community be a factor here somehow? Put a different way: do non-customized communities have the same issue going on?

FWIW, the Community Health Analytics show the same traffic pattern as the Google Analytics data:



The bump up in direct page views in Feb seems weird, too.
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
Interesting... that looks almost identical to mine :-/


We are using a custom header and have a custom content sidebar with our Twitter feed, not sure if that would matter though.  Also using DNS redirect.
Photo of Josh King

Josh King, Sr. Engineer

  • 2,406 Points 2k badge 2x thumb
Hi Daniel, the Community Health Analytics uses Google Analytics as its source for Page Views so I would expect them to be the same.
Photo of Rav

Rav

  • 666 Points 500 badge 2x thumb
Guys,
Are you able to give us a further update on this issue?

We've currently just come out of the end of financial year period which is the busiest time for the Community and business overall however our analytics are not reflecting this at all.
Photo of Karen

Karen

  • 200 Points 100 badge 2x thumb
We need to get this resolved!!! It's tough telling the higher ups that you can't provide a satisfactory explanation for the decline in numbers month after month.
Photo of Drew C.

Drew C., Champion

  • 9,476 Points 5k badge 2x thumb
I know we don't need to see more proof, but this is just abysmal... All traffic to our community sourced from Google since the first week of January this year.  Peaked in mid-April at 10.4k sessions.  Last week was just 881.



I think we'd all agree that the lack of consistent updates, transparency, or even an official statement from GS on this subject is troubling.
Photo of Roy

Roy

  • 15,080 Points 10k badge 2x thumb
Any light to be thrown by this?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googl...

Perhaps Google no longer approves of GetSat's SEO strategy, or something in the vast agglomeration of GetSat Communities all living in what is really the same place has accidentally fallen foul of some of Google's rules?