What Is Zombie Website Traffic and How Do I Mitigate It?

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What Is Zombie Website Traffic - Eminent SEO

If you’re looking over your website analytics and you notice a peculiar uptick in visitors and/or a significant drop in your conversion rate, there’s a good chance you are experiencing zombie traffic.

It’s been known by a few different names over the years, but webmasters seem to be settling on the term “zombie traffic,” and it’s become increasingly noticeable in the last year or two. Zombie traffic is little more than a tease, since you’ll see a higher number of visits, yet no increase in conversions or engagement.

Your website may be the victim of zombie traffic, and the bad news is there’s no way to weed it out entirely. The good news you have options to keep such non-converting traffic to a minimum, and we’ll tell you how in this post. Before we get into that, let’s see more about what zombie website traffic is and how to identify it.

Characteristics of Zombie Website Traffic

Zombie traffic seems to come and go seasonally, but some websites go through stages where this type of traffic seems to recur every other day, although the incidents are unpredictable.

Zombie visitors are believed to be real people who just sit on your site (sometimes for quite a while) but don’t really interact with the content. They might make their way to a separate page or two, but they never click on one of your money-making items, and, thus, your conversions stay idle. Much of this traffic will come from places far beyond your country’s borders, in areas where you probably don’t even do business.

Sometimes zombie traffic won’t even cause a spike in your usual visitor levels. Your traffic could be stable throughout, but if you notice a period of time where your conversions inexplicably drop off, that could mean zombies were there.

Zombie Traffic’s Effect on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Organic

Webmasters have noticed that zombie traffic doesn’t discriminate: It effects both organic and paid results. So, whether the traffic on your site came from the normal search results or through a PPC ad you’ve placed, both are viable avenues for zombie users.

Where is the increase in zombie traffic coming from? It’s not entirely clear, but if it primarily attacked PPC ads, then that would support one of the theories of what’s causing zombie traffic.

Zombie Traffic Theories

Many webmasters are blaming Google when it comes to recent spikes in zombie traffic. Some think it’s as simple as Google testing algorithmic changes on a number of websites. Others think that Google’s intentions aren’t so innocuous – if the tech giant even has a hand in it at all.

  • Some believe that Google is trying to keep your traffic steady while paying little mind to helping you boost conversions. This low-quality traffic might appease those who are only taking a quick glance at their visitor levels while overlooking their conversion metrics. If you use Google AdWords to produce PPC ads on the search engine, then it makes sense that Google would have a vested interest in keeping your business happy with its website traffic volume. This is, however, just one of the theories floating around.
  • Another theory takes the above scenario even further, claiming that Google is keeping its customers’ traffic levels steady (no matter how unqualified that traffic may be at times) in order to encourage them to keep their PPC campaigns running. If a business does not have a Google AdWords account, an increase in zombie traffic might push them to open up an account for paid ads, which presumably would bring better-qualified traffic to their site, all playing into Google’s favor.
  • A less inflammatory theory out there places Google as more of a bystander in the zombie traffic phenomenon. If websites, especially ecommerce ones, are seeing distinct periods of high conversions and no conversions, then they may toggling between different Google “buckets.” What this means is sometimes Google sees the website as informational, and other times the search engine considers the site to be transactional. If your website is one way or the other, then it makes sense why you would see a drop in conversions when the site is receiving the wrong kind of traffic.
  • Another popular hypothesis on webmaster forums has nothing to do with Google at all. Perhaps some well-disguised bots (aka not people) are invading different websites, or maybe hundreds of people in a foreign country are behind this, running endless searches from false IP addresses. Whatever the case, these zombie visitors come off as real people when they’re infiltrating a website. However, the way they behave on a certain site is not consistent with the actions of most real users.

How to Mitigate Low-Quality, Non-Converting Traffic

Many website analytics experts are saying that unless you have an ecommerce site, zombie traffic shouldn’t be that big of a nuisance. As far as weeding out zombie traffic, there’s only so much one can do. We’re all more or less at Google’s mercy, so if the search engine is behind these spurts of zombie traffic, we have little recourse.

However, if there is some truth to the buckets theory, then you’ll want to go over your site and make sure it’s optimized for the right purpose. If you have an ecommerce website, for example, here are 10 ways to optimize your online storefront, which should help Google better understand that your site is transactional, not informational.

If you have ongoing PPC campaigns through Google Adwords, now’s the time look closely at the results and determine if your ROI is enough to continue those efforts. If Google really is sending waves of unqualified traffic your way through your paid ads, you might just want to call an end to all campaigns through AdWords.

Finally, a surefire way to weed out a different form of traffic that also eats away at your conversion rate is to block bot traffic, which does not consist of real users. This type of traffic artificially inflates a website’s visitor count and does nothing for page views, average time on site, and conversions. If you have someone who’s technically inclined, pass along this article on how to use Google Analytics to block bot traffic and referral spam. Even once you get all current bots filtered out, be sure to check back every couple of months, because other spammy referrers can converge on your website at any given time.

In Closing

It’s not possible to cut off all zombie visitors and other forms of useless traffic to your website, but if you follow the advice above, you can keep the negative impact to a minimum. Even if you don’t have an ecommerce site and the thought of zombie traffic doesn’t bother you, it’s still worth tracking your analytics more closely to see if your visitor count is really what it purports to be. If it’s not, then that might give you more motivation to get back to aggressively marketing your online content and make sure you continue to gain new visitors.

If you’re looking for help in identifying low-quality traffic to your website and weeding out referral spam, Eminent SEO’s Website Audit and Maintenance Services can help! Learn more here or call 1-800-871-4130 today.

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Team Eminent SEO

Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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About Team Eminent SEO

Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

4 thoughts on “What Is Zombie Website Traffic and How Do I Mitigate It?

  1. Avatar for Team Eminent SEOChris Beckley

    Hey, what do you think about the possible explanation that because more people are getting used to opening a gazillion tabs at once, that multiple sites are opened in new tabs, then forgotten about and they sit open in a browser with no interaction. I try and limit the number of tabs that I keep open regularly, but even with only 5-15 open, I often find sites that I meant to spend more time on, yet forgot about and they just sat there open in my browser for hours. Sure many of us tech types have been using tabs for many years, but average users (like my Mom) just learned about tabbed browsing a few years ago.

    Reply
    1. Avatar for Team Eminent SEOAndrew Gilstrap

      That’s quite a possibility too. I know I open tabs all the time and then my attention gets diverted elsewhere and I end up leaving that page open for hours without really looking at it. It’d be hard to quantify how many people do this (a poll maybe?). The only thing that doesn’t add up, in this case, is many of the IPs are registering as from foreign countries, particularly in Asia. While users there certainly could be doing what you and I are talking about, I’m still more inclined to think something more deceptive is going on. Thanks for your input, Chris! Definitely something to think about.

      Reply
  2. Avatar for Team Eminent SEOSteve

    This is former WMW member backdraft7. As probably the first person to identify this phenomenon and getting laughed at for may years doing so, it’s funny to see how it finally was adopted when others started to see the effects. My first post naming this odd traffic pattern was on June 6, 2010 at 1:13am Here’s the thread: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4144047-4-30.htm

    As of August 2017, there is still no known way to eradicate zombie traffic. I still get regular Zombie patterns to my case study sites, some come in surges of over 100 instantaneous unique visits on GART. Since MayDay 2010 It sees regular ON / OFF patterns whereas it was always ON with a nice natural traffic pattern. Many niches in the webmaster community now see the same. There are some very good reasons to see declines these days, but the ON/OFF patterns are very odd indeed.

    I have my own take on the Zombie Traffic issue at: https://www.microlinx.com/zombie-traffic-websites-that-stop-working/
    It’s a ‘bit’ more in-depth, and from the horses mouth. 😉

    Reply
    1. Avatar for Team Eminent SEOAndrew Gilstrap

      Great to have your insight, Steve. Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts! I checked out your two links too and can definitely tell you’re on the front lines of this topic. It’s an issue that leaves us all scratching our heads with little we can do to solve it.

      Reply

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