As a marketer, website owner, or writer, I’m conditioned to want people to find content I publish (With the exception of my high school rapping career as alias ‘Wheat Thin’). This is pretty basic stuff, but a big part of the reason I’ve stuck to SEO as a career path is that it’s enabled me to find an audience for my writing and projects.
So it’s a strange state of affairs to find a strong source of traffic to Comic Book Herald that I’m not sure I actually want. Or, at least traffic that I can tell comes from visitors who simply will not find what they’re looking for when they click through to my site!
Here’s the situation: I recently noticed a surprising amount of organic search traffic was driving to my recap of C2e2, aka Chicago Comic Con. This seemed a little odd since the con ended over a month ago, and I expected a majority of traffic to align closely to the event dates.
I looked up the landing page in Google Search Console to see what queries were actually driving this traffic. I imagined I had
stumbled across accurately predicted an untapped evergreen search like “brilliant man’s guide to comic cons” or “the best way to write about stuff.”
Turns out the searches driving to this page were… something else. Something else entirely.
Now, normally if a page on my site was achieving high visibility in Google search for an unrelated search, I’d expect the search algorithm to course correct over time. I’d expect this because normally when searchers see a result that doesn’t match their query, they don’t click it, or if they click it, they recognize it’s not at all what they were looking for and quickly bounce back to search. But primarily, I’d expect a minuscule click-through-rate, apart from those searchers who never cease to delight me and just click whatever’s first, no matter what.
What the chart shows, though, is that all of these searches for a manga webcomic I had never heard of have surprisingly high CTRs. As in, generally very good CTRs!
Why are searchers still clicking onto my comic con recap, when they are pretty clearly looking for something else?
Before I went straight to the SERPs (search engine results page) to investigate, I looked deeper into the queries and found a new (predictable) wrinkle:
These are totally searches for a porn comic.
So not only were searchers looking for some hot steamy content, but they were somehow convinced that clicking my website – specifically an article in which I talk about how sweaty I got running around C2e2 – would deliver. I won’t disagree, but clearly there’s a disconnect here!
When I finally visited the SERP (in incognito browsing mode, while crawling into our crawl space, after I’d told my wife I was going… outside… for… productive laboring) I discovered the reason my CTR was shockingly high. Namely, replicating any of these searches results in approximately no good results. And since none of the results actually seem to reflect the searcher’s intent (let’s not reflect too strenuously on that), searchers are saying “Well, this one’s first, let’s see if this has it.”
Meanwhile, Comic Book Herald has well over 1,000 organic search visits this month from people looking for, well, let’s just say it’s the most popular thing on the internet, and it’s most assuredly not my blog.
Search Oddities: Should I Do Anything About This?
On one hand, there’s a part of me that looks at a gift horse in the mouth and says “Wait, what is a gift horse, and why am I standing in front of it?” But also, “Can’t I just let this traffic keep coming in, generating some modicum of ad revenue, and maybe driving some brand awareness for crossover comic books fans?”
After all, it’s not like I feel an actual sense of discomfort being tied to this query (although I could see a professional application where this was a client website who actively wanted removal). Mostly, I just think it’s strange and a bit humorous.
Again, though, I’ve actually dealt with specific business instances where clients are receiving traffic from inapplicable searches. It’s a tricky field to navigate. I can’t go into the specifics (at least not without requesting permission and somehow explaining it’s “for my article about a very porny mixup!”), but on one brand, their largest source of non-branded traffic came for an article describing a product set they no longer manufactured.
The challenge that results is only tangentially related content that drives a boatload of traffic. What do you do in that case?
Here’s a quick list of pros and cons:
- Ad revenue
- Brand awareness
- Searchers could explore more of my content once on site (the bounce rate is 88%, so some are!)
- The off chance that simply reading my articles is the equivalent of porn for large groups of people
- Obviously bad experience for those searchers
- Extremely high bounce rate could potentially signal to Google that my site is a bad experience for these searchers (which… see con #1)
- Inflating my site analytics metrics
So What Are Your Options For This Mixed Up Search Traffic?
Let’s be clear about the most likely client question in this scenario: No, you can’t just stop showing up for a series of organic searches. You could tag your landing page so the content doesn’t appear for anyone, but you can’t specify it to the query level.
The easiest option is of course to simply let algorithms course correct on your own. Should this content ever be made available, surely that will supersede my unrelated article. Likewise, unless this audience is endless, eventually the high bounce rate will exhaust the field of interested searchers, and the issue will become a moot point on its own.
Otherwise, I’d say the options are as follows:
- Try to re-optimize your content in such a way that you’re less likely to show up as high for the searches.
- Use your search-facing messaging (page title and meta description) to more clearly communicate these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
- Take this opportunity to develop my own long-dormant porn career.
- Put a note at the top of the article that says, hey, I know why you’re here, and I’m not judging you, but I promise this isn’t actually what you’re looking for.
- Put a note at the top of the article that says, hey, I know why you’re here, and you’ve been judged! – just to freak them out.
- Put a note at the top of the article that says, hey, I know why you’re here, and I’m not judging you, but since I don’t have what you want, let me recommend these unrelated Comic Book Herald items you may enjoy in the future when you’re done!
- Embrace the inevitable and turn Comic Book Herald into the webcomic porn shop the people demand!
Personally, I’m leaning towards either the “link to more of my site content and try to gain some fans” or “just let it play out and watch because I’ll learn something” route.
In the meantime, just know that I see you fans of this mysterious webcomic, and I hope you find what you’re looking for one day.