traffic stats

Of Phantoms, Religion and Porn

What do Google’s infamous Phantom Updates have in common with the Ramadan and what the heck does it have to do with online porn? You’ll find a possible answer in this article…

 

Google is a Phantom sometimes

Everytime disrupting patterns in online traffic occur, the online community is searching for answers to the big unknown – and quite often they refer to Google as possible origin of the plot. In the past Google Updates were known for shaking up the search traffic distribution on various sites, specifically punishing “low quality” sites or pages (thin content, duplicate content or “over-optimized content” without real value for the user).

The latest example in this context might be what is referred to as Phantom 4 update by Google. This Searchmetrics article suggests that starting with May 22nd, 2016 and throughout June, an unannounced Google update – hence “Phantom” – caused severe traffic distribution turbulence with big winners and sad losers.

While Search Engine Optimization is definitely a science-like activity in many aspects, it still remains a non-exact science due to the fact that the only truth is covered within Google’s holy search algorithm grail that many seek to find. At least SEO experts want to uncover it’s secrets by finding correlations between traffic statistics and possible Google changes whenever something unusual happens.

With all due respect, this is totally appreciated by the webmaster community in all online industries – also porn. And yes, we also saw some significant changes in June search traffic stats so why not hold on to this theory?

 

Google is mighty, but not a religion

In the online porn business we know that Google is a force majeure when it comes to determining who is prioritized in presentation to users searching for adult entertainment. And even more than in other industries, it’s a battlefield with many incomprehensible outcomes frequently rewarding what is called “black hat” tactics. Maybe it’s because Google’s focus is not too much in porn – neither does it fit well into an US corporation’s company policy nor is it too profitable (no ads are sold officially).

But we learned from the past that there are other powerful forces on traffic outside our control, something even outside of Googles control – something even beyond human understanding: Gods and religions!

If you start to accept that there are things like these – even if you are a nonbeliever – and start looking around there is something big going on in June every year: Ramadan – one of the biggest religious traditions and events of the year.

Ramadan provides some strict rules for the “Islamic World” on eating, drinking and sexual intercourse – “kissing your spouse”, for instance, might be considered as allowed but not much beyond that.

World Muslim Population Map

In it’s very core the Ramadan teaches self-discipline, self-control and sacrifice. And as always, there’s theory and there’s practice.

 

Porn is far from being a religion, but it can be a great relieve

And this is where we are heading with our input to the solution for this year’s June traffic mystery: We also faced a decent drop of users and during investigation we figured that the main change happened in predominantly Muslim countries. As you can see in the chart below, the start of Ramadan (June, 6th) was most probably the reason. In fact the userbase decreased by 60% in Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, etc.  – countries with a high percentage of Muslim population. Fasting porn for 1 month – we have to admit that this requires self-control indeed.

Traffic impact caused by Ramadan on PornHD.com

But there is also a flip side to the story: It’s clear from the chart that there have been exceptions to the rule. Additionally the chart shows an increase of 80% in usage from these countries within 2 days after the end of Ramadan, compared to the time before Ramadan. Let’s call that “well deserved”. And we learned a lesson we like to share with the online community:

It’s not always Google who solely impacts search traffic.
Let’s not deny the possible existence of internet Phantoms out there but there is also beliefs from the “outside” that can trigger user behavior and have an impact on our life in the world wide web.

PS: We know there was the Euro 2016 and yes, we also know that to some, football is a religion too. Still in this context, it didn’t impact traffic significantly – except during match time. But this is a different story to be told at a different time…