Switched to SPDY and now Google’s confused

Out of interest, I recently switched this site to SPDY, party because I like to try out new things, and partly because I would want to make things be better and faster. So far it’s a mixed experience, with some puzzling changes, that I cannot make heads or tails of.

The first step for the switch was bringing everything onto HTTPS, which I have done with a free SSL certificate from StartSSL. Redirected everything from the HTTP to the secure connection, with the 301 http code so I thought Google will be able to follow it well and replace the addresses in their index. Then enabled the SPDY module in Nginx, and checking the result looked like I was in business.

Some time has passed, and a scary graph started to manifest itself in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics impression count, the site has changed around May 8.
Google Analytics impression count, the site has changed around May 8.

Right after I have made the changes, my impression count on Google dropped like a brick, now being exactly 0. That’s not really the change I wanted to see. Digging more into it, though, it looks like I still have a constant stream of visitors from Google Search:

Visitor numbers from Google Search, same time interval as the impression count.
Visitor numbers from Google Search, same time interval as the impression count.

How can I have zero impressions, but still a half a dozen visitors from Search? The results in the Webmaster Tools mirror things: dropping impression count, no crawl errors, same or even better indexed count, and relatively good stats:

Google Crawler stats, with a big spike when switched over HTTPS/SPDY when needed to reindex everything
Google Crawler stats, with a big spike when switched over HTTPS/SPDY when needed to reindex everything

The crawl seemed to have gotten a bit slower (the bottom plot of the three), but more consistent.

I wonder what could be the change, does the impression count depend on the method of access (http/https)? Or did I made some braking changes? If so, then why’s the conflicting information?

Being a scientist, my main concern is not actually the raw value of any visitor count, but understanding the reactions to my actions, and consistency of the “experimental results”.  I wonder what kind of technique I could use to debug all this?

Update 2013/May/28: 

Following some recommendations from the comments, it looks like that the https:// version of my URL has to added to the Webmaster Tools separately. Now there’s a http://gergely.imreh.net and a https://gergely.imreh.net section as well. In the latter section, I can see that there are some impressions reported. Some weird things still exist: the sum of impressions from both is less than how many visitors I reportedly get from Google Search; the crawl stats is shared between the two sections (ie. the https version reports a lot of crawl stats even from the time there wasn’t https enabled), while most other data is separate for the two sections (e.g. impression, search queries, sitemaps). Still probably this is on the right path.

The impression count after adding a https version of my site's records to the Webmaster  Tools
The impression count after adding a https version of my site’s records to the Webmaster Tools

After the Webmaster Tools changes, I have just switched the Google Analytics association from one WMT property to the other. Hopefully this will freak me out less, though it will likely take some days to see the changes in the result.

Published by Gergely Imreh

Physicist, hacker. Enjoys avant-guarde literature probably a bit too much. Open source advocate and contributor, both for software and hardware.

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4 Comments

  1. Did you check if your GA embed code uses a https url or a protocol relative url ( //hostname.com …)?

    1. Yeah, it is correctly switching to https via “”. And the analytics part seems to work, because I can be in the Realtime Dashboard and see the visits right there.

      It’s the Google Search part that seems off, and since they are actually not coupled at all (don’t need to use GA to use the Webmaster Tools), I don’t know a good way to debug this situation.

    1. The GA settings seem to be fine, and that part hasn’t changed for quite a while.

      Following your recommendation, I poked around there and in the Webmaster Tools page too. Looks like the problem stems for that the WMT are protocol dependent (http vs. https) and I had to set up a new record for the https version of my site. Strangely some of the information is shared between the http and https version (eg. crawl stats shows exactly the same for both, even for the time I haven’t had https yet), while the majority of information id protocol dependent, such as sitemaps, impressions, search queries….

      This protocol dependence is weird, though in this case with some extra administration it seems to be solved.

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