I contacted a webmaster a short while ago asking if we could meet. One of our smb sites and his site cover complementary information. We have reciprocal links and have referenced one another for years. They address some of the same topics from different angles.
His site is a type of local directory. His site had generated a healthy amount of referral traffic to one of our smb sites over many years. When we last met several years ago I found out that our smaller site turned out to be one of the larger sources of referrals to his site. Not that he got many referrals. His traffic was mostly search.
We probably last met about 5 years ago (or longer). I believe his site used to get in a range of 30-50K/visits a month. All basically local.
I noticed that his referral traffic to our site had dried up. When I checked serps for the types of phrases where he used to dominate it was apparent that his position in the serps had relatively tanked. So I contacted him and here is his response with some specifics changed to keep it anonymous.....
I’m just catching up on my his website emails. I hope all is well with you.
My site took a massive hit at some point during the summer. It doesn’t help that google features their own venue content at the top of most of my top search ranking terms. Also, a large percentage of my traffic used to be from searches for individual certain industry b & m names. That has been totally eliminated. There are now yelp, twitter, facebook and google links taking up the entire first page of most smb sites. My top hit used to be for “ city geo term/industry type”, where I was #1, with several sub-links featured. I’m now #6. Google search traffic has fallen by 90%.
My direct traffic continues to increase however. But total traffic is down about 60% from this point last year.
I'm very sure that "direct traffic" as defined in google analytics, which he used (and I presume he still uses) is probably significantly miscategorized and is to a large extent search traffic. Regardless his traffic has taken a beating.
I looked at some search phrases in Bing wherein he used to dominate in google. He still holds some #1's in bing for those phrases...but I suspect bing traffic is about 10% of google traffic. For other phrases he has taken a beating in bing also.
I checked the source on one phrase and his on page optimization to get presence stinks. I guess its so....2003, 04 05, 06. Yikes.
I looked back at a number of years of referral traffic to us from his site. It started to tank at the beginning of this calendar year. It nosedived as of this summer as he referenced.
Staying atop of google is a tough nut. Google changes, competition changes, etc.