Has Google Killed Organic Traffic?

Google organic traffic hummingbird

Is organic traffic important to you?

Seems counter-intuitive to write that but it’s been the subject of chatter among the social media literati since Google’s “hummingbird” update late in 2013. It’s no doubt harder to get traffic than when I started blogging five years ago.

But consider this: on Friday I had more visitors to my blog than ever before. This past week was the first week in five years that I didn’t publish a blog post (family emergency). Go figure.

Use Keywords — and Synonyms

What prompted this musing was an email from SEO expert Neil Patel that I received today in which he stated that “Google’s ‘hummingbird’ update in late 2013 caused mass panic for every website that relied on organic search to drive traffic…”

Neil blogs under the name Quick Sprout and I find his tips to be very useful. He consults to the largest companies so he knows what he’s doing.

So don’t despair. You can still optimize your blog for organic traffic. His advice: Don’t worry about keywords. What? Isn’t that we’ve been taught?

Here is Neil’s advice:

You’ll still want to write a page with a certain keyword and keyword phrase in mind… but now instead of using the exact same keyword phrase in your URL, meta description, H1s, anchor text, alt text, X% of your page content, etc., you’re gonna do this:

• When you’re writing a page, freely use synonyms along with your primary keyword

• Link out to high-authority sites (yes, outbound links to authorities are good)

• Get high-authority sites to link to you

• Use signals of your credibility and trustworthiness, like ratings & reviews

…and continue to ask influencers to share your content.

My View on Organic Traffic

I used to wait until the stroke of midnight to check my traffic results for the previous day. As usual, most of my traffic was organic. But like most bloggers – even the biggest name bloggers – I have a high bounce rate (never you mind what it is).

Bounce rate means that someone will do a search and find your site. But you didn’t have the information he was looking for so he bounced off without visiting any other pages. That kind of visitor usually only stays for a few seconds.

So what good is it to drive even more organic traffic to your site when most of it is useless? To me, direct traffic (people who typed in my URL) and referral traffic from social networks and other bloggers is much more important.

They are sticky and stay longer. They may visit more than one page. Mind you, I’m still interested in getting organic traffic. People check sites like Technorati and Alexa to find your rankings and authority. I’m certainly not up there like the big social media stars but my numbers are decent.

To me the quality of your visitors is more important than the numbers. But, face it, why am I writing this blog at nearly midnight on a Saturday evening? Because I’m still a slave to the numbers.

I didn’t write a blog during the workweek but there are still almost 10 minutes til midnight and tomorrow starts a new week. Or maybe it starts on Monday. Isn’t that when most people start the workweek? Not taking any chances so off this post goes. Don’t want to break my record.

What are your views on organic traffic? Do you find that when your traffic grows so does your business? Let me know in the comment box.

Leave a Reply


  1. Great post Jeannette, I’m glad to hear that we don’t have to stick to using the same keywords since it makes posts sound awkward. As to traffic, more would be great, but the engaged visitor is always the ideal even for me when there is no business associated with the blog.

    • Glad you agree with me, Debra. Google changes its algorithms so often you could make yourself crazy wondering how to “game” the system to get more visitors. I believe in just writing the best content you can.

  2. If Neil Patel says so, I believe. Actually, I’ve read elsewhere that Google is getting even smarter and synonyms count, too. You are making think about subscribing by mail to his posts … I believe I already have them in my RSS Reader, but I have so many others as well.

    And, yes, Jeannette, the aim of Google is to emphasize sites like yours and lower sites with gobbledygook… so few worries on your part, keep writing that great content.

    • Thanks, Leora. I do believe that content is king, to use a cliche. I always learn a lot from your posts, too. So we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing!

  3. I hadn’t considered the worth of synonyms in posts, so thanks for that. My traffic has been picking up more than usual lately as well, so I can’t complain. Though most of that probably has to do with how my site wasn’t indexed for a long time after I made Google mad by deleting my travel posts.

  4. I have noticed a big increase in organic traffic. Google now ranks between #1 – 4, where before it was pretty insignificant. It’s good to know that using synonyms along with keywords are google friendly. The truth is, I’ve tried hard to write a good piece, mindfully of those things but not at the expense of the subject. It seems to be working, at least for now. 🙂

    • Susan — I’m glad you’ve seen an uptick in traffic, too. Great that Google is rewarding your content which I enjoy so much.

  5. My biggest issue with Google is when I changed my website/blog name from prostrategies to patricia-weber it dropped my Google page rank. Oh well. In the big scheme of things, it really is a non-issue for me. I don’t regularly check my stats so now, I’ll be adding this to my to-do list. BTW, yes, my traffic is increasing, my bounce rate is going down.

    • Pat — I find it strange that your content remains the same but just a name change would make such a difference. Google will always be a mystery.

  6. Traffic is a bit weird for me still since I just changed to my new site last month. But even with the change it is moving fairly well.

    I’ve never been one of those types that tries to game the system. I would rather just write what I want to write and see what happens.

  7. Good article, Jeannette.

    Am content with my Alexa rankings, number of visitors and so forth. Honestly, what Google does is sometimes lamentable. Remember last year when they decided to label all generic comments spam? We were all hit and I had to go through thousands of comments to delete generic comments from highly qualified professionals? But Google is the king online so we have to adapt to their algorithms no matter what we think of them.

    • Catarina — yes Google is king and we need to pay attention to the rules because we don’t want our site to be penalized. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to understand Google’s rules!

  8. Hi Jeannette,

    I wanted to check out this post to see what your views were and in all honesty, I quit worrying about pleasing Google. It just never worked because they keep changing the rules.

    Neil is right about how to get organic traffic but I prefer the referrals and direct traffic myself. That’s really where the majority of mine come from and I have a lot of returning and well as new visitors to my blog.

    Organic traffic is good don’t get me wrong but I prefer to just not worry about it anymore and it all seems to turn out just fine.


    • Adrienne — I’m with you. I just don’t fret about organic traffic anymore. Sure, it’s important. But you can make yourself crazy trying to bump up your numbers. I don’t sell online so a few more visitors who bounce right off are not important.

  9. I have never had problems with Google (hope i don’t jinks myself now LOL) – and I have always had pretty healthy organic traffic to any blogs I run (mine or clients).

    I think the secret is to NOT try to please Google too much. Someone in the comments mentioned that, I know – but I truly believe if we write for our readers and do the bare minimum of onsite SEO, organic traffic comes naturally. Of course, onsite SEO may be more complex for some than for others but… well, that’s another topic.

    Great write-up, Jeannette – wish you healthy organic traffic many more years to come 🙂

  10. Very insightful post Jeannette. it’s easy to drive yourself crazy looking at numbers and when to post etc. I’m doubly turned around having moved several time zones. So what does midnight really mean I ask myself? But very interesting that synonyms are as good as keywords. That’s a new one for me. And I completely agree regarding quality of traffic. My blog is still small, but I love the comments people make and the fact that we can have a real discussion, not just trite comments. Thank you.

    • A.K. — in your case you probably have readers in every time zone! I’m not saying organic traffic isn’t important, but it’s not going to make or break your business unless you happen be selling products online.