Organic traffic can fluctuate dramatically, in the long and short term.
These fluctuations can be generated by external reasons, like algorithm updates or user behavior change. But also by internal reasons: you implement a new feature on your website or publish other content.
So, the question comes naturally. Can companies rely on SEO as a growth channel?
Kevin Indig tried to address this question by analyzing the organic fluctuations of seven different websites:
- Hacker News
- Uber Eats
- Atlassian, and
- The Spruce
The main takeaway?
No site is safe from fluctuations. The smallest fluctuations are in the range of -31% to +83% (Hacker News), while the higher tops off at -350% to +770% (Atlassian)
Fast-growing sites see the strongest fluctuations
The reasons can be different.
Stronger growth can be related to ranking for more keywords, which increases the chance of being hit by an algorithm update.
Another reason can be that certain companies see more fluctuations because of the way they produce content (user vs. company-generated content).
Large websites experience strong fluctuations too
The reason can be the high competition in the SERPs as well as Google testing out different SERP constellations.
Conclusion: Is SEO a stable growth channel?
In the short-term, no. In the long term, yes!
Obviously traffic fluctuations don’t make your life easier, but here’s what you can do:
- Manage expectations across the board that organic traffic can fluctuate.
- Know when fluctuations are caused by internal or external factors.
- Be aware of how common traffic fluctuations look like in your vertical.