Does Google Throttle Search Traffic to Your Site?

Like most website owners, I’ve had my suspicions about Google. My clients had way more suspicions and didn’t like how Google managed search traffic.

When you see search traffic volumes swing wildly like a roller coaster from one day to the next, or “flat top” or “saw tooth” in your Google analytics charts, you feel uneasy. Especially the flat tops and saw tooths. That’s where your traffic wave gets a haircut or looks hacked up.

It’s unlikely your traffic would flat top and stay the same hour after hour during the day. And it wouldn’t go up one hour then down the next and back up the next during many days either. That just doesn’t happen naturally. If this is your situation, something may indeed be wrong so we should discuss that now.

Site Traffic normally takes a bell curve path with maximum traffic during the afternoon. It’s rounded and natural looking. So if your traffic charts look like they’re controlled and hit a ceiling, something must have happened. And if you use Google Adsense advertising platform, you wonder when the revenue just suddenly dies. You’re thinking they’re trying to cheat you.

Screenshot courtesy of Search Engine Journal

Google’s chief search engineer John Mueller was interviewed last Friday by Search Engine Journal. He said Google would not limit search traffic because it would be unusual to stop traffic to a good site that users enjoy.  However, he had to pause to collect his response.

The truth is that Google says they are dedicated to showing the most useful content, yet their ranking algorithm might show results that are better optimized and more popular.  The only way the good content can get a lift is if other content is held back.

Yet if we accept John at his word, then something else might be causing this anomaly.

13 Reasons Why your traffic flow is looking Weird:


  1. Google doesn’t have enough ranking signals about your site (if Google varies the algorithm weighting even slightly, you could find your site falls until the algorithm changes again) so your status is in their index is kind of weak and uncertain
  2. Google sees your page isn’t performing well with users, with some staying and some visitors bouncing (mixed signals)
  3. Google was testing algorithm changes and what they value in a website varies quickly
  4. your site doesn’t have solid trust or Pagerank and thus can’t be vouched for at higher rankings, thus when your site gets too high (because of a few microfactors going well), where it doesn’t really deserve to be, it kind of gets demoted
  5. Google is spidering your site via different routes and is collecting different ranking and keyword data, along with server response and bandwidth measurements, thus your ranking changes correspondingly
  6. Google believes that searcher topic interests change during the day subtly, so your site might perform well at one time during the day and not during another
  7. Google believes your site (and the site’s that link to you) isn’t topically relevant during this season as opposed to another (e.g., spring vs winter)
  8. you’ve got technical or server problems you didn’t know about such as missing images and broken links or your server is hitting bandwidth limits and the users browser timed out
  9. Google varies the ranking results to offer some variety to its users
  10. your pages are getting old and out of date, thus are less relevant to searchers
  11. search results are controlled by Artificial intelligence filters which act quickly and perhaps irrationally
  12. search results are personalized results for users depending on their search histories, demographic profiles, recent views, and geolocation
  13. negative SEO means someone has put links on bad sites pointing to your site/pages and this can impair Google’s impression of your site quality/trust rank

This graphics shows rankings, impressions and clicks for a certain keyword theme. Notice how rankings drop before Xmas. This happens frequently because during the pre-xmas season because people lose interest in that topic and instead search for Xmas topics. If your site isn’t about the themes of the season, your rankings and traffic will drop.

Google’s John Mueller has mentioned this phenomena to forum readers who are baffled at why their traffic and rankings disappeared.  It’s because the theme of searcher’s interests changes, and since some sites are about very narrow topic ranges, they become less relevant (according to Google algorithm) during certain time periods.

In terms of Xmas, site owners just have to wait until Xmas passes and their traffic comes back (e.g., real estate sites, IT software, or work related searches.  Similarly, during certain time periods, big corporate sites may talk about your company’s key topics and thus take over the rankings.  You must wait until they move onto their regular topics, and later your own site’s rankings will reappear.

See more on real estate marketing services.

Is Something Missing?

Okay, I don’t know if any of these really explain flat tops and zig zag traffic charts. Those could be Google’s signal to you that something needs fixing on your site. It might be your site is weakly keyword optimized, has server problems, or it’s over optimized.

Saw tooth chart lines make me concerned. I’ve always considered it a warning from Google, but it may be just a Google algorithm response. Simple as that.

It’s very like to suggest that your site is missing something, such that they won’t let you have big traffic.

It’s quite possible that your traffic is being limited, but not necessarily to spite you or crush your business. It could actually be that your site has a search engine optimization or content problem.

How fast can Google respond to negative signals on your site? It could certainly respond on an hourly basis. It can react to how your site performed (in terms of user satisfaction) in the morning, and then adjust your traffic in the afternoon.

It’s not uncommon to see weird traffic trends starting at 8:00 am or 5:00 pm. There could well be an algorithmic estimate about your site’s quality for the business crowd during the day (desktop business users) or in the evening (mobile personal users).

Google’s Black Box System

The final word then is that Google does manipulate traffic and it likely is in response to something about your site and all the ranking signals Google collects. We don’t know as much as we’d like because Google is very tight lipped about their algorithm, which they once called their “secret sauce.”

So stop complaining, and start working on a new strategy built on quality and sustainable presence. A new focus on high quality content, keyword focus, impact, content engagement, content funnel optimization, user goal achievement, and citations/links on the web that validate the precise meaning of your page.

Build trust, strong clear signals, brand clarity, and ensure your site is flexibly and well optimized so that you don’t rely on a few ranking signals. A broader foundation will help prevent weird swings, and smooth out that nice bell curve traffic chart.

Google’s search index isn’t perfect. It makes mistakes and ranks wrongly at times. That’s why a search engine optimization expert is needed. We’re the only ones who are going to comprehend your ranking problems.

An SEO pro is a strategist who aligns your content strategy with your SEO strategy, ensuring authenticity, trust, and focus. Google’s search engine is smart enough to measure these things. We’ll make sure they get clear and loud signals.


AI Marketers provides search engine optimization for software companies, manufacturers, hotels, recruiters, moving companies, publishers, sports equipment retailers, building supplies companies, window and door companies, Realtors, investment companies, IT companies, clean energy, consumer products, branding consultants and many more.

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