Google Penguin Update Or Normal New Year Seasonality? Thumbnail

There’s been a lot of chatter in Webmaster forums that Google must have unleashed a new search algorithm update in the first half of January. But as many of us know, the first quarter of the year is seasonally a strong quarter as new year’s resolutions are made and people are reinvigorated with hope until reality sinks in that the first three months of the year is really to pay taxes before you start earning any money for yourself.

In the first half of 2013, traffic on Financial Samurai surged by 50%-100% a day before slowing down by 25-30% during the summer and then flatlining in the second half of 2013. There was a slight 15% pickup in December as people prepared for the new year.

Now Financial Samurai traffic is up by 50%-100% again in January from December. If it wasn’t for the surge in January last year, I would be pretty ecstatic that something good had more permanently changed for the better ie a search algorithm update where Financial Samurai now ranks higher for whatever keyword(s). But the conservative old fart that I am, I’m just attributing everything to seasonality.


It’s always hard to figure out what specific factor is the main reason for any traffic change, especially if you are in the high growth phase of your blog, which FS is no longer in. But I’d like to get an idea from all of you what you’ve been seeing in terms of organic search traffic and whether you’ve seen any unusual traffic changes (25%+) in January up or down. What about in the first half of 2013?

The only thing I’ve done recently is write an article on Forbes on retirement, a staff post on creating your investment edge on GRS, and do a ad spot for a client on Sirius satellite radio which is supposedly airing now. None of these extra activities have brought any significant amount of traffic (<5% of total). My posting schedule is also the same at 3-4X a week.


One of the main reasons why I want to study traffic seasonality is because I want to maximize my time throughout the year. Even though its hard to positively affect search engine algorithm changes, you certainly can do things to try to improve compared to seasonal traffic trends.

If it is certain that once you reach a “steady state” in terms of traffic that Summer and Fall are generally much slower than Spring and Winter, then my plan is to really kick back or plan those epic 1-2 month long trips from June  – November every year.

It’s always good to “make hay while the sun is shining,” so if we can optimize our time throughout the year by working our hardest only during the seasonally highest traffic months, we’ll lower the chance of burnout and really increase our return on effort.

After all, one of the best things about running a site is that no matter where we are or what we do, we’ll still be able to receive traffic and earn income!


It’s been over seven years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good passive and active income stream online now. My online presence has allowed me to pursue other things, such as consulting for various financial tech startups as well.

I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build. If you enjoy writing, creating, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, learn how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes like this one. 

Leverage the 3+ billion internet users and build your brand online. There are professional bloggers now who make way more than bankers, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs while having much more fun, much more freedom, and doing less work. Get started. You never know where the journey will take you!

Updated for 2017 and beyond.