If you take a look one morning and notice that your rankings have changed, don’t freak out!
It can be frustrating and difficult to watch your rankings bounce around, but it’s completely normal. Ranking fluctuations are part of the algorithm. Your page could hold steady for days and then drop, or it could fluctuate hugely in a single day. Both of these types of movement are normal and aren’t anything to worry about.
When you’re making any efforts to improve your rankings, you will see a lot of movement as the algorithm adjusts. There are many reasons why your rankings might fluctuate, but let’s look at some of the most common:
You built links to your website
Google is doing everything they can to prevent spammers from gaming their system. Part of their efforts includes delaying any effect from changes that you make and using deception to prevent spammers from figuring out their algorithm.
Patent filings suggest that Google has programmed their algorithm to sometimes temporarily react negatively, or not at all, to changes that they would normally like. This algorithm discourages new spammers and prevents them from cheating the system.
We also know that Google can take some time to react to new links pointing to your website. While the system decides where you deserved to rank, they might drop you out of the results pages.
The algorithm was updated
Google makes big updates every couple years. However, they are constantly improving their algorithm to try and provide the best results. These small changes in how they rank pages will affect where your website is in the results page.
Google usually announces the biggest updates in the press, but they usually don’t mention smaller updates. Those updates that aren’t available in the news can worry business owners who don’t know if they were the only ones affected.
You updated your content
We know that ‘freshness’ is a ranking factor and because of this you might choose to update your content regularly. Updating is an excellent way to keep your content relevant and useful to your readers, but it also can improve your rankings.
However, in the short term, you might see some fluctuation in your rankings.When you make substantial changes to your content, Google will re-index the page and recalculate your position.
Your competitors moved
One factor that some business owners might not consider is that their competitors are the ones who moved. If another website builds links to their site or changes their content, they might take the spot you held.
If you Google a term that’s related to your business you’ll likely find that there are hundreds of thousands of results. Each of these pages is owned by somebody and might change or have links built to it. With so many pages for a single term, you will naturally experience a lot of fluctuation.
Your website is new
It seems that once a site has built up ‘authority,’ they experience less fluctuation. However, if you’re website is new or doesn’t have much ‘authority’ built up yet, you’re going to jump up and down the rankings.
As you publish more content and build more links, you’ll develop ‘authority’ in the eyes of Google. Some SEO’s also suggest that there is a ‘Google sandbox.’ The sandbox is where Google restricts the rankings on new websites to reduce the impact of spammers.
It can take months or even years to build up this ‘authority,’ but once you do, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive keywords and experience far less fluctuation.
You have bad quality links
Google has introduced a disavow tool which you can use to ‘remove’ bad quality links that are pointing to your website. The point of this tool is for site owners to remove the association with links that they don’t condone.
Tests suggest that bad quality links can hold a negative value. These poor quality links can make your page rank lower.
Disavowing links that look like they weren’t created by a human is a great way to solve this. These types of links include scraper sites and image repositories.
By disavowing these links, you’ll be able to unlock the ranking power that the poor quality links were hiding.
Why you shouldn’t worry
All of this can seem quite scary to business owners. It’s important to understand that the worst thing you can do is to panic and make more changes when you see your rankings fluctuate.
You could be punished as a spammer if you are overly reacting to the false negative signals that Google can give off. SEO is a long game, and you need to have the patience to ignore the day to day or week to week fluctuations. Instead, look at the monthly trends.
If you believe in what you are doing, then there is no need to change your tactics. These false negative signals are there for the spammers, not you. Carry on with what you’re doing and try not to worry about small fluctuations.