PSA: Ranking Fluctuations Are Normal

Google Search Console Search Analytics graph depicting average position ranking fluctuations | Gen3 Marketing

Trust your SEO – not all drops are cause for panic.

Businesses operating online are often concerned about rankings for relevant keywords with a high search volume, so much so that they tend to panic when a URL once ranking at the bottom of page one falls to page two (or lower) over the course of a week – especially when nothing seems to have changed on their end.

Ranking fluctuations are a common conundrum, notably for those lacking a deeper understanding of how Google manages indexation.

Fortunately, a recent Whiteboard Friday with Rand Fishkin of Moz is here to offer a definitive answer to an incredibly common SEO question:

“‘Why are my rankings jumping around so much? Is this bad? Is there something I should do?’ The answer, generally speaking, is no. Rankings bounce around like this in most search results, especially in the sort of bottom half of page one and especially page two, three, four, or five quite a bit, a tremendous amount in fact.

And we agree!

Of course, we always try to reassure our clients that rankings fluctuations are perfectly normal. In fact, many of the recommendations presented by Moz are things we’re already suggesting (e.g. don’t panic or arbitrarily change tactics, measure at least four to six weeks of rankings before reacting to fluctuations, etc.).

We’ve always clung to the mantra that focusing on a high-quality content strategy, a strong user experience, and a speedy, well-developed website are the cornerstones to good SEO.

Why?

It’s a lot easier to get backlinks when your content is strong. It’s a lot easier to convert traffic when your site is quick and easy to use, and users are less likely to bounce when a page loads quickly. Of course, there’s far more to SERP rankings than those three talking points, but that’s a conversation for another day.

That said, we don’t want to ignore a drop in the rankings either. An experienced SEO can typically tell you when a drop in the rankings is more than a false alarm.

So when does Moz think you should be concerned about a fall in rankings?

The thing to be concerned about is precipitous falls over many pages in a quick period of time. So if you see that you’ve got 20 pages on your site, 50 pages on your site, they all lost rankings yesterday and fairly significantly, okay, that’s cause for real concern.”

In this case, we’d start with an investigation to learn what happened; there’s a good chance someone did something wrong on your site’s backend. Of course, it’s just as likely that your site had an issue, Google caught onto some malicious or spammy behavior, or some of your links were devalued.

A mass drop in rankings could be any number of things, which is why it’s important to consult an expert who can help diagnose the issue sooner rather than later.

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