Why have my Google rankings dropped?

Posted by in Search Marketing (SEO) on February 26th, 2009 2 Comments

When you’re a business owner or marketing manager often a small group of keywords can take on a lot of importance and you can monitor them very closely. Though in the greater scheme of things these may only deliver a proportion of your business sometimes it can be concerning if you see one of these phrases drop.

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If this happens what should you do?

1. Are you logged into a Google Account? You may not have realised but Google have begun to personalise results based on how you’ve searched in the past. If you regularly search on your top keywords and check out your competitors Google begins to think that you prefer these sites so returns them higher up the rankings.

Also being logged in can push your site upwards the results especially if you’ve voted on search wiki arrows. So the safest bet is to search signed out.

2. Different data centres can have different results – Think about the number of search engine queries Google have to deal with on a hourly basis, so they lots of servers and data centres scattered around the globe. Each of these can be working with a slightly different version of the index so they might have slightly different results. If in doubt ask a colleague to search or try again a little latter, there’s a chance you might get the result you were used to.

3. Try a different browser – not exactly a high tech solution but if you’re seeing a result you’re not expecting trying a different browser is a good way to see whether the rankings have actually changed permanently.

Okay, it’s definitely changed ranking why’s this happened?
1. It’s not just you doing SEO – When you’re focusing on your campaign it’s easy to ignore the fact probably a few of your competitors are also doing search marketing of some shape or form. Have they just re-launched their site with a more search friendly structure? Might they have just pulled of a PR coup which got national paper coverage etc…

2. Google are constantly shifting their algorithm – I like to use the metaphor of Google’s algo being a bit like a huge mixing desk like you might get in a music studio like Abbey Road. And at any time Google might tweak there results by pushing the up the fader on a certain factor. If your rankings were based on a strength in one particular area and that gets turned down a little you might see your site slip little

3. Google Tests Results – we’ve carried out some testing internally and believe in certain circumstances Google may test certain results in high positions and see how the site performs. I.e. Google thinks the websites in 8th place may be worthy of a higher position so as an A/B allows it a higher ranking of 5th and see’s if it has a higher bounce rate than the original fifth place.

4. Google allow fresh content a honeymoon period – Google want to return the ‘freshest’ set of results they can, so if they find new content on a blog or news site they will for a short period of time high up in the results. Sometimes you can find your standard content drop below this ‘fresh content’

At the end of the day rankings are only part of the story, really you need to be focusing on traffic and performance.

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