Why my Google rankings keep on fluctuating?

You’ve finally reached page one of Google, even climbing to position 5, but then you find yourself back on page two. Why? Ranking drops are common, but they’re not as alarming as they may seem. While ranking drops can be concerning, they’re not necessarily detrimental to your SEO efforts.

Dropping a full page in rankings is hardly a cause for celebration, and addressing the issue promptly is crucial. Our clients often ask if this is due to search engine changes, their SEO strategies, or their SEO tools. Or, has Google altered its algorithm again?

Here’s the reality: Ranking fluctuations are normal. The key is to remain calm, identify the causes, and then address them. This post covers everything you need to know about ranking drops and fluctuations, from causes to solutions.

What Does Ranking Drops Mean?

It’s normal for your website’s rankings to vary. If you’re targeting a specific keyword, expect some ups and downs—it’s usually not a significant concern. A ranking drop occurs when your page suddenly falls several positions or even an entire page in the search results.

Don’t panic. Instead, take a moment to analyze the situation. Sometimes, a perceived drop isn’t an actual decline in rankings. It might be an issue with your ranking tracking tool or a temporary experiment by Google. Consider the following:

  • Are you experiencing a decrease in organic traffic? Compare this week’s traffic with previous periods.
  • Is there a significant reduction in searches for a specific keyword, or has your position in search results dropped?
  • Could there be a seasonal reason for the change in search volume, like a holiday period? Wait a few weeks to see if the decline is temporary.
  • What insights does Google Search Console provide? Analyze your Search Analytics for visibility, impressions, and clicks.
  • Are there consistent changes in your rank tracker? Is a particular keyword’s ranking steadily declining?

Monitoring your keywords for a period after suspecting a drop in rankings is a prudent approach. This vigilance helps confirm whether the change is temporary or significant. Generally, more fluctuations occur in lower search results, whereas higher-ranked results experience less volatility.

If your website experiences a sudden, widespread drop in search engine rankings across numerous keywords, it could indicate a manual penalty. To verify this, visit your Google Search Console and inspect the Manual Actions section.

Changes are more frequent in lower search results. While popular keywords exhibit fewer fluctuations, niche, and newly introduced keywords are more susceptible to variations. For example, emerging trends might initially struggle with ranking stability. Adapting your keyword strategy to cater to specific market needs is often necessary.

These keywords often represent services, products, or new concepts that emerge and shift in search rankings. Notably, when a website first starts appearing in the top 3, 4, or 5 positions, some fluctuation in rankings is common. However, after a few months, these changes typically stabilize.

For instance, if your site has consistently ranked at the top for a keyword for two months, significant changes in ranking are unlikely. While minor shifts may occur, frequent substantial changes are rare. It’s important to remember that rankings for current topics or news stories can be highly variable.

Ranking fluctuations can be attributed to several factors, such as algorithm updates, website changes, and shifts in user search behavior and engagement. It’s essential to understand that these changes are often beyond the control of SEO tools. With a well-defined strategy, you can actively work to improve and maintain your desired search rankings. 

Also Read: Why Most Websites Failed the September 2023 Google Helpful Content Update (And How You Can Succeed!)  

Reason for Ranking Drops and How to Fix Them?

Ranking fluctuations can be attributed to several factors, but there are eight primary reasons to consider. Let’s examine each one, identify potential causes of sudden changes in your rankings, and explore steps to address them.

  1. Algorithm Updates by Google

Google updates its algorithm to better understand and rank web pages, frequently. These updates aim to improve the relevance of search results for users.

These changes can impact how Google perceives the relevance of your website for various searches. For example, if your site appears for a wide range of searches, Google might mistakenly display it for irrelevant queries. However, updates refine Google’s understanding, leading to more accurate rankings.

Significant updates may alter key ranking factors. For example, Google evaluates the number of links to your page to determine your authority on a topic. Updates might result in a loss of ranking for keywords irrelevant to your site’s focus.

Each algorithm update, such as Panda and Penguin, targets specific issues. Panda prioritized high-quality, original content, while Penguin penalized manipulative link-building practices. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for recovering from these updates, but generally, Google favors user-friendly, valuable content.

Mobile-friendliness is crucial for higher rankings. Sites not optimized for mobile are likely to rank lower, with mobile-friendly sites taking precedence. Ensure your metadata is optimized for both mobile and desktop users, and focus on quick loading times and structured data.

Properly configuring canonical tags and XML sitemaps is vital. Google may prioritize site speed in some updates. If your site lags behind competitors in speed, it could affect your search rankings.

Solution

When search engine algorithms change, it’s common to observe fluctuations in rankings. You might notice in your rank tracker that some keywords rise while others fall. For instance, your blog posts might not rank as highly, but your website’s main pages could see an improvement.

Understanding the specific reasons behind these shifts can be challenging, as algorithm updates often target different aspects of the SEO process. Following each update, SEO professionals analyze the changes to decipher their implications and develop strategies for adaptation.

Historically, most updates follow a pattern, with specific recovery steps outlined in SEO checklists. To stay informed about these updates, regularly visit authoritative SEO news sources like SearchHerald or SearchEngineLand. This is especially crucial if you notice sudden changes in your rankings.

Enhancing your website to offer an excellent user experience is key. This involves ensuring fast load times, using appropriate keywords, and adopting ethical SEO practices. Essentially, making informed and strategic decisions is vital.

Providing high-quality content and a superior user experience is your best defense against algorithm changes. If you maintain these standards, it’s unlikely that an algorithm update will significantly harm your rankings. Thus, a drop in ranking is probably not due to changes in the algorithm itself.

  1. Manual or Automatic Actions

A significant factor in ranking changes, particularly drops or disappearances, is Manual Actions by Google. Google employs a team to monitor the internet for deceptive practices, ensuring they don’t rank highly in search results.

This team acts as the guardian against misleading or harmful content, manually reviewing sites flagged by algorithms for suspicious activities. Common triggers for review include unnatural backlink acquisition, aiming to artificially boost a site’s perceived trustworthiness.

Google scrutinizes aspects like the nature of links and anchor text to deter manipulative tactics. Most careful and informed website owners need not worry excessively about manual actions, provided they adhere to ethical link-building practices.

Solution

If concerned, verify any Manual Actions in your Google Search Console. This check will reveal if Google has penalized your site, or if you need to explore other causes for ranking changes.

Also Read: Google Penalty Check and How to Fix if Your Website is Penalized by Google

  1. Adjustment in Google Servers

Ranking fluctuations can also occur due to server adjustments, affecting both new and older content. Google operates numerous servers globally, and synchronizing them is a complex task. When you publish a new page, it might initially be hosted on one server but not on others.

Consequently, when accessing Google, you may connect to a server that doesn’t yet include your latest updates, leading to variable search rankings. Remember, rankings are relative positions rather than fixed numbers. For instance, a #9 ranking might appear at the bottom of the first page or the top of the second, varying by user location and timing.

Solution

To ascertain if changes are due to server synchronization, conduct searches on different devices or from different locations. For example, search for your site on your phone using Wi-Fi at home, and then again at work using an incognito browser tab. Significant discrepancies, like a new page not appearing, likely indicate ongoing server updates by Google.

  1. Continuously Updating Content

Altering your website’s content can lead to fluctuations in your search engine rankings. To clarify, this doesn’t mean you should avoid updating your website to prevent these fluctuations. In fact, if your site is underperforming for previously successful keywords, it’s a sign that updates are necessary.

A top-ranking page often indicates that users find its content valuable and relevant. Maintaining this position typically means your content continues to meet user needs effectively. Conversely, if Google detects user dissatisfaction with your site, expect a swift decline in rankings.

Google monitors all modifications to your website, including changes to hosting providers, page titles, URLs, content, or even comprehensive site updates. These alterations are significant for Google’s evaluation process, potentially prompting adjustments in your rankings. Often, this process begins with a temporary boost in search results to gauge the effectiveness of the changes.

Solution

Maintain a log of the dates when you make significant changes or updates to your site. This record will help you correlate these updates with any subsequent fluctuations in your rankings, assisting in identifying whether these modifications are the cause or if other factors are at play.

  1. Competitor Websites Overtaking

Non-compliance with Google’s guidelines can lead to penalties, not just for your site but also for your competitors. Moreover, considering all other factors, changes made by your competitors can significantly influence your rankings.

This doesn’t automatically imply a rise or fall in your ranking. Rather, it suggests that competitor changes—whether positive or negative, gradual or abrupt (due to algorithm updates or manual actions)—can lead to fluctuations in your position.

If competitors have enhanced their websites, you’ll need to upgrade yours to regain a higher ranking. This could involve speeding up your site, refining metadata, and overall improvements from images to content and site performance.

Should a competitor outrank you on a specific keyword due to superior content, it’s time for a thorough analysis. How does their content excel? Does it offer more comprehensive information, use infographics effectively, incorporate more research, have greater length, or better visuals?

If they surpass you in these areas, it’s a clear signal to elevate your content quality. This means providing richer, more valuable information, citing statistics, creating compelling infographics, and focusing on crafting content that engages and benefits your audience.

Solution

Rankings can fluctuate due to competitive dynamics, even without any direct action on your part. If you’ve ruled out Google-related changes, examine your competitors’ websites to assess whether their upgrades have led to their higher ranking. 

In Google Chrome, you can press CTRL + U to view the source code of a page. This can reveal the publication and update dates, helping you determine if their recent changes have impacted your rankings.

Research indicates that longer, more informative content generally achieves higher rankings, not merely due to its length, but because it provides more value to the reader.

Another strategy is to monitor your competitors’ performance with specific keywords. Many rank-tracking tools allow you to compare your rankings directly with those of your competitors for the same keywords.

  1. Experiments by Google

It’s important to recognize that Google continually conducts experiments, even without major system changes. With new content constantly emerging online, Google aims to prioritize the most relevant results. This involves testing different websites in search rankings, including new or updated sites.

For example, when you publish new content, you might notice a significant uptick in Google traffic. Google’s ranking criteria focus on relevance to user queries, not solely on content. Competitor sites may temporarily outrank you on Google, especially if they target similar keywords. This is part of Google’s ongoing testing process, affecting both smaller and larger websites.

Solution

Determining whether Google is conducting tests isn’t straightforward, but a clue can be found in your Google Search Console’s impression count. Sudden fluctuations in these statistics may indicate temporary adjustments by Google during their testing phase.

  1. Personalized Search

When checking Google Search results for your website, remember that they are personalized. The results you see in your browser may differ due to Google’s personalization based on your previous searches. Even in Incognito mode, Google might display results influenced by your browsing history.

Solution

To obtain a more objective view, use a rank tracker tool or a free rank checker that utilizes a different IP address. This approach can provide unbiased results, circumventing Google’s current emphasis on personalization. Employing an external tool can help you gauge your website’s true performance in search results.

  1. Loss of Backlinks

A robust backlink profile can significantly enhance your website’s search rankings. However, it’s possible to lose some of these valuable links over time, potentially due to penalized linking sites or removed links. If a link is taken down, consider reaching out to the website. To mitigate future link losses, focus on cultivating stronger relationships with bloggers and websites.

Solution

Resting on past link-building successes isn’t enough. Treat link acquisition as an ongoing process. Form a dedicated team to consistently secure new, high-quality links, ensuring that any lost links are compensated with even better ones.

Wrapping Up

Ranking drops happen, but they’re not catastrophic. By calmly identifying and addressing the issue, whether it’s an algorithm change or a lost link, you can effectively resolve it. Adhering to ethical SEO practices is crucial. Following these guidelines should safeguard against algorithm shifts and link loss.

Improvement in SEO involves continual learning, enhancing content, resolving technical issues, and building strong backlinks. As technology evolves, ranking fluctuations are normal. Stay vigilant and employ strategic SEO to remain competitive. With experience, your proficiency in SEO will grow, making it easier to manage and recover from ranking drops.

FAQs

Why did my website suddenly fall in search rankings?

Rankings can drop due to various factors, including algorithm updates, technical issues, or changes in content relevance. Investigate recent updates or changes to pinpoint the specific cause.

What should I do if my rankings suddenly go down?

Identify and address the primary cause, which could involve enhancing content, improving site speed, resolving technical issues, or building quality backlinks. Regularly review and adjust your strategy as needed.

Do rankings drop every time the algorithm is updated?

Algorithm updates can impact rankings, but drops may also result from increased competition, shifts in internet usage, or technical site issues. A comprehensive analysis is essential to determine the exact cause of a ranking drop.

Can bad backlinks make your website rank lower?

Yes, low-quality or spammy backlinks can negatively affect your ranking. Conduct a backlink audit, remove harmful links, and focus on acquiring relevant, high-quality backlinks.

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Marcin Leon Kempka
Marcin Leon Kempka
8 years ago

The same thing happened to me. The ranking would fluctuate between page 1 and page 5. Hope it stabilizes soon.

Navneet Kaushal
8 years ago

Approved

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