The Main Reasons Why Search Engine Rankings Change
Did you hold a spot on the first page of Google for a specific search term only to find a short time later it had dropped to a lower spot or even fell to the next page?
Or did you experience the happier side of this and find one of your blog posts or pages suddenly stands at the top of the search engine rankings?
As time goes on, there are a wide variety of components that can affect a website’s placement on search engine results.
An SEO ranking drop or rise could be related to a number of circumstances ranging from Google ranking factors to new content from other sources or even ranking penalties on a website.
So, as you try to improve SEO on your website, you’ll find there are some factors you can control, while others you’ll have to monitor and adjust to remain relevant.
Let’s take a look at eight reasons why search engine rankings change and things you can do to keep up!
1. Changes in Ranking Algorithms
Most of these changes are so insignificant, few people would notice anything different.
But occasionally algorithm modifications can have a major impact on your search engine ranking.
With their constant desire to accommodate the way people look for information, search engines adjust the way certain keywords are positioned.
This could end up leading to an instant change in your website traffic and rankings.
Here’s an inside look at some of the major Google search algorithm updates that have happened so far in 2019:
Here is a comprehensive list of Google algorithm updates from Search Engine Journal.
It’s very important to stay on top of search algorithm changes while working in the digital marketing realm.
If a particular algorithm affects your website or even your whole industry, you’ll want to know so you can work to minimize any negative effects.
Unfortunately, a Google ranking algorithm change can result in huge traffic losses and lost revenue.
This is why it’s important to not have all of your company’s eggs in one digital basket (in this case, using Google search as your only method of customer acquisition.)
2. Slow Page Load Time
We live in a world of people on the hunt for instant gratification to questions, problems, and other inquiries.
From streaming services and self-checkout in stores to same-day delivery from services like Amazon, the world is constantly in need of quick, easy solutions.
When they visit a website, the same needs apply with people wanting fast load times.
In fact, more than 40% of web users will leave a web page that takes 3 seconds or more to load.
And when people leave your site quickly, your click-through rate (CTR) is negatively affected which can make Google drop your search engine ranking.
3. Recent Website Adjustments
You should always be seeking out ways to improve SEO on your blog, homepage, or service pages.
But as you make those changes, make sure you know how they will alter your traffic rank.
Even the smallest changes to your website can have an impact on your search engine ranking either for the good or the bad.
The best ways to avoid problems include:
- Running tests on the new pages to ensure you have no broken links.
- Doing proper 301 redirects.
- Using Google Webmaster tools.
4. Out of Date Content
If you do a Google search for pretty much anything, you’ll likely find most of the content has a publish date within the past few years.
Occasionally articles or blog posts will gain such strong traction and remain relevant they will be able to stay on the first page for longer periods of time.
But more often than not content in search is more recent.
If some of your older blog posts or landing pages have seen their SEO ranking drop, go back and update the content to re-establish authority and trust in the page.
5. Tough Competition
You can then identify your website keyword ranking across every search term you’re working on and begin optimizing your content to take their spot at the top.
With millions of users on these online tools, they are becoming instrumental to boosting your website traffic from Google.
6. Poor Titles, Descriptions, Headers & Other Formatting
One of the most pivotal Google ranking factors is how well you’ve formatted the content on your pages.
Using descriptive headers, clickable titles and meta descriptions, and other best practices helps search engines recognize important content and what it is about.
Here’s a brief description of some formatting terms and best practices:
- Header tags: Used to designate titles, captions, and subheadings on your page with HTML elements such as H1, H2, H3, etc. Headers should clearly tell readers and Google what the page and topics are about.
- Title tags: What search engines and users will see as the official “title” of the page in search results. In short, the better and more attractive your title is, more users will click on it.
- Meta description: Elements of a page that help search engines understand what is shared in the content. This is often the brief description you’ll underneath Google search results.
- Anchor text: When you add a link to a website, the words you link to are known as the anchor text. These can be optimized further by linking to keywords and other relevant terms.
- Alt text: Whenever you add images or photos to a page, alt text (or alternative text) should be added to boost optimization for that particular graphic so search engines know what is pictured. Primarily this is used for accessibility purposes.
7. Penalties for Poor Optimization Practices
Search engines have openly stated numerous optimization tactics that will lead to ranking penalties ranging from lower placement to being removing from search results altogether.
These negative strategies are commonly referred to as Black Hat SEO.
To see if you’ve been penalized, head over to Google Search Console and select the property for your website. Click on ‘Manual Actions’ in the side bar to see if Google has put a manual penalty on your website property.
Generally, you will only be penalized for blatant misuse and deception of users on their search engines. However, trying to rank your website higher than others using shady tactics can easily result in a manual penalty.
Some of the main things to avoid are:
- Bad links to irrelevant or suspicious websites.
- Keyword stuffing or overusing search terms you are trying to rank for.
- Hidden text and/or links on website pages.
- Pages which have been hacked or recognized to have viruses and other malware.
8. Overall Poor Content
When people are searching online, they’re searching for something in particular.
Whether it’s a recipe, a guide, a video or anything else, that’s what they expect to find in the search results.
Google hasn’t invested billions of dollars in it’s search algorithm for nothing.
To reach the top positions in Google, you need to provide the content that the searcher is looking for. Your page needs to solve the search intent of the keyword.
If someone types in “how to tie a shoe”, you need to show them the best guide to tying shoes anyone’s ever seen. Keep in mind that there are millions of sites all competing for the same keywords, so your content has to really be exceptional.
As you can see, Google is showing the top results for ‘how to tie a shoe’ that show step-by-step instructions.
Since it is a very visual subject, the results prioritize a single text result and 3 video results immediately at the top.
Always keep the searcher intent in mind and try to make sure that you can provide the best answer on the internet for that search.
Keep Up with Search Engine Ranking Changes
If you’re seeing fluctuations in your search engine rankings, one of the previous Google ranking factors could be the cause.
As search engines constantly improve SEO processes and how they rank websites, the best way to keep up is with a team who is in the loop on the developments.
AWEBCO creates websites optimized for search engines and assists with maintaining your pages to keep them relevant, trustworthy, and continually striving for conversions.
With help from our web design services, you’ll see the benefits that come from working with a company that understands SEO and other ways to boost your traffic rank.