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Why do Rankings Fluctuate?

Stephen Logan

by Stephen Logan on 21st September 2009

Why do rankings fluctuate?

It is not all that uncommon for rankings to go up as well as down over a period of time. Even following prolonged SEO work, there will be some terms that slip for a time before regaining their position. This can be just a few places or, in more extreme cases, dozens of rankings; so why does this happen?

Well there are a number of reasons for a fluctuation in rankings. The most common one, particularly where temporary shifts are concerned, is a reshuffling by the search engines. When the likes of Google or Yahoo make small changes to their algorithms, some sites may experience sudden drops or gains in their rankings. Over a short period of time these will level out and a stable position will emerge once again.

Of course you can also just lose rankings naturally. If another site has been doing a lot of marketing work and SEO throughout then they can leapfrog your position. With more people turning to professional SEO services the top positions for almost any short-string term are becoming highly competitive. Site strength is only gained over time and targeted optimisation, the search engine ranking should then follow accordingly.

A more concerning reason for a major dip in your position could be down to a major SEO issue. If you have been doing anything that is perhaps a little close to the edge in terms of its acceptability within search engines, then you can find yourself demoted in an instant. Search engines have sophisticated web crawlers who use an equally intricate set of codes to determine rankings and uncover anything that shouldn’t be there.

It is for this reason that it is so important that you don’t try to pull the wool over the search engine’s eyes. The off chance that your bought link or white text will manage to slip through the net is really not a risk worth taking. The potential benefits are negligible and the outcome can be catastrophic. Whilst search engines will reinstate you, it does take time. First you have to notice the problem, then contact them directly to work out how to resolve it, then make any changes that are required before finally requesting a relisting. All of which takes time.

In general though the search engines are reasonably consistent. If your site is improved, at least from their perspective, they will reward it; if another is found to be better than your own, then it will take your place. Major fluctuations are an unfortunate bi-product of the search engine algorithm’s need to be updated and modernised, but should be no cause for concern – at least not instantly.

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan is our Senior Content Marketer at Koozai. With four years experience writing exclusively for the search engine marketing industry, he has amassed a wealth of industry related knowledge. He will be breaking news stories and contributing compelling SEO related stories.

1 Comment

  • James Gurd 22nd September 2009

    Hi Stephen
    Good article, clearly written. One reason why rankings can fluctuate is the quality and relevance of inbound links. Major changes to a link building program will surely impact rankings? For example, perhaps a retailer has a lot of affiliates and has built links via this program (not necessarily via an affiliate network). Provided the links were considered to be valuable by the search engines, if the retailer decides to trim the affiliate base, there will be a subsequent loss of quality links. My understanding is that this would affect rankings for the pages those links point to.
    I guess this points to one element of ongoing SEO that helps to manage ranking and that is a strategic link building program.
    I will RT the article today, think some of my followers would be interested.
    Thanks
    james

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