James Perrin

Search Engine Rankings: Who Decides on Where You’re Placed?

10th Oct 2011 SEO Blog 3 minutes to read

SEMThink of the Internet without search engines…it’s a pretty strange thought isn’t it? How on earth would we be able to search for the sites we wanted? Imagine how hard it would be to search for any kind of product or service. Well this is why we and businesses alike are so reliant on them and it goes some way to explain why they’re so important in today’s online landscape.

With so much importance being placed on search engines, especially for businesses, it’s no wonder that when a drop in rankings occurs, they get pretty annoyed. But if that happens, who should businesses aim their frustrations at?

Both users and businesses alike have become so reliant on them over the years; from Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves, right up to Yahoo and Google. As third party moderators of information, they’re places where users connect with businesses, and so businesses want to make sure they enjoy optimal visibility. This is why there is so much importance attributed to ranking highly.

For Businesses that see a drop in rankings, for whatever reason this may be, it can be devastating to their traffic and thus sales. A recent story about the founder of Stagecoach who had his rankings stripped was less than happy and said the immortal line of, “it’s not Google’s place to decide which sites we can see and those we can’t” [See: Why Has Brian Souter Fallen Off Google?].

We have seen more and more businesses remonstrate to Google their displeasure at slipping down the rankings, especially post Panda Update [See: The Google Panda Update Reaches the UK]. Mike Grehan from Search Engine Watch has some interest insights into this issue, especially concerning US businesses and their issue over Google ranking for their own products; hardly crime of the century or even all that surprising, but damaging nonetheless.

Whilst we can empathise with businesses regarding this matter, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. This has been an issue of ethical debate ever since search engines came to prominence; but the hard fact is that if you’re using Google’s site or any other search engine for that matter, if you don’t play ball with their recommendations, then they have every right to do what they want with your site in terms of rankings.

But what can you do? Why should you be at Google’s disposal, why do Google get to decide where you are in the rankings? Well unfortunately if you’re using Google to drive traffic to your site (and who isn’t, let’s be honest) then you are relying on a third party that is almost entirely beyond your control; and because it’s Google’s site, they can do whatever they want. There is no one who is going to intervene and tell Google what sites they should be ranking; it just doesn’t work like that.

I guess the moral of this lies in what you, as a business, can do about making sure you’re fully prepared if Google does decide to drop you in the rankings. If you have a digital marketing agency or you own in-house SEO team, then you’ll no doubt find out in time and put in place ways to remedy the problem, ensuring you return back to where you belong in the SERPs.

The big issue though is that not everyone is aware of SEO and digital marketing until they start to slip down the rankings. If you’re business has ranked well without any serious SEO input or you haven’t touched your site in a while, then there can be no real argument if a competitor starts to rank higher than you, especially if that competitor has started their own SEO campaign. In other words, you won’t be able to beat then by remaining inactive, you have to take them on directly.

As a business it should be your priority to ensure you’re ranking well to drive traffic to your site, and more often than not, this means taking advantage of search engine marketing. Don’t take search engines for granted and never assume that a ranking is forever. Whilst you can do plenty to improve your chances of appearing higher in SERPs, ultimately you will always be at the mercy of Google and its ever-evolving algorithm.

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SEM Chalkboard via BigStock

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