In SEO, it is generally an accepted fact that rankings can never always be an upward trend, as much as we would like them to be. There are millions of sites competing for a single keyword and also for the most sought after top positions in the search engines (or SERPS as we call it). A good percentage of these sites will also be working with SEO companies to help them get rankings on page one of Google and although we do not know the budget they are spending, some SEO firms charge thousands of pounds a month for similar services that we offer.
Rankings can never be 100% consistent and stable as Google has started introducing more algorithm changes in the last year than they ever used to be before. The industry is more competitive now. But still SEO should remain a part of your online marketing budget as although it might take longer to get results these days, it is often still far more economical than any other method of promoting your sales.
Fluctuation with keywords usually depends upon 3 important factors:
1) Age Of The Website.
2) Industry Competition
3) Current On Site And Off Site Work
SEO is generally divided into two areas:
Off Site – This is the area that we take care of for the client, including link building, blog posting and all of the other activities that we carry out.
On Site – This is the area that we suggest things in terms of improvements, and unless we are in control of the site, we generally rely on the client to introduce the changes or fixes that we present.
Whilst we perform the entire off page activities for Google and other Search engines algorithms, it is also important to focus simultaneously on improving the Web presence of your website by performing various On Site work at regular intervals. This is one of the major concerns for any SEO firm like Clear Web Services that despite of all the efforts done in performing Off Site activities, recommendations sent to the clients for improving On Site work might not get done often due to a lack of time or knowledge that means these suggestions do not get completed.
The reason we now focus as much On Site as we do Off Site is because of the Panda update, which mainly focuses on the quality of your website and also the content relating to your website. Any issues that your site has will affect our SEO work, which is why we now focus heavily on making sure we report any errors we find with your site and ask you to fix them.
What issues can affect SEO from an On Site Point of view?
- Poor Quality Content
- Duplicate Content
- Broken Links (internally and externally)
- Poor / Non Existent Meta Tags
- Canonical Issues
And the list could go on, but these are the things we look for before we begin work with any client and over the past month have really started looking at for all existing clients as well, to make sure that every bit of our work will be backed up by the site being the best it can.
So, how and why can rankings fluctuate?
Temporary Fluctuations – Rankings changes in the morning remain consistent throughout the day, and then usually return to their normal position the following day. We often see these changes when we check rankings at regular intervals.
Normal Fluctuations – Often rankings just change. One minute they are stable in one ranking position, the next they are stable in another, and they can take some time to return to where they were. These normal fluctuations are the result of new or different algorithmic signals being taken into account by Google’s system. These are logically the most common type of fluctuations that we observe on a day to day basis.
Algorithm Changes – This for us, like any SEO firm is a major concern. As we explained above, Google is making changes to the Ranking algorithms more frequently as they used to a few years ago.
It is important to explain the two major factors or updates on which the Google algorithm works:
Panda Algorithm – We have noticed the changes in this algorithm more often in the last year. Infact, almost every month this update affects 1-2% of the search queries every time when it is rolled out. This algorithm is more inclined towards the On Site content, user experience, navigation, keyword density, content duplicity, Canonical issues, broken links etc. It is now reported that the Panda Update will be a consistent, if not daily occurrence and will run alongside the normal algorithms that Google rolls out and uses.
Penguin Algorithm - This is the major one for all SEO firms and experts currently working in this industry. We have experienced only one Penguin Algorithm update in the past year and that was in April’12 and the whole industry is expecting another one towards the end of this year. This is inclined towards the Off Site activities and the keyword combinations taken in order to promote the website. It is important that instead of targeting the exact match keywords for all 100% activities, these should be fragmented to at least 30% of our activities to partial match combinations, naked URL and brand keywords to appear more natural with search engines and to enhance our listings. To avoid over optimisation penalties, this is why we look at this rule, so rather than just focus on one keyword, we would introduce two longer tail keywords to back this work up and take the load away from one keyword.
Even if we perform all the activities as per the Google guidelines, we still see some fluctuations with the rankings on daily basis which is just due to the ever increasing competition and awareness of search engines.
When we get rankings for clients, not only do we then have to keep them where they are, but we have to focus on improving them. Our long term goal for all clients is Page One, as this is where we have to be and for some this can take three months, for others it could take a year or more, but this is all part of the competition we face from other firms offering the same as the client and also the quality of their site, age of their site and thousands of other factors. If the main rival has a site that is top quality, updated daily and ticks all the boxes, then they should come above any other in the rankings, which is why the client has to make sure they do all they can to make sure their site is working, and working well.
It is fairly common for clients to be disappointed when we achieve a page one position and then it fluctuates for a few months, maybe from position 9 to 11. Although this of course means movement from page one to two, quite often we have taken the keyword from nowhere to page one and therefore, the battle then begins to keep the keyword on page one. With Google, you have to earn the rankings and you also have to ask yourself how you would feel if a new site overtook all of your hard work and stayed there even though you had been there for years.
Generally, we face two battles. Getting the keyword as high as we can and then keeping it there, which when you are working on many keywords for a client, often means you have to keep many plates spinning in the air, whilst getting them spinning higher and then introducing more. Of course, you allocate the best resources you can, but naturally some plates need more attention and therefore some plates can drop. This sums up a SEO campaign, as when we have many keywords to focus on, under most of the budgets it is just impossible to keep them all stable, which is why month by month, things can change so much.
By Ian Spencer