Updated: Nov 17, 2017
Ranking Fluctuations: Causes and Effects
A fact of SEO life is that your rankings are going to fluctuate. People tend to panic when they see ranking fluctuations, thinking they did something wrong, something broke on their site, or that their SEO partner is doing something they shouldn’t be. While these may not be completely incorrect assumptions, more often than not the rankings are just fluctuating and will recover. It is never advisable to make sudden changes to your content or pages if you see rank fluctuations, rather sit tight and see what happens over the next few days and go from there.
Let’s break down what to do if your rankings fluctuate and why that happens to begin with:
Noticing a decline in rankings can be a bit unsettling, but being proactive in trying to locate the reason is always a good move. There are some things you can check to see if you can target the problem. First thing to check when noticing changes is to take a look at competitor’s rankings, did they fluctuate too? Chances are they did, which can be comforting to know and help you realize it is more of a search behavior change from Google and not your website. Another factor to check when noticing ranking fluctuations is to check them versus your traffic, if traffic has stayed consistent during these fluctuations, that is a sign that the fluctuations you are seeing are not too serious and will probably correct themselves. With that being said, let’s discuss some things that actually could affect rankings.
Reasons that Rankings Could be Affected
A big reason ranking fluctuations can happen is due to Google testing an algorithm. If this is the case and it is a new algorithm that will affect rankings, such as hummingbird, it is likely this is why you are seeing ranking fluctuations. This issue is completely out of your control.
How about changes to your website, did you make any recently? Content updates? If so, this could be a contributing factor to rank fluctuations. Be sure to track any and all changes made to your site to ensure you are aware of all edits or additions so you can track back when noticing any changes.
Redirects that have been dropped or broken could be a contributing factor as well. If you have implemented a bunch of redirects recently be sure to check and make sure they are still all in place and none have broken or been removed.
Links, whether they are new or lost, can affect your site performance as well as rankings. Are there new links pointing to your site? If so, double check to make sure their domain authority is good. Having links pointing to your site that have a bad domain authority or have penalties against their site can affect yours too as now Google associates the two sites together. Major drops in back links could also be an indicating factor in ranking fluctuations. If you see a drop in back links, check it out, are these links really gone or are they just not showing in your tool temporarily? The smaller the site, the more impact lost links have, so it is important to replenish back links if you start to see a dip.
Technical issues can also be a factor contributing to a dip in rankings, as these could be affecting Google crawling your site. Technical issues can include an issue with a robots.txt file or a broken piece of code. Be sure to check these and fix asap if there is a problem.
Don’t Panic, but do you due diligence first
With all of these things being said it is important to 1. not panic and 2. go through this list of factors to ensure there is nothing wrong with your site that would cause a decrease in rankings. Also, keep in mind that rankings will always fluctuate no matter how awesome your content and site is, especially with page 2 and 3 rankings and even the spots 1 and 2 on the first page. Those first two spots on a SERP are highly competitive, meaning they are likely to change quite often even with no changes to your site. If all signs point to no issues and the rank changes do not improve after a week or so, look to the content. Are competitors providing new or better content? Chances are competitors are improving or adding new content, so it may be time for you to review the content on your site and see if there is room for improvement or areas where you can build more content.