Picture this scenario.
After several attempts at publishing great content, your article finally ranks first in search engine results pages (SERPs). This spike draws more organic traffic to your website, and an increase in conversion rates. After a few days, you type in the primary keyword of the article on Google, only to realize you are not even on the first page anymore.
What’s more? Your traffic has started to decrease. You begin to wonder what exactly went wrong.
The problem is not you, most likely. What you are experiencing is called keyword ranking fluctuation.
What is Keyword Ranking Fluctuation?
Keyword ranking fluctuation is the continuous change in a website’s position in search results.
Google uses algorithms to determine the relevance of a particular website in providing the best articles for readers. These algorithms are constantly updating to give readers as much value as possible.
You might begin to panic when there is a change in the ranking of your web page. However, there is no cause for alarm as keyword ranking fluctuations are natural and happen to even the best marketers.
The crucial factor to consider is why these fluctuations happen and what you can do to stay on top of your game.
Let’s start by examining how search engines rank websites on results pages.
How do Search Engines Rank Different Websites?
Understanding how search engines rank sites can help you develop an effective SEO strategy.
1. High-Quality Content
Content is king. Regardless of how cliché this might sound, it still stands true. How search engines rank a website depends on the web page’s content.
When a user searches for information about a particular topic, the search engine prioritizes websites that provide more updated and relevant information.
Some key factors to consider with quality content include originality, relevance, readability, engagement, content length, and depth.
Web pages with less-authoritative backlinks get buried deep in the search results.
Acquiring backlinks from high-authority sites shows search engines how trustworthy your content is and boosts your keyword ranking. Rather than focus on backlinks from low-quality and irrelevant sites, link to more relevant web pages.
3. Website Loading Speed
Another top priority in Google ranking factor is website loading speed. Although the goal is not to beat the loading speed of your competitors, you should meet the minimum speed standard for page loading time.
In April 2010, Google released an update. “Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to consider site speed in our search rankings.”
4. Mobile Friendliness
Alongside loading speed, your site’s performance on smaller screens is another thing to consider.
In April 2015, Google released an update on mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor.
“As we noted earlier this year, today’s the day we begin rolling out our mobile-friendly update globally. We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.
Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.”
If the goal is to increase the rankings, your website must be mobile-friendly.
5. Satisfying Searchers’ Intent
A searcher’s intent is a purpose for searching on Google.
For example, if you want to change your car and update your knowledge about the best car models. You head up to Google and search “best cars in 2023.”
Google automatically provides you with a list of websites that answer your query. Google knows users trust sites displayed on the first page as the solution center. Therefore, Google ranks sites based on how well they satisfy the user intent.
According to Google’s recent Quality Rater Guidelines, Google prioritized satisfying user intent as an essential ranking factor.
Also, Search Engine Journal Contributor, Ryan Jones, said, “Google aims to serve content that provides the best and most complete answers to searchers’ queries. Relevance is the ranking factor that will always win over all others.”
If you want to rank well on Google, satisfying the user query should be the focus of your article.
6. Optimized Content
Google’s main priority is to provide users with the most relevant and valuable content for their search queries. That’s why Google’s algorithms use a variety of signals, including content relevance, quality, freshness, and user engagement, to rank web pages in search results.
While optimizing content, such as using relevant keywords and providing comprehensive information, can improve a web page’s visibility in search results, Google warns against over-optimizing content. Over-optimization, such as keyword stuffing or manipulative tactics to deceive search engines, can result in penalties and hurt a website’s ranking.
Other ranking factors include user experience, social signals, technical SEO, an accessible website, and more.
But after implementing all these ranking factors, why do keywords still drop in ranking?
Why Do Keyword Rankings Go Down?
Several factors can cause keyword ranking fluctuations. Rather than getting frustrated, it is crucial to understand the root cause of this decline and take proactive steps to fix it. Here are some of the most common reasons.
1. Competitors’ Activities
The more people target a particular keyword, the more difficult it becomes to rank for it. Targeting highly competitive keywords makes it harder to maintain ranking over time.
Does this mean you should not target these competitive keywords?
To improve your ranking in a competitive space, you must create more comprehensive and high-quality content that can stand a chance against competitors. Also, improve the user experience of your website and only build backlinks from credible websites.
2. Algorithm Updates
Algorithms go through constant updates to improve the quality of search results. When these updates occur, there is a significant change in website ranking, especially websites that don’t measure up to the latest guidelines.
For example, in December 2022, Google introduced an update in the quality rater guideline where an extra E was added to E-A-T. Many sites dropped in rankings for their keywords due to
3. Search Engine Penalization
Penalization occurs when your website violates search engine guidelines. In return, there will be a significant drop in your ranking. This black hat SEO violation includes spammy backlinks, keyword stuffing, hidden texts, and duplicate content. Until you address these violations, rankings will keep dropping.
4. Spammy Links
Adhering to the best practices when building links does not rule out the chance of a bad link gaining access to your backlink profile. One of the fastest ways to hurt your SEO efforts is backlinking to spammy sites.
You might have linked to a site irrelevant to your brand to build a link. Once Google sites these unrelated links directed at your site, your ranking can take the fall for this mistake.
When Should You Panic for Keyword Ranking Fluctuations?
As mentioned earlier, keyword ranking fluctuations are temporary and affect even the best websites.
Most of these changes last up to three to four weeks, so you should give Google ample time to adjust. However, if you discover that the ranking drop persists for over a month, that’s a red flag.
You can use an SEO tool to analyze your competitors to confirm if the change is general. If you discover that you are the only one affected, you must take action.
How To Fix Keyword Fluctuations
1. Site Audit
Website audit helps to analyze your site’s performance based on all the factors affecting website visibility in search engines. You can quickly discover where you are getting things wrong and make possible corrections.
Tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, PageSpeed Insights, Seobility, and other technical SEO auditing tools can help you analyze your website to discover possible factors responsible for keywords dropping.
Specifically, Google Search Console shows you how individual site pages perform over time. Also, PageSpeed Insights diagnoses performance issues and gives reports of your site’s accessibility, SEO, and best practices optimization.
2. Competitor Analysis
Competitive analysis helps you analyze how your competitors are outperforming you on SERPs. If you are ranking on the first page for a particular keyword, and suddenly, you drop to the second page for a long time; you are missing something.
You can study the top five sites ranking on the first page for that keyword and create a checklist by answering these questions:
– Which sites are they linking to?
– Are there more visuals in their content than yours?
– Are they answering some questions that are absent from yours?
– What keywords are they targeting that you aren’t?, and more
Answer these questions, and you will have a list of actions to take on your site.
However, manually analyzing your competitors can be stressful. Alternatively, you can use an SEO tool like Keyword.com that tracks your keywords on SERPs, and shows your actual competitors and what they do to outrank your site. This process is more effective, less stressful, and saves time.
3. Build High-quality Backlinks
Building high-quality backlinks gives you a chance to increase your keyword rankings.
While building backlinks, the focus should be on building from relevant and reputable websites. You can achieve this by submitting a guest post to a reputable website, answering HARO queries, and participating in social media groups. However, avoid building low-quality or spammy backlinks, which can result in penalties.
4. Update Your Content
Google prioritizes fresh and up-to-date content over outdated or stale ones. Updating content shows the search engines that your website is relevant and active.
Also, keywords evolve with new keywords emerging over time. Updating website content can help you identify and target these keywords, driving new audiences to your site.
Most importantly, updating your content can increase your page’s CTR and dwell time which can change the tilt of your keywords dropping.
5. Keep Up With Algorithm Updates
Algorithm updates are constant, and a good SEO professional should keep up with these updates. Monitoring and tracking updates is a great way to trace keyword and traffic fluctuation. This action will help you determine how much an algorithm update has impacted your site.
Keeping up with updates also ensures your website adheres to Google’s ranking factors and guidelines per time. By doing so, you can optimize your site in line with the latest procedures.
6. Focus on Long-Tail Keyword Rankings
Long-tail keywords are less common and give marketers some advantages. Fewer people are trying to boost ranking for these keywords, making them less competitive. Also, with longer keywords, you get specific information about your user’s needs. As a result, you can create more in-depth content to meet these needs.
Long-tail keywords have become more relevant for SEO with the daily rise of voice search. Optimizing content for long-tail keywords can boost your chances of appearing in voice search results and drive more traffic to your site.
Track your keywords!
Keyword tracking does not just help you discover your keyword ranking fluctuations but also monitors the performance of your SEO changes.
For better results, you can use a keyword rank tracking tool. These tools monitor your keywords on search engine result pages (SERPs) and provide updates of corresponding changes. Moreso, these tools are essential in optimizing content and analyzing competitors.
- Google Search Console
With Google search console, you get insights on how Google indexes and crawls your website. In addition, the Google search console provides daily updates on search engine positions and keyword rankings. You can analyze the performance of your pages on SERPs over time.
Keyword.com is a search ranking tracker that provides keywords ranking reports. This tool provides accurate daily performance reports of your keyword activities on SERPs. In addition, the tool analyzes your competitors and shows you possible ways to outrank them.
Watching your search engine ranking fluctuate can be frustrating. However, it would help if you remember the competition for the top spot is fierce, and these changes are bound to happen. Rather than getting worked up, you should focus on putting everything in place to maintain a strong keyword ranking.