Just wanted to pose an interesting question? What happens when search engines change their relevance model?, (change happens). When you consider SEO and search engine relevance, what matters most is getting in the search index and maintaining an upward trajectory. So, before you hit the panic button when your sites rankings take on a new persona (or lose position) for your main and subsequent keywords, you may be in for a surprise if you are looking in the wrong place for the cause (the dreaded merry-go-round index).
Just like with SEO, identifying and developing the ideal information architecture, eliminating server configuration errors, building links and promoting your content does not make people purchase your products or services. The fact is, it takes the right action to produce the right results.
Much in the same way, you would think that getting in the Google search engine index would be enough to hit the top 10 and stay there, but with different data centers all crawling your content with their own unique array of algorithms to assess the criteria that comprise your pages, surviving the law of averages, chronology and authority are all part of the new Google dance.
Once upon a time, when there were less data centers and less crawling of sites, results would stay for weeks without being challenged. Now, it is possible to rise or fall 10, 20 positions or more over night, but why? What if your site is crawled and indexed from data center A in the morning, then in the afternoon data center B comes along and takes a new reading to upload to the main index, which one wins and which one yields shapes the way your pages rank in the new and improved index.
Is it merely a means of calibration, the fact that more sites are making a debut each day, or that perhaps Google is starting to shake down any site that distributes unnatural or uncharacteristic behavior (which means more penalties or possible violations)?
Now before answering that, naturally only a real Google engineer could answer that question, but from a standpoint of speculation even though I am no doctor, I would summarize the symptom as (1) a case of the rotating data center itis, known for its “merry go round” like ranking syndrome where all of the criteria being used to assess relevance score is pending the redemption ping to consolidate and rectify the data (2) a slight case of amnesia due to temporal displacement (3) new ranking algorithms being tested for relevance or (4) the elements that create the abacus like ranking factors are being shifted slightly to embrace a new parameter.
In either case, what is certain is change. Sites that held lofty positions sliding off the page and returning again in a few hours (as if nothing happened) or SERPs (search engine result pages) showing distinctly different results depending on what part of the day it is, consistently like clockwork for days on end (the 5 o’clock shadow ranking) where your site hits the top 5 for your main keyword and before you can call your mom, bring in your colleagues or show all of your friends, the ranking simply vanishes.
Now, many of you may wonder if this is all a ploy to end organic search as we know it, I know many SEO’s have considered it, but in reality it is just part of the evolution of search as new and exciting ranking algorithms work their way into grandfathered results to test their mettle.
Could it be that Google has finally figured a way to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to links, content, chronology and trust? For those just familiarizing themselves with SEO, site age, the age of the page, the age and trust factor of the sites linking to content and the text they use has been a pivotal variable on how pages were treated within the search index.
Typically sites with more authority on a subject, which was measured by criteria such as chronology of the content, how many pages in the site on the topic, when the links were populated, did they appear in clusters, which anchor text (the text in the link) was used, if they were transient links (appeared then disappeared), if the domain linking to them was a hub (a site that linked to useful sites) or sites that lack trust such as sites with high outbound links and not many inbound links were in the link profile.
In addition to factors such as these, there are dozens of programs that when aggregated as new parameters in the algorithm either gained or tarnished the trust factor which is used to infer link equity / link juice / ranking current from one site to the next. Imagine a site that was 220 volts getting chop blocked into 12 volts, the fallout that ensues is something like the effects that are now making their debut at this time.
You have to ask yourself, what happens when a program pulls the plug on a wide open faucet and the water dwindles to a drip instead of a stream? (the SERPs fluctuate in an attempt to find the zero point and gain balance).
So, before you go out and start trying to re-engineer anything and everything you have done to a site for the last 4 months, give the new algorithms a chance before you start picking apart your server logs looking for flaws.
You may have very well just experienced the new bots making their rounds and uploading variations of data (on your site and the web with new eyes) to the main Google data center (as it decides where your site fits in). If it is a shakedown, as long as you are not in violation of Google’s Terms of Service, all should be well with your site as it gains its new identity and momentum as it seeks to find common ground amidst change.
Aside from the fact that the analogies drawn are my own, (for the sake of humor) it is sometimes necessary to reflect parallels that exist between SEO related occurrences such as search engines behavior such as “the phantom ranking, the merry go round index, search amnesia, etc.”. The real purpose of poking fun and bringing light to such phenomenon is education and information, which is the real reason this blog exists.
You must always strive to keep abreast in our ever changing industry, if standards exist too long, they tend to get exploited, which is why search engines have become proactive in their approach to curb gaming the system. As a result, the white hat SEO’s as well as the black hat SEO’s must remain steadfast in staying ahead of or keeping up with the curve to ensure top ranking positions, since you never know which facet of the search algorithm will get a face-lift (longer urls being penalized, loading time having more weight in the relevance score, etc.).
In closing, thank you for reading the SEO Design Solutions Blog, we hope you found this entertaining and most of all, thought provoking…