Everyone wants to rank #1 in Google, all the time, for all their essential search terms. To this end, companies invest resources in either staff or agencies with the goal of improving their SEO.
Each week, or month, someone generates a report that shows the search engine ranking for all the important keywords. Every month, some keywords go up and some go down. When the ranking goes up, the SEO person is happy that their hard work has paid off. When the ranking goes down, the Marketing Manager demands to know why!
The report is a snapshot of a single day
When the report was generated, it captured the ranking of the keywords on that day. Unless you are tracking what happened each day, you won’t know that your rank went from 4 to 8 to 3 to 4 to 6. The better SEO software might be able to give you monthly average, rather than a snapshot. If you are doing it manually, take the rankings weekly and review monthly. About eight weeks of data is enough to give you a good benchmark for the ranking. Do not stress out about weekly changes and suddenly alter your strategy.
Search results are personalized
Important to remember and educate management about this. Not only do search results fluctuate, but the search results can be different for different people. If you are logged into a google account, then the results can be customised based on your previous searches, location, device, etc. This variation shows up when the SEO report says that your keyword holds the number 8 spot in Google, but when the CEO looks on their phone, the result is on the second page.
The further down the search results you go, the higher the fluctuation. There is less movement (but still some) in the top 5 results. More movement in the next 15, and lots more after that.
While you should always track your competition search ranks, you can also keep an eye on their rank movements. Are their keywords going up and down the same as yours? Or are they seeing a sustained movement in one direction? This will help you to assess whether your changes are ‘normal’.
What’s in the news?
Changes in ranking can often correlate with temporary changes in audience search behavior. Is there something in the news, or an event, that is changing what people search for? Sometimes Google gives preference to older, more established pages, and other times to new, trending pages. For example, if there is breaking news about your company, Google might push news site pages above your official results.
Check your analytics
It is easy for SEO work to focus on the rankings, rather than the reason for ranking – getting people to your website! SEO reports should always cover website traffic from organic search, and ideally a measure of the website goals that you set (i.e. are people clicking on the search results and are they doing what we want on the website?). Super bonus points if you separate branded from non-branded search traffic. Not much point in fighting for top ranking for keywords that no one is using!
If the daily organic traffic is consistent or growing, then ranking fluctuations don’t seem to be hurting. A drop in traffic is obviously more worrying.
*Important disclaimer – I’m speaking here about fluctuations: when your rankings go up and down for different keywords without a clear reason why. In the case that most of your keywords suddenly disappear, or have a huge ranking drop, then you have a more serious issue such as a Google penalty or hacked website.