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Rankings Swap


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5 replies to this topic

#1 AffDad

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:44 PM

My site has successfully been climbing the ranks for a particular semi-competitive keyword over the last several months. I held position #4 for sometime and a close competitor help position #3. Then I moved to #3 and the competitor dropped to #6. Stayed that way for several weeks, then suddenly we swapped and now I'm at #6 and my competitor is #3. It's as if Google is doing some sort of rank split test between our two sites. I've never heard of such a thing and assume that just doesn't exist.

I'm seeking advice on what might be happening here and if anyone else has experienced anything similar. If so, what ended up happening?

#2 Michael Martinez

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 07:43 PM

Stuff like this happens all the time. It could be due to algorithmic changes, due to changes on the two sites in question, or due to changes in the other sites populating the query (or linking to sites populating the query).

It might even be connected with changes in how you search such as using different computers, different browsers, logging in or logging out, searching from different locations, using different networks, etc.

There is no one reason why you might see ranking swaps such as you describe but they have been happening for years.

#3 chrishirst

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 07:15 AM

QUOTE
There is no one reason why you might see ranking swaps such as you describe but they have been happening for years.
and will continue to happen for many more years.


Do you also get a increase/drop in SE referral traffic when these "swaps" occur?

#4 Jill

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 08:52 AM

There is no such thing as a ranking. Have you heard of personalized search and more recently Search Plus Your World?

#5 AffDad

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 11:47 AM

QUOTE(chrishirst @ Jan 24 2012, 04:15 AM) View Post
Do you also get a increase/drop in SE referral traffic when these "swaps" occur?


Yes, significant decrease in traffic for that keyword. The type of decrease expected from position #3 to #6 for such a competitive term.

We've 'swapped' positions before, but the swaps have been position #4 to #3 and vice-versa. There have not been any significant on-page changes to the other sites populating the query. Many are large sites that don't change often, like Wikipedia.

I understand there is no such thing as a conclusive "ranking", but with a sudden drop in referral traffic (and sales, phone calls, etc) around the exact same time the rankings adjusted, I tend to conclude that the changes I've monitored are the same for the majority rather than the few who get more personalized results. We have to assume that there is a 'default' result from Google and it's this default result that I am referring.



#6 Michael Martinez

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:31 PM

It might be better to think of a collection of search positions for each query that is relevant to a page. Assume for the sake of discussion there are about 100 search positions for each page in each query.

What you're probably seeing is a general tendency DOWNWARD thus resulting in a loss of traffic.

Even with that kind of broad description of what is happening in the SERPs, however, you still cannot necessarily pin it down to just one cause or reason (not without a fairly detailed investigation in most cases).

Search results always have an aspect of randomness to them now because of Freshness, the potential for Websites to trigger algorithmic penalties or filters through changes, fast-crawling that discovers new content, etc.

In addition to the randomness you also have to take into consideration that all the things I listed previously happen across all variations on each query. So it could be there is some algorithmic factor that affects most if not all of those variations. But it could also be something else is afoot across all or most of those 100 (or more) variations on each query.

If you were relying on links to help with your rankings, perhaps some of your links are no longer helping.

If you were hitting the on-page keywords pretty hard, maybe now that's no longer the thing to do.

If you're not happy with what you see in the SERPs right now and you're sure it won't change any time soon (even if you cannot explain why), then change something -- anything -- and see what happens.




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