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High Rankings Advisor: Site Won't Stay Put in Rankings - Issue No. 072

September 24, 2003



*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Site Won't Stay Put in Rankings

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   High Rankings Seminar with Jill and the Gang
---->   Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines

*Guest Article:
---->   Digging Deeper into Search-Friendly Design - Part I

*Other SEO News:
---->   Shopping Engines Rev Up for the Holidays

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Recap of Past Stuff

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Professional SEO

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   A New Office for Me -- Eventually!

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  Today I have some information about rankings, plus Part 1
of an interview with "Search Engine Visibility" author Shari

Let's get right to the good stuff! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Site Won't Stay Put in Rankings++

Hi Jill,

I'm an avid reader of your newsletter and have gained much from your
advice, for which I thank you very much. My question is one that I
have not seen addressed, unless I somehow missed it.

I tried to apply your suggestions to my web pages and decided to check
the results on several major search engines back in June. I was
pleased with some rankings and not so much with others, but then got
sidetracked on one of our other websites. As a result, I did not make
any changes to improve the original website. But I still kept checking
the rankings once a month and the numbers have me confused.

Why do the numbers on some search engines fluctuate so wildly from
month to month?  I've seen my site go from number 83, to 96, to 67, to
226 in Google, from June to September.

I can understand why my rankings would go down in a given month
because I have made no changes to my site while others may have made
strides to improve their sites. If I remember correctly, you have also
stated that leaving your pages static over too long a period of time
will lower your rankings. What is confusing to me is the constant
up-and-down movement of my rankings.

Why is there such fluctuation and can anything be done to try and
control it?

Thanks for your help.

Ross Haynes, WebMaster
Textile Industries, Inc.

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Ross,

I'm glad you've gotten a lot out of my newsletters.  That's what makes
it all worthwhile.  (As a side note, I'm starting to get mad at myself
for giving out all my secrets every week.  I'm really beginning to
notice a difference in the search results these days, with more and
more pages being optimized.  This is a generally a *good* thing for
the Internet as a whole, but not when the optimized sites are
competitors of my clients! <grin>)

As to the topic at hand, I'm really glad you asked this question.  I
still send ranking reports to my current clients once a month, and
very often they ask me the same thing.  Since I've been in this biz
for so long, I forget that most people don't realize that ranking
fluctuations are totally the norm.  Sure, there are times in some
engines when your site may sit at a given position for a search phrase
for many months.  But it's more "normal" to see positions change at
any given time.

The Internet is very much a dynamic medium.  That's what makes it
great.  Sites come and go.  New pages are being added to the search
engine databases at astonishing rates.  Google claims to have
3,307,998,701 pages in its index today.  I remember a couple of years
ago when it was 2 billion instead of 3 billion.  That's a billion more
pages that can come in and push your rankings up or down at any given

Rankings are not static, nor have they ever been.  In fact, when you
see your rankings *not* changing position in any particular engine,
it's often because that engine hasn't been updating its database.
That's a bad thing.  The engines that update frequently will always be
in a state of constant change, as will your rankings.

Regarding your comment about your rankings going down because you
didn't work on your site, that's a fallacy.  If your site is optimized
to be the best it can be, there's no reason to work on it any more, as
far as optimization goes.  (You may want to work on it for other
reasons, of course!)  Sure, if you're not in the top 2 pages of
results, then you may not have it optimized as well as it could be and
you may want to tweak things.  But once you hit the top 10 or 20,
leave things alone for a while and see what happens.  Don't be scared
if you go from 3 to 8, or even to 17.  Very often, even if you drop
from 1 to 17 at some point, you may very well find that you're back to
1 soon enough.  Since the search engines should never be your sole
form of marketing, these fluctuations should not make or break your

The thing with SEO is that there is no way to choose your position.
Nobody can buy a particular position in the engines, unless they're
using pay-per-click ads that show up in the sponsored results.  This
is what drives many people crazy with SEO.  They want to understand
exactly why their page is at a certain spot in the results, but since
it's fluid, there's no way to be exactly sure.  All we can do is
understand and implement the fundamental things that will give our
pages the best chance of showing up high in the rankings for our
targeted keyword phrases.  The rest is up to the search engines.  They
have to agree that our page is indeed the most relevant, and they have
to then rank it accordingly.  Sometimes it happens just as we'd like
it to, sometimes it doesn't.  Just be sure to use all your knowledge
and do the best you can.

Never think that you have to redo your site just because it doesn't
stick in any one position in the search engines.  That is the roller
coaster that we call SEO.


-----------High Rankings Seminar with Jill and the Gang-----------

        Learn Search Engine Marketing from the Ground Up

Looking for a complete overview of search engine optimization?
Join Jill and her merry band of search engine marketing experts in
sunny Tampa, Florida on Nov. 7 for a full day of learning and fun!

Learn SEO copywriting, Titles and Meta tags, search engine no-nos,
choosing keywords, link pop., PPC, measuring success and more!


~~~Guest Article~~~

++Digging Deeper into Search-Friendly Design - Part I++

Scottie Claiborne caught up with Web designer and search engine
optimization guru Shari Thurow after her Search Engine Strategies
session on search-friendly design.  Shari and Scottie discussed her "5
Basic Rules of Web Design" in the interview below. Today we will cover
the first 2 guidelines, and next week we will cover the other 3.

Digging Deeper into Search-Friendly Design - Part I
Interview with Shari Thurow
By Scottie Claiborne

Here are Shari's 5 Basic Rules of Web Design:

1. Your Web site should be easy to read
2. Your Web site should be easy to navigate
3. Your Web site should be easy to find
4. Your Web page layout and design should be consistent throughout the
5. Your Web site should be quick to download.

[Scottie]: Shari, why did you come up with these guidelines?

[Shari]: One of the funniest things about my 5 Basic Rules of Web
Design is that people think that they are so obvious, that it's quite
silly of me to point them out.  However, if these 5 rules are so
obvious, then why aren't designers and search engine marketers
following them?

The majority of sites I encounter do NOT follow these rules.  And when
we get a new client that requests a site analysis or usability
testing, the first things we analyze are the 5 rules, especially

[Scottie]: #1 is "easy to read." How do I know if my pages are
legible?  It seems like a very subjective thing. Do you have any
techniques or suggestions for measuring this?

[Shari]: Actually, knowing whether or not copy is easy to read is part
objective and part subjective, part art and part science.  We can
figure out the subjective part through focus groups, usability testing
and Web analytics tools.

We use science to determine which color palettes to use. For example,
for optimal legibility usability experts recommend a color contrast of
90% or more, especially for sites that target an older age

We also know that yellow is the first color the eye registers.  So we
know to use yellow as a highlight color, (a) because it is the first
color the eye sees, and (b) because of the color contrast against navy
blue, dark gray, and black.

A great site for color information is Lighthouse International.

Since Verdana is a font specifically created for a computer screen, we
use that one a lot.  For the font tag (<font size="2">), Verdana at a
pixel size of 12 to 13 is a good match.  For breadcrumb trails and
text links at the bottom of the page, a smaller pixel size of 9 to 11
is good.

Another legibility issue involves XHTML strict and CSS (cascading
style sheets) compliance.  We have designed and viewed many sites that
adhere to these standards; however, when we view these sites on
multiple browsers and platforms, all too often we (and usability
testers) cannot read the page.  This is because the CSS layers overlap
each other so badly that words often appear on top of each other.

All design firms should view a site on all of the major browsers and
platforms.  Personally, I have 3 computers in my office: two PCs and
one Mac.  For one of my PCs (which we purchased from a major brand), I
took it out of the box and did not reset the default settings.  The
other PC is a notebook computer because that's what a lot of business
people use instead of a desktop computer.  And Macs are not that
expensive.  When our Web analytics tools show that over 20,000
visitors a month are using Macs, we will not ignore those people in
the site design.

Legibility is so important.  If people click on a link from a search
engine to your site and they cannot read your content, they will leave
your site with a very poor impression.  That poor impression will not
help with a link development campaign, either.

So don't assume your site is legible because of personal experience;
always test and analyze.

[Scottie]: #2 is "easy to navigate." Beyond the basics of making sure
that the navigation is easy for crawlers to follow, what makes a site
easy to navigate?

[Shari]: We always recommend having at least two forms of navigation:
one that is designed and written specifically for site visitors and
one that the search engine spiders can follow.  Nine times out of ten,
that means having a text-link navigation scheme somewhere on the site.
Usually, text-link navigation is the most search-friendly of all
navigation schemes.  It's not foolproof, though.

To determine whether a site is easy to navigate, we ask usability
testers the following 6 questions:

1. Where are you?
2. Are you in the right place?
3. Where do you want to go?
4. Where have you been?
5. How do you return to pages you have previously visited?
6. What do you want to do?

If site visitors cannot easily answer these questions, then we know
the site design is not as intuitive as we would like it to be, and the
sales conversions will be low.

A descriptive Title tag and headline will let users know what page
they are visiting and will help with search engine visibility.  A logo
on a page helps with branding and lets visitors know the name of the
company Web site they are viewing.  Breadcrumb, or contextual, links
let people know where they are and give visual cues for visited and
unvisited pages. Plus, they help with search engine visibility as

When we usability-test, we constantly ask our testers: Where are you?
Whose Web site is this? Are you in a section of XYZ's Web site?  If so
, what section are you in? How do you know you are in this section?
What is XYZ trying to sell?  What do you want to do next?

The easier it is for visitors to form a mental model of your site, the
more likely the site will have good sales conversions and link

[Scottie]: Thanks Shari!  We'll talk about the other 3 guidelines in
Part II of this article next week.

Scottie Claiborne
Right Click Web Services

[Thanks Shari and Scottie!  For those of you who want to learn more
about search-engine-friendly designs, be sure to grab a copy of
Shari's book, Search Engine Visibility, when you get a
chance. - Jill]

_____________Nitty-gritty Special Report_________________

Want to learn how to write for high rankings in the search engines?

If you don't have the time or money to see Jill's Writing for the
Search Engines presentation at conferences or seminars, for
only $49 you can learn it all in her informative, quick-read report.

Download the Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines today!


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Shopping Engines Rev Up for the Holidays++

Lots of stuff happening in the world of shopping engines this week.
DealTime, which recently bought Epinions, has now become

and introduced a number of new features.

At the same time, Yahoo Shopping  has also
come out with many new features.

I haven't checked out (get it...checked out!) either of them yet, but
I like better because they had cool stuff in their press
kit, and Yahoo just had papers full of boring information.  <grin>

Both sites have a paid-inclusion program, which may be worth looking
into if you have an ecommerce site.  Plus both sites appear to be a
great way for the consumer to do some comparison shopping online.

~~Sound Advice~~~

++Professional SEO++

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

This week I'm working to the sounds of hammers and saws as the
builders are turning my old screened porch into a full-fledged office
for me!  They ripped down the old stuff really quickly, but putting
things all back together seems to take longer.  Should be really cool
when it's done.  I currently work in my dining room.  I do have a
desk, but other than that, everything ends up making a mess on the
dining room table.  We don't actually use it that much (if ever), but
it looks pretty messy.  Okay, who am I kidding...even when the office
is complete and I'm all moved in, I'm quite sure that dining room
table will still manage to get covered up with junk.  It seems to
attract it somehow.  I guess it feels lonely when there's nothing on
it.  Yeah, that must be it.

Catch you next week!


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