Jumped up the SERP’s then Straight Back Down

My Site Was Appearing on Page 1 in Google, Now it’s Nowhere to be Found!

I spend a fair bit of time on the SEO forums, they are a great way to get the heads up on what’s happening in the world of SEO and to read other peoples opinions on what’s causing the fluctuations. Bearing in mind that Google alone has made over 500 changes to their algorithm already this year and we have has several significant updates, it can be pretty tricky to ascertain exactly what has caused a particular site to jump up or down the rankings. One question which appears on an almost daily basis is “My website was on page one in Google, but now it’s dropped back to page 5, 10, 20 nowhere to be found etc”.

There can be an almost limitless number of reasons for this to happen, but very often the answer is quite simple. If it’s a new website it could be the honeymoon period. What I mean by this is when a site has very recently been launched it can jump up onto page 1 in Google for several of it’s keywords (in some cases quite competitive ones), then suddenly plummet down to the depths of page 10 or worse. Occasionally it keeps it’s positions but it is very rare. So why would this happen?

My Theory

Google wants to present searchers with good relevant results, this keeps them using their search engine as opposed to Bing, Ask etc, all the time people are using Google, they are also likely to click on paid advertising which makes Google money, which, like any other commercial business is their ultimate goal.

When a website is relatively new and Google finds and crawls it, there are probably certain signals which they look for to decide if this is good site which people may want to visit, things like good original content, easy navigation, privacy policy etc are all likely to play their part. If they find these things they may award the site this honeymoon period and suddenly the site appears on page 1, with little or no SEO work being done at all.

Happy days” thinks the site owner “what’s all this SEO lark about? I launched my site and it’s already generating enquiries”, this lasts for a couple of weeks, then it suddenly drops away again. This is the point when they appear on the forums asking “why has my site suddenly dropped out of the Google search results?”.

The answer is probably quite simple. Google gives the site a chance to shine to see how users would interact with it if it were at the top of the SERP’s. If, as is common, the website isn’t completely finished, the user clicks on, doesn’t find exactly what they are looking for and clicks the back button Google sees this in many cases and that would be considered a black mark against the site. If however the user clicks on several pages and spends a reasonable amount of time there (no, I don’t know what’s reasonable and it probably varies from niche to niche and across different types of websites) this is a positive signal.

I suspect that Google keeps track of various signals to decide if the site is worthy of a top placement, if it is it continues to improve their results pages and in turn keeps people using their search engine and possibly clicking on their adverts.

So if there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s when you are launching a new site, don’t publish it until it’s likely to achieve the type of user activity that Google will like, if it does, you just might become one of the easy winners on the web.