If you use Search Console to monitor how your content is currently ranking, you might have noticed some pretty extreme Google ranking fluctuations (particularly with new content). But is this normal!?
Well, according to Google’s John Mueller, “extreme ranking fluctuations are normal” as long as they happen with newly published content that Google’s crawler has just indexed. This answer was given during a regular Google Webmaster Central office hangout in response to a question asked by a fellow small business owner.
Why does this happen?
According to the Google employee, whenever the search engine has to index a new web page, it needs to give a rough estimate of the content worth in order to rank it. Depending on how the content ends up performing among searchers, Google will adjust the ranking position until the appropriate ranking is determined – hence the ranking fluctuation.
According to Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, these severe fluctuations can take up to several weeks or months. Even more, you can expect your new submissions to briefly disappear from search rankings completely before showing up again. But keep in mind that this is only applicable to newly released content.
Here’s a full transcript of John Mueller’s response:
“That can be completely normal. The tricky part here is when we find new content, on a new site or existing site, we kind of have to estimate where we think we should show it where it’s relevant. Sometimes we estimate fairly high and, over time, that kind of settles down.
So it could be that it settles down in a similar position, it could be that it just fluctuates for a while and then settles down in a similar position, or maybe it’ll settle down ranking higher or maybe it’ll settle downranking a bit lower.
So especially with completely new content, the rankings that you see there I would expect would fluctuate quite a bit. Maybe a week or two until things kind of settle down into a state where we say this is the normal ranking that we think is appropriate.
It’s kind of extreme, I guess, but it can definitely happen that we index something that we rank it fairly high that, for a couple of days, it disappears completely and then it pops back in maybe at the same position or maybe a slightly different position.”
If you have the time for it, you can listen to the entire Google Webmaster Central hangout. There are some pretty interesting questions regarding the ranking algorithm:
When to worry
Typically, you should only take action and react when you see a that the content is fairly old (over two months) and has abruptly disappeared from the search results. If that’s the case, you should also check your Search Console for any manual adjustment related to your website.
Rankings are known to fluctuate a lot in all SERPs – especially the ones outside the top five results. But don’t worry about it too much. If your content that is ranked at page two or beyond, you should expect consistent ranking fluctuation without any reason to worry about it. You should expect even more fluctuation if you’re mostly working with temporal topics that kind of fade away in interest over time.
Here’s a Moz explanatory video for your peace of mind:
You only have cause for concern if you see that most (or all) of your pages got suddenly de-ranked over a short period of time. But, before you start blaming yourself, you should make sure that it’s not just an algorithm adjustment by checking up the fluctuation of your competition. If you’re the only one affected, you should start investigating the reason behind the mass devaluation.