The End Of Google Rankings As We Know It! Rotational Rankings?

I always worry about posting new found research as some clever dick always pops up to tell you they discovered it in 1999, however I have noticed something in the rankings recently that has made me re think Google rankings.

The Story

OK so I decided a couple of weeks ago to rank for “SEO consultant”, just something I fancied really, not the most competitive term.

Anyway….. I have obviously been keeping an eye on the rankings over the past few weeks on this particular keyword and a few more as well and there has been some pretty dramatic trends in the rankings.

One day I checked and I was 7th for “seo consultant” refreshed and I was 15th, refreshed again and I was 4th!!!

It’s not just that keyword either, I searched “search engine optimisation” I was 11th, refreshed and I was 26th and again and I was 7th.

Now rankings have always been up and down but this was a little crazier than usual.

Webmaster Tools Update

So…. Google announce the webmaster tools up date only a few days ago which explains that they are now tracking click through rates in the keyword sections of webmaster tools.

Now I don’t know how accurate these figures are and they seem to differ quite a bit to Google analytics, however the data it presents is interesting.

Just take a look at the below screen shot;

webmaster rankings

Now I am only using “bing SEO” as the example but the data establishes a few things across multiple keywords.

The first thing you notice is that out of 320 impressions I only ranked first 260 times (these impressions figures aren’t accurate as I usually receive around 600 visitors on this keyword a month), this means I don’t rank number one, I only rank there around 70% of the time.

The Old Theory

The old SEO theory determines your rank based on page optimisation and the number of links your page/domain has, the only thing affecting rankings would be competition in Google’s algorithm. I now think this is outdated and wrong, over the last 6 months I and other SEO’s have seen massive fluctuations in rankings suggesting a new way of ranking sites and determining traffic.

My Theory

Well, this is what I suspect, Google have confirmed nothing yet or any other SEO authority but the evidence I have seen strongly suggests rotational rankings.

Let me explain…. You do a search in Google on your main key term and you rank 4th, so you rank 4th??? Wrong you may rank 4th in that instance but you could complete the same search 10 seconds later and you rank 10th, a huge difference not only in ranking but the traffic too.

So… Google determines the rank of your site determined on page factors and links and then ranks you in a range of positions could be 5 – 10 or it could be position 2 to 4 pages back, depending on the person searching, there location, personalised search, time of day.

Ultimately how well optimised your site is determines how often you rank in a top position.

So your aim is not to rank in the top 5, which is now impossible, your aim should be to rank their most of the time.

What Does This Mean?

It means quite a lot.

1 – Determining traffic in a certain position is now impossible

2 – Your ranking position can change every second even if you’re searching on the same IP using an incognito window on chrome

3 – You can never say I rank number one, but only I rank number one most of the time

You see there are so many websites competing for the same space that Google has no choice but to use a rotational system like this and for all we know they may use the click through rate to decide whether your ranking gets better or worse, maybe.

I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on this and if anyone has noticed these changes.

Building Links Using Fresh Techniques

When you deal with link building day in day out you really begin to notice even the smallest changes in Google’s algorithm.

Just before Christmas site wide links seemed to be giving some real pull, then there were the in content gems that seemed to instantly increase ranking.

However, in my opinion Google has switched its emphasis again and is now putting more weight on ‘fresh’ links, links found on pages never crawled before.

Fresh links have always been precious; however the impact of them has been blurred due to large amounts of site wide link buying.

Now Google has really got its act together and not only is the impact noticeable in terms of the links we build for clients but it has also been felt in the SERPS.

Recent SERP Changes

On the UK domain Google has really shaken up the top results, penalising sites with a lot of site wide links and giving more power to exact match domains and a more diverse link profile.

Some sites that ranked on the first page for “search engine optimisation” have now dropped back on to the second page which basically makes them invisible.

Changes In Approach

So how does this change what we do on a daily basis, well here are my thoughts;

  • We need to all become writers and get involved in guest blogging, reporting and writing for news sites within our niche
  • Press releases really begin to make a mark, a press release can flood you with fresh in content links. You will have to pay for the best services but it is definitely worth it.
  • Viral content becomes even more important, make sure everything you write can be easily shared and write news worthy content. I am not going to go over viral content again but if you’re unsure about how to write good SEO content read my article on SEO content writing.
  • I have always been a fan and the new importance of fresh links makes blog carnivals priceless links

These are just a few ideas and I am sure you can think of many more, don’t give up other link building methods, but if you’re looking for a real ranking boost, get yourself some fresh links.

Google SEO Report Card: Some Important Take Aways

With all the focus clearly on links and link building in the search engine optimisation field it easy to forget about the importance of focused keyword content and a clean site architecture.

On page optimisation often gets left behind in the online marketing discussions but thankfully Google have given a huge and in my opinion very effective reminder.

Google have recently released an SEO report card based on improving the optimisation of their product pages.

Within the report are some vital insights and reminders to us all about page optimisation and URL structure.

If you want to read the report please download it here: Google SEO Report Card

I thought it would be a good idea to run through some of the points within the report as they are useful to both bloggers and webmasters in general.

Title Tags

I know you have heard it all before but here are few things you may not have heard of:

  • Only the first 60 characters of a title tag give any real ranking benefit
  • Sometimes users click links based on brand, so use your brand name in the title tag
  • Google wants you to use keywords users will search

I know the last point is a little lame, but there are still some ‘keep it natural’ fundamentalists out there. Just write it for users, don’t use keyword tools. Keep it natural.

News flash! Google wants you to use searched keywords. This is not writing for engines because who ultimately invents these terms?

Google go through the usual reminders about being descriptive and keeping the title tag accurate and to the point, but you’ve heard all that before.

As it’s only the first 60 characters that count it is important when writing blog posts to make your first 6 – 9 words as optimised as possible, or if you use thesis you can customise the title tag of each post.

Meta Descriptions/Keywords

Google made it official that META keywords don’t count at the end of last year, however they have now confirmed that the description is also a waste of time for ranking purposes. However, I and many other SEO’s always recommend using your main keywords in the description tag as they are bolded and this increases the chances of clicks.

Site links

These are the little links that appear below your main link in Google like so;

Please note that your site will only get these once Google trusts the domain and classes the info as authoritative

Google gives us some nice suggestions for optimising the type of site links we have appear in Google;

  • Use a strong hierachial Structure
  • Make use of descriptive anchor text
  • Avoid deep directories

Let’s talk about each of these points a little;

Structure

This is fairly straight forward, if you want an important/relevant page to appear as a site link in Google then you need to link to the page from your strongest pages, normally this means your top level domain. An ecommerce site should look to optimise their best selling product pages in the site links.

If you still find low quality pages are being used as site links, you can remove them directly from webmaster tools.

Descriptive anchor text

I have been shouting about this for years but it always gets brushed under the carpet, probably because it has a low ranking value.

The fact is that internal descriptive anchor text may not pass link juice but still pass relevance. I spoke some months ago about using descriptive internal linking to create indented listings and proved it with my ‘bing seo‘ page.

Don’t go silly with these and stuff target keywords in but try to use them whenever appropriate, Google clearly clarifies that “read more” and “click here” links are worthless and this is something the search giants do not recommend.

Deep Directories

Very simple don’t bury your best content in a deep file.

/file1/file2/file3/file4/my-great-content/ – Never going to be a site link

301’s vs 302’s

Ok if you have ever got in the world of redirects you will know there are a few different ways to do it.

301 = Permanent Redirect

302 = Temporary Redirect

You should always try to use permanent redirects, if not and you use a temporary redirect Google will consider both URL’s to be of use and index both. This can provide a bad user experience and cause duplicate content issues.

There is a load more detail in the report including advice on;

Alt tags = Yes they are still important, keep it descriptive and keyword rich

Canonical = Use the rel=”canonical” link to help Google know your main URL’s and also make sure internal links point to the canonical URL, this helps stop duplicate URL issues and content from arising.

If you find 30 minutes you should definitely read through the report, very interesting.